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Saturday, September 24, 2016

A Done Deal At Long Last

As the slides above clearly show, yesterday’s inter-governmental contract signing ceremony involved India’s Ministry of Defence and its French counterpart’s Direction Générale de l’Armement (DGA), and not with any OEM. 
That ‘creature/entity’ marked above with the red-arrow is a ‘desi’ bandabaaz’ from the TOI GROUP called Srinjoy, who is well-known for consistently spreading falsities and disinformation, like the non-inking of CISMOA and BECA foundational agreements by India has led to the IAF and IN receiving ‘inferior C-130J-30s and P-8Is. The question that begs asking is why such ‘bandalbaazes’ are allowed to be in close proximity of any visiting VVIP delegation—clearly a clear-cut violation of established diplomatic security protocols—instead of being kept away at a safe distance as is the universal practice all over the world.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Homegrown LUH Takes To The Skies

Yesterday, as Pakistan’s armed forces were celebrating their 51st ‘Youm-e-Difaa’ (National Defence Day), the Ministry of Defence-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) conducted the 15-minute-long maiden flight of its homegrown, multi-role, 3.15-tonne, single-engined Light Utility Helicopter (LUH), 440 of which are required for the three armed services of India (125 for the Air Force, 259 for the Army and 56 for the Navy) over the following decade.
Yesterday’s LUH maiden flight was the culmination of seven years of R & D, this being indicative of a longer-than envisaged R & D period for the prototype. The MoD, it may be recalled, had sanctioned Rs. 376 crores for developing the LUH and HAL’s Rotary Wing Research & Design Centre (RWR & DC) began working on this project in February 2009. The MoD had then specified a target date for each of the LUH’ R & D milestones: building a full-scale mock-up; the design freeze; maiden flight; and attainment of Initial Operational Clearance (IOC). Back then, HAL had promised to freeze the LUH’s design by late 2010; conduct the maiden flight of the first prototype by 2012; obtain the certificate of airworthiness and IOC clearance by 2014, and begin delivery of series-production models by 2015.
But, as expected, none of those targetted milestones were met. The LUH’s design was frozen in only 2013 and its sole full-scale mock-up for evaluation and assessment was ready only by February 2015. Only after that did work begin on building a ground test vehicle (GTV) for design validation and testing of all dynamic systems, and the three projected flying prototypes for flight-tests and airworthiness certification. As of now, the revised milestones call for the flight-tests and airworthiness certification processes to be completed by 2019 at best, with IOC being targetted for 2021. All-in-all, therefore, a delay of six (06) years.
Such delayed attainment of the specified R & D milestones have been witnessed in case of the homegrown, 5.8-tonne light combat helicopter (LCH), work on which had begun at HAL’s RWR & DC way back  on October 3, 2006 when the MoD sanctioned a sum of Rs.376.67 crores for HAL to design and develop the LCH over a 24-month period. Powered by twin Ardiden 1H (1,200shp TM333-2C2 Shakti) engines, the first LCH prototype—TD-1—completed its first ground-run on February 4, 2010 and its maiden flight was logged on March 29, 2010. 
Exactly a year later, the Indian Air Force (IAF) placed a production indent with HAL for procuring 64 LCHs.  Three months later, the LCH’s second prototype, TD-2, made its maiden flight on June 28, 2011.  The third prototype—TD-3—made its maiden flight on November 12, 2014, while the fourth and last prototype—TD-4—took to the skies on December 1, 2015.
The LCH was originally targetted in 2006 to achieve its IOC by 2013, but as of now, it has yet to complete its weapons-firing trials (due to delayed availability of the DRDO-developed HELINA IIR-guided ATGM) and its self-protection sensor suite (comprising radar warning receivers, laser warning receivers and missile approach warning system) has yet to be integrated with the airframe. IOC attainment now is not expected before the end of 2018. The estimated delay in milestone attainment is six (06) years as well.  
The LUH, powered by a single 750kW Turbomeca Ardiden 1U engine along with a HAL-developed main gearbox and a Turbomeca-designed transmission, will have a maximum all-up-weight of 3,150Kg, have a range of 350Km and service ceiling 6.5Km (21,300 feet), and a seating capacity of six passengers plus two pilots. The LUH, being multi-purpose, will carry out various roles such as armed reconnaissance, troop transport, CASEVAC, ferrying underslung cargo, search-and-rescue, and flying training.
Just like the 5.5-tonne Dhruv ALH and LCH, the LUH will contain an avionics suite developed by HALBIT Avionics Pvt Ltd (HALBIT), which was created in May 2007 by Israel’s Elbit Systems, HAL and MerlinHawk Associates Pvt Ltd. The suite will include an: integrated AMLCD-based glass cockpit, a chin-mounted ‘Compass’ lightweight FLIR turret licence-assembled by the MoD-owned Bharat Electronics Ltd, a HAL-developed multi-bandwidth software-defined radio, and the Colour ANVIS NVG night vision goggle. The self-protection sensor suite, supplied by Sweden’s SaabTech (and identical to those installed on the LCH and the ‘Rudra’ helicopter-gunship version of the Dhruv Mk.4 ALH), will be installed and integrated by HALBIT.
In addition, several force-multiplier options are on the table for incorporation, since a low-flying LUH will be especially vulnerable to threats such as difficult terrain, enemy fire and the intersection of utility wires in the flight path, and will therefore often be required to operate in a Degraded Visual Environment (DVE), adding to the already heavy workload and leaving flight crews to rely on NVGs to accomplish their mission. Factors limiting the pilots’ FOV include: complete darkness, poor weather conditions, brownouts, whiteouts and sandstorms. 
To overcome such shortcomings and limitations, Elbit Systems’ BrightNite solution is now available. BrightNite enables utility helicopters of all types to successfully perform DVE missions in more than 90% of night-flying situations, providing them with piloting capabilities of attack helicopters.
Lightweight and compact, BrightNite is a multi-spectral end-to-end panoramic piloting solution that delivers the essential data directly to both eyes of the pilot, enabling intuitive flight in a head-up, eyes-out orientation in pitch dark and other DVE conditions. For helicopters like the Rudra and LUH, this unique solution comprises a FLIR turret and highly sensitive Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) sensors that present an ultra-wide field-of-regard intuitive image to a display system that projects into the ANVIS helmet-mounted NVG. The display is overlaid by a synthetic layer that follows the contours of the landscape and a third layer of 3-D conformal symbology, which displays hazards, mission-conformal symbology and tactical data. Multiple crew-members can simultaneously scan the entire field-of-regard, using a single sensor and the synthetic world, thereby enabling them to fly in common line-of-sight.
Like the Dhruv/Rudra and the LCH, the LUH too adheres to the following FAR/MILSPEC standards:
* US Army Aeronautical Design Standard-33E (ADS-33E)
* Flaw-Tolerant Rotor System: FAR/JAR 29.571, AM 29-28
* Crashworthy Fuel System: FAR/JAR 29.952, AM 29-35
* Flaw-Tolerant Drive Train with Over-Torque Certification: FAR/JAR 29.952, AM 29-28
* Turbine Burst Protection: FAR/JAR 29.901, AM 29-36
* Composite Spar Main & Tail Rotor Blades with lightning strike protection: FAR/JAR 1309(h), AM 29-40
* Engine Compartment Fire Protection: FAR/JAR 29.1193
* Redundant Hydraulics & Flaw Tolerant Flight Controls: FAR/JAR 29.571, AM 29-28
* Aircraft-Wide Bird Strike Protection: FAR/JAR 29.631, AM 29-40
* Crashworthiness Standard: NATO’s MIL-STD-1290
* Crashworthy Seats conforming to MIL-STD-1472B
* Cockpit Instrumentation Lighting Conforming to MIL-STD-85762A
* Avionics Databus: MIL-STD-1553B or ARINC-429
* Autopilot Accuracy: MIL-F-9490D
* Embedded MIL-STD-188-141B ALE Link Protection
* Embedded MIL-STD-188-110B data modem
When operating as an armed aeroscout platform for battlespace surveillance, the LUH will be armed with twin rocket pods housing 2.75-inch rockets supplied by Belgium’s FZ, and four Mistral ATAM air-to-air missiles from MBDA.
Series-production of the LUH will be undertaken at a greenfield facility set up by HAL at BiderehallaKaval, Gubbi Taluk, Tumakuru, about 70km from Bengaluru. The foundation stone for this facility was laid on January 3, 2016 by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 
For radically improving the LUH’s hot-and-high operating parameters and enhancing flight safety, an option that could well be utilised in future under the auspices of the US-India Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI), under which HAL will be required to form an industrial partnership with US-based AVX Aircraft Company for incorporating the latter’s patented modification kit into the LUH’s airframe.
With its unique blend of co-axial rotors and dual ducted-fans, the AVX  kit offers greater aerodynamic and fuel efficiency, speed, range, payload, improved hover-out-of-ground effect (HOGE), and the ability to operate in hotter temperatures and at higher altitudes than any of today’s conventional light helicopters. It also reduces brown-out conditions in the landing configuration since, thanks to the ducted-fans, the helicopter can use a 5-degree nose-down or even-level approach to the landing zone. This increases flight safety by giving the pilot a greatly improved view of the landing zone.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Assessing Latest PLAAF Air-Defence Activities In TAR

This year’s series of annual PLAAF exercises within that portion of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) in Tibet Military District (TMD) that faces the Sino-Indian Line of Actual Control (LAC), which commenced in late March 20016 and are still continuing, have witnessed significant accretions, with the most notable among them being the introduction of a solitary KJ-500 turboprop-powered airborne early warning and control (AEW & C) platform, plus the deployment of LY-80 MR-SAMs in place of the HQ-12 ADK-12 KS-1D MR-SAMs.
It may be recalled that the PLAAF has since 2010 been deploying Su-27SK/Su-27UBK/J-11A heavy-MRCAs belonging to the Shizuishan-based 6th Air Division’s 16th Air Regiment, and J-10As from the Mengzi-based 44th Air Division’s 131st Air Regiment (based in Luliang) out to the dual-use airports at Lhasa Gonggar (facing Sikkim and northern West Bengal) and Ngari (facing Ladakh in Jammu & Kashmir) twice every year during summertime and wintertime for two-week-long deployment periods.
These used to be accompanied by corresponding deployments of the HQ-12 ADK-12 KS-1D MR-SAMs of the PLAAF’s Chengdu-based 11th Anti-Air Artillery Brigade (Unit 95607), which has three Regiments--21st, 22nd and 23rd--are equipped with the HQ-64/LY-60D E-SHORADS, and HQ-12 ADK-12 KS-1D MR-SAMs. The latter were deployed at fixed launch-sites located at Lhasa Gonggar and the dual-use Shigatse Airport.
Since late 2012, the 651st Independent Anti-Aircraft Artillery Brigade, based at Nyingchi, began taking over from the HQ-12 ADK-12 KS-1Ds of the 11th Anti-Air Artillery Brigade’s 22nd Regiment. The 651st comprises a Regiment of LY-80 70km-range MR-SAMs (containing 16 TELs each loaded with six MR-SAM vertical launch-cells), a Regiment of 18 tracked PGZ-04As (each armed with four FN-6 VSHORADS launchers missiles and four 25mm cannons), a Regiment of FM-90 SHORADS, and a composite battalion that has 108 FN-6 VSHORADS/MANPADS launchers, 24 Type 73 towed 37mm anti-aircraft guns and 18 towed twin 35mm PG-99 ‘Giant Bow’ anti-aircraft guns. 
Also included are LIMAN ground-based jammers, JY-27A VHF-band anti-PGM volume-search radars as part of the LY-80 MR-SAM Regiment, YLC-18 S-band 3-D acquisition radars for the FM-90s (now replacing the older LSS-1/Type 120 L-band 2-D low-altitude acquisition radars), YLC-6 S-band 2-D low-level air-defence radars for the FN-6 VSHORADS/MANPADS launchers, Type 73 anti-aircraft guns and 18 PG-99 ‘Giant Bow’ anti-aircraft guns.
As for airspace surveillance radars, there is one JL-3D-90A L-band 3-D airspace surveillance radar operated by the PLAAF at the Ganba La radar station southwest of Lhasa, plus another one north of Shigatse Airport. These are joined by three Army-operated YLC-2V 3-D S-band acquisition radars located around Ngari Airport, Qamdo Bangda Airport, and at PLA SIGINT Stations north of Bum La.
The PLAAF’s Air-Defence Reporting Centre for monitoring TAR’s air-defence identification zone (ADIZ) is located at Ganba La.
In future, the PLAAF will also begin making use of dual-use airports immediately north of Arunachal Pradesh, these being Qamdo and Linzhi.
Going hand-in-hand with these developments are increasing efforts by both the PLAAF and the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) to undertake joint air campaigns that since 2011 have been rehearsed under the ‘Shaheen’ series of joint exercises. It may be recalled that the ‘Shaheen’ series of bi-annual exercises commenced in 2011 when, for the first time ever as part of EX Shaheen-I, a PLAAF contingent with four Su-27UBKs from the 8th Flight Academy (also known as ‘Blue Army Aggressors’) deployed to Rafiqui air base in Shorkot, Pakistan. 
This exercise, lasting for over two weeks starting March 11, saw the PAF fielding its Mirage VEFs and F-7PGs executing various various air-to-air and air-to-ground combat scenarios. The PLAAF’s 8th Flight Academy operates Su-27UBKs and Su-30MKKs that simulate enemy air force tactics during dissimilar air combat training exercises. The PLAAF possesses three such ‘Blue Army Aggressor’ squadrons (the first of which was raised in June 1987), with the other two flying J-10A M-MRCAs and J-7E light interceptors. All three squadrons operate under the PLAAF’s Canzhou-based Flight Test and Training Base in Hebei province.
The second joint air exercise—EX Shaheen-II—was conducted between September 3 and 22, 2013 at Hotan air base in the Hetian Prefecture of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. For this, the PAF flew in its F-7PGs and Mirage-IIIEPs. This was for the first time in the PLAAF’s history that a foreign air force had conducted a joint exercise inside China’s airspace. Participating PLAAF assets included J-10As of the Hotan-based 109th Brigade, JH-7As of the Urumqi-based 37th Air Division Division’s 110th Brigade, J-8Fs from the Hotan-based 109th Brigade, and Su-27SKs and Su-27UBKs from the Korla-based 111th Brigade.
The third such bilateral air exercise—EX Shaheen-III—was held at the PAF’s Rafiqui air base in the northeastern province of Punjab between May 5 and 28, 2014. The PLAAF sent four J-10A/B M-MRCAs along with a detachment of air-defence controllers and ground-support crew, while the PAF deployed up to eight of its JF-17s and Mirage-VEFs. EX Shaheen-IV was conducted at the Yinchuan air base in the Southern Command (previously part of Langzhou MR) between September 12 and October 4, 2015. During these exercises, three different types of frontline combat aircraft from each of the two air forces were fielded—this being a first. In addition, the PLAAF for the very first time deployed one of its KJ-200 turboprop-powered AEW & C platforms, while for the PAF this was the first time that it went for air exercises outside China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (which falls under the Lanzhou Military Region).
The PLAAF’s combat aircraft assets taking part in the exercises included J-11A heavy-MRCAs and Su-27UBKs belonging to the Shizuishan-based 6th Air Division’s 16th Air Regiment, J-10As from the Mengzi-based 44th Air Division’s 131st Air Regiment (based in Luliang) and a detachment of JH-7A bombers from the Urumqi-based 37th Air Division Division’s 110th Brigade. The PAF sent two JF-17 Thunder light-MRCAs, two Mirage-IIIEP tactical interdictors and two F-7PG light interceptors, which were accompanied by an IL-78MKP aerial refuelling tanker.
EX Shaheen-VI began on April 9, 2016 and lasted till April 30. During this exercise, the PAF for the first time deployed its ZDK-03 Karakoram Eagle AEW & C platforms (from which the KJ-500 is derived) for airborne battle management missions.