Saturday, July 09, 2011

COLUMN: MMRCA, The Right Choice For The Wrong Reasons

By Admiral Arun Prakash

Media reports that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has asked two of the six aspirants for the ongoing Medium Multi-role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) competition to extend the validity of their quotes would seem a clear indication that these two; the French Dassault Rafale and the Eurofighter Consortium’s Typhoon II – both of European provenance – have overhauled their rivals, to reach the finals. This development coupled with US Ambassador Roemer’s recent resignation, related or not, is likely to cast a pall of gloom, at least temporarily, over Indo-American relations.

These are lean times, world-wide, and bagging this huge contract will have a positive impact on the relatively small economies of the European nations involved. Conversely, the loss of business worth $11 billion (running into many times this figure on account of product-support extending over the full 30-35 year life-span of the aircraft) would come as a blow to the aerospace industry of even a major economic power like the USA.

More than anything else, it could be interpreted as a rebuff to the sustained efforts of three successive US Presidents who have gone out of their way to bring about unprecedented warmth and proximity in Indo-US relations. There is a view that awarding the MMRCA contract to one of the two US contenders, the F-16 Super Viper or the F/A-18 Super Hornet, would have been an appropriate quid pro quo; a suitable expression of gratitude, ensuring strategic convergence between the two nations. Such a buy would have brought the respective industries and armed forces into much closer engagement, and possibly gained entry for the IAF into the world-wide US military logistics loop.

However this may merely be a simplistic view, because the affairs of State are guided by diverse weighty considerations, and things are not always as they appear to the man on the street.

The Good News and the Bad

On the other hand, let us look at the positives.

The IAF is now guaranteed a versatile, highly-agile and potent - albeit expensive - fourth generation combat aircraft in its inventory which can dominate the regional skies for the foreseeable future. Having flown both the F/A-18 and the Rafale, I can say that while the former would certainly have met all the IAF requirements competently and economically, the breathtaking performance of the latter leaves one in no doubt that it is a “generation-next” machine. The Eurofighter Typhoon, by all accounts, is equally impressive.

The complex and elaborate selection process involving field trials for six competitors in diverse locations in a compressed time-frame seems to have been pursued without a hitch by the IAF. Short-listing of the contenders has been undertaken meticulously, by the rules of the game, framed under the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP). Given the dismal track-record of delays in earlier projects, if the MMRCA contract is signed by year-end, the MoD would have broken some Indian records for “quick” decision-making. To crown it all, there has – so far – not been a whiff of scandal that one has come to expect from contracts of such magnitude.

By itself, the MMRCA decision is not a matter of huge significance; and we can safely assume that our thoroughly professional air force has chosen a combat aircraft that will capably discharge the multiple tasks of defending Indian airspace, conducting strikes inside enemy territory and providing aerial cover to ground and maritime forces for the next four decades or so. Furthermore, Indo-US relations will weather this minor turbulence, and soon resume an even-keel.

However, in the midst of breathless speculation and gossip relating to the MMRCA contract, we are likely to miss the forest for the trees. What we really need to worry about is a deeper malaise in India’s national security framework which has been starkly highlighted by the unfolding of the decade-long MMRCA saga. This is an opportune moment to reflect on the flawed processes and procedures that India follows in the critical areas of force planning and weapon system acquisition.

There are two deeply disturbing aspects here. Firstly; India’s huge defence expenditure, which represents a significant proportion of the central budget, is spent with cavalier abandon and fails to accrue proportionate benefits for national security. And secondly, into its 64th year of independence, and having become a trillion-dollar economy, India remains abjectly dependent on foreign sources for its security needs. And yet nobody seems to be bothered.

India’s Blinkered Vision

Most major powers undertake periodic Strategic Defence Reviews or issue defence White Papers which clearly highlight national interests, identify vital goals and objectives, and undertake an evaluation of the security environment. A deliberate exercise of this nature helps visualize the kind of armed forces the country needs, and pinpoints the specific capabilities they must field.

India, for all its fiscal constraints and competing demands on scarce resources, is one of the few countries which neither undertakes such introspection, nor generates security doctrines. In such a vacuum the Services tend to produce equipment wish-lists which focus on numbers (one for one replacement) rather than technologies or capabilities. Such demands take little or no account of force-multiplication, jointness, or duplication.

Moreover, such is the nature of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC) system that a determined Service Chief can demand hardware for his Service by invoking the mantra of dire “operational necessity”. No provision exists, in the current dispensation, for the three Chiefs, the generalist bureaucracy or the Raksha Mantri (RM) to engage in a doctrinal discussion relating to the operational need of a requisitioned weapon-system, and the priority that must be accorded to it. After many instances of internecine sniping, an unwritten understanding has emerged in the COSC that, no Service will comment on another’s plans in the interests of harmony.

The MoD has neither the expertise nor the inclination to call for professional studies regarding national security issues. Therefore no critical examination or cost-benefit analysis has ever been undertaken on (for example) the continuing future relevance of weapon-systems such as battle-tanks, aircraft-carriers or short-range ballistic missiles in the Indian context, or the impact of an anti-ballistic missile defence system on deterrence stability. In such a scenario all wish-lists from the Services (and DRDO) become sacrosanct and, eventually, receive MoD approval.

The IAF Inventory

It is against this background that the IAF force-planning process, in general, and the MMRCA case in particular need to be examined, on the basis of information available in the public domain (IISS “Military Balance” 2010 edition). I must emphasise that the MMRCA case is being used only because it happens to be a current issue. This critique may also hold good for the acquisition programmes of the other two Services.

The mainstay of the IAF inventory, at its lower end, continues to be the vintage force of about 200 MiG-21 interceptors. Of these more than half have been upgraded to the Bison standard, encompassing a ground-attack capability. At the top end of the inventory are 140 Sukhoi-30 MKI air-dominance fighters which also have a significant strike capability. Additional Su-30s have been contracted and their eventual number will reach 272. Dedicated to the ground-attack role are 100 MiG-27 ML and 110 deep-strike Jaguar aircraft. Fifty Mirage-2000 multi-role fighters and 70 MiG-29 air-superiority fighters are available for combat tasks as required. The Jaguar, Mirage-2000 and the MiG-29 are all awaiting upgrades which will give them enhanced capabilities and extended life. This assorted force of about 650-700 combat aircraft is supported by air-air refuelling (AAR) and airborne warning and control system (AWACS) squadrons.

In addition to these combat aircraft of Russian, British and French origin already in service, the IAF has placed an order for 40 indigenous Tejas combat aircraft, with possibly another 80-100 more to follow. In December 2010 India signed a deal worth $ 300 million with Russia for the “joint development” of a 5th generation fighter aircraft. It is understood that about 250 of these aircraft, designated PAK-FA in Russia, will enter IAF service during the next decade. Finally, the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) is reported to have commenced design work on a fifth generation indigenous Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) expected to fly by 2025.

Assuming that the MiG-21s are withdrawn by the end of the decade, to be replaced by the Tejas; the MMRCA, when it joins the fleet, will become the 8th type of combat aircraft in IAF service. The increasing diversity of aircraft types (mostly of foreign origin) being accumulated by the IAF is going to become a nightmare in the spheres of training, maintenance, logistics and inventory-management.

The IAF had decided, in the early years of the last decade that the logical answer to its problems of obsolescence, attrition and declining strength was to induct additional numbers of the Mirage-2000. With a few upgrades, this excellent machine could become the future multi-role aircraft; bridging the gap between the heavy-weight Su-30 and the light-weight Tejas. It was the MoD’s rejection of this proposal that gave birth to the MMRCA project. However, a lack of clarity has prevailed about the specific space that the MMRCA is meant to occupy in the IAF order of battle, given the growing fleet of Su-30s, and the planned induction of the PAK-FA and the AMCA.

In this context, it is interesting to note the contrasting approach of two other medium sized air forces; the British and French. Both are equipped with about 300 combat aircraft, with which they meet operational commitments, not just at home but also world-wide. Their inventories are restricted to two or three types of aircraft: Typhoon and Tornado in the Royal Air Force, and Rafale, Mirage-F1 and Mirage-2000 in the Armee de l’Air. Versions of these aircraft undertake all combat tasks, including air-defence, ground-attack and strike & recce.

Foreign Dependence

One of the most deeply disturbing aspects of India’s national security policies is the nonchalance with which the country continues to spend colossal sums of money in acquiring weapon systems from foreign sources. There does not seem to be adequate realization of the fact that every such purchase makes India hostage to the seller nation, and seriously undermines our security as well as autonomy. For example, if the aircraft-carrier Vikramaditya arrives in 2012, the Indian Navy (IN) will remain captive to the whims and fancies of Russia’s creaky supply chain till at least 2052 for spares, and maintenance support.

In similar fashion every foreign aircraft that the IAF acquires, will place the Service at the mercy of another nation for 30-40 years thereafter. The denial of a tiny aircraft component can ground fleets, and we should be in no doubt that our dependence for spares, product-support and weapons on sources as diverse as Russia, UK, France, Israel and South Africa constitutes a crippling strategic vulnerability. We may soon be adding Italy, Spain and Germany to this list.

It is true that no third-world nation can aspire to be completely autarchic in advanced weapon-systems. And yet China has demonstrated that resolute pursuit of self-reliance can produce wonders. By deploying their scientific resources to “steal” technology and resort to reverse-engineering, the Chinese produce everything they need; from AK-47 assault rifles, cruise-missiles and stealth fighters to carriers and nuclear submarines. They also export $ 2 billion worth of arms annually. While it is sometime appropriate to disparage and berate the DRDO for its many delays, failures and false promises, the armed forces need to undertake some soul-searching themselves. Very often it has been their own their own detached attitude, and penchant for the illusory “fast-track” import option that has caused them to bypass any attempt at indigenization, and perpetuate foreign dependence.

Delving a little into history, it is interesting to note that it was at about the same time in the mid-1950s that two significant initiatives were taken towards self-reliance in defence. The IAF issued an Air Staff Requirement for an indigenous jet fighter, and the IN established a Corps of Naval Constructors (later to become Directorate of Naval Design) with the aim of starting indigenous warship production. HAL delivered the first twin-jet HF-24 Marut, designed by Dr. Kurt Tank, to No. 10 Squadron in 1967. Mazagon Docks Mumbai launched the first, licence-built, Leander class frigate, INS Nilgiri in 1968.

The stories diverge thereafter. Having delivered 150 Maruts, HAL doggedly persevered with further development of this elegant looking fighter. The designers, however, lost heart as successive versions like the HF-73, HF-24-M.53 and the single-engine HF-25 had to be shelved for lack of IAF interest and government support. Finally, HAL gave up when the IAF opted for the Jaguar and the Mig-23 BN, and the Marut programme was shut down. The LCA project taken up by DRDO, 30 years after the Marut, did not, till recently, evoke much enthusiasm from the IAF; which accounts for its tardy and halting progress.

On the other hand, Mazagon Docks went on to build four more Leanders before Indian naval architects stepped in to re-design the hull and add weapons and sensors to produce three different classes of warships. Today, the navy’s perspective plans rely heavily on the regular delivery of frigates, destroyers, amphibious ships and submarines by carefully nurtured Indian shipyards. A nuclear submarine was launched in 2010, and an indigenous aircraft-carrier will follow in 2015.

Backing Self-reliance

It may be somewhat late in the day, but there is still time to ensure that India’s aerospace industry does not completely miss the technology bus, and leave the nation forever dependent on foreign sources for combat aircraft. The MMRCA contract provides an invaluable window of opportunity, via the Offset Clause.

For far too long, have Indian defence PSUs claimed “transfer of technology” when they were only assembling components received from abroad using “screwdriver technology”. For the MMRCA offsets to be beneficial to India, they must be selectively chosen to fill known gaps in key technologies or provide high-end production-engineering skills lacking in our aerospace industry today. The USA had conveyed a distinct message that selection of either American candidate would open a cornucopia of technology to India – including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The Europeans must be reminded of this and prevailed upon to follow a similar paradigm.

As far as the PAK-FA “joint development” contract is concerned, there is need for us to be even more careful because the prototype made its maiden flight early this year at Komsomolsk-on-Amur. The developmental process of this aircraft is, obviously, at least a decade old, and has been guided by the requirements of the Russian Air Force rather than the IAF. Thus, even if the “joint development” is no longer possible India must ensure that key technologies in areas such as stealth, super-cruise and active electronically scanned radar are actually transferred to the DRDO in return for the heavy investment made. The Russians are known to be parsimonious with technology transfer, and the pointless licence-production of 850 MiG-21s and aero-engines, as well as many BrahMos missiles is proof of this.

The IAF, on its part, can reinforce India’s aero-space self-reliance endeavours by articulating a 25-30 year capability-cum-force-planning vision, if possible, jointly with DRDO. This vision must use the LCA, AMCA and PAK-FA experiences and technologies as the basic building blocks for futuristic combat aircraft – manned or unmanned. Perhaps the establishment of a small Aero-space Design Cell in Vayu Bhavan may help.

The Advantage of Numbers

The IAF has justly complained, for many years, that its long-standing requirement of 45 fighter squadrons has never been met. Worse still, even the arbitrary “authorised" strength of 39.5 squadrons has been steadily eroded by attrition and obsolescence, so that today it is a force of less than 30 squadrons.

A point repeatedly made by the IAF leadership, in the context of declining force-levels, has been that while technology may have its place, “numbers have their own logic”. This is a valid argument for a force required to divide its strength between the western sector facing Pakistan, the north-eastern sector facing China, and the northern sector facing both adversaries. It must also be borne in mind that the Strategic Forces Command does not own any aircraft assets, and relies on dual-tasked IAF machines to be withdrawn for nuclear delivery missions. However the numbers argument has its limitations.

The IAF Hawker Hunter FGA Mk.9 that I flew in the 1970s could deliver a ton’s worth of rockets and iron bombs out to a little under 200 miles, and weapon accuracies of 15-20 yards were considered reasonable. The Jaguar, inducted in mid-1980s, was a great improvement and could deliver a 4 ton payload to over 300 miles. Today’s combat aircraft carry 6-8 tons of lethal weaponry to ranges of over 400 miles and deliver them with pinpoint precision on the target. Such is the accuracy and lethality of “smart” weapons that a single modern fighter can achieve the same effect in one mission as 15-20 earlier generation aircraft using “dumb” weaponry. This was amply demonstrated by the Mirage-2000 on Kargil heights in 1999. The “multi-role” appellation represents the ability to switch rapidly between interceptor, strike and recce tasks.

It is a moot question that if numbers are indeed so critical for the IAF, then why have the cheaper MMRCA options been discarded? Given that all six aircraft seem to have qualified in the flight-trials and technical evaluation processes, the line-up, in ascending order of price, shown in parenthesis, is as follows: MiG-35 ($ 45 m), F-16 ($60 m), F/A-18 ($60.5 m), Gripen ($82.2 m), Rafale ($ 85.5 m) and Typhoon ($124 m). The IAF could have, for example, added 400 Super Hornets to its inventory for the price of 200 Typhoons, and resolved many of its problems.

From this it becomes obvious that the time has now come for the IAF to undertake an exercise to determine the “capabilities” that it needs to discharge its roles and missions rather than insisting on a fixed number of squadrons. At between Rs. 350-550 crores per aircraft it would be unrealistic to demand the numbers contemplated in the 1960s; especially when technology opens up so many operational vistas.

Integrating the Expertise

There is no doubt that the General, Naval and Air Staffs at the three Service Headquarters embody in themselves the highest levels of field experience, domain knowledge and professional expertise. However, rhetoric apart, future wars are not going to be fought or won by a single Service. Whether we like it or not, concepts like “sea control” as well as “air dominance” are mere preliminaries for “boots on the ground”. It was for this reason that the post-Kargil Group of Ministers convened to “Reform the National Security System” recommended, in 2001, the creation of an Integrated Defence Staff to support the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).

he CDS was to constitute the “single point of military advice to the Government”, and apart from administering the Strategic Forces Command (SFC), his two main functions, as Chairman COSC, were to be:
  • To enhance efficiency and effectiveness of the force planning process through intra and inter-Service prioritisation.
  • To ensure the enhancement of capabilities by engendering Jointness, demanded by modern warfare, in the armed forces.

A combination of bureaucratic resistance and political indecision bolstered by scare-mongering from within a section of the armed forces, unfortunately, stalled the institution of a CDS. An IDS HQ was, however, created and has been functioning under a 3-star Chief of Integrated Staff to Chairman COSC (CISC for short) since 2001.

The Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) with a large number of 2 and 3-star officers from the army, navy and air force could have become a most valuable pool of inter-Service expertise. It could play a crucial role in rendering advice to the RM on all issues relating to capability creation, force planning and inter-Service prioritisation of acquisitions. However, in the absence of a CDS, the functioning of the CISC, understandably, remains constrained by the Chiefs, and the IDS HQ remains an under-utilised formation.

Fixing the System

In the current system of India’s higher defence management the Chiefs feel that the acute scrutiny of their respective Services will not permit any down-sizing or right-sizing, especially if it means disbanding units or losing high-ranking billets. No significant reform, or move towards Jointmanship is, therefore, likely to take place unless imposed by the political leadership – as has happened in other democracies like the USA and UK.

With China bearing down hard on us, and Pakistan ready to descend into chaos, India’s external security scenario is fraught with hazard. Internally, the Indian state, which has been struggling to cope with Naxalism and terrorism, is now confronted with a restless civil society seeking relief from all-pervasive corruption and administrative ineptitude. National security is, therefore, in parlous straits.

The political leadership in India has overwhelming political preoccupations which obviate focused attention on national security issues. The bureaucracy is only too happy to step-in wherever it can, but does not know enough about operational issues to make drastic interventions. Under these circumstances, there is a strong element of tunnel-vision and ad-hocism in our defence planning and expenditure; dictated by the compulsions of individual Service HQs. Consequently, our colossal defence expenditure of $ 35 billion (and growing), does not contribute effectively to national security, and some urgent re-engineering is called for.

At the conclusion of this, somewhat lengthy essay I have, regrettably, no “silver bullet” to offer. However the national security establishment needs to pay urgent heed to four salient recommendations:

  • Create a source of advice which is not merely “single point” but conveys a non-parochial, inter-Service view of issues for the RM’s consideration. This source can be designated the “Permanent Chairman COSC” (or PCC) rather than CDS. The PCC will have no forces to command, but will administer the SFC and Andaman & Nicobar Command. His advice to the RM will be a distillate of the combined wisdom of the COSC, tempered by the counsel of the CISC and IDS HQ staff who represent all three Services.
  • Progressively integrate the IDS HQ and the MoD, so that the uniformed and civilian staffs work in harmony rather than as adversaries. This will enhance efficiency, cut down processing times for acquisition cases, and ensure that the defence budget is fully utilized.
  • Give utmost priority to attaining self-reliance in weapon system acquisition. This will require radical reforms in the structure and management of the DRDO and defence PSUs. It will also call for much closer integration of the DRDO with the IDS HQ, so that a meaningful and time-bound programme for attaining self-sufficiency in key defence technologies can be pursued even at this late stage.
  • Management of the DRDO budget should be placed under a board which has the three Service Chiefs as members. All defence R&D projects should be subjected to periodic user reviews for a decision on their continued relevance and viability.

Returning to the MMRCA issue as a post-script; no matter which aircraft eventually emerges as the winner in the competition, there can be only one litmus test for the decision. Has this choice been made for the right reasons, and does it serve India’s vital national interests? As a corollary one might also ask: how much longer must India remain dependent on foreign sources for security?

(A naval fighter pilot, Admiral Arun Prakash PVSM AVSM VrC VSM served as India's Chief of the Naval Staff from 31 July 2004-31 Oct 2006. As Chairman of the National Maritime Foundation (NMF), he currently divides his time between Goa and Delhi. This column is copyright and courtesy VAYU Aerospace & Defence Review (III/2011), at which the Admiral is Editorial Advisor. He contributes columns to journals, magazines, newspapers and, occasionally, to LiveFist)


Angle of Attack said...

Admiral sir has forgotten that IAF still follows the soviet philosophy of having a large force with unending variety of aircrafts and weapons to go on it. This philosophy has been used to tune the tactics according to situation, like in Kargil when IAF had to replace the jags with Mirages as the French plane was better suited for the job. However, he is right. IAF needs to limit adding more types of aircraft.

Anonymous said...

This very sad state of affairs...who can help this country...???May be another 1962....

Dev said...

Why he didn't try to change system while he was in office? He remained as Chief of Naval staff for 2 years and he could influenced others for this change. It would had been great if he had done something for this rather that now writing article.

Anonymous said...

"three successive US Presidents who have gone out of their way to bring about unprecedented warmth and proximity in Indo-US relations."... if they have done... this only due to... forseening commercial interest... only... then they are only merchants... not friends...

Anonymous said...

Easily one of the best posts I have read on this blog !!

Mirza said...

We should check his decision taken during his service as he is more US person than Indian.

LOL Buy 400 F-18,thanks them when they F*@k us during war or some other circumstance @ 7th fleet

one hand asking self-reliance on the other hand want us to sell soul.

More Confused person actively looking governors job

Anonymous said...

Hi Shiv,
If you are back in India please do us all a favor and go to Rajasthan and get us some pics of Arjun mk2 and some opinion from army. All your fans are hoping you will be the first one to report.


Anonymous said...

Its just Mrs Gandhi channeling money to her MAeEKE (EUROPE). this is to bail them out of financial crisis...MMRCA deal is all set to fill european pockets....who knows some of her relatives are beneficiaries of this deal ...
self reliance...hah...babulog ghotale kaise karenge jab tak foren deals nahi hongee :)))

AK said...

Most of the points made in this article are valid. However, I have uneasy feeling that he is leaning towards the American systems and that this is not a completely fair assessment of the situation on the ground.

Anonymous said...

Interesting article, seems like the author knows about the problems facing the system. And has stressed on aggressive "Self-reliance" in defense research. My thoughts in addition to the authors, are to diversify defense research from the sole proprietorship of defense PSUs to create more competitors to them,thus enhancing efficiency. Award contracts to those who demonstrate the best indigenous technology and manufacturing. Once these private sector participants pitch in, automatically DRDO, ISRO, HAL etc,etc will learn what time-lines, and budget mean to bagging successful contracts. Until this happens, we will see shoddy research being peddled around as world-class and self-praising will cause our downfall.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:18 PM not really sad of affairs we are doing better than you. Might be reputation of 1971.

Anonymous said...

Most Indian so-called scientists and PhDs are not creators of science, merely followers in the footsteps of actual discoverers of scientific thoughts. This is reflected from the importance given to rote learning and emphasis on scoring marks in exams, instead of demonstrating talent in the form of fundamental research which very few of our scientist actually pursue. Such short-sighted pursuit of technology based on western research will always keep us enslaved to science being discovered in western society, even if we achieve total indigenousness, we will never discover new science and always be behind the research curve. The only way this can be remedied is by drastically changing our education system, from being marks oriented to being research oriented. But in order to be able to make this change requires the teachers or educators to themselves be experts in their domains to understand what is being passed for individual research, as Indians are well-known for plagiarizing from foreign authors. This mentality of easy pie needs to change for India to grow and seeks its real position in world order. Without this fundamental change, India as it is, will never be able to garner respect and project real radiance anywhere.

Anonymous said...

First of all the mention of F-16 is totally uncalled for. India needed an aircraft with future development in mind and that is why it specifically sent that out. There simply is no scope for upgradation in F-16. Yeah it was nice aircraft once but now we are moving into era of fifth gen fighters with extensive new techs. Anything less than 4.5+ gen is pointless. Tejas Mk-II with AESA, ew suite and 120Kn engine (all are confirmed updates) can fill F-16s place easily.

Anonymous said...

There are some very positive developments. Mr. Naik, though an great man, used to gravitate towards foreign goods and was less enthusiastic towards domestic goods. However his successor Mr Browne has shown an distinct liking of domestic projects. Remember its the top which decide what is to be done and what not. With an favourable top command we can see brisk induction of Tejas and priority development of our Fifth gen Fighter MMRCA.

Mr. Ra said...

Thanx for an excellent analytical article rarely seen.

However it too creates the paradox that either purchase from US or achieve the self reliance. US economy is not a house of wax which may meltdown in absence of any MMRCA order. Rather economies of other contender nations may be highly affected with or without it.

Regarding quantities or capabilities of aircraft's needed, a point loading system must have been devised somewhere, wherein different points are allotted to various a/cs depending upon their capabilities and are finally summed up. On this scale India should target to acquire and maintain at least 60%-70% of the points of the total points obtained by China and Pak combined. Numbers of squadrons needed can be fixed up on the basis of these requisite points.

Regarding presence of many different varieties of a/cs in our forces, it has arisen due to our historical weaknesses and requirements. Even in 2030 we may have at least five types of a/cs.

Anonymous said...

A very good article.

Major.srikanth said...

Hard to trust someone from such a high level of hierarchy. The Author has lots of knowledge no doubt, but the whole piece seems indecisive. He talks about all the aircraft, indigenous industry and yet there is no conclusion. So Sir what is it going to be,russian or European. At least now be man enough to state AS-IS.

Anonymous said...

There are two things that should be taken into consideration here:
- The "relatively small" economies of Germany, the UK, and France are really not that small, since they rank among the top 5 (at worst, top 10) of the world
- The fact that the US wants to be best buddies with India has to do with the fact that the other regional powers: China and Pakistan, are far from being likeable by the US... so the US has no choice but to be friends with India, since India is the only important country in the region that is respectable and worth allying with.

Mr. Ra said...

To: Anon @2:02 AM

You are true, but if business and purchasing are the only symbols of friendship, then India has already shown enough friendship through G-17, C-130 & P-8. Now at least MMRCA shall be separated from this mode, wherein EFT/Rafale shall be allowed to freely compete onward in the final rounds.

In my opinion, India should have already purchased 50 Nos of F-18 on a rapid basis to fill up the gap of depleting quantities. That opportunity seems to have passed.

Shiv Aroor said...

Quick word to all: I won't post disrespectful comments. If you want to disagree with the Admiral, or have arguments, please go ahead by all means, but refrain from anything disrespectful. Those comments won't be cleared.

Anonymous said...

Admiral Sir, US of A is not a trustworthy supplier. Secondly, 3 intrusive treaties to sign - not a very friendly act. Thirdly, while we sign 123 and have years of discussion on NSG waiver our regional competitors get turnaround & bye-pass these multilateral forum. Lastly, nobody will supply us TOT. No Sir, not Russians or French or Europeans or Israel and definitely not Yankees. Pretext will be that we are incapable of absorbing technology - in which they are partially true. Our best brains in India do MBA after engineering and join consultancy or finance and ultimately work for American economy - draining our resources.
We need speedy implementation of National Innovation Council suggestions to jump start R&D and innovation culture in India. Our decision makers have to move out of 3rd world ideology of 'cost' but rapidly adopt to 1st world ideology of 'value'.

Anonymous said...

I think in the last para of sub-heading 'Backing Self-Reliance', the Admiral must've meant PAK-FA and not AF-PAK.

SmestarZ said...

Dear Sir

It is very interesting article with lot of details and the article contradicts itself.

Point 1 :
Quoting the Admiral

"Assuming that the MiG-21s are withdrawn by the end of the decade, to be replaced by the Tejas; the MMRCA, when it joins the fleet, will become the 8th type of combat aircraft in IAF service. The increasing diversity of aircraft types (mostly of foreign origin) being accumulated by the IAF is going to become a nightmare in the spheres of training, maintenance, logistics and inventory-management."

Adding F-16IN or F/A-18 E/F would not have solved it and complicated it further. So as per this article the logical choice is RAFALE which has many common parts with Mirages 2000 that we operate,
BUT, buying 126 new advanced planes just because we have 51 earlier generation planes which boast some commonaility would be like "Because I got a tyre of Mercedes SLK free, so now I want to buy Mercedes SLK so that I can use this tyre"

Further Admiral is following views of a certain individual who did write an article in Live fist saying "India has gone for plane and not relationship"
RFI/RFP was for a plane and not relationship, further,

Further a Navy Admiral writing about IAF is something like going out of the way to stress something.

Also seems the Admiral has overlooked the point that India has procured C-17 Globemaster III and C-130J and P-8I. which I think is enough to convey to USA that we have good intentions,

VERY VERY IMPORTANT, Did the Admiral forget to note the important POINT OF CISMOA AND LSA which India has refused to sign?
I think he has conveniently overlooked the point and which makes me doubt HIS TRUE INTENTIONS FOR THIS ARTICLE.

India has refused to sign CISMOA, LSA and various other agreements as it will limit us with modifications and usage (we might not be able to use these weapons against Pakistan as Pakistan is American ally in war against terrorism)

I believe the agreement to purchase MiG-29K was taken around his time, why did he not suggest and ensure the purchase of F/A-18 E/F for the navy to be used along with Mig-29K ?

The article is good but I doubt the intentions of the Admiral as he does not answer important points,

Further, USA itself flies more types and planes than us.
Fighters-- F-22A, F-16, F-15, F-18, A-10, B-1, B-2, B-52.
And if the admiral notes that all these planes are American made.

When we are not self reliant, having different planes and having nightmares about the parts is not issue, but securing the borders and having strong deterrent is.
Once we have strong Armed forces and as you see that our own defence sector is now developing our own planes, missiles, ships and tanks and this will take time. Once this is done, we can develop and build our own weapons more like Germany and France do, and that too successfully.

I really doubt the true intentions of the Admiral and one of the intentions might be to take potshots at IAF

Anonymous said...

M-MRCA should have been completed much before. more emphasis should be given on UAV as this will be used in the future war. MMRCA aircraft will then be secondary in attack, taking into consideration the cost and human factor. so india should focus more on UAV. china is devloping(or smuggling) UAV technology, they are much advance than india. the main thing is that pakistan will get this UAV very soon and have technical advantage. Sir, can u most the development of india's UAV program. thanks in advance.

Rajan said...

Thanks Admiral Prakash for the details view of the deal and related efforts by the services's preparation and future problems.

IA and IAF must learn a lot from IN. Ship and submarine building is the highest technological challenge in defence sector. IN managed it well and getting full benefits of indigenous products while for some ridiculous reason IA and IAF reluctant to add Indian systems though foreign weapons specially Russian has so man problems.

Anonymous said...

@Shiv Thank you very much for moderating Jingo comments. Please keep up the good work and only allow comments that actually add something to topic and remove unnecessary flame baits that try to derail discussion. Even if they have been published by oversight.

Michael said...

India for some strange reasons have always shinned closer ties with the US.

Anonymous said...

Mirages, Fulcrums and Jags would be retired anytime after 2022.The Indian Airforce would be limited to just five types of fighters the SU-30,50, LCA, AMCA and to be chosen-MMRCA. Secondly the L1 option were to be exercised only after the aircraft were technically evaluated and shortlisted.Keeping in mind potential for future upgrades which could last beyond 2040 Rafale and Typhoon or even Gripen seems to be an appropriate choice inspite of being expensive.

Anonymous said...

"equally performant rafale and typhoon"?
we can see it every days in libya, at rates and role of missions that they carries, or canibilise for the former! hey hey

rohitvats said...

Mr Ra, you are absolutely correct. Unfortunately, ratshakers like anon@11:21 PM wont agree. They continue to have mental debates and term is as "expertise". This phenomena can be seen at the ratshaker forum.

Anonymous said...

Shiv - people do work on Sundays and i thought you too belong to this tribe. Post my comments i had submitted in the morning. It was at least not disrespectful of honorable Admiral.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Admiral for a timely article. His final recommendations need to be taken seriously by the GoI.

I however wish to disagree with the last recommendation of the admiral. Recommendation no. 2 should take care of the objective.

Research and production play a very important role and have to occupy an important place in the security management of the country. The urge of services to dominate the DRDO should be checked firmly by the GoI. Otherwise the consequences will be disastrous. Let the services manage their business properly. What they have done till date regarding indigenous development can be termed mildly as anti national.

It is not coincidental the greatest progress achieved by India is in areas where imports were not possible viz strategic missiles, ABM and electronic warfare. Imports are killing domestic efforts.

In any case, we cannot fight China with imported equipment. China will surely come up soon with innovations in defense equipment produced in large numbers. Are we planning to stay in the race or give up.

What about the impact on the domestic economy and jobs for our young people.

Let the MoD consist of representatives from all stakeholders - Bureaucracy, Services, DRDO and strategic thinkers. One upmanship will not do.

Finally, GoI has to create competition for entities like HAL, BDL, BEL etc to keep them on their toes. First HAL has to be split as there are too many projects to take care of.

Let there be more people like Admiral Arun Prakash.

Anonymous said...

@10:35 AM
dude, what the hell is a jingo? please leave ratshaker language at the rat forum. We are here to read Shiv's posts and some sensible comments.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 5:13 Dude dont blame anon at 10:35. He is right. And you by calling him 'Ratshaker' have only proved and re-enforced his point.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 5:13Pm So you think K sounds like T? Then why not call Pakistan 'RATistan' which judging by the huge number of terrorists infiltrated in their army is an very fitting name.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant insight from the Admiral. Thank you Sir!

Tarak said...

I think we all agree with Anon 10:35. Comments shall be highly moderated. By allowing flaimbaits, off-topic banter and jingos we dilute the discussion. Please @Shiv dont let Livefist discussions quality go down.

Sarang said...

Its a pretty disappointing article, by a person who held one of the most important post in India

Almost all the arguments, problems, what the government needs to do etc etc

It seemed more like an article blaming the other forces

For a person so senior was looking for an insight a perspective i dint have before

Anonymous said...

...babulog ghotale kaise karenge jab tak foren deals nahi hongee :)))

Babulog do ghotalsa in PSUs and DRDOs. Less chances in foreign deals as that is the forte of politicians. All defence PSU and DRDO are Babulogs..

Anonymous said...

Easy potshots at the IAF.
Compare the RAF and AdA with the IAF. Who are the RAF protecting England from - the Scots? 300 combat ac for zero threat at home. Hmm.
The IAF has a task set out for it by the GoI. "Supporting" indigenous programmes does not mean inducting them in any state. The service has no doubt that the Tejas needs to be inducted, but if ADA and HAL do not deliver, it has little option but to bid for alternatives.
Tejas IOC was much tomtommed in Jan this year. Formation of the sqn was promised in a few months - not even LSP7 has flown to date. NP 1 was rolled out which much fanfare with a first flight promised in September. September holds, the year has shifted.
Since the IN is such a firm supporter of indigenisation, no follow on orders for MiG29Ks should have been given, let alone RFPs for the next gen fighter. For the IAF 8 types are too much, but for the IN five types (LUSH, M29K, Tejas N, Hawk, Next gen fighter) is acceptable. Far too slanted an article, in my opinion.

Chintan said...

@Michael, re "India for some strange reasons have always shinned closer ties with the US."
Could it possibly have something to do with the fact that the US, for some strange reason has always shunned closer ties with India? Just wondering.

Anonymous said...

There is no doubt that the Eurofighter Typhoon is performant but in terms of capabilties, Rafale have no equal there. If the Rafale GIE looses this market they might just as well hire Eurofighter technico-commercial geniuses...

Michael said...

@ Chintan, pls read the article before you comment...

Chintan said...

I had to smile at your comment about "being man enough" to state things :-) Very Fauji indeed. I think the reason for the indecisiveness (is that a word? "indecision" maybe?) as you accurately discern in the article is because of what you started your note with. Because of his previous position, the Admiral would need to not be too hard hitting or negative. Overall though, I think it will only do the entire system good if more people like the Admiral would write about issues like this. Although almost everything he says in the article has been discussed before, coming from a man of his stature could potentially lend it more weight and credibility than you or I writing about it. Being an ex fighter jock, albeit of the naval variety, also lends credibility to his comments about an IAF procurement. I am sure you agree with the points he is making. They are essentially correct, when looked at objectively, and most folks would tend to agree, I believe. I've always felt that think tanks and organizations outside of the government with potentially more objectivity would benefit decision makers at the highest levels of the government. We are slowly moving towards that and I look at this article as something that would potentially come from a neutral think tank type organization. I commend the Admiral for voicing his opinions knowing fully well that the obvious retort of a navy man taking potshots at the IAF were sure to follow. If anything, we need more ex-service folks with better knowledge and better understanding of all things defence to step up and advocate change to the system that we all agree the system needs. You sir, could well play a part yourself :-)

Anonymous said...

By the time PAKFA and AMCA arrive, the Mig 21s, 23s and 27s will be gone. That would leave IAF with 29s, M2000s, LCAs, MMRCA and Su30. The PAKFA/AMCA will start replacing the Mig29s and M2000s which means in the light category, LCA will have a clear induction path. In the longer I would like to see AMCA take over from MMRCA. Not too bad in the long term. The short term is nightmarish though.

Anonymous said...

Arun Prakash is a gifted writer, and his style and command of the English language is par excellence. I have always found his articles interesting and meaningful. They are rather long, sometimes, but I can still get through them with time for other things. The insights and expertise he has to share are worth reading every article of his.

There are a few things I might recommend to the Admiral or anyone else for that matter, and it is high time these points I am about to mention sink in with everybody in India:

1. The politician decision-makers are NOT interested in making the military TOO strong. They accomplish this by keeping the military brass off-balance, subject to uncertainty, and often do not release all relevant information to them. This is done by deliberate design to prevent a military coup. So far, the silly, sleazy politicians and their IAS lackeys have triumphed over the smart, arrogant military brass.

2. Sorry to say, but the politicians and bureaucrats have little interest or in-depth understanding of things military and strategic despite their vast experience in governance. This includes M Singh, M Ahluwahlia, P Chidam, P Mukherjee, A Antony, and S Gandhi. If they had the understanding, they would have expended billions of dollars in engineering education and indigenous research and production. Perhaps, a nation gets the leaders it deserves: India, for many reasons, deserves no better.

3. The politicians wish to spend the least in defense, but spend more on balancing the diplomacy concerning China, Pakistan, Russia, and USA. They hope to offset military expenditure by wishy-washy diplomacy. So far, things have not been militarily that bad -- at least not since 1962. So, this is how they justify themselves. They show that they have kept sovereignty intact for 50 years, therefore implying they must be doing things right, thereby signaling that Indian defense doesn't need more than what it's received.

4. Unfortunately, the Indian politicians do not realize that doing things right means getting China out of Tibet and Pakistan out of Baltistan. But a larger, long-term objective is to neutralize Pakistan's nukes, though I don't see at all how that can happen now. It's too bad that that unwise b****, I Gandhi, called off an Israeli strike into Pakistan's nuclear assets in 1982 at the 11th hour after all preparations were done and Israeli pilots were sitting ready for take-off in their cockpits at Indian bases. Now, the time has long gone. India did not strike when the iron was hot, and has never lost an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

5. Unfortunately again, the Indian polity is so diverse, and internal politics, disturbances, and influence so plentiful, that India is undoubtedly its own worst enemy.

6. One other, last thing: there is a stupid bias in the Indian services that an engineer cannot qualify as a COAS, CNS, or CAS. Good, try fighting a war without engineering! It's also high time that the Indian services at least dropped this bias!

Anonymous said...

The good Admiral also could not avoid discussing policy and acquisitions together. In future, serious writers should discuss policy / strategy separately. They should resist the temptation to talk about procurements. Perhaps servicemen are conditioned to seek equipment all the time, mostly imported.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 10.30, you are clearly from the IAF. You reflect accurately the attitude of the IAF. I would like to humbly submit that all those young people who think that they should only work with the imported best need not join the IAF. The country will find enough people to work with India's best equipment and still take care of the nations interests. Let this message go out clearly, because this issue will not die down till good sense prevails.

Anonymous said...

In today's world, national defense means much more than the armed forces. In fact, the economy and also the contribution of the scientists, technologists is becoming more and more important. The nature of combat is also undergoing significant change. The previous prima donna status of the services in the country no longer prevails. It appears that the process of adjustment for the services is now taking place and we can expect more potshots being taken by the services at other branches of the Government for some more time.

Anonymous said...

EFT being $40m dearer than Rafale with 60% less capabilities and no roadmap? WOOOWWW
Cassidian gmbh got lot of works on this, adds and pdf comercials will not remove the fact they run a expansive old tech poney ..

Anonymous said...

Admiral saw the cartoon space of Air Chief... Now he wants also the share of this... so creamy ricgh... pie.. Hhmmmmm...

Anonymous said...

Lots of very interesting comments, so I will touch on some points not yet covered.

1) The Admiral clearly states that Rafale / Typhoon definitely superior (even generationally) to F/A-18E (and by deduction also on F-16IN). Buying an inferior fighter in a threat environment of growing challenges would be irresponsible, whatever the price of the cheaper option.

2) Price is important because from it quantities can be deducted, i.e. 200 vs 400 argument. Price knowledge has to be accurate otherwise the whole construct falls apart. The admiral has no insider knowledge of the real prices quoted by the six contenders in the MMRCA project. And if he had, but I am sure he has not, he would be committing a crime in disclosing them. So the prices quoted in the article are his own guesstimates and I would add that they are pretty inaccurate. The Gripen costing slightly less than a Rafale is the most obvious. The fly away price of Gripen is $55m and not $82.2m (I like the decimal point to give the impression of great accuracy!). That is in Canadian Dollars (basically same value as US or 0.965 if you are pernickety). This figure was revealed by SAAB in the Canadian Parliament on Dec 7, 2010 so it is very recent. The flyaway price of Typhoon is probably exaggerated by 70 to 80%.

3) In conclusion, when one is using numbers to justify certain constructs one should be careful to use accurate, comparable figures otherwise the risk is to discredit the whole essay.


Bhavin said...

I support one view WE need to setup a strong Defence-industrial base in india and for that Govt. must include Private as well as Small & meduim scale industries.

Anonymous said...

Admiral Sir,

Let me compliment you on a wonderful article. Its a pity that your insights,experience and knowledge has no use for our so called Governments.

Now lets see where we are. The Mig 21,27and 29 are obsolete. The Jags and the Mirages are nearing their expiry dates while we haggle over upgrades.The basic trainer is defunct and a replacement is nowhere in sight. The Lamas,Allouttes and Mi series are past their lifetime. There is an extreme shortage of young pilots . A 100 odd Su30 cannot fight a war under Indian conditions where air battles will be fought at tree top levels in blistering heat. In a nutshell , this is block obsolesence. The Govt. is least bothered and the Service Chiefs are not willing to stick their necks out and take the issue to the nation, demanding immediate action . I can openly say that Sir, the Air force cannot defend the nation any more .
The situation is exactly the reverse across the border. There seems to be no shortage of resources or technology or committed manpower. Pakistan is being brought up to the Israeli standard by Uncle Sam regardless of what they do in their immediate neighbourhood and China is already an enemy superpower in technological terms also.

Instead of talking relationships can I request you and your current service chiefs to keep it simple and not talk about relationships or strategy . We need a basic trainer and now. How difficult is that ? There are at least five good ones floating in the market and it does not take three years to place an order and get the first unit into service. Secondly the Mig 21 is gone - and we need an immediate replacement to fill up the Gap.If Mig 29M's are nor reliable , then go for the small Gripen . It can hold its own against the best in point defense until the MMRCA comes along. Thirdly why is it so difficult to select an interim chopper from Europe or Russia for replacing the cheetah . Do we lack expertise to know what we want ? and please do not talk private sector or public sector, buy or make etc. The need is to get fighters in the air.

My ramblings may be simplistic and stupid. But with so many intelligent people out there , I see no result in sight. God help our country.

Anonymous said...

Sir ,

I agree with the earlier anon. Just had an idea after the approval of the Mirage upgrade . The rafale because of its maritime heritage can easily replace the Jags,Mig 27's and the harriers in the Naval service. In the airforce the Mig 21's, Mig 29's, Mirage 2000 , can be retired as soon as the rafale stabilises . In short one type can replace half a dozen types, under current use thereby justifying its cost.

I would like the opinion of my seniors on this.

Anonymous said...

RE: Anon @ 11:53 PM

There is a deep misconception in the Indian military that the senior always knows better. Often, the senior doesn't know better! The bigger they are, the louder their sonic fart, that's about all there is about seniors!

Anonymous said...

The IAF seems to be consistently ashamed to work with HAL / DRDO, to make domestic equipment work. Neither do they understand the long term interests of the country. GoI should create a new force, say the 'Marines' who will not be 'customers' but 'partners' in developing domestic equipment. All fresh recruitment should take place in the new force. Let the oldies retire along with their imported toys.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 1.15 pm. That honor is not restricted to the services in India. Remember, the scum usually rises to the top. The rank / seniority invariably swells up their heads and their ability to learn and understand falls precipitously. The exceptions are very very rare.

Anonymous said...

Intersting article, well done but....with some legend that make it completely missing the point on my opinion.
1 - Why the US should be considered a reliable ally for the future of India?
Ask to your Pakistani neighbours, to Indonesia or to the "poor" Saddam Hussein how reliable are the American.
They simply give to you their "support" as far you do what they want you do.
2 - the other legend is that the Typhoon is more exensive than the Rafale and that the F-18 is "cheap". Please have a look at
The document is in French but the charts are very simple and effective. rafale cost 142 million euro each!! And this is an official document fron the French Account Office. There is a reason why the Rafale has never been exported so far?
The price quoted for the F-18 is without engines and some avionics. Add that, at least 15 per cent, and you will see that the cost of the F-18 is in line with aircraft with performances much better in all the aspects.