Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Russian nuclear subs for India - one or two?


MOSCOW: A senior Russian government official has dismissed media rumours that his country planned to lease several nuclear submarines to India. According to a media report, the official said that the contract envisioned transfer of only the 'Nerpa' vessel.

The 12,000-ton K-152 'Nerpa' is a Schucka-B class (NATO: Akula-II) nuclear attack submarine meant for lease to the Indian Navy for a period of ten years. The submarine was left unfinished with the collapse of the erstwhile Soviet Union and was subsequently completed with Indian funds.

"We will lease only one submarine. In my opinion, India needs the sub more for enhancing its prestige rather than for accomplishing specific goals," Vyacheslav Dzirkaln, deputy head of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, reportedly said in an exclusive interview with RIA Novosti.

The comment by the deputy head of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation runs completely counter to the comment reportedly made by the head of the same organisation in mid-December 2008.

"Yes, there is a real possibility of leasing for ten years several of our nuclear powered multi-role submarines of Project 971 of 'Shchucka-B' class," the Director of Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSVTS) Mikhail Dmitriyev was quoted as saying by ITAR-TASS in that mid-December report.

The same report also quoted officials as saying that the Nerpa (to be inducted into the Indian Navy as INS Chakra) would provide a quantum jump to India's naval capabilities, which is now sought to be contradicted by this report.

The Nerpa suffered a serious accident on 8 November 2008 while undergoing sea trials in the Sea of Japan. Three submariners and 17 shipyard workers were killed.

According to Russian navy officials, sea trials will resume in early July and the submarine is scheduled to be delivered to India by the end of 2009.

The Schucka-B class vessels are considered the quietest and deadliest of all Russian nuclear-powered attack submarines, virtually at par with the best the likes of the United States Navy have to offer.

The Akula purchase

Earlier reports in the Russian media, going as far back as the summer of 1998, spoke of an Indian Navy delegation visiting the Russian Navy's Northern Fleet's Schucka-B/Akula submarine base and expressing an interest in the November of that year for possible purchase of two of these submarines.

The request was followed up on by then Russian defence minister Igor Sergeev on his visit to New Delhi in March 1999. Reports indicated that at this point of time the Russians brought up the issue of completing the unfinished hulls of two Schucka-B/Akula subs with Indian funding. These would have been the Nerpa and the Gepard with the first of the Schucka-B/Akula II class, the Vepr, already being commissioned in 1995.

Details were never released but it was understood that the subs would be given out on lease as then Russian laws did not allow export of such sensitive items as nuclear submarines. There was also the problem of keeping American and Chinese sensitivities in mind as both nations were bound to cry foul if the Russians announced the lease or sale of these submarines.

It will have to be kept in mind that in 1999 Russia was at a particularly vulnerable juncture of its national development, post the collapse of the Soviet Union and was not interested in raising hackles of any country, particularly the Chinese or the Americans.

1999, incidentally, was also the year when the Indian government decide to hike funding for its indigenous nuclear submarine, the Advanced Technology Vehicle (ATV) programme, to about $10 billion with guaranteed funding for its entire duration.

From this period onwards, as far as the sale/lease of the Schucka-B/Akula submarines to the Indian Navy was concerned, no further details were available.

A 2006 analysis by a Russian business journal took a look at the announcements made by the Russian defence ministry regarding its annual revenues for the year 2005 and spotted a discrepancy that could only be explained if the Indians should have paid out money for the construction of two and not one Schucka-B submarine.

Around the same time, to confuse matters even further, reports began to circulate that India had paid $650 million for the 10-year lease of a single Schucka-B.

Very likely, as has happened with all contracts signed in the period 1998-2004, the contract for the Akulas - should it be for twins - would now be hanging fire with the Russians determined to negotiate a higher price for completion and subsequent lease of the second submarine than was earlier committed to.

A discrete silence from the New Delhi may be indicative of its desire not to reveal its 'blue water' strategies, before the means to deliver them should fructify.

With the Chinese navy (PLAN) already fielding a large nuclear submarine force, which allows it to extend operations to the Indian Ocean region with ease, the Indian Navy needs not just a token presence of a single nuclear submarine but also the comfort of numbers.

It's not certain when the indigenous ATV ''baby boomers'' are likely to slip into the water. It is also not certain if it's a single ATV hull that has been laid down at the Vizag yard or two. What is certain is that the Indian Navy needs a nuclear submarine force in numbers soon, given the dramatic turnaround in the capabilities of the Chinese Navy and the rise in strategic importance of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

All of the world's high and medium intensity conflicts are located in this strategic area, including the American-led Global War on Terror (GWOT). Given the incredible rise in the price and importance of petroleum and the massive amount of shipping tonnage that is now criss-crossing IOR waters the region has assumed significance previously accorded only to the Atlantic seaboard at the peak of the Cold War.

It has been noted, particularly with the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier affair that the Russians let their intentions to re-negotiate existing contracts be known through inspired media reports. It has also been noted that after a period of silence, and denial, New Delhi is then forced to acknowledge the troubles they are faced with regard to a particular 'Russian,' contract.

Such tactics may have resulted in prices of Russian contracts being revised upwards, but they has also seen a significant erosion in the Russian domination of the Indian defence market as the Indian defence establishment is now making it a point to source ever larger portions of their requirements from non-Russian sources.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Boeing P-8A Poseidon Successfully Completes 1st Flight

SEATTLE, April 27, 2009 -- Boeing [NYSE: BA] P-8A Poseidon test aircraft T-1 successfully completed its first flight April 25, taking off from Renton Field at 10:43 a.m. and touching down at Boeing Field in Seattle at 2:14 p.m. The P-8A performed a series of flight checks, reached a maximum altitude of 25,000 feet, and landed after three hours, 31 minutes in the air.

"This is a significant accomplishment for the P-8A team, as it moves us one step closer to delivering the next maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft to the warfighter," said Capt. Mike Moran, P-8A program manager for the U.S. Navy. "Today's flight is a clear demonstration of the program's commitment to delivering this critical capability on time and the result of a tremendous effort by the joint Navy/Boeing team. I commend Boeing for putting its 'A-Team' in place on this program and enabling the Navy to leverage Boeing's experience, expertise and, more importantly, dedication to make this aircraft a reality."

Prior to takeoff, the P-8A team completed a limited series of flight checks, including engine starts and shutdowns. During the flight, test pilots performed airborne systems checks including engine accelerations and decelerations, autopilot flight modes, and auxiliary power unit shutdowns and starts.

"This is an exciting day for the P-8A program and a tribute to the hard work of the entire team," said Bob Feldmann, Boeing vice president and P-8 program manager. "We understand the needs of the U.S. Navy and maritime patrol community, and we are dedicated to meeting every one of our future milestones on or ahead of plan."

The integrated Navy/Boeing team will begin formal flight testing of the P-8A during the third quarter of this year. Before that, Boeing will paint the aircraft, install additional flight test instrumentation and conduct a series of ground tests.

The P-8A, a derivative of the Next-Generation 737-800, is built by a Boeing-led industry team that includes CFM International, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Spirit AeroSystems and GE Aviation. The team currently is assembling and testing the first five P-8As.

The Navy plans to purchase 108 P-8As to replace its fleet of P-3C aircraft. Initial operational capability is planned for 2013.

Latest Picture of P-8A POSEIDON

These are the latest picture of P-8A Poseidon....

Monday, June 15, 2009

US P8I aircraft at INS Rajali soon

US P8I aircraft at INS Rajali soon

14 June 2009, Express News Service

ARAKKONAM: The P8I Poseidon, a next generation maritime surveillance aircraft will soon be part of the INS Rajali, a premier naval air station located at Arakkonam in Tamil Nadu.
The world’s most technologically advanced aircraft of its type, assembled by the US aerospace major Boeing, is expected to be inducted with the Indian Navy in about one and half years.

With this, India would be the first country to use the P8I Poseidon, which combines superior performance and proven reliability with the world’s most advanced mission system.

The P8I, a customised version for the Indian Navy, is based on the hugely successful Boeing-737 commercial airliner. The navy had in November 2006 expressed an interest in the aircraft as a replacement for its existing fleet of Il-38 aircraft that are nearing the end of their service life.

The P8I Poseidon aircraft will also be armed with Harpoon missiles, torpedoes and depth bombs to give them potent anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare capability.

According to Rear Admiral Sudhir Pillai, NM, Flag Officer Naval Aviation (FONA), the aircraft is the part of 400 latest aircraft, which are to be added with the India Navy in the next 10 years.

“Moreover, in the forthcoming two plan periods our defence will have a tremendous growth in terms of technology,” he observed, while interacting with reporters at the passing out parade to mark the graduation of the 72nd Helicopter Conversion Course here on Saturday. When questioned about security measures in the wake of terrorism threats, he said, impetus has been given to the coastal security for which the Coast Guard and Navy are working together.

“On the other hand, the Officers Training Academy at Goa has been shifted to Ezhumalai in Kerala, where the officers are being trained,” he added.
On Saturday, seven pilots of the 72nd HCC attained their goal that they set out to achieve. The FONA awarded certificate of qualification and the coveted ‘Wings’ during the parade. The passing out pilots will move to new operational appointments at Mumbai, Vizag, Daman, Chennai and Kochi flights.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Navy’s sub project slips on time, climbs on cost

Navy’s sub project slips on time, climbs on cost
9 June 2009, Rajat Pandit, TNN, TIMES OF INDIA

NEW DELHI: In a major blow to Navy's already shrinking underwater combat capabilities, the mammoth Rs 18,798 crore project to construct six Scorpene submarines at Mazagon Docks Ltd (MDL) in Mumbai has now slipped around two years behind schedule.

Defence ministry sources say the latest assessment shows the delivery of the first submarine, initially scheduled to roll out by December 2012, would not be possible before end-2014.

Moreover, the entire project is going to be hit with a huge cost escalation, which will take total costs much beyond Rs 20,000 crore, because France is demanding virtually double the money to supply some critical equipment to MDL.

"Negotiations for these `MDL procured material packages', which include almost everything other than combat systems, have been underway for a year now. The French say costs have doubled since the contracts were inked in October 2005,'' said a source.

"Consequently, though submarine hulls are being fabricated in MDL, there is nothing to put inside them at present. MoD has now approached the Cabinet Committee on Security for fresh approval for the cost escalation,'' he added.

The October 2005 contracts with French companies include the Rs 6,135 crore one with M/s Armaris (DCN-Thales joint venture) for transfer of technology, combat systems and construction design, and Rs 1,062 crore with M/s MBDA for sea-skimming Exocet missiles.

A Rs 5,888-crore contract was also signed with MDL for indigenous submarine construction, with another Rs 3,553 crore earmarked for taxes and Rs 2,160 crore towards other items to be acquired during the project.

Navy, on its part, hopes the lost time can be made up to some extent if the approvals come quickly for the Project-75 Scorpene project. All the six submarines were to be initially delivered by December 2017, one per year beginning from 2012.
A big delay will hit Navy hard since its projections show it will be left with only nine out of its present fleet of 16 diesel-electric submarines — 10 Russian Kilo-class, four German HDW and two Foxtrot — by 2012.

As it is, the Foxtrot submarines are obsolete now, and the number could further dip to just five by 2014. This is alarming since both Pakistan and China are rapidly augmenting their underwater combat capabilities.

After inducting three French Agosta-90B submarines, with the last one PNS Hamza even having air-independent propulsion (AIP) to boost its operational capabilities, Pakistan is now looking to acquire three advanced Type-214 AIP-equipped submarines from Germany.

China, of course, is way ahead. It has 62 submarines, with around 10 of them being nuclear-propelled, and at least one Xia-class and two Jin-class being SSBNs (nuclear submarines with long-range ballistic missiles).

Though India has also begun its hunt for six more new-generation submarines under Project-75A, worth over Rs 30,000 crore, it will take "several months'' before even the global tenders (request for proposals) are floated for them.

"Initial information obtained from Russian (Rosoboronexport), French (Armaris) and German (HDW) firms, among others, are being studied at present. We want P-75A submarines to have a high degree of stealth, land-attack capability and AIP,'' said an official.

There is also the indigenous secretive ATV (advanced technology vessel) programme, under which the first of the three nuclear-powered submarines being built is to be "launched into water'' on August 15.

But a fully operational ATV, with SLBM (submarine-launched ballistic missile) capabilities, is at least three years away. Navy, incidentally, will also get the Russian 12,000-tonne Akula-II nuclear-powered attack submarine on a 10-year lease by this year-end.