Archive for August, 2013

SOURCE: Ajai Shukla  |

Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) is continuing to develop a made-in-India basic trainer aircraft (BTA), despite Indian Air Force (IAF) attempts to scupper the project. On Monday, a team of top IAF officers will visit Bangalore to discuss with HAL the proposal and roadmap for an Indian trainer, dubbed the Hindustan Turbo Trainer–40 (HTT-40).

Last month, IAF boss, Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne, had personally targeted the HTT-40. Writing to Defence Minister AK Antony, Browne asked him to scrap the indigenous trainer, and instead buy 106 BTAs from Swiss company, Pilatus.

Already, on May 24, 2012, the IAF had bought 75 Pilatus PC-7 Mark II trainers for Rs 4,000 crore (Swiss Franc 557 million). Browne additionally demanded the purchase of 38 more trainers under an ‘Option Clause’; and then 68 more as ‘Repeat Procurement’. For Pilatus, that means contracts worth Rs 6,000 crore (Swiss Franc 848 million) without further tendering.

And for HAL it would mean an end to the HTT-40, which it has defiantly pursued, even committing Rs 150 crore of internal funds into the project.

Top defence ministry (MoD) decision-makers have serious concerns about the air chief’s request. In end-July Business Standard had revealed serious factual inaccuracies in Browne’s letter to Mr Antony. The IAF chief had argued for scrapping the HTT-40 by claiming that the PC-7 Mark II costs Rs 30 crore, far cheaper than the HTT-40. But his calculations were outdated, since the sliding rupee had raised the cost of each PC-7 Mark II (Swiss Francs 6.09 million) to Rs 40 crore. Today each PC-7 Mark II will cost over Rs 43.6 crore.

Furthermore, the IAF apparently flouted rules by changing some 12 benchmarks between March and October 2009, including parameters relating to pilot safety. These changes brought the PC-7 Mark II into compliance with IAF requirements, eventually winning the contract. The CBI enquiry into the VVIP helicopter purchase from AgustaWestland is centred on how requirements were changed.

On Aug 12, at the launching of INS Vikramaditya in Kochi, Mr Antony had bluntly stated that the HTT-40 project would continue.

Also raising eyebrows within the MoD is the alacrity with which the IAF grounded the HPT-32 trainer after a fatal crash in 2009, creating a pilot training crisis that opened the door for the purchase of the Pilatus PC-7 Mark II.

The HPT-32 was labelled unsafe after 19 pilots were killed in 17 accidents over 23 years of flying, during which the HPT-32 logged 4,00,000 flight hours. That is less than one crash per year on average.

In contrast, the IAF continues to fly the MiG-21, despite a far more horrific safety record. In Jun 2003, then IAF head, Air Chief Marshal S Krishnaswamy, revealed that 98 MiG-21 crashes had occurred in 5,53,000 sorties between 1994-2003, claiming 43 lives — a record twice as bad as the HPT-32.

MiG fighters have sustained this trend over four decades. According to figures tabled in parliament by Mr Antony, 482 IAF MiGs (of all types) have crashed over the years, killing 171 IAF pilots, 8 other servicemen, and 39 civilians.

Senior MoD officials are now questioning whether the HPT-32 was deliberately grounded to make way for foreign trainers. Grounding the MiG-21 would not have led to import. It would only have increased pressure on the IAF to order the Tejas LCA in larger numbers.

On Jun 25, 2003, when asked why the IAF continued with the MiG-21 despite so many crashes, Air Chief Marshal Krishnaswamy retorted, ‘It is my responsibility to exploit every IAF aircraft to the end of its service life. I can’t just throw out serviceable aircraft, demanding modernisation.’

Today, the IAF is throwing out 110 HPT-32. The majority of them are good to continue till 2018-2024, even if they fly 250 hours per year, a reasonable average for a trainer. More than 2000 IAF pilots — including the IAF chief and his son, a Sukhoi-30MKI pilot — have learned to fly on the HPT-32.

MoD sources confirm that HAL has thrice offered to develop a successor to the HPT-32, but the IAF has stymied each proposal. The HAL Chairman in 1985, Air Marshal LM Katre, who would go on to become IAF chief, fitted a more powerful engine to the HPT-32, creating a new trainer — called HTT-34 — which obtained full certification. But the IAF inexplicably refused to accept it.

In July 1993, HAL again sent the IAF a detailed ‘Project Definition Phase Report’ for a new trainer. The IAF again did not respond. Again, in Feb 2004, HAL submitted a detailed proposal to Air Headquarters. Again there was no response.




India’s first exclusive defence satellite GSAT-7 was successfully launched by European space consortium Ariane space’s Ariane 5 rocket from Kourou spaceport in French Guiana today, giving a major push to the country’s maritime security.Indian Navy would be the user of the multi-band home-built communication spacecraft, expected to be operational by September end.

The Rs 185-crore GSAT-7, the country’s maiden dedicated spacecraft for Defence applications, was launched during a 50-minute launch window which started at 2 am, and it was telecast live by Doordarshan.

After a flight of almost 34 minutes, the satellite was injected into a Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) of 249 km perigee (nearest point to earth), 35,929 km apogee (farthest point to earth) and an inclination of 3.5 degree with respect to the equator.

During August 31-September 4, three orbit-raising operations will be performed by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to place the satellite into geostationary orbit of 36,000 km above the equator.

By September 14, GSAT-7 is planned to be positioned in its orbital slot of 74 deg East longitude and subsequently the satellite’s communication transponders will be switched on.

The frequency bands of GSAT-7 will help space-based marine communications. It has coverage over India landmass as well as surrounding seas.

“It’s important from security and surveillance points of view”, an ISRO official said.

According to a senior space scientist, so far the Navy had limitation from line of sight and ionospheric effects, among others, as far as space-based communications were concerned.

It was thought essential to have an integrated platform for the Navy’s exclusive use.

Earlier, satellite communication in ships was through Inmarsat, a major provider of global mobile satellite communications services.

The state-of-the-art satellite carrying payloads operating in UHF, S, C and Ku bands, had a lift-off mass of 2625 kg and is based on ISRO’s 2500 kg satellite bus with some new technological elements, including the antennae.According to ISRO, GSAT-7 is an advanced communication satellite to provide wide range of service spectrum from low bit rate voice to high bit rate data communication. Its payload is designed to provide communication capabilities to users over a wide oceanic region including the Indian land-mass.

The launch cost for ISRO is around Rs 470 crore, including insurance.

ISRO cannot launch heavy satellites like GSAT-7 as its home-grown GSLV rocket, withindigenous cryogenic stage, is still at works and needs two successful flights before it is declared operational.

In addition to GSAT-7, the Ariane 5 orbited another spacecraft EUTELSAT 25B/Es’hail.

EUTELSAT 25B/Es’hail 1 – which rode in the top position of the Ariane 5 payload “stack” – separated first, some 27 minutes after liftoff.

At approximately 34 minutes into the flight, the lower passenger – GSAT-7 – was deployed, completing the mission.

Indian Ambassador to France, Arun Singh and Director of Bangalore-based ISRO Satellite Centre, S K Shivakumar, were among those who witnessed the launch.

Singh said the launch event is also a reflection of strategic partnership between India and France.

Shivakumar said GSAT-7 would be operational by next month-end.


The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is developing an E-bomb which will emit electromagnetic shock waves that destroy electronic circuits and communication networks of enemy forces, its chief and scientific advisor to the defence minister Avinash Chander said.

So next time there is a Kargil or a LoC violation, you may not hear gunshots or mortar shells, because the electromagnetic bomb will throw life out of gear.

“It will be a weapon that would explore the strong electromagnetic field generating a brief but intense or high power pulse of electromagnetic energy,” Chander told TOI at the Missile Complex in Hyderabad. He said the spectrum of targets will be broad and in times to come, E-bombs would form the core of tactical warfare and electronic combat operations to damage the command, control and communications of enemy forces.

The director general of DRDO said that the electromagnetic shock wave from the bomb will destroy electronic circuits and communication network “while paralyzing them in terms of radars, communication networking, information gathering sensors, controls and other electronic equipment.” Work is in full swing at the Research Centre Imarat, the Hyderabad-based laboratory of DRDO, to build the new bomb which will be ready for operational deployment within a few years.

Chander said the E-bomb would give an option to the military as the bomb can target the enemy’s mobile targets, air defence systems, mobile or static radars, naval vessels with communication systems and even ill-shielded communication or electronic systems at a military base. The GPS-guided E-bombs would precede the conventional munitions for strategic air attacks and can cripple military units as weapons of electric destruction

by releasing high voltage pulses. Other DRDO officials said the E-bomb warheads can be delivered by combat aircraft equipped to deliver guided munitions and cruise missiles.

Chander also said DRDO was developing the next generation of smart bombs or guided bombs, which would have a longer range of upto 100 km (starting from 10s of kms)

and higher accuracy. “Smart bombs are basically precision guided munition equipped with electronic sensors, control system and adjustable flight fins for providing steering or gliding capacity to hit a designated target with much more accuracy,” the DRDO chief said

SOURCE :  Express News Service



Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is gearing up for its next mission — the launch of naval defence satellite GSAT 7 — even as the revised launch dates for the aborted GSLV D5 mission are yet to be announced.

The GSAT 7 or INSAT 4F is primarily meant for the use of the Indian Navy and other armed forces. It will cater to their telecommunication needs.

According to ISRO, the satellite is configured to provide a wide range of spectrum ranging from low bit rate voice to high bit rate data communication. The satellite with a service life of 15 years will provide communication capabilities to users over a wide oceanic region as well as the Indian subcontinent.

The satellite will be launched by the European space company Arianespace from its launch facility in Kourou, French Guiana between 2 to 2.50 am (Indian Standard Time) on August 30. The Ariane 5 launch vehicle will also have on board the EUTELSAT 25B/E. The GSAT 7 is expected to deploy the second around 34 minutes after the liftoff.

Arianespace on Saturday said that the integration of both payloads were complete and the final pre-flight preperations were on. This will be followed by a final launch readiness review on August 27.

The ISRO also announced the turning on of payloads aboard the INSAT 3D satellite which was recently launched by Arianespace. The satellite had developed some anomalies and resulted in terse moments for the ISRO’s scientists as they coaxed it to its preset orbit. An inquiry has been ordered into the same. However, the initial products from the satellite have already started coming in, the ISRO stated.

SOURCE: SP’s Special Correspondent

While negotiations for the MMRCA trudge on in what France is hoping will be the final leg leading to a contract, the country has whittled down orders on the Dassault Rafale amidst pressure on public spending. Sources say that while contract negotiations are indeed in their final phase, there remain significant hurdles to cross before a draft contract agreement is drawn up. France is understood to have sought assurance from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) last month that the contract award would not slip into the next fiscal, but such an assurance was not extended, as there is no legal provision to do so.

All that A.K. Antony told his visiting French counterpart was that India was as keen as France about an early conclusion of the deal, since it was extremely important to the IAF. France’s Dassault has had no choice now, however, but to increase its exposure to exports. It’s other potential customers include Brazil, Qatar, UAE and Malaysia.

Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology

A highlight of the MAKS air show, which opens at Zhukovsky Airport near Moscow next week, is likely to be the demonstration of the Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA (Perspektivny Aviatsionny Kompleks Frontovoy Aviatsii—Future Tactical Air System) fighter.

The T-50 appeared at MAKS two years ago, but is now flying with updated control laws that expand its flight envelope. (The program had flown fewer than 100 test sorties between its January 2010 maiden flight and its MAKS debut.) Recent videos show the aircraft performing what appear to be sustained-altitude flat rotation maneuvers and high-angle-of-attack turns similar to those demonstrated at the Paris air show by the Su-35S. Four T-50 prototypes have now flown and a fifth is expected to fly by the end of the year. The first state acceptance trials are due to start in 2014, United Aircraft Corporation President Mikhail Pogosyan said earlier this year, and production should start in 2015.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that production aircraft will enter service in 2016. However, since the aircraft has yet to fly with its definitive engine, this most likely indicates that the Russian air force is reverting to Soviet-era practice by equipping an operational test unit with interim-standard aircraft while development of the objective system is completed.

Many details of the fighter’s equipment and armament remain classified or unpublished. However, in recent months the Sukhoi design bureau has obtained several patents relating to the T-50, including the rationale behind the stealth fighter’s configuration.

One Sukhoi patent opens by outlining a reference design similar to the Lockheed Martin F-22, but notes perceived shortcomings and areas where the Russian designers, starting a decade later after work on the Su-27 and its descendants, tried to do better. The F-22′s thrust-vector control (TVC) system cannot provide roll or yaw control because the engines are too close together. The engine installation leaves no place for weapon bays in the same plane as the engines—they have to be installed around and below the inlet ducts. The serpentine inlet ducts add length and weight. Post-stall recovery is problematic if TVC fails, and the fixed fins and rudders are large.

The T-50 is a blended wing-body design, resembling the Su-27 in one key respect: the core of the structure is the “centroplane,” a long-chord, deep-section inner wing to which the rest of the airframe components—the forward fuselage and widely separated engine nacelles, wings and tail surfaces—are attached. Compared to the Su-27, however, the centroplane is deeper between the engines, to accommodate weapon bays.

The flight control system has 14 effectors—12 moving flight control surfaces and the engine nozzles. The wing leading-edge flaps are used symmetrically to maintain lift at high angles of attack and adjust the wing profile to the Mach number. The ailerons are used only at low speed and takeoff and landing, when the flaperons are used to increase lift. At higher speeds, roll control comes from the flaperons and horizontal tails.

The all-moving vertical tails sit on short fixed pylons that contain the actuators, and air intakes for engine compartment cooling and heat exchangers. One purpose of the pylons is to make room for a longer bearing arm for the vertical tail pivot, between the top of the pylon and the lower surface of the blended wing. This reduces loads and allows the bearings and structure to be lighter. At supersonic speeds, the T-50 is directionally unstable and uses active control via the vertical tails. That is why the all-moving surfaces can be much smaller than the F-22′s fixed fins and movable rudders. The vertical tails replace the airbrake, moving symmetrically to increase drag with minimal pitch moment.

The large and unique moving leading edges on the centroplane help optimize the lift generated by that section in cruising flight, but their most important function is to recover the aircraft in the event of a TVC failure at post-stall angles of attack. They do this by deflecting sharply downward, reducing the plan-projected area of the wing-body section in front of the center of gravity.

The engines are widely separated, to make room for weapon bays and provide roll and yaw vector control. The engine centerlines are splayed outward to reduce effects of asymmetric thrust with one engine inoperative, placing the thrust vector of the good engine closer to the center of mass of the aircraft.

As on the TVC-equipped versions of the Su-27/30/35 family, the individual engine nozzles vector only in one plane, but the vector axes are rotated outward. Consequently, symmetrical movement of the nozzles creates a pitch force (each nozzle creates an equal and opposite yaw moment) and asymmetrical movement creates both roll and yaw moments. If yaw only is required (for example, in the Su-35′s “bell” maneuver, a high-alpha deceleration followed by a 180-deg. change of direction) the roll moment can be counteracted by flaperons and ailerons.

The T-50′s inlets are a compromise design. They are serpentine but the curvature is insufficient to obscure the entire engine face (as on the F-22, F-35 and Eurofighter Typhoon), so they also feature a radial blocker similar in principal to that used on the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. Unlike the F-22 inlets, however, they feature a variable throat section and spill doors on the inboard, outboard and lower surfaces of the ducts. The result is a complex multiple-shock pattern at supersonic speed, which the Russians consider essential for efficient operation at Mach 2. The inlets also feature clamshell-like mesh screens and diverter slots to keep foreign objects out of the engine, as used on the Su-27 family.

The main challenge in the structural design was to provide space for tandem weapon bays running the entire length of the center section. This ruled out the structural concept used on the Lockheed Martin F-35 and F-22, which have multiple full-depth bulkheads carrying the wing loads, because this forces all the weapon bays to be ahead of the wing. The centerline structure on the T-50 has to be quite shallow, so that designing it to resist peak wing bending loads will be a very difficult challenge. The solution on the T-50 is to design the “centroplane” section as a stiff, integrated structure with two sets of full-depth longitudinal booms, located at the outer edges of the nacelles and at the wing-to-centroplane junction. These are connected by multiple (the patent drawing shows eight) spanwise spars that also carry the wing attachment fittings. The result is a structure that spreads the bending loads over the centroplane and reduces the peak loads at the centerline.

It is believed that the target maximum speed of the T-50 is around Mach 2. The goal was originally Mach 2.35, but this was reduced to Mach 2.1 and then to the current figure, compared to Mach 2.25 for the Su-35S. The main reason for the difference is that the T-50 uses more composite materials in its primary structure than the Su-35S, which makes heavy use of titanium.

The T-50 aircraft flying today are equipped with the izdeliye (Type) 117 engine, described by its designer in a 2011 interview as being more advanced than the 117S used on the Su-35S. The 117S appears to be an evolution of the AL-31 engine series with some technology from the 117. The 117 is claimed to have a thrust/weight ratio of 10:1.

However, Saturn Managing Director Ilya Fyodorov confirmed at a press conference last month that the company is designing a follow-on engine (referred to by the 117 designer as izdeliye 30) for the T-50, which is expected to offer higher performance than the 117 from 2020 onward.

More details of the fighter’s weapons may be revealed at MAKS, but it appears that the T-50 is designed to carry variants of in-service missiles initially. Tactical Missiles Corporation General Director Boris Obnosov identified several T-50 weapons in an interview early in 2012, including the existing Kh-35UE anti-ship missile, Kh-38ME air-to-surface weapon and the RVV-MD, an improved version of the R-73E short-range air-to-air missile with an enlarged seeker field of view and a claimed 30% range increase. A significant development is the new Kh-58UShKE, a long-range (up to 245 km), Mach 4-capable anti-radar missile originally produced for the MiG-25BM Foxbat-E, fitted with folding wings for internal carriage.

However, Obnosov identified these specifically as being weapons at service entry, which he projected in 2014. There is still no definitive information about the T-50′s internal weapons capability, but it seems likely that there are four separate weapon bays. Two bays outboard of the inlets each accommodate a single RVV-MD. Tandem bays between the engines each hold two missiles, but it is likely that the forward bay is deeper to house weapons such as the Kh-58UShKE, with the aft bay dedicated to air-to-air missiles in the R-77 family.


The Indian Navy’s Russian-made ship-based multirole MiG-29K/KUB jet fighters will be stationed aboard the Vikramaditya and Vikrant aircraft carriers.

India’s Defence Minister A.K. Antony told the country’s parliament on Tuesday, that the aircraft, the first squadron of which has become operational, would be deployed aboard the aircraft carriers.

Sixteen MiG-29K/KUB fighter aircraft have already been supplied to India under the main contract with Russia. Under the optional second contract, four aircraft were delivered in 2012 and in 2013.

A MiG official said that MiG had no problems with the delivery of extra 29 ship-based MiG-29K/KUB fighter planes. The planes were test flying in Goa.

Earlier, Alexander Fomin, Director of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, said that the Vikramaditya aircraft carrier would be handed over to the Indian Navy in November 2013.

“The ship is to be put in a dock in April, go on sea trials in June and July and be officially handed over some time in November,” he said.  On September 23, 2012, the Vikramaditya returned to the shipyard to fix the problems that were detected during previous sea trials.

During the three-month sea trials the ship demonstrated excellent seaworthiness, speed of 29.3 knots and manoeuvrability. MiG specialists praised the ski-jump. The ship sailed for more than 12,000 miles, with 517 flights performed from its deck by aircraft and helicopters.

Russia’s Northern Fleet aviation was involved in the sea trials: aircraft and helicopters flew around and over the ship in order to check its radar, air defence, communication and control systems. During the first stage of the trials in the White Sea, the ship’s physical fields were measured, and the crew practiced fuelling and fresh water replenishing operations. The ship was initially scheduled to be commissioned on December 4, 2012. However its transfer to India was postponed until the end of 2013 after the problems during the sea trials.

Under a package inter-governmental agreement signed in New Delhi in January 2004, the body of the Admiral Gorshkov was transferred to India for free subject to its upgrading at Sevmash and armament with Russian aircraft.

Russia will also train the Indian crew of about 1,500 and create an infrastructure for the ship in the Indian Ocean.

The overall cost of the contract was estimated at $1.5 billion, of which about $974 million were intended for the conversion of the ship into a full-scale aircraft carrier. All work was supposed to be completed in 2008. However the completion date has been postponed. Russia claimed that the volume of work had been underestimated and demanded an additional payment of $2.2 billion.

The Admiral Gorshkov was built in Nikolayev under the name of Baku and put to service in the Northern Fleet in 1987. It is 283 metres long, 51 metres wide, with water displacement of over 45,000 tonnes


 A top US Air Force general has said Washington is preparing to station military aircraft in India as part of its “Asia pivot” policy, and the city it is looking at to base its assets in is Kerala capital Thiruvananthapuram.


An Indian defence ministry source said: “We have never discussed any such proposal.”

Defence minister A.K. Antony is from Kerala, where the Opposition Left is mobilising protests against the state government.

The disclosure by the American general, who was part of the policy group on Indo-US military relations, has the potential to stir up trouble for the Manmohan Singh government in the run-up to elections. In Kerala, the Left is particularly strong.

CPM general secretary Prakash Karat, informed of the US general’s statement, said: “That seems to be the expectation of the Pentagon. It would stem from the Indo-US military framework agreement signed in 2006. It is up to the UPA government to clarify if such base facilities will be allowed.”

The chief of the Pacific air forces under the US military’s Pacific Command, General Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, has visited Thiruvananthapuram. As a lieutenant general before he took over his current command, he had led the US delegation at an executive steering group meeting of the Indian and US air forces.

“So, as I envision it, as I talk about expanded engagement, a lot of our rebalance is a rotational presence through the Pacific. And obviously we’ll maintain our capability in Northeast Asia. In a lot of ways we’ll increasingly move south and west with the rotational presence. Darwin, Tindal, (Pilbara), Changi East in Singapore, Korat in Thailand, Trivandrum in India.… The most capable platforms will be rotated into the Asia-Pacific,” the general was quoted by Foreign Policy and other magazines as telling journalists at a breakfast meeting.

Carlisle said the US was not setting up new bases in the Asia-Pacific but would continuously “rotate” its military assets in a revival of a “Checkered Flag” policy from the years of the Cold War.

He said that during the Cold War, the US rotated all its military units from the Continental US (Conus) to Europe. That would now be done for the Asia-Pacific.

Indian Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne, who visited the US last month, met Carlisle.

Talking of that meeting, the US general said the Indian Air Force was trying to learn to set up a military space command. Carlisle said he had apologised for cancelling a Red Flag exercise, to which the Indian Air Force had been invited, because of budget cuts.

“The relationship’s great with the Indian Air Force. I think Air Chief Marshal Browne and I are good friends. We’ve known each other for a while,” Carlisle said.

“We talked about a variety of things. One of them was, again, an apology on our part for cancelling Red Flag. We did make a commitment to have Red Flag next year about this time and they are going to participate, so that was a positive in that respect.”

He added: “We talked about other engagement opportunities. Their C-17 (strategic air-lifter) — he was here picking up a C-17 out of Long Beach, their second one. He actually flew the C-17 back here to Washington DC through Colorado. So we talked about the C-17.

“One of the discussions was doing some exchanges with their C-17 folks and ours. The other things that he talked about were the Indian Air Force — the Indian military is trying to develop a space command.”

Browne was also in Colorado Springs to visit the US Air Force Space Command. “So we talked about our potential to show them how we do it, some of the education that’s available, some of the organisational things, some of the things we learned as we stood up a space command a long time ago,” the general said.


The Tanzania People’s Defence Force (TPDF) has received 591 military vehicles from India, including trucks and buses, that are expected to greatly improve transportation within the military.

The vehicles were handed over at the beginning of August. Another 88 vehicles will be received at the end of next month, according to Tanzania’s The Citizen. The delivery earlier this month was accompanied by 16 containers of spare parts.

Tanzania is acquiring the 679 vehicles as part of a $36.5 million (Sh58 billion) loan agreement with India. They were purchased under a January 26, 2012, contract financed through Exim Bank, according to defence minister Shamsi Vuai Nahodha.

“These vehicles would significantly help to solve the problem of transport in the army,” the minister said. He added that India gifted four additional ambulances to the TPDF to improve military healthcare. “The vehicles have come at the right time. Indeed, they will help us solve the problem of transport shortage,” he said.

In September 2011, Ashok Leyland announced that Tanzania had ordered 723 trucks, buses and specialist vehicles for $36.5 million. At the time of the order, Vinod K Dasari, Managing Director, Ashok Leyland said it was “a very significant development and very much a part of our strategy to significantly increase our global footprint, more particularly, in the robustly growing African markets. Tanzania is an important market for us and this order underscores the reliability of our products. It also highlights our ability to manufacture application based vehicles specific to the requirements of our customers. This closely follows other orders received from prominent institutional customers in West Africa”.

Ashok Leyland has expanded into Africa, with network offices in Nigeria and Ghana in the West, Malawi and Mozambique in the South, Kenya and Tanzania in the East, with additional offices in South Africa and Egypt. The company is currently looking at assembling trucks and busses in Tunisia to supply the growing markets of Libya and Algeria.


Speculations about a frosty defence relationship between India and Russia aftermath of the Russian made submarine blasted and sunk off the coast Mumbai have not yet held ground. Though the damage to the submarine and loss of lives will be matters of concern for both the countries, it may be far fetched to argue that the incident on the eve of India’s Independence Day would mar bilateral defence relations and affect projects undertaken by both the countries.

As an evidence of this, it can be pointed out that political leaders and top officials from neither country have pronounced anything which would prove as indication of deteriorating defence relations. The Indian Navy has set up a committee to investigate into the mishap. Neither of the governments has indulged in a blame game. There are perhaps differences of opinions and perceptions about the mishap and as some of the news reports extensively highlighted one aspect at the cost of the other, the leaders of both the countries have taken a wise course in looking into the incident in a cool headed, calibrated manner.

The investigation by the Indian team would throw more light on the incident and help fix responsibilities with the help of Russian experts who helped modernising submarine as per the Indian requirement. There are also sections of media which do not rule out the possibility of sabotage in the mishap. Out of 14 submarines Indian navy had possessed, 10 are of Soviet/Russian made including this ill-fated kilo-class diesel-electric submarine that was inducted into Indian navy early this year.

As a further mark of smooth defence relations, the Indian Defence Secretary R. K. Mathur will continue his visit to Russia this week with a high-powered tri-services team to discuss bilateral defence issues including the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier, rechristened INS Vikramaditya and fifth generation fighter aircrafts. Though the carrier agreement and retrofitting have passed through many testy waters, the good thing is that neither India nor Russia gave up on this deal despite hitches. This itself shows persistence and seriousness on part of both the countries to continue and revitalise defence cooperation. It is common knowledge that India’s defence preparedness would come to a halt minus Russian cooperation as more than half of India’s arms and armaments are Soviet/Russian origin and for their smooth functioning it is but imperative that defence cooperation continues.

Russian expertise particularly in terms of procuring spare parts, repair and retrofitting is necessary for Indian defence. Russia has also provided India state of the art technologies and both the countries are involved in joint design and development and weapons (a particular privilege that both the countries enjoy, which is rare in case of other countries).

Particularly in the context of Vikramaditya, the 45000-tonne carrier has successfully undergone sea trials in Barents Sea this July, and will further undergo aviation trials including the landing and take-off of fighter aircraft from its runway in White Sea in coming months, before joining Indian navy in the end of this year. The acquisition of this carrier at the cost of about $2.3 billion will not only strengthen India’s defence preparedness but also put it in an advantageous position in relation to its neighbours. The 284 metre-long and 60-metre-high carrier will be fitted with modern communication systems, a telephone exchange, pumps, hygiene and galley equipment, lifts and many more facilities.

Besides the Vikramaditya, India and Russia will deliberate on a range of defence related issues during the visit of Indian defence secretary. As per a report “the two sides are also expected to discuss the futuristic joint development projects for the armed forces.” There are possibilities that both sides will discuss the upgrade of one more Kilo Class submarine INS Sindhushastra, one among 10 submarines India procured from Russia. In early 1980s India had procured these submarines from Russia and the deliveries were made from 1986 to 2000. It has not yet been announced officially whether the recent mishap will be part of deliberation during the visit of the secretary.

Both the countries cannot simply make the defence partnership hostage to one mishap as that of INS Sindhurakshak. The relations are much deeper. Taking a leaf from the document of the Strategic Partnership document signed in 2000 that sought “to impart a qualitatively new character and long term perspective to their (India and Russia) multifaceted bilateral relations and to actively develop them in political, economic, trade, scientific, technological, cultural and other fields, in the years ahead and into the 21st century,” the countries would do well to smooth sail the recent incident and further strengthen the defence partnership while learning lessons from the recent mishap. The visit of Defence Secretary in the next week is a step in that direction.

Dr. Debidatta Aurobinda Mahapatra is an Indian commentator. His areas of interests include conflict, terrorism, peace and development, Kashmir, South Asia, and strategic aspects of Eurasian politics.