Monday, September 13, 2010

50,000cr deal for 6 subs: Govt invites bids from firms

NEW DELHI: The ball has formally been set rolling for what will be India's biggest-ever defence project till now: the acquisition of six new-generation stealth submarines, with land-attack capabilities, for over Rs 50,000 crore.

The government has now issued a global request for information (RFI) to armament majors to submit their initial offers by the end of this month for the six submarines to be constructed under 'Project-75 India'. This comes after the Defence Acquisitions Council (DAC), chaired by defence minister A K Antony, cleared P-75I in June, as was first reported by TOI. The gigantic naval project will clearly overtake the Rs 42,000 crore project to procure 126 multi-role fighters for IAF, so far dubbed the "mother of all defence deals", which is in the final selection phase now.

Under P-75I, while two submarines will be imported from the foreign collaborator's shipyard, the other four will be built indigenously under transfer of technology. Three of these will be constructed at Mazagon Docks (MDL) in Mumbai, and the fourth at Hindustan Shipyard Ltd (HSL) in Visakhapatnam.

MDL is already engaged in building six French Scorpene submarines under Project-75, currently valued at Rs 23,562 crore, which incidentally is running three years behind the 2012-2017 schedule set for it earlier. "Giving one submarine to HSL under P-75I is clearly aimed at establishing a robust second submarine line there, in addition to MDL, for future projects like P-76," said a senior official.

Interestingly, the RFI says the foreign collaborator has to specify the air-independent propulsion (AIP) being offered for the project. Conventional diesel-electric submarines have to surface every few days to get oxygen to recharge their batteries. But with AIP systems, they can stay submerged for much longer periods, narrowing the gap with nuclear-powered submarines which can operate underwater for virtually unlimited periods.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Unveiling of the Multi-mission Frigate Aquitaine

Aquitaine, the first of 21 FREMM multi-mission frigates on order for the French and Italian navies, was publicly unveiled in Lorient.

LORIENT --- French President Nicolas Sarkozy today attended the "unveiling" of the frigate Aquitaine, the first of eleven new FREMM multi-mission frigates on order for the French Navy, at the DCNS shipyard here.

He was accompanied by Defense Minister Hervé Morin, Industry Minister Christian Estrosi, the Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Edouard Guillaud, the Delegate General for Armaments, Laurent Collet-Billon, and the Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Pierre-Francois Forissier.

"Shipbuilding, both civil and military, is a strategic sector for our country. France has extensive know-how in this field that it will not let go,” Sarkozy said.

The FREMM program is Europe’s largest naval program, and is led by France in cooperation with Italy. It is managed by OCCAR, the Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation . The program aims to renew the French Navy’s fleet of anti-submarine and anti-aircraft frigates.

The French part of the program consists of nine anti-submarine warfare (ASW) frigates and two anti-aircraft (FREDA) frigates, bringing to eleven the number of FREMMs ordered for the Navy. All these frigates will be named for French regions (Aquitaine, Normandy, Provence, Brittany, Auvergne, Languedoc, Alsace and Lorraine). Overall, the Franco-Italian program calls for delivery of 21 frigates to the two countries.

FREMM Multimission frigates will form the backbone of the French surface fleet for the long term. They are designed to operate in joint and combined operational theaters.

Displacing 6,000 tons and with a length of 142 m, the FREMM frigates can reach speeds of 27 knots, are crewed by 108 people, and are heavily armed with Exocet 40 Block 3 anti-ship missiles, Aster air-defense missiles and MU90 torpedoes.

The first nine frigates, designated ASM, will have enhanced capabilities for deep strike when the Future Naval Cruise Missile enters service in 2014.

The 2 FREDA are designed to protect a carrier battle group or an amphibious group against aircraft and missiles. All FREMMs will operate an NH90 helicopter, and carry special forces troops and their equipment.

Construction of the eleven FREMM will generate, up to 2022, very significant business turnover for DCNS (mainly at its site at Lorient, but also at its facilities at Brest and Cherbourg) and for many sub-contractors, mainly SMEs.

The build rate, selected according to the multiyear defense blueprint, combined with anticipated export orders, is expected to maintain DCNS’ industrial workload. “Today, I am visiting a company that has a full order book for the next four years. The FREMM program gives DCNS visibility for the next 10 years or more,” Sarkozy said. “Our goal is not to maintain employment at DCNS, but to increase it,” he added.

Regarding exports, one FREMM sold in Morocco is currently under construction [for delivery in 2013—Ed.]. Other countries such as Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Greece and Brazil are also potentially interested. The third frigate, "Normandy", ordered for the French Navy, will go into production in September.

Aquitaine will shortly move to its fitting-out dock, and is to be delivered to the Navy in 2012.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Why Russia want Mistral class assault ship?

“Strange and risky” were the words Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili used to describe the anticipated warship deal between France and the Russian Federation.

Indeed, the patently anti-Russian government of Georgia has reasonable cause for concern. Russia’s option to purchase the Mistral class assault ship from France is very likely to be deployed to the Black Sea region. For Russia, the Mistral class ships would make an excellent addition to the aging Black Sea Fleet (BSF). Such a ship would provide a dramatic increase in key operational capabilities, and would also be able to pass unimpeded through the Turkish Straits. It is doubtful however that Russia will purchase more than one or two of the vessels. Despite the Russian government’s high-flying rhetoric, Mistral’s mission, at least in the near future, will be limited to strengthening Russia’s hold over the Caucasus.

The 1936 Montreux Convention gives Turkey stewardship of all sea traffic in the Dardanelles and Bosphorus straits. Although Russia enjoys special access terms under a Soviet-era agreement, it is still explicitly prohibited from sending aircraft carriers through the straights. Despite the ability to carry up to 16 helicopters, Mistral is classified as an amphibious assault ship and therefore is not subject to the treaty’s prohibition. Non-Black Sea states are severely limited in the number, displacement, and armament of military vessels allowed to pass. In a recent incident during the 2008 South Ossetia War, U.S. naval ships were refused passage into the Black Sea by Turkish authorities, and hospital ships had to be dispatched instead.

Mistral’s ability to transport up to 900 troops for short cruises will provide the BSF with a roughly 50% increase in amphibious landing capacity (currently there are 6 amphibious landing craft in the BSF capable of carrying about 225 soldiers each). The presence of helicopters on board will ensure vital close air support and medical evacuation capabilities. Even one such ship would significantly improve Russia’s military hold on the Georgian secessionist regions of Abkhazia and, to a lesser degree, South Ossetia. A senior Russian admiral recently claimed that if [Mistral class ships] had been a part of the fleet in 2008, Russian forces would have overrun Georgia “within 40 minutes,” rather than 26 hours.

The addition of several Mistral class ships will allow Russia to potentially create an expeditionary landing force for use around the world. This new capability, underscored by a bill recently introduced in the Russian parliament, expands the legal reasons to deploy Russian troops abroad. In accordance with this legislation, the Russian Navy’s fleet has been successfully patrolling the coast of Somalia in an exercise to stem piracy in the region. Still, renewed Russian Naval assertiveness is unlikely to assume global ambitions in the near future.

For all their military allure, the Mistral ships are not cheap at nearly half a billion euro apiece. Despite its stated intentions to buy four ships, Russia, which suffered a severe recession from global economic downturn, is unlikely to buy more than one or two. There is already growing opposition to the purchase and pressure to produce a domestic version instead. But Russia should be in no rush. Without the urgent need, and with such a high price, it is difficult to rationalize Russia’s acquisition of these ships.

Russia to decide on French warship purchase by year end

Russia will make a final decision on whether to buy a French Mistral-class amphibious assault ship by the end of the year, the Russian ambassador to France said on Friday.

Russia is holding talks with France on the purchase of Mistral-class warships on a 2+2 scheme whereby Russia will buy one or two French-built Mistrals and build another two under license at home.

"Very serious negotiations have been ongoing since March and we need to decide whether or not to buy [them]," Alexander Orlov said.

He said under Russian laws, "any such purchases are to be made through a tender," adding that France had fairly good chances to win it.

"That is, of course, if they make a more interesting offer," he said.

The envoy said the final decision "will be made by a special commission."

Russian Defense Minister Serdyukov said on August 20 that the ministry had announced an international tender for the construction of two amphibious assault ships and that the results of the tender would be announced before the end of the year.

BREST (France), (RIA Novosti)

Russia to resume test launches of troubled Bulava missile Sept. 9-12

Test launches of Russia's Bulava ballistic missile will resume between September 9 and 12, a defense industry source said on Friday.

"Everything is ready for the resumption of test launches," the source said. "I do not think there will be any postponement this time."

Bulava test launches were put on hold after a failed launch, from the Dmitry Donskoy nuclear submarine in the White Sea on December 9, 2009, which was caused by a defective engine nozzle.

The source also said if the launch is successful, at least another three test launched will be conducted before the end of the year.

The Bulava (SS-NX-30), a three-stage liquid and solid-propellant submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), has officially suffered seven failures in 12 tests.

But some analysts suggest that in reality the number of failures was considerably larger, with Russian military expert Pavel Felgenhauer suggesting that of the Bulava's 12 test launches, only one was entirely successful.

MOSCOW, (RIA Novosti)

India OKs $6.5B Plan To Build Stealth Destroyers

By Vivek Raghuvanshi

NEW DELHI - The Indian government has approved spending $6.5 billion to build four stealth destroyers for the Navy under Project-15B.

The Indian Defence Ministry cleared the project in late 2009, but the government only approved funding last month, a senior Defence Ministry official said.
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The four destroyers will be built at the Indian Navy's Mumbai-based Mazagon Docks after construction is completed for three earlier stealth warships under Project 15-A. These are expected to be completed by 2012-2014.

The new destroyers will have greater stealth and advanced sensor and weapon packages, and will be fitted with a 1,000-kilometer-range nuclear capable cruise missile currently being developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation with Israeli help, Navy sources said.

The new stealth destroyers also will be fitted with an extended-range surface-to-air missile system, which is being developed jointly between India and Israel.

There was no competitive bidding for the four 6,800-ton destroyers since Mazagon Dock is the only Indian shipyard large enough to build destroyers.

The Navy, which has been retiring old ships faster than building new ones, has given orders to various shipyards for the building of 39 warships. The Navy's current strength is about 140 vessels. Most of these warships are of Russian make and one Navy officials said the service is concerned that these ships are aging faster than new ones can be inducted.

Naval responsibilities have increased with India emerging as a major power throughout the Indian Ocean region.

In July, the Defence Ministry approved procurement of six conventional submarines worth more than $10 billion. Under the program, three of the subs will be built at Mazagon Docks, one will be built at state-owned Hindustan Shipyard in Visakhapatnam with the help of a foreign collaborator, and two will be purchased directly from an overseas vendor.

India signs deal for Harpoon Block II missiles with US

BANGALORE: India has signed an agreement with the US government to purchase 24 Harpoon Block II missiles for its Jaguar strike aircraft, in a bid to ramp up its maritime warfare capability.

Boeing country head, defence, space and security, Mr Vivek Lall told ET, “the deal was successfully concluded through the Foreign Military Sales route late last month, with Boeing as the prime contractor. The missiles are for the Indian Air Force’s maritime strike squadron.”

The deal, expected to be worth about $170 million, has been on the cards for over two years now, with the Bush administration having wheeled out a sales notification during defence minister A K Antony’s visit to Washington in 2008. The US had also sold the same missiles to Pakistan.

The Harpoon Block II is the latest version of the subsonic missile and is able to strike land-based targets and ships. It is an all-weather, over the horizon, anti-ship missile which can be launched from surface ships, submarines and aircraft.

However, Lall said no agreement had been reached yet with regard to supplying the missile for P-8I, India’s long-range maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft. The P-8I is scheduled for delivery in 2013.

“The final weapons package for the P-8I is yet to be decided, and will again be sold through the FMS route,” he said.

According to the latest report of the Comptroller and Auditor General, the attack capability of the Navy’s depleted fighter aircraft fleet has been significantly eroded, as they have not been kept in full combat readiness, with the bombs fitted having become obsolescent.

Mr Lall said the Phase II of the Apache and Chinook helicopter programmes for the IAF will be held in the US later in the year. Phase II will involve weapons integration field trials for both choppers.

The Economic Times

Saturday, September 4, 2010

McInerney sails into sunset, first of Mayport frigates to leave fleet

The USS McInerney has been turned over to the Pakistani navy.

By Timothy J. Gibbons

Shortly before the sun set Tuesday, the USS McInerney was no more. Within a few minutes, the PNS Alamgir floated in its place.

Dozens of feet above the water at Mayport Naval Station, a Pakistani sailor was already hard at work with a long brush and bucket of gray paint. He was covering up a large numeral "8" on the ship's bow, a U.S. designation, as the new crew made the ship its own.

"It tugs at your heartstrings," Cmdr. Paul Young, the final commanding officer of the McInereny said, minutes after turning over the vessel to Capt. Naveed Ashraf.

In recent months, Young led the ship on a successful final deployment and then spent months working with the Pakistani crew members, bringing them up to speed as they prepared to take over the ship.

"I'm proud of the ship and proud of the sailors," he said Tuesday. The ceremony handing over the McInerney marked the beginning of the end for the Navy's fleet of frigates, which make up most of the force at Mayport.

It's the last "first" for the ship, which was on the cutting edge for most of its time in service, including serving as the test bed for the LAMPS MK III helicopter that helps find submarines and for the Navy's new unmanned aerial vehicle that hunts drug runners.

"She led the way in operation readiness," Rear Adm. Vic Guillory said about the McInerney, which he used to look at across the basin when he commanded the Mayport-based sister ship USS Underwood.

A few dozen of the ship's plank owners - members of the McInerney's original crew - who were on hand for the ceremony remembers getting the ship to that readiness level.

Because the 1979-commissioned McInerney was the second Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate made, the plank owners were tasked with learning what worked and what didn't - sometimes dangerously so.

"We were off Nova Scotia looking for heavy seas. We found them," said Ken Hardison, a gas turbine system technician on the ship who came down from Virginia for the ceremony. "It was an experience."

The flexing that resulted led to the stiffer side, which became part of the entire class. The plank owners have been talking about the decommissioning for months, several said, reigniting old friendships along the way.

"This has brought us a lot closer," said Rocky Morris, another member of the engineering department. Seeing the new crew on the ship was a bit sad, he said. "It's like we saw the baby being born, and now we're giving it away," Morris said. "We wish them the best with it. We hope they treat it well."

Its new owners plan to: After spending several months across the river in the Atlantic Marine facility, where some basic repairs will be made, the PNS Alamgir is expected to become a workhorse in the Pakistani fleet.

"You're not losing a ship; you're gaining a strengthened relationship," Pakistani Ambassador Husain Haqqani said Tuesday. "We look forward to the transfer of more frigates."

The Pakistani navy is interested in seven of the U.S. frigates, although Congress has not yet approved any more of the transfers.

However, many of this class of ships being phased out will be sold or given to partner nations. The dozen frigates remaining at Mayport are slated to be decommissioned by 2015, when the USS Samuel B. Roberts is retired.

Having the vessels as part of the Pakistani fleet, Haqqani said, is good for both countries. "The strategic partnership between the U.S. and Pakistan will continue to deepen," he said. "The leadership of both countries understands the need for the relationship."