Indian Military Aviation; News, Updates & Discussions

John Fedup

The Bunker Group
Except India's reaction to failures of their own procurement process is typically to initiate a small-medium sized purchase of something they already operate, as a stop-gap measure, without proceeding to the deep systematic reforms that they need.
....stop-gap, like buying used classic Hornets. At least India buys new kit, albeit in quantities that are insufficient.


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Indian Jaguars were scheduled for an engine upgrade long ago. RR offered a relatively cheap, simple, quick to implement & proven upgrade of existing engines, saying that the expected lifetime of the aircraft made it the most appropriate & cost-effective solution. Most other manufacturers declined to bid. India changed the terms to require new-build engines, & RR withdrew. That left one contender, Honeywell, offering a newer, lighter, higher thrust engine - but the rules required a competition. Eventually a single vendor bid was deemed acceptable & Honeywell got the deal, but ten years in (last year - 2019), the upgrade was cancelled over cost. Not just the engines, but the extensive work needed to fit them, weight & dimensions being different, unlike the drop-in RR offer. RR had pointed that out when it all began, & other potential suppliers seem to have agreed, hence their lack of interest in bidding engines which were theoretically superior to the Jag's old Adours.

I wasn't aware of any of that - thanks for posting, cheered me up no end. Oddly, Honeywell were at the opposite end of the scale for Nimrod as they did offer an engine with the same thrust as the existing Speys but with much better fuel consumption, that would drop in with no wing box - that was turned down in favour of the wing box fiasco we're familiar with.


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Verified Defense Pro
The Indian Air Force and Defence Research and Development Organisation, or DRDO, are looking at mating DRDO’s indigenously developed AESA radar with used A320 aircraft for AEW&C. It's an ambitious undertaking, but since the DRDO already have the radar it is more of an engineering and integration problem, with the emphasis being on the integration problem. The A320 hasn't been used in this capacity before, so they would be prototyping the capability for the aircraft type.

Airbus has an evaluation for the A320neo as an AEW&C aircraft, as part of a special capabilities family of MPA, SIGINT, AEW&C and VIP aircraft, however at the present point in time they are still paper aircraft and nothing certain has been committed to the proposal. This could end up going the same way as their A319 MPA of the 2000s.

Airbus A320neo AEW&C.jpg

Source: India To Modify Used Airliners Into Early-Warning Radar Jets To Keep Pace With Its Rivals and Airbus evaluates an A320neo multi-mission version


Super Moderator
The Indian Air Force and Defence Research and Development Organisation, or DRDO, are looking at mating DRDO’s indigenously developed AESA radar with used A320 aircraft for AEW&C. It's an ambitious undertaking, but since the DRDO already have the radar it is more of an engineering and integration problem, with the emphasis being on the integration problem. ...
I remember India's first integration of an indigenous AEW radar into a foreign (albeit Indian-built) airframe, the HS-748. A prototype/testbed crashed in 1999 (14 years after the start of the programme) with some of the leading developers of the radar aboard. Doubts had been expressed about whether the aircraft was capable of taking the radar installation safely (it looks bloody top-heavy in photos), & whether the old airframe it was fitted to could take the fatigue of carrying it. Why it had four important members of the development team aboard is difficult to explain. Eyewitnesses reported that the rotodome collapsed. IIRC the official report disagreed.

Everything stopped for a few years, before resuming with a new radar & a new platform, an Erieye-style AESA installation on new EMB-145s. The IAF has bought three & it seems to work, which shows that Indian technologists can produce the goods when given a chance (but we knew that), but I think there have been grumbles about limitations of the platform. There have been reports galore about big orders, installation of the system on A330s which would double up as tankers, a 360 degree version (three arrays in a triangle I think) etc. None have materialised.

If the radar performance is OK, fitting it on a more capable platform which would allow more time on station looks like a good idea, & the A320 should be entirely suitable. I expect Airbus would be happy to co-operate. But I won't hold my breath.


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Uncovering truth from Indian nationalist propaganda (relative to actual PLA capability) — Part 1

1. Due to the presence of long-range SAM systems on China’s side of the 3,440km long border that both countries dispute, like:
(i) the well exported HQ-9, with multiple and dense upper and middle layers;​
(ii) the latest HQ-22 deployed opposite the Galwan Valley (which is more capable than HQ-9); and​
(iii) the HQ-16 (based on the Soviet Shtil naval air defense system and the infamous Buk, used by the Russian proxy to shoot down civilian airliners) across the border,​

the IAF’s ability to conduct BAI is neutralised and in some cases, it has a very limited ability to provide CAS to the Indian Army, should war break out — forcing the IAF to use its limited SCALP cruise missiles to target PLA’s advancing command posts, key communications nodes and EW assets, that have been pushed forward into Indian territory.

2. Unlike the Indians, the PLA has 5 true tri-service Theatre Commands that by doctrine attack in an integrated and network centric fashion. Further, the PLA(AF) is a true tertiary air force, as it is capable of air to air refuelling and has a large fleet of KJ-500 airborne early warning and control system (AWACS). It is PLA(AF)’s ability to provide 24/7 coverage with its AWACS that make it so difficult to fight against.
(a) In Jun 1999, the PLA(AF) created the Air Force Combined-arms Tactics Training Center (空军合同战术训练中心) in the Badain Jaran Desert (巴丹吉 林沙漠), which spans Gansu, Ningxia, and Inner Mongolia. In the same year, it successfully completed a multi-force exercise under high-tech conditions.​
(b) In Dec 2003, the Central Military Commission approved the creation of the PLA(AF)’s 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Test and Training Bases (军空军第一、二、 三试验训练基地) and a Combined-arms Tactics Training Center (空军合同战 术训练中心).​
(c) The PLA(AF) takes training seriously and has modelled its dedicated opposition force (OPFOR) units after the Taiwanese Air Force; with the 172nd Air Brigade appearing to serve as what the PLAAF calls its “Blue Force.” While Western militaries traditionally train against a unit or collection of units that plays the role of the OPFOR and labels these OPFOR elements the “Red Force” (红军), the Chinese OPFOR is known as the “Blue Force” (蓝军). Reportedly, their unit motto is “Think and fly like the enemy” (像敌人那样思考 和飞行). The 172nd Air Brigade operates one flight group of Su-30MKK and two flight groups of J-16.​
(d) The IAF needs to blunt the combined arms attacks of the PLA (by attempting to degrade these networks); if the Indians are to avoid another humiliating 1962 defeat. The Indian need to use SCALP on Indian soil, is a sign of weakness.​
The Indian Air Force has asked MBDA to tweak the software in the SCALP Cruise Missile carried on the Rafale to enable it to hit targets in the Alps at altitudes above 4000 metres.

Rafale’s deep-strike cruise missile gets an upgrade for targets in mountains
3. This is laughable deterrence messaging from the Indian defence establishment and its procurement agencies.
(a) Indian defence science is in the professional business of producing things the IAF or Indian Army does not need or want. It is rare for Indian defence science to design weapons that meet actual war fighting requirements of its three services (but insistently saying that it does). Just think about it, the Indians can’t even produce a reliable assault rifle of their own design.​
(b) While India already has the Brahmos cruise missile in service, its own air force officers diplomatically say that the SCALP is in a different category, given its pinpoint accuracy to take down targets in all weather conditions and ability to evade air defence systems.​
(c) While Indian politicians may dare to order the IAF to use their brand news Dassault Rafale to fire SCALP missiles to hit virtually any target within Pakistan, IMO, they are too chicken-shit scared to do the same against China. This is because the PLA can hit 10 times more targets within India in a return, in a single counter value salvo. Anyone but the Indian fanboys know that China has escalation dominance.​

4. In competent countries, you specify what you need and enter into a contract to meet those requirements (i.e. for the SCALP cruise missile to hit targets up to 4,000 metres above sea level); not the other way around. The Indians are discovering that they need a feature they didn’t think of and want it via a software tweak, as the default setting does not do what they want (with its calibration set at below 2,000 metres).

5. MBDA wants good will and have done this ‘free’ with an implied understanding of more Indian orders to follow. This is Indian procurement malpractice in action.
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Uncovering truth from Indian & Chinese nationalist propaganda — Part 2

6. China has in the last three decades, transformed its navy, air force and army. The PLA is prepared to use force to pursue its policy; and has enforced a status quo with respect to border infrastructure on its own terms. In Dec 2020, Chinese President Xi Jinping has appointed Gen. Zhang Xudong as the Commander of the Western Theatre Command, which oversees the China-India border, amidst the military standoff in eastern Ladakh. Xi has promoted three other senior Chinese military and armed police officers. Among them includes Guo Puxiao, Political Commissar of the Logistic Support Department of the CMC; Li Wei, Political Commissar of the PLA Strategic Support Force and Wang Chunning, Commander.
(a) In the meanwhile, the clueless Indian ministry of defence is belatedly re-thinking the protocol followed by its soldiers of carrying firearms in the forward areas, given that PLA has flouted the 2013 Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (2013 BDCA) and 4 other agreements, including the 1996 CBM on the LAC Agreement — these agreements lay down norms to exercise restraint in use of weapons during confrontations.​
(b) But that is for border policing in normal times and not during military operations. The agreement does not lay down any restrictions on carriage of weapons. Moreover, when the lives of soldiers is threatened, the commander on the spot can use all weapons at his disposal, including artillery fire. The decision to not carry weapons was deliberate and a wrong one taken by the military hierarchy.​

7. Despite the potential for clashes at the LAC, five major Sino-Indian agreements have – until now – largely kept the peace. The first of these, the Border Peace and Tranquillity Agreement (BPTA), signed in September 1993, is the “mother agreement.” It was supplemented with the 1996 confidence-building measures (CBM) on the LAC agreement; a 2005 standard operating procedures for patrols that come into contact agreement; a 2012 agreement that sets out processes for consultation and co-operation; and, most recently, the 2013 BDCA. Both Beijing and New Delhi realise that a mutually delineated LAC would end the uncertainty that causes troop clashes.
(a) The 1996 agreement explicitly notes the need for a “common understanding of the alignment of the line of actual control in the India–China border areas”.​
(b) It states that the two sides “agree to exchange maps indicating their respective perceptions of the entire alignment of the line of actual control as soon as possible”. However, China stonewalls the exchange of LAC maps, keeping alive the window for clashes.​

8. In the standoff between India’s 14 Corps led by Lt General Harinder Singh and the Xinjiang Military Command, led by Major General Lin Liu, we see a fiasco unfolding at multiple levels for both Beijing and Delhi.

On the one hand, the PLA and the CCP have a PR fiasco for initiating the attack and killing Indian soldiers with nail-studded rods. The PLA is shown as engaging in thuggery, not soldiering —destroying PLA’s hard earned international reputation, as military professionals, by its strong participation in numerous UN peacekeeping operations and its evacuation of 35,860 Chinese nationals stranded in riot-torn Libya — rescued in a huge air, sea and land operation in Feb and Mar 2011. This thuggish mindset is like the Johnson South Reef Skirmish that took place on 14 March 1988, where the PLA(N) was perfectly willing to gun down Vietnamese troops attempted to erect the Vietnamese flag on the reef.​

On the other, the Indian BJP government suffered from a credibility gap given its hyper nationalist language usage, obvious spin control with lies and actual actions — where it is ONLY re-thinking the protocol followed by its soldiers of not carrying firearms.​
  • There is also a gap the Indian ability to conduct timely ISR to support its unarmed troops under attack.
  • And I am not even sure if they have a QRF for timely rescue of the injured.
  • The BJP government should have given powers to the the Indian military to make emergency procurements to stock up its war reserves, months ago (and not just after 20 had died). If that had been authorised months ago, it would have signalled real resolve.
9. IMO, like China’s propaganda mouth pieces, BJP’s jingoistic rhetoric also does not allow critical engagement in any sphere. It projects anything critical of the BJP ruling party as anti-national.
(a) The reality is that it is the BJP that decided to procure only 36 Dassault Rafale in a Euro €7.87 billion contract (and failing to order a 2nd tranche of 36 more); with only 5 arriving. In contrast, the PLA(AF) has introduced an entirely new brigade of J-16s for the Western Theatre Command — to the existing 3 brigades (of about 90 multi-role fighters or ground attack aircraft). A typical PLA(AF) combat air brigade, has 24 operational aircraft (excluding trainers) organized in 3 battalion leader-grade flight groups (of 8 fighters each) — with 6 additional aircraft as spares.​
(b) Likewise the previous government failed to conclude the MRCA tender for 126 fighters and only ordered 11 C-17s by moving too slowly before the line closed (when they had a requirement for 16). In the 2011 C-17 contract, for 10 aircraft, was worth US$4.7 billion, India had an option to purchase 6 more C-17s over its order of ten. However, a lack of funds ensured that the follow-on order was not processed.​

10. From China’s arms procurement perspective, India does not have a competent arms procurement process —India’s ruling party and its opposition can never find a bipartisan path forward to spend on defence. Even now, with Indian soldiers dead and injured the politicians are more or less engaging in political stunts to blame each other rather than finding a fix to their problems in defence. Correctly understood, it has a ministry of defeat, instead. The Indian defence ministry also took years to sign the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) with the US, despite years of buying American weapons. Without COMCASA, the Americans had to strip out equipment on aircraft sold to India, including crucial comms equipment for the Indian P-8Is.

11. The real art of public policy is not treating security and prosperity as strict alternatives but finding ways that get the most for both.

12. PLA’s June 2020 hostile action to gain some inconsequential land along the LAC has resulted China destroying the trust created by prior border agreements and creating another enemy, when they could have kept India in the neutral camp.
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Well-Known Member

From Indian Government site. Officially Tejas MK1 LCA first mass production batch being given go ahead. This protracted development of LCA finally entering mass production stage, after 3 decade of development.

LCA is build to replace Mig 21 as Indian AF back bone. Eventough it's not as fast as PLAF Mig 21 replacement program (J-10) in development, hopefully Indian AF and Indian administration shown sustaint commitment for LCA. This's important for India Aerospace development.