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Monday, September 11, 2017

Will Nag/NAMICA-2 Combination Enter Service?

Though the successful test-firings of the Nag ATGM/NAMICA-2 combination passed its most crucial developmental milestone on September 8 and 9, 2017, this has perhaps come too late and it now remains to be seen if the Indian Army will conduct the definitive user-trials, without which service-induction cannot take place.
 
It may be recalled that user-trials of the 4km-range Nag ATGM’s uncooled LWIR sensor were carried out in hot desert conditions in Rajasthan on at the Mahajan firing range against both moving and static targets for different ranges of 2.8km and 3.2km, with the ATGMs then being fired from the NAMICA-1 tracked launchers.
Of the four missiles fired then, only one hit the target. In all, eight firing-trials were planned, between July and August 4. On July 28, while one Nag ATGM, tested for a range of 2,500 metres, hit the bull’s eye, the second failed to destroy a target 700 metres away owing to a problem in its uncooled LWIR sensor. In the subsequent trials on August 1, two Nag ATGMs missed their targets positioned at 1,300 metres and 2,500 metres, respectively, since there was inadequate thermal contrast for the LWIR sensor to lock-on and track the target before the missile was launched. Consequently, the uncooled LWIR sensor proved to be accurate only up to 2.5km in extremely hot conditions.
 
It was then that the Indian Army arbitrarily moved the goalpost by demanding that the DRDO re-engineer the NAMICA-1 by incorporating a commander’s panoramic target acquisition/lock-on sensor/ Undaunted, the DRDO rose up to the challenge and developed the NAMICA-2 (now housing a COMPASS optronic panoramic turret procured by Bharat Electronics Ltd from ELBIT Systems).
The DRDO also modified the LWIR sensor by incorporating IR-CCD processor chips supplied by France’s ULIS-SOFRADIR. Since then, this modified sensor has successfully engaged all eight of its targets—both fixed and moving.
 
Each NAMICA-2—destined for equipping the Recce & Support Battalions of the Indian Army’s Mechanised Infantry formations (especially when undertaking river-crossing operations)—can carry 12 Nag ATGMs, with six of them in ready-to-fire mode out to a distance of 4km. The ATGM has a flight speed of 230 metres per second, is armed with a 8kg tandem shaped-charge warhead, has a rocket motor using nitramine-based smokeless extruded double base sustainer propellant, has a single-shot hit probability of 0.77 and a CEP of 0.9 metres, and has a 10-year maintenance-free shelf-life.
On paper, the Indian Army remains committed to the procurement of 443 Bharat Dynamics Ltd-built third-generation Nag fire-and-forget ATGMs along with 13 OFB Medak-built NAMICA-2 tracked ATGM launchers.
Presently under development is the helicopter-launched version of the Nag, known as HELINA. This ATGM uses the same uncooled LWIR sensor as the Nag ATGM, and has a range of 7km. The HELINA, using the ‘Rudrastra’ cannister-encased twin-launcher system, will arm both the ‘Rudra’ helicopter-gunships as well as the LCH attack helicopters of both the Indian Army and Indian Air Force.
Under development is a DRDO-developed active fire-and-forget, adverse-weather millimeter wave (MMW) radar sensor for a 15km-range version of the HELINA. However, the R & D cycle of this ATGM is unlikely to be completed by 2019 at the very latest, and consequently, the Indian Army’s initial 60 HAL-developed ‘Rudra’ helicopter-gunships will in all probability be armed with up to 960 HELINAs equipped with LWIR sensors.
NORINCO’s Answer To Nag/NAMICA-2

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Mini-UAVs Will Get Zapped By EMP All Over NCR, For Starters

In the absence of comprehensive legislation governing the usage of privately-owned unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) anywhere within Indian airspace, there has been a steady proliferation of mini-UAVs, especially those being imported from China. In the latest instance, a staffer of the Russian Embassy in Delhi was seen operating a mini-UAV within a designated no-fly zone in New Delhi:


Over the past two years, there were several other such instances in several cities throughout India, including a recent one in Mumbai that was spotted hovering dangerously close to the city’s international airport. Pending the drafting and approving of comprehensive legislation for deterring such min-UAV flights, the Union Home Ministry has just placed orders for an initial 12 vehicle-mounted high-power electromagnetic (HPEM) zappers from Germany’s DIEHL Defence for enforcing the no-flying zone directives within the Natgional capital Region. This is just for starters, and it will be followed in the near future by the CISF acquiring similar systems for ensuring the safety of air corridors around India’s major international and domestic airports.

The HPEM acts directly on the control electronics of mini-drones by means of electromagnetic pulses, thus causing mission abort. This means: regardless of the control method used (autonomous or radio-controlled), the mini-drone becomes inoperable upon impact of HPEM pulses at distances of up to several hundred metres and triggers the fail-safe function. The HPEM also provides the possibility of scalable range and the ability to also intercept entire swarms of mini-drones simultaneously. The HPEM does not cause harm to individuals and several of them are already being used worldwide for stopping cars and protecting large events (Olympic Games and summit meetings).

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Debunking The PLA's Over-Hyped Manoeuvre Warfare Capabilities

Since the past decade, a widespread disinformation campaign has been mounted—both officially and unofficially—to over-hype and over-estimate the manoeuvre warfare capabilities of China’s People’s Liberation Army. The reality, however, belies all such claims. Today, the battle tank inventory of the PLA comprises of three types, with the most prolific being the Type 96A medium battle tank (about 1,500 built to date) that is deployed throughout central and western China, followed by the Type 96B medium battle tank (about 800) that is deployed throughout southern China, and finally the Type 99A heavy main battle tank (about 700 are in service) that is deployed throughout northern China (facing North Korea and Mongolia). The bulk of the PLA’s battle tank inventory is still made up of Type 59II, Type 80 and Type 85IIA medium tanks. The Type 96A’s export designation is VT-2, while that of the Type 96B is VT-4. The Type 99A has yet to be approved for export.
Type 96A/VT-2/MBT-2000 Medium Battle Tank
Type 96B/VT-4/MBT-3000 Medium Battle Tank
Type 99A Main Battle Tank

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

LCA-AF Mk.2 Can Still Become A Reality. Here's How

A revised roadmap dealing with the propulsion system for both the Tejas Mk.1A and the LCA-AF Mk.2 multi-role combat aircraft (MRCA) is slowly but gradually emerging, following the satisfactory conclusion of recently-held negotiations between India’s MoD-owned Defence R & D Organisation (DRDO) and France’s SAFRAN Group.
If and when it is implemented (it is still awaiting authorisation from the Govt of India), the planned 83 Tejas Mk.1As will use the GE-supplied F404-IN20 turbofans, and after these engines reach the end of their total technical service lives (TTSL), they will be replaced by a new 98kN-thrust (with afterburning) turbofan that will use the M88-2 engine’s core section supplied off-the-shelf by France’s SAFRAN, while up to 60% of the turbofan’s components will be derived from those already developed by the DRDO’s Bengaluru-based Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE) for the Kaveri turbofan. All these modified components (including second-generation single-crystal turbine blades) will be co-developed with the help of military-technical mentoring by SAFRAN. So, for 83 Tejas Mk.1A MRCAs, the turbofans to be procured should comprise 83 F404-GE-IN20s, plus 83 of those turbofans that will be co-developed by GTRE and SAFRAN.
For the LCA-AF Mk.2 MRCA, the turbofan to be co-developed by GTRE and SAFRAN will, from the very outset, become the definitive propulsion system. However, the question of exactly how many LCA-AF Mk.2s need to be ordered has not yet been answered by the Indian Air Force (IAF).
This, in turn means that GTRE and SAFRAN will have until 2026 to come up with the definitive turbofan for the commencement of airworthiness-related flight-test regime for both the Tejas Mk.1A and the LCA-AF Mk.2’s weaponised prototypes. Initially, however, the LCA-AF Mk.2’s flying prototypes will be powered by F414-GE-INS6 turbofans.
As I had explained earlier, it all depends on how or whether at all SOUND COMMON SENSE can be or cannot be applied. Let me elaborate: the Jaguar IS/DARIN-3 platforms, even after re-engining, will be able to stay in service for only another 15 years. Since these aircraft are now used for tactical air interdiction and battlefield air-interdiction (since the deep-strike roles will be taken over by the Rafales and several Su-30MKIs, while tactical interdiction/defensive counter-air roles will eventually be taken over by up to 150 single-engined imported MRCA like the F-16 Block 70), there exists a market for fourth-generation battlefield air-interdiction/defensive counter-air  MRCAs—roughly 160 aircraft—required for replacing the Jaguar IS/DARIN-3 platforms. This is where the LCA-AF Mk.2 ought to come in, but the project will have to be INTELLIGENTLY managed, i.e. make the MoD-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) the prime contractor answerable to IAF HQ, while reducing the DRDO’s Bengaluru-based Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) to just a design services provider. HAL in turn should be empowered through sufficient managerial autonomy to appoint its own clusters of public-sector/private-sector vendors as sub-systems/components suppliers, so that HAL does only final-assembly and systems integration. Above all, HAL must be allowed to come up with a financial plan under which such an industrial consortium will be required to put up 80% of the LCA-AF Mk.2’s non-recurring developmental costs, this of course being offset by a guaranteed, irrevocable order for 160 LCA-AF Mk.2s. HAL in turn must be able to guarantee a fully functional/ certified, weaponised LCA-AF Mk.2 at best by 2028 (if developmental work commences in 2018). If this is done, then the IAF will not have to worry about incurring additional costs for force modernisation and it will then stop opposing the LCA-AF Mk.2’s service-induction. Similarly, the Indian Navy (IN) should be bold enough to use a variant of the LCA-AF Mk.2 as a shore-based maritime-strike platform. Meanwhile, the tandem-seater version of the Tejas Mk.1A can be made to serve as lead-in fighter-trainers (LIFT) for both the IAF and IN.
All this is definitely doable from both financial and military-industrial standpoints, but it will require enormous amounts of sound common-sense to be pooled from within the Union Ministry of Finance, MoD, and the IAF and IN HQs so that a comprehensive project management roadmap can be articulated and adhered to without any deviations.
Interestingly, the IAF has mandated that IF the fifth-generation AMCA is to be indigenously developed by ADA, then use must be made of F414-GE-INS6 turbofans for that portion of the flight-test regime that is dedicated to the optimisation of the medium-weight AMCA’s airframe (the Su-57 FGFA on the other hand is a heavyweight fifth-generation MRCA), flight-control logic and the digital fly-by-wire flight control system.
What Is Required For Design/Performance Optimisation Of LCA-AF Mk.2
For achieving the required angles-of-attack, instantaneous/sustained turn-rates and climb-rates (i.e. agility metrics), the LCA-AF Mk.2’s airframe will have to sport LEVCONs of the type already developed for the IN’s LCA (Navy) Mk.1 MRCA.
 
For all-passive target acquisition-cum-tracking beyond the range of the biological Mk.1 eyeball, an infra-red search-and-track sensor will have to be mounted aft of the nose-section and just ahead of the nose landing gear section, since this will get rid of the obstruction of field-of-view posed by the fixed aerial refuelling probe (supplied by UK-based Cobham) mounted in the MRCA’s starboard side. Two IRST sensor options ought to be explored for installation: either UK-based Selex ES’ Skyward, or the IRST-21 from Lockheed Martin.
The selected IRST sensor will have to be seamlessly integrated with the Elbit Systems-developed TARGO helmet-mounted display system (HMDS) so that it can present a synthesized image of the tracked target on the HMDS’ visor along with superimposed fire-control cueing data required for slaving the IIR sensor on-board the all-aspect RAFAEL-built Python-5 SRAAM when operating in both lock-on-before-launch and lock-on-after-launch modes.
For the on-board AESA-MMR, the modes of operation should include multi-target detection and concurrent tracking/fire-control (for mid-course guidance for the Astra-1 BVRAAM), terrain avoidance, weather search, traffic collision avoidance, moving ground target indication, Doppler beam-sharpening, and synthetic aperture ground mapping. Although the DRDO’s LRDE laboratory began developing the ‘Uttam’ AESAR-FCR since 2012, its full-scale model displayed at the Aero India 2017 expo in Bengaluru last February revealed that a lot more work is required in the area of weight reduction. In addition, unless an environment control system (ECS) is indigenously developed for meeting the AESAR-FCR’s co9oling requirements, additional developmental work will have to be undertaken to integrate the AESAR-FCR with an imported ECS.
This, in turn, will necessitate the acquisition by the DRDO’s LRDE and CABS laboratories of a turbofan-powered airborne testbed that, apart from hosting the prototype AESAR-FCR/ECS combination, will also have to accommodate all the data servers required for the real-time recording-cum-monitoring of all the performance parameters of the prototype AESAR-FCR/ECS combination. An alternative option—if available—would be to ship the prototype AESAR-FCR/ECS combination abroad to a country which is willing to offer the services on a commercial basis of a suitable airborne test laboratory.
The ADA-designed cockpit for the LCA-AF Mk.2 (which was unveilled in 2013) has already been deemed as ‘deficient’ by the IAF, which has since then been showing its preference for the Cockpit-NG suite that was originally developed by Israel’s Elbit Systems and can easily be provided by the HALBIT joint venture of Elbit Systems and HAL.
In fact, the IAF also prefers the same Cockpit-NG suite for the F-16 Block 70s that are on offer from Lockheed Martin and it needs to be noted that Elbit Systems had originally developed the Cockpit-NG suite for the global F-16 mid-life upgrade market, and now even Saab has selected the Cockpit-NG for its JAS-39 Gripen-Es.
For comprehensive self-protection, the LCA-AF Mk.2 will be required to internally accommodate a wide-band self-protection jammer, integrated digital radar warning receivers-cum-jamming transmitters, laser warning receivers and missile approach warning system (MAWS) sensors (similar to what Sweden’s SaabTech has developed and is now supplying for installation on-board the HAL-developed Rudra, LCH and LUH helicopters).
While the DRDO’s Bengaluru-based DARE laboratory has already developed the jammer as well as the integrated digital radar warning receivers-cum-jamming transmitters (that have already been installed on the upgraded Jaguar IS/DARIN-3 flying prototypes), the LEDS laser warning receiver will have to come from SaabTech, with the MAWS being the AAR-60V2 MILDS-F from Cassidian of Germany.
The LCA-AF Mk.2’s airframe will be required to internally host four integrated digital radar warning receivers-cum-jamming transmitters, two LEDS laser warning receivers (preferably on re-designed wingtips) and six MAWS sensors in a distributed-architecture layout in order to ensure all-aspect hemispheric coverage.
The LCA-AF Mk.2’s airframe will be required to internally host a new-generation jet-fuel starter, as well as an on-board oxygen generation system (OBOGS).
The DRDO-developed aircraft stores release and ejection mechanism (ASREM) will have to be incorporated into yet-to-be-developed dual ejector-racks and triple-ejector-racks similar to RAFAUT of France’s AT-730 triple ejector-rack (that contains three TG-480 ejectors) and AUF-2 dual ejector-rack.
 
Incorporation of an actuated cockpit canopy opening/shutting mechanism, along with a retractable aerial refuelling probe (also available from Cobham), should be desirable for incorporation as well.
 
It is only after incorporation of all the above-mentioned elements that a final call ought to be taken on the required quantum of fuselage stretch and increase in wing area of the LCA-AF Mk.2. It, therefore, may well be that the current estimate of a 1-metre fuselage stretch required for incorporation is premature and needs to be worked out again in finer detail in close consultations with the IAF and IN.
List Of Major Sub-Systems On Tejas Mk.1
Composites-Based Airframe Content
DRDO-Developed Components
Involved Private-Sector/Public-Sector Industrial Vendors
Critical Foreign Components On Tejas Mk.1
The image below depicts the airframe design of the LCA that was proposed to ADA by GE Aero Engines way back in 1987. Had this design been adopted by ADA then itself, several of the aerodynamic shortcomings witnessed later in the ADA-designed Tejas Mk.1 L-MRCA could have been eliminated at the very outset.
And this is what the IAF had in mind when it was decided in the 1970s to indigenously develop the LCA.
And finally, the F-16 Block 70 on offer to the IAF has the potential of being upgraded to the F-16U Falcon-21 configuration during its projected mid-life deep upgrade, which is explained below in graphic form.
The F-16U Falcon-21 had been designed by Lockheed Martin as far back as the early 1990s and it can accommodate several of the fifth-generation sensor-fused avionics that are presently on-board the F-35 Lightning JSF family of MRCAs.