Wednesday, September 19, 2012

By Manoj Joshi Gautam Datt

The delay in Gorshkov’s delivery is just one of many hiccups the armed forces are facing towards modernisation

THE failed propulsion trial of India’s refurbished aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya ( formerly Gorshkov ) in Russia’s Barents Sea highlights how India’s ambitious modernisation plan continues to stumble because of accidents, poor technology choices, bureaucratic lassitude and incompetence.
While the country is used to delays in equipment that is being indigenously designed because of the steep learning curve, the delays in acquiring equipment from established foreign companies is galling and inexcusable.
In this case, the aircraft carrier commissioned in 1987 had been damaged by a fire and lay rusting in a Russian shipyard before India decided to acquire it in 1996.
Inspections failed to gauge the amount of work needed for refurbishment and when the Russians uncovered the engines, they found that two needed to be replaced, while the other two needed repair.
It is these very engines that now seem to have failed.
The original delivery date for INS Vikramaditya was 2008, it is currently 2012, and now that extensive engine work may be required, it is difficult to predict just when the carrier will join service.
Taken along with the two- year delay in the construction of India’s indigenous carrier, it marks a serious setback for the navy’s operational posture in the Indian Ocean.
This has been the story in virtually every area — the prolonged delays in artillery acquisitions have seriously degraded the army’s defensive and offensive posture and poor planning has led to a three- year delay in the construction of the Scorpene submarine.
Blame not fixed
“ Defence procurement and management of inventory have inadequacies and it doesn’t receive the kind of apex attention that is needed,” security analyst Commodore ( retd) Uday Bhaskar said.
Lamenting that the navy is staring at the prospect of not having a carrier, he said nobody has been held accountable for such faults.
Just how delays occur is visible in the manner in which India has been going on with its medium multi- role combat aircraft project.
This was envisaged to fill the gap created by the delay in the Light Combat Aircraft ( LCA) programme and the first aircraft should have entered service in 2010- 11. After inevitable delays, the Rafale was selected in 2011, but though contract negotiations were started this year, the actual deal is yet to be inked. The aircraft will enter service three years after that.
Adding to the woes of the armed forces is the government’s decision to go slow on all contracts with foreign vendors in the wake of a slump in the economy and draining of foreign exchange reserves.
There is an overall lethargy in defence acquisitions as even “ make- Indian” projects, such as the “ battlefield management system”, have not gathered steam.
The other level of delays occurs because of overambitious projects.
This was the case with the FINSAS ( Futuristic Infantry Soldier as a System). Initiated in 2007, it sought to provide better ballistic protection and advanced equipment to the soldier, but at its heart were the internet and intranet systems.
As of now, the programme seems to be dead in the water.
While individual components such as rifles vests will come in, little or nothing is being done for enhancing battlefield communication.
The delays in indigenous programmes have been an inevitable feature of the modernisation programme.
But the progress, or the lack of it, with the LCA is hurting the air force, which is facing a steady obsolescence of its existing fleet of Mig- 21s and is concurrently facing delays even of aircraft like the Rafale.

Keep babus out of arms acquisition
by Arun Prakash
IN YET another setback to the modernisation plans of India’s armed forces, it is learnt that the delivery of the former Red Navy carrier, Admiral Gorshkov , notionally “ gifted” to India in 1999 and undergoing major repair and overhaul in Russia, has once again been delayed.
This may not be a catastrophe for the Indian Navy, which has enough flexibility to overcome this setback, but it is certainly symptomatic of a debilitating malaise that is steadily crippling India’s military capabilities at a time when the security environment is assuming grim overtones.
The navy was hoping to commission this ship as INS Vikramaditya on Navy Day ( December 3, 2012). The latest news that even this delayed schedule will not be met is an unhappy portent for the service because it has to rely on Russian support for the next threefour decades of this ship’s life.
When seen in conjunction with the 30- year hiatus in acquiring an artillery gun replacement, the difficulties in implementation of the Scorpene submarine contract and the reported delays in signing of the MMRCA deal, it becomes obvious the Gorshkov/ Vikramaditya imbroglio is just one more example of our maladroit management of national security issues.
I would pinpoint three areas which need urgent attention at the highest level of national security management. Firstly, in the current system the ultimate arbiter, negotiator and decisionmaker in the ministry of defence ( MoD) is the generalist, itinerant civil servant.
This over- burdened functionary lacks the background, comprehension and inclination to make objective value- judgments and decisions in the esoteric field of weapon- systems.
Small wonder that decisions are delayed and most of our contracts are either flawed when drawn up or turn sour when implemented.
The remedy lies in injecting expertise into the system, both in the form of uniformed personnel in the MoD, and in the creation of a cadre of specialists in national security, cost accounting, contracting and other acquisition- related
The second extremely worrisome aspect of India’s national security is our debilitating dependence on foreign weaponry, attributable directly to the sustained failure of the DRDO and defence PSUs to deliver vital capabilities to the armed forces. Such is the degree of laissez faire in the MoD that the DRDO remains preoccupied with self- assigned “ technology demonstration” missions while the armed forces go looking abroad even for basic items like small arms, personal protection gear and heavy vehicles.
The last issue relates to our continuing heavy dependence on Russian weapon systems, especially in the strategic arena. A source of serious concern here is the fact that the Russian arms industry is suffering from mismanagement, lack of skilled workers and endemic corruption.
The consequences, in terms of poor quality control, delayed deliveries, cost overruns and dismal product support, are already telling adversely on India’s defence preparedness.
The future promises to be even grimmer, but India has already crowded too many eggs in this particular basket.
We may be tempting fate by accepting any more delays in our long- overdue defence modernisation.
It is time for an agonising re- appraisal at the highest levels on national security management.
( The writer is a former navy chief)
In the current system the ultimate arbiter, negotiator and decision- maker in the MoD is the generalist, itinerant civil servant

By Gautam Datt
The navy hopes to operate three aircraft carriers as part of its strategy to acquire blue water capabilities. INS Vikramaditya , earlier known as Admiral Gorshkov , is at the centre of this scheme. But it has run into long delays and was put for sea trials only around 90 days ago. The existing aircraft carrier, INS Viraat , is on its last legs and the third carrier, being built in Kochi, has overshot its deadline by three years
The delay in the LCA being built at home has spoilt the air force’s plans to boost its dwindling fleet. After 28 years of development, the LCA will reportedly be ready for initial operational clearance only by early next year. The air force has agreed to buy only 40 aircraft and plans to wait for its Mark II version that would be propelled by a more powerful engine. As this will require extensive redesigning, it means more delays before the LCA can be inducted in large numbers
For years, the air force did not have an advanced jet trainer and young pilots were forced to move straight into the cockpit of difficult combat jets. The force inducted Hawk jet trainers after much delay, but by the time they arrived, the basic trainers had given way.
The air force has finally signed a contract to buy the Pilatus P- 7 basic trainers but is staring at the bleak prospect of losing out on the IJT. Being developed by HAL, the IJT has run into design issues and the air force is hoping the problem will get resolved by the year- end
The army wants to equip its soldiers with modern warfare and state- ofthe- art communication network. But the communication systems are far from even the drawing board. The helmet, night- vision devices and bulletproof jackets are yet to be procured. The army had hoped to equip 10,000 soldiers by 2015 but the deadline is set to be breached

By Gautam Datt


Six French Scorpene submarines are under construction at Mumbai’s Mazgaon Dock Ltd ( MDL).
The navy desperately needs new conventional diesel- propelled underwater vessels to meet the challenges posed by the current security situation.
The vessels are at various stages of construction and the current cost of the project is ` 23,562 crore
BOTTLENECKS Absorption of complex technology led to problems.
MDL’s infrastructure had to be enhanced to take up construction of such magnitude. Poor planning caused the MDL to pay higher prices for some packages to go with the subs
The army, which hasn’t added new guns since the Bofors scandal in the mid- 1980s, desperately needs new artillery now. It is looking to buy a mix of new generation 155mm artillery gun systems.
But despite the urgency shown by all recent army chiefs, the new contracts have failed to come through
INITIAL DEADLINE The guns should have been inducted in the last decade
REVISED DEADLINE Defence ministry cleared the deal for 145 M777 howitzers from the US this year only
BOTTLENECKS Some firms got blacklisted midway through the process; often guns did not perform to expectation
All three armed forces are looking to buy a range of helicopters. This means 385 light- utility and observation choppers, 90 navy multirole, 139 medium- lift, 65 light- combat, 22 attack and 15 heavy- lift aircraft at an estimated cost of over ` 20,000 crore. India plans to purchase medium- lift helicopters from Russia
INITIAL DEADLINE Separate date for each version of the aircraft
BOTTLENECKS Problems in finalising contracts — the deal for 197 light helicopters got scrapped twice over allegations of irregularities in trials
The air force first indicated its requirement for 126 combat jets to overcome shortage in 2001. It needs to replace Mig- 21s, Mig- 27s and Jaguars. The cost is expected to go much above the estimate because of delays
REVISED DEADLINE Yet to be finalised BOTTLENECKS The long- winding selection process has led to the shortlisting of the French Rafale. Price negotiations are on and expected to take another four months. At each stage, the government has sought to show it is a transparent deal and has had the Central Vigilance Commission give clearance to the process

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