Sunday, November 21, 2010

Northrop Grumman's laser shows highly lethal and far-reaching

Tests of the MLD system (Maritime Laser Demonstration) U.S. Navy recently conducted in the Potomac River Test Range, confirmed the readiness of the laser weapon system to continue sea trials next year, according to Northrop Grumman Corporation, the principal contractor.

Operating from a fixed location on the earth, the weapon system MLD fired a laser beam into a series of fixed targets, including sections of small boats along the Potomac River. The laser crossed the sections of the boats in these tests, conducted in late August and early September.

When ready, the MLD can be used against asymmetric threats, missiles and UAVs.

Tomahawk against underground targets

The U.S. recently tested a new head of war called JMEW (Joint Multi-Effects Warhead System) in its Tomahawk cruise missiles.

The new warhead of 450 kilograms (1,000 pounds) was designed to penetrate underground bunkers (bunkers), but also cause a greater destructive effect on targets less robust. The exact power of penetration has not yet been revealed.

The JMEW uses laser terminal guidance, giving the missile a few meters and against moving targets. The Tomahawk Block IV can be reprogrammed in flight to reach another target and takes a video camera to check out prospective targets.

The RGM-109E Block IV Surface Ship Vertical Launched Tomahawk Land Attack Missile weighs 1.2 tons, is 6 feet long and range of 1.600km. It flies at altitudes 600-900km/ha 17-32m, propelled by a small jet engine. Accuracy is the same as the JDAM bomb (CEP 10m).

In pictures, the destroyer USS Sterett (DDG104) firing a Tomahawk missile.

Navantia launches fifth frigate F-100 for the Spanish Armada

The Navantia threw overboard on Nov. 4, at 14.35 in Fene-Ferrol shipyard, the frigate F-105 Cristóbal ColónThe fifth unit of the class F-100, which builds the Navantia since 2000.

The construction of the frigate began in June 2007 with the keel was laid in February 2009 and commissioning in the Spanish Armada in the summer of 2011.

The F-105 incorporates modifications in relation to other units F-100, derived from the improvements made in the process and experience gained in operating the ships of the class.

The ship, with improvements in habitability, the system of command and control and will have new radar system installed radar Lockheed Martin radar, an AEGIS-D (V).
The changes aimed to reduce manning and maintenance costs.

Navantia The new frigates will provide air defense for the Australia-based F-105.

Italian aircraft carrier "Cavour" will operate variant F-35B JSF

The Italian aircraft carrier Cavour hosted a meeting between various military branches, as part of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), in which the Marina Militare Italiana plans to buy 22 fighters F-35B STOVL (Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing), between the years 2014 and 2021.

The meeting was attended by representatives of various government agencies in Italy and the USA (SEGREDIFESA, MARISTAT, NAVARM, UTNAV Genova, group-), as well as representatives of industries Lockheed Martin and Selex Sistemi Integrati Fincantieri.

Working together with members of the crew of Cavour, The meeting aimed to identify the best technical solutions that will allow the first generation of the F-35B can operate the boat from 2016.

Recently the British government decided to replace your order of jets to the F-35B F-35C version of the conventional takeoff and landing on aircraft carriers, now leaving the Italian Navy as the only foreign operator of the STOVL variant of JSF.

The F-35B will replace the AV-8B Harrier II (pictured below) in the Italian Navy.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Latest Type 45 Destroyer Enters Service with the Royal Navy

The latest Type 45 destroyer, HMS Dauntless, has entered service with the Royal Navy, the Ministry of Defence announced today.

The warship, which has a hull made of 2,800 tonnes of steel, is the second in the fleet of six air defence destroyers and has undergone months of extensive sea trials. She recently returned from the Hebrides where she successfully fired the world-leading air defence missile system, Sea Viper, for the first time.

The ship, which has fuel tanks that are roughly half as big as an Olympic-sized swimming pool, will now undergo further trials and training to prepare for her first operational deployment planned for next year.

Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology, Peter Luff, said:

"The declaration of HMS Dauntless' in-service date is a significant achievement, even more so when you consider that first of class HMS Daring achieved the same milestone only three months ago.

"This is testament to the hard work of MOD and industry teams to deliver these hugely capable vessels, which will ensure the Royal Navy is well equipped to meet the demands of the future."

Captain Richard Powell, Dauntless' Commanding Officer, said:

"Entry into service of this very powerful and advanced warship is a great day for both the ship's company and the Royal Navy.

"These modern multi-purpose vessels will replace some of our older warships and ensure that the UK can react to current defence challenges anywhere in the world."

Head of the Destroyers Project Team, Commodore Steve Brunton, added:

"I am delighted that we have declared HMS Dauntless in-service, coming hot on the heels of her successful firing of the Sea Viper missile system. This considerable success demonstrates that the Type 45 ship-build programme is progressing well.

"With all six Type 45s now in the water, the Destroyers Project Team, industry, Navy Command and ships companies are in the busiest year yet of this important programme for the Royal Navy and this key event for HMS Dauntless is a result of a magnificent team effort."

HMS Dauntless was launched in January 2007 and has since undertaken months of sea trials. She set sail from Portsmouth on 15 November 2010 to begin her second set of sea trials.

France Ready To Build First Mistral Warship For Russia In 2013

Le Bourget, France: If Moscow and Paris sign a contract to build Mistral class helicopter carriers for Russia, the first warship may be built in 2013, a top manager of French STX Europe shipbuilder said on Friday.

The shipyards of Saint-Nazaire are seen as the most likely winner in a tender to build amphibious assault warships for the Russian Navy.

"If Russia and France sign the deal, the first Mistral-class vessel may be built in the shipyards of Saint-Nazaire in late 2013-early 2014," said Jacques Hardelay, STX Europe president for operations in France.

He said the shipyards of Saint-Nazaire are able to build two Mistral class warships simultaneously.

"If the contract is signed, then in one year, namely in 2015, Russia would get a second Mistral class warship. Therefore, by 2016 the Russian Navy would have two Mistral class warships," Hardelay said.

"As soon as the contract is signed, we would propose to our Russian colleagues to produce certain components for the first two ships to be built in France. There won't be many [components to be produced] for the first ship, but many more for the second," the official added.

Russia will be able to build its first domestically-produced Mistral class amphibious assault ships in late 2016 or early 2017.

Aircraft carrier plan highlights China’s naval ambitions

Beijing: The new generation of combat aircraft China proudly showed off at the Zhuhai Air Show in the country's south this week could soon be taking off from a prestigious runway: an aircraft carrier.

Beijing has become increasingly assertive in its ambitions on the high seas -- as demonstrated by recent tensions with old rival Japan -- but still lacks this naval centrepiece.

This looks set to change.

Although it has not officially announced as much, China is working on a carrier and Western experts believe it could be launched as early as next year, though not in a fully operational state.

It is a former Soviet aircraft carrier called the Varyag, currently being refurbished in the port city of Dalian in northeast China.

Rick Fisher, a Chinese military expert at the International Assessment and Strategy Centre in the United States, told AFP the Pentagon estimates China's carrier will start operations by 2015.

"This is a reasonable projection. China could have enough of the carrier air wing flying by that time to start developing carrier operating procedures and fighting tactics," he said.

Fisher said that Chinese leaks to media in Hong Kong and Japan last year indicated that Beijing plans a five-strong carrier fleet, including two nuclear-powered vessels.

Arthur Ding, an expert on the People's Liberation Army, which operates the country's navy, said owning an aircraft carrier is a prestige issue for China, whose 2.3-million-strong military is already the world's largest.

This is particularly so when neighbours -- and rivals -- including Japan and India are already equipped with them, said Ding, of National Chengchi University in Taiwan.

But there is a second, practical reason, he added.

"As China's interests expand globally, the Chinese navy needs to go further outbound, and an aircraft carrier is needed," he said.

China has a nuclear arsenal and the world's second-largest defence budget after the United States -- although experts believe China spends more than it reveals -- but its military capabilities beyond its borders are limited.

As a tool for projecting power, the aircraft carrier is unsurpassed.

"When word of crisis breaks out in Washington, it's no accident the first question that comes to everyone's lips is: where is the nearest carrier?" former US president Bill Clinton once said.

Some Western experts believe the Varyag could be more useful to the Chinese as a means of learning carrier technology than as a naval tool in its own right.

China's defence ministry declined comment on the warship's future role when questioned by AFP.

China has a problem accessing the Pacific Ocean, as it lies beyond an arc of rival powers: South Korea, Japan and Taiwan, as well as US bases.

Beijing, envious of Washington's naval dominance, has reacted with resentment to recent US manoeuvres in the China Sea and Yellow Sea, which it considers its backyard. The presence of US carriers compounded the insult.

Fisher said that while China seeks to "cover its growing iron fist in the velvet glove of 'soft power'," acquiring carriers is vital for China's strategic vision.

"China seeks to become a global superpower capable of defending its increasingly international political-economic interests with greater levels of military might," he said.

"Building a fleet of aircraft carriers will be essential to this goal."

China cultivates the image of a country that arms itself solely for self-defence and has no interest in becoming a dominant power.

Developing aircraft carriers could tarnish that image.

Ding said that is why Beijing has been coy about its plans -- it worries the carrier will feed fears about China's rise.

But Chinese enthusiasm for carriers is not confined to the military headquarters. The population seems to be strongly behind building them as standard-bearers for national pride.

A poll by China's state media found 98 percent of people think it is time the nation had an aircraft carrier, and 71 percent think at least four are needed.

The fortnightly Chinese magazine "Modern Ships" launched a design competition for carriers in 2007 and still receives impassioned contributions, according to deputy editor Cui Yiliang.

"Most Chinese people think the navy's abilities do not match the country's needs," he said.

Why India needs to opt in for Nuclear Submarines?

By Cmde (retd) Ranjit B. Rai

India’s nuclear legend Dr Homi Nusserwanji Sethna (1924-2010) passed away on 5th September in Mumbai aged 86. In May 1974 Dr Sethna as Chairman of India’s Atomic Commission(AEC) which was set up in then Bombay, had ordered preparations for India’s plutonium Pu-239 based, peaceful nuclear explosion(PNE) at Pokhran and was camping in New Delhi. Dr Raja Ramanna Director BARC was on site immersing the cores in the deep tunnels constructed by Indian Army engineers and with some help from an NRI company, and connecting the detonating cables with DRDO help. The bomb’s architect Dr Sethna reportedly briefed Prime Minister Mrs Indira Gandhi on the preparations, “I am pushing in the device (bomb) tomorrow and after that, do not say remove it because I cannot. You cannot tell me to stop.”

“Go ahead”, Indira replied, “ Are you frightened ?,” she asked. “I am not. I am only telling you there is no going back now. That is all,” Homi answered in his no nonsense manner, that he was known for..

Homi Sethna a nuclear legend of India, was educated as a chemical engineer in Ann Arbour Michigan and took over in times when Dr Homi Bhabha and Dr Vikram Sarabhai had passed away and left a void. Earlier in his career, he was responsible for setting up of the thorium extraction plant at Alwaye in Kerala for separation of rare earth from Monazite sands, and came in to contact with naval officers in Cochin, including then Commodore SG Karmarkar Commodore in Charge Cochin (COMCHIN). Later Sethna set up the plant for the production of nuclear grade uranium metal at Trombay, and also set up the Plutonium Reprocessing Plant(PRP) there itself in 1959. India Strategic is proud to recount Dr Sethna’s support to the Indian Navy and what is now Indian Navy’s ambitions to build and operate nuclear submarines. The story of Indian Navy’s quest for nuclear submarines needs recounting.


The Indian Navy has always looked ahead, and its ambitious horizons have always included plans to acquire, build and operate nuclear submarines. Sethna supported that, and it is essential to appreciate why India needs expensive home built nuclear submarines like the 6,500 ton INS Arihant (ATV) which is being readied for sea trials and deep diving trials at the Ship Building Center(SBC) at Vishakapatnam. The DRDO-Navy project is being directed by Director General ATV Vice Admiral DSP Verma, a former Chief of Material of the Indian Navy, from the offices of Akshanka( means Hope) in New Delhi, under the control of a board in PMO with the Prime Minister as its head. Another large classified establishment under Akshanka, the Directorate of Marine Engineering Technology (DMET) at Hyderabad has pioneered and tested all engineering equipment inducted from Indian industry for the INS Arihant, and continues to seek suppliers for sea going machinery that goes in to a submarine but its activities are classified, despite all suppliers having all the details. It’s a dichotomy.

A large 8,500 ton nuclear Akula class submarine of Project 971, the Nerpa is also being taken on lease from Russia for training and the Indian crew is likely to commission the boat later this year, if all is equal. The boat had suffered a fire and explosion and the damage has been repaired at Vladivostok. The nuclear submarines are planned to augment the Navy’s long grey line of 32 warships and 6 diesel propelled Scorpene submarines including two aircraft carriers that are under construction, and on order in India and abroad. A nuclear boat with its organic under water launched nuclear missiles, is stealth at its best and is the most proven form of deterrence against another nuclear armed adversary. India has two nuclear neighbors.

The world’s five nuclear weapon NPT states USA, Russia, France, UK and China, continue to maintain and design nuclear submarines capable of launching nuclear tipped missiles besides, air and land launched nuclear missiles. UK and France have admittedly reduced their land and air launched nuclear assets, but they are on course to build newer nuclear submarines despite the burden on their defence budgets, that this class of nuclear boats impose. A nuclear submarine costs around $2 bill a piece, is expensive to maintain, but it is an essential and vital strategic asset of a nation.

India has yet to achieve a credible ‘Triad’ deterrence capability to protect its national interests which includes its growing economy slated to grow faster in the coming decades. The Chinese PLA Navy has been pursuing a vigorous programme to build up its Han, Xia(093), 094 and 095 class of nuclear submarines which can launch short range missiles from SSNs, and long range 5000km ICBMs like the JL-1 derived from the DF-31 from SSBMs, and if India is to join the big league which is now on the cards, then it has little option but to have a line of SSN and SSBM nuclear submarines to ensure deterrence, akin to insurance against nuclear states. One however hopes, the use of nuclear weapons is never resorted to.

Politicians, the public at large and even business leaders in India have to appreciate that if you do not have security, then you will have no governance or business in a growing economy. National security is a national pre-requisite, and this is what late Dr HN Sethna who when he was working as Director of Bhabha Atomic Research Center Bombay in the 1960s producing weapon grade plutonium(P-239) from waste from nuclear reactors, always emphasized in conversations with naval officers in Bombay. His education in USA had fired his imagination on security and nuclear issues. He often visited the USO club’s golf course which was close to the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research(TIFR) in Colaba. TIFR was constructed on naval land adjacent to Navy Nagar, and a number of ‘hush hush research projects’ were conducted there and a few technical naval officers took short courses at TIFR.

Rear Admiral SG Karmarkar, the first Indian officer who had commanded British officers on INS Kistna had by then become Flag Officer Bombay(1963-65). Dr Sethna was known to him from his Cochin days and hosted him at Northbrooke House next to the Atomic Energy Commission Office in the Old Yacht Club premises at Apollo Bunder near the Taj Mahal Hotel. Sethna took the Admiral to visits to Tarapur Nuclear Power project and BARC, and this writer as Flag Lt accompanied the Admiral on one visit to Tarapur when a reactor was being commissioned. Dr Sethna who had served under Dr Homi Bhabha is acknowledged is as being the prime architect of India’s nuclear weapons programme with Dr Raja Ramanna. They both successfully demonstrated capability to build indegenious nuclear bombs in May 1974 and ‘Smiling Buddha’ took under his stewardship when he was the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, but he was a modest person and never hogged the lime light and diligently pursued his tasks and interests.


Many naval officers recall Sethna tell young naval officers in Mumbai to dream of nuclear propulsion. He did this in times when officially Indian Armed Forces were not taught offensive nuclear doctrines. Nuclear and nuclear warfare in India’s context was not in India’s toxilogy or lexicon as a subject in Indian staff colleges, but it is less known that all major Indian Naval ships have always been fitted to fight through and defend themselves against a nuclear explosion. All major naval ships have ‘citadel capability’ to button up the ship and re-circulate internal air and generate oxygen like a submarine does. Every major warship can pre- wet the whole ship structure to cleanse nuclear fallout. A warship’s raison d’etre is “To Float, To Move, To Fight’ even thorough a nuclear explosion at sea.

Every IN navigator is taught to steer the ship away from the centre of a nuclear bomb explosion at sea. The Fleet regularly exercises nuclear explosion drill and ships are required to calculate a moving geographic position called ‘Roaming Romeo’(the centre of explosion and fallout) depending on the direction of the wind, and steer a safe course to evade the nuclear fallout at high speed, with the ship’s company sealed breathing circulated and re-oxidised air.

Nuclear warfare drill has been taught to every naval officer since the 50s, and officials from Bharat Atomic Energy Centre(BARC) at Mumbai where India’s plutonium nuclear bombs(cores) are currently stored, regularly gave lectures on board ships on how to check radiation levels, apply radiation cleansing techniques and calibrate the naval ships fixed and portable electromagnetic Rontogen X-radiation meters. Nuclear bomb effects and methods of delivery is bread and butter to the youngest of Indian naval officer at sea, as it forms a part of the inspection routine by the Fleet Commander. It is a legacy of the British ships Indian Navy acquired after partition.

It is to Dr Sethna’s credit that he as AEC Chairman he opened the secret portals of India’s nuclear establishment BARC in 1976 which was under Dr Raja Ramanna then and accepted a team of four naval officers led by then Capts PN Agarwala and Bharat Bhusan both very bright engineer officers trained at the Royal Naval Engineering College at Manaden Plymouth, to form a Diesel Propulsion Research Team(DPRT) at BARC. DPRT was a subterfuge for designing a nuclear propulsion plant. Cdrs Gurmit Singh and Cdr BK Subbarao were also in the team, and in later years Subbarao designed a submarine nuclear power plant but crossed swords with Dr Raja Ramanna. Bhusan later headed the Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) nuclear project and subsequently many naval officers were trained in nuclear engineering at BARC and transferred to the the DRDO-Navy classified ATV project, which fructified in the launching of INS Arihant by PM’s wife Mrs Gursharan Kaur on 22nd August,2009 at Vishakapatnam.

INS Arihant a 7,000 ton medium sized nuclear propulsion technology demonstrator submarine and is being readied to go to sea and will be fitted with the 700km Sagarika K-15 solid fuel nuclear tipped missile, and it will possess India’s first underwater launched deterrent, if all is equal. India already has air and land launched nuclear arsenals, and two of Navy’s four off shore patrol vessels (OPVs) INS Subhadra and Suvarna can launch one 350km liquid fuelled nuclear tipped Dhanush missile each. These launch platforms operate on surface and can be located from visual and radar observations and from satellites and are vulnerable.


It needs recall that at a nuclear session at India International Center three years ago, when India’s nuclear deal was being pursued with USA, the speakers included India’s doyen nuclear analyst K Subrahmanyam, Raja Mohan of the Indian Express and others. Former PM I K Gujral shared an anecdote which holds relevance for the Indian Navy’s plans and ambitions to possess nuclear submarines with under water launched long range missiles. IK Gujral unveiled how in 1979 when he was Ambassador in Russia and C Subramaniam and K Subrahmanyam were the Defence Minister and Defence Secretary (Production) respectively in MOD, he was tasked to meet Admiral Sergei Gorshkov and seek help and guidance on India’s quest for nuclear submarines, which were prompted by the Indian Navy, and supported by Dr Raja Ramanna. Admiral of the Fleet Sergei Gorshkov known to be a supporter of the Indian Navy and officially acknowledged as the ‘Benefactor of the modern Indian Navy’ was one of the finest naval minds of the last century. When Shri Gujral met him he made him look at the chart/map of the Indian Ocean and went on to explain to Gujral how India was hemmed in by the Straits on both sides and said China has nuclear submarines and so India must also have nuclear submarines. That was the time when relations between Russia and China had soured. That led to the birth of the ATV and later the lease of INS Chakra.

From 1983 under the guidance of late Dr Raja Ramanna who worked under Dr HN Sethna , the ATV project took off and a former roommate of Dr Raja Rammana, Vice Admiral M K Roy, when they were living together in digs in London was made the first DG. The rest is history, and INS Chakra was given by Russia on lease to the Indian Navy from 1987 to 1991 despite rumblings in the West, and the IN cut its teeth in nuclear submarine operations and handling with the full support of BARC which opened its portals and a large number of naval officers hold M(Tech) degrees in nuclear engineering from BARC. The nuclear reactor in INS Chakra was maintained by Russians on board and all activities kept secret, including those of the ATV even from other service chiefs, and senior officers of the Indian Navy.

It was only six years ago that then Defence Ministers of India Pranab Mukherjee and Sergei Ivanov of Russia, jointly acknowledged the ATV project in pubic in Moscow for the first time and wowed to complete it. India also secretly clinched the deal to take Akula nulcear submarines on lease on the lines of the INS Chakra, but with full control. Many feel Russia readily agreed, as the funding for rejuvenating the Akulas, Nerpa and Jaguar came through the advances for the 1000X 2 Kundankulam nuclear power projects, and they needed the business. A few thousand of crores has also been spent on INS Arihant which has Russian assistance and equipment makes it the next most expensive DRDO project along with the LCA. Possibly the most expensive.


A nuclear Submarine force is the right option for countries with large oceans to patrol and though this issue has never been debated in India, it must be stated that nuclear submarines are very expensive technological toys. The cost of buying or building nuclear submarines is approximately 50 % to 75% higher per unit than diesel- electric powered boats but has greater capabilities. Nuke boats cruise three times faster , have a greater sustained speed underwater, and an unlimited range. For this reason larger number of diesel units are required for the same duty. Higher speeds by diesel propelled boats for very short period deplete their underwater batteries in few hours, and without resorting to recharge they then become incapable and vulnerable to the point of helplessness. PNS Hangor under then Cdr Tasneem of Pakistan almost suffered this fate in 1971, after attacking INS Kuthar which Hangor’s torpedoes missed, but sunk INS Khukri with the loss of 168 souls. However the Captain of Hangor made an ingenious get away by daring to navigate in shallow waters, to escape the Indian Navy ships and submarines that were deployed off Diu. Nuclear submarines cannot do that in shallow waters.

Diesel submarines are warships of position, whereas nuclear submarines are vehicles of maneuver. Diesel subs are suited for small shallow seas with straits to block like the Malacca Straits and the Baltic hence Singapore has opted for small submarines, but when rapid movements over long ocean distances are required, nuclear propulsion is the desired choice and India must afford it. A conventional boat needs to be in the vicinity of its target . A nuclear boat can be dispatched to intercept or can track and attack when ordered. The sinking of the Argentinean’s cruiser General Belgrano in the Falklands war is the most recent demonstration of the capability when HMS Conqueror which was dispatched at full speed for 8000miles submerged all the way. Went and intercepted the Argentinean Navy’s cruiser. No conventional submarines could have achieved this feat and bottled up the whole Argentinean fleet. Unlike the diesel electric boats, which have to surface to recharge batteries about 20 percent of their time at sea, the nuclear submarine does not have to come up and surface and then effectively broadcast its position with noisy engines for sonars to detect it. The motto of nuclear submarines is ‘Run Deep, Run Silent, Run Long’.

The diesel–electric submarine can be a useful weapon provided it can get to the right place at the right time. Conversely a nuclear powered boat, which can stay submerged indefinitely run at high speeds indefinitely, has enormous flexibility. A nuclear powered boat running silent , fast and deep can be switched very quickly from, for example , a wartime role of barrier patrol against hostile submarine in a specific area to convoy escort ships across an ocean, or land saboteurs secretly.

In its frequent surfacing, the diesel- electric submarine is highly vulnerable to visual, acoustic and radar detection and thus open to attack by other submarines, aircraft and surface ships. The nuclear boat’s reactor also produces much more electrical power than diesel electric submarines and makes its ‘pear shaped hull’ possible to operate at much higher speeds for its highly powered sonar detection systems , provide more oxygen re-generation and unlimited water supply. The mere threat of a nuclear powered submarine in an area inhibits an opponent and acts as a powerful deterrent. Very rigorous safety standards have to be followed by navies building and operating nuclear submarines and most have ensured nuclear accident free operations. The US Navy for example has used nuclear propulsion for more than 40 years and accumulated more than 3600 reactor years of operation.


The importance of nuclear propulsion and nuclear submarines needs publicity. Once the importance and inescapable need for nuclear submarines is accepted by India and the Indian Navy becomes confident and masters nuclear propulsion along the way, the nation’s Navy should be encouraged to think of nuclear propulsion for all its major naval warships of the future especially aircraft carriers that the Indian Navy is planning for the second decade of the 21st century. This will be a tribute to Drs Homi Bhabha, Homi Sethna and Raja Ramanna who showed the way. The cost of fossil fuel is set to rise exponentially and India which is a net importer of hydro carbons has to plan for alternate fuels and savings. Navies are large consumers of oil. The Government has maintained overt secrecy over all the equipment fitted in INS Arihant and kept a veil over the Indian designed and Indian built small nuclear reactor in the boat, which was a joint effort by BARC and Indian industry. Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh admitted that Indian industry has largely contributed to the building of INS Arihant and names of companies like Larsen& Toubro Ltd, Walchandnagar Industries Ltd, Bharat Heavy Elecriclas Ltd, Bharat Electronics Ltd, Tata Group and pump makers like Khosla and Kirloskar Pumps Ltd and some small suppliers and fabricators are known, but not their deeds. These need to be made public as it is reported two more larger Arihant class with modifications to take additional missiles is on the cards.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

UK/France Defence Treaty – New Chapter, New Book!

The signing of various defence cooperation treaties between France and the UK should not be translated as anything other than sheer common sense. In my view not only should the treaties signed between the two largest military nations in Western Europe be seen as opening a much needed new chapter in Franco British history they should better be seen as opening a completely new book. We will see but it is in everyone’s interest that we give what has been proposed by both governments today a full chance to work. Trust is essential and when it comes to defence the peoples of both nations put that trust in their respective governments. The signing of the treaties today is not to be seen as capitulation by either of signatory. Moreover it is in my view a common sense approach to better meeting the full NATO commitment of both nations, of better meeting the future requirement and obligations and that at the same time should allow for significant removal of duplication and wasted resource. Neither of the two nations will be the weaker for what has been signed by UK Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy today and neither had anything to lose. As to the wider Allied view of proposed Anglo French defence cooperation agreement – this is a matter that when I was in Washington DC last week I raised with various ‘friends’ on the Hill. To that end I can say that I am perfectly satisfied that our US NATO allies fully believe that what has been agreed between Britain and France today was not only inevitable but also that it should be perceived as a move in the right direction for NATO.
The major significance of the two separate defence related treaties signed by France and Britain relates to joint development of nuclear testing facilities and the surety that as NATO members France and Britain have agreed to ensure that ultimately at least one aircraft carrier be it French or British will be at sea at any one time. With HMS Ark Royal withdrawn and HMS Illustrious soon to lose its Harrier capability and then likely to be de-rated to Helicopter carrier means that until the currently under build Queen Elizabeth carrier is commissioned into service (approximately eight or nine years from now) the UK will not actually possess ‘through deck’ carrier capability. From a military perspective this is regrettable but with the die already cast there is unlikely to be any u-turn on retention of Harrier capability. Until that time then it seems that ‘through deck’ landing capability will be in the hands of the French Navy.

Concurrently the treaty signed on nuclear cooperation and that will develop new forms of nuclear testing technology will see a new UK research facility built at Aldermaston and the existing French facility at Valduc enhanced. Both operations are slated I believe to begin operations late in 2014. Nuclear warheads will be tested by technical as opposed to actual means to ensure full safety and effectiveness of the weapons. It is my understanding that the UK is tasked with development of the testing technology and France with the actual testing of warheads.

Finally French and British governments have agreed that over time the two nations will work toward evolving what has been termed a combined joint expeditionary force comprising of around 10,000 troops that would be resourced equally from both signatories to the agreement. Under a single command we suspect the idea is that command will alternate between French and UK military every couple of years. Whilst it is understandable that media and others have questioned the viability of this idea we believe that now that France is again within full NATO command structure the idea of deploying a joint task force makes considerable sense. As to questions raised as to what would occur should there be disagreement over the use of countries troops in a specific military involvement when the other might disagree planned action we believe that fears on this are likely unfounded. It would seem to me more than likely that any dispute over proposed use of this force outside NATO command would of course be for each individual nation to sort out for itself.

Given that reducing cost to taxpayer and making better use of resource lie at the heart of the treaties signed today we should in my view attempt to look primarily at the military and cost benefits of what is proposed rather than the awkward history between both nations. When NATO was formed sixty five years ago similar worries over nations working together were aired. Those worries proved to be unfounded and so too will these in my view. Of course in an ideal world we would not need to involve cooperation on this scale between the most powerful military nations in Western Europe but if the cap fits then I am afraid we have no choice but to wear it.

It is my understanding that there will be no sharing or weapons or equipment resource although joint resources will be made available to assist in training. This is the first of what I regard as several military or equipment agreements that we might expect to be agreed between France and the UK over the next few years.

Today’s agreement between France and the UK also included several other interesting equipment related events such as proposed bi-lateral training, maintenance and logistical support for the proposed A400M airlifter that both countries plan to acquire. Agreement to investigate further the sharing of capacity between France and Britain of the latter’s planned fleet of new Airbus A330 tanker transport aircraft (FSTA – Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft) – (note no signing of agreement today presumably as there is yet to be agreement between the two nations on the financial aspects of sharing) plus preliminary agreement to sharing work on the next generation of medium altitude long endurance unmanned air surveillance systems, assessment of future satellite communication requirements with a view to saving costs, alignment of certain mine countermeasure plans.