Defence Industry

Forces Rejected Advanced Versions of Indigenous Tejas and Arjun
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 15 Nov , 2017

LCA Tejas

The armed forces have virtually overruled to the proposed advanced versions of the indigenous Tejas light combat aircraft and Arjun main-battle tank (MBT) by strongly pitching for mega acquisitions of foreign single-engine fighters and futuristic armoured fighting vehicles through the ‘Make in India’ route under the ‘strategic partnership’ (SP) policy.

The Army recently issued request for information (RFI) to global armament giants for an initial 1,770 futuristic tanks called the future ready combat vehicles (FRCVs) geared for “rapid dominance in an expanded battle space”, while the IAF is getting set to do the same for 114 single-engine fighters soon.

This comes in the backdrop of the defence ministry finalising the SP policy in May to boost the country’s fledgling defence production sector, which envisages Indian private sector companies producing cutting-edge weapon systems in collaboration with global arms majors through joint ventures and technology transfers.

The going will, however, not be easy for IAF and Army. For one, the annual defence budgets now have very little money for new projects with the bulk of the capital outlay being used for “committed liabilities” or installments of deals inked earlier. IAF’s single-engine fighter project, which will be a direct dogfight between the Gripen-E (Sweden) and F-16 (US) jets, for instance, will alone cost an estimated Rs 1.15 lakh crore.

Also, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) PSU lobby is putting up stiff resistance, leading the government to question the need for the single-engine fighter project. “Questions have also been raised whether such a major project should be given to the private sector. Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), in turn, says it can deliver a much better single-engine Tejas”.

The DRDO contends the forces continue to cold-shoulder indigenous platforms in their hunger to acquire sophisticated foreign ones. Instead of ordering say around 500 Arjun tanks, which would have stabilised production lines, achieved economies of scale and paved the way for development of a futuristic main battle tank (FMBT), the Army has inducted only 124 Arjun Mark-1 tanks till now.

The Army is not willing to order 118 Arjun Mark-II tanks, costing over Rs 6,600 crore, till they clear field trials. “The FRCV project, if it takes off, will kill the indigenous FMBT project,” said a scientist.

But all this cuts little ice with the forces, which say the DRDO-defence PSU lobby “over-promises and then under-delivers” with huge time and cost overruns. “Can operational military readiness be sacrificed at the altar of indigenisation?” ask experts.

Bureaucratic bottlenecks, long-winded procedures, commercial and technical wrangling, coupled with the lack of requisite political push and follow-through, have ensured that no major “Make in India” project in defence has actually kicked off in the last three years.

Stock-taking of half-a-dozen mega projects, collectively worth over Rs 3.5 lakh crore, shows they remain stuck at different stages without the final contracts being inked. They range from future infantry combat vehicles (FICVs), light utility helicopters and Naval multi-role choppers to new-generation stealth submarines, mine counter-measure vessels (MCMVs) and fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA). The initial RFI for another major ‘Make in India’ project, to manufacture 114 single-engine fighters in a second production line after indigenous Tejas light combat aircraft, of course, is also about to be issued.

But though the Gripen-E (Sweden) and F-16 (US) jets are already in a dogfight to bag the estimated Rs 1 lakh crore contracts, it’ll take years for indigenous production to take off. Defence ministry (MoD) officials contend minister Nirmala Sitharaman is holding meetings of the defence acquisitions council every fortnight, as also reviewing projects on a case-to-case basis, in a bid to break the bureaucratic logjams.

“These are big complex projects for a country which cannot even manufacture specialised ammunition. They will take some time,” said a senior official. Some steps have indeed been taken to boost the private sector’s role in defence production through “strategic partnership” and other policies, besides according top priority to “indigenous design, development and manufacturing (IDDM))” category in the Defence Procurement Procedure. Recommended By Colombia

But India is still far away from reducing its strategically vulnerable dependence on foreign military hardware and software. PM Modi’s talk of defence as the cornerstone of his “Make in India” thrust is also yet to translate into concrete reality.

The Rs 60,000 crore FICV project, first approved in October 2009, for instance, remains deadlocked over whether two or all the five Indian private firms in the fray, apart from the Ordnance Factories Board, be asked to design and build prototypes.

The FGFA project with Russia to co-develop and coproduce an Indian variant of its Sukhoi T-50 fighter, in turn, has taken a steep nose-dive after the IAF raised doubts about its stealth capabilities, engine performance, high cost and delivery time-frame. Under a 2010 pact, India and Russia conducted preliminary design work worth $295 million, but the final R&D and production contract has been hanging fire since then. It will take around $25 billion to make 127 such single-seat jets in India. “It will have to be a top political decision whether to go in for the FGFA project or junk it,” said a source.

Another project with Russia, the Rs 6,500 crore plan to manufacture 200 Kamov-226T light utility helicopters, is also in the doldrums despite an inter-governmental agreement in 2015. “The joint venture has been set up. But the request for proposal is yet to be issued to the JV to submit its techno-commercial offer,” said the source.

Because in purchasing local there is no chance of expensive free holidays, free entertainment and massive kickbacks. Let us be clear Bofor, Augusta (by Airforce chief) are no exceptions but ruleIAF, for instance, says Tejas is yet to become combat-ready or achieve “final operational clearance” after being in the making for over three decades. “Moreover, with its limited range and weapon carrying capacity, the Tejas simply does not give IAF the punch and cost-effectiveness it needs. Tejas, which has just about 50% of the capabilities of an F-16 or Gripen in terms of endurance, payload etc, will have to fly under the protection of other fighters during conflicts,” said IAF experts.

Grappling with just 33 fighter squadrons when 42 are needed to take care of the “collusive threat” from China and Pakistan, the IAF feels the single-engine fighter project is necessary to maintain adequate force-levels till an entirely new Tejas Mark-2 becomes a reality.

Indian army’s foot soldiers are still nowhere close to getting basic modern infantry weapons, ranging from assault rifles and sniper guns to light machine guns and close-quarter battle carbines, after a decade of acquisition projects from abroad being repeatedly scrapped as well as failure of indigenous options to pass muster till now.

Though plans are now on track to plug major operational gaps in artillery guns, air defence missiles and helicopters, “small arms” remain a big worry. As per overall plans, the 12-lakh strong Army needs 8,18,500 new-generation assault rifles, 4,18,300 close quarter battle (CQB) carbines, 43,700 light machine guns and 5,679 sniper rifles. All these figures also include some weapons for the much-smaller IAF and Navy.

But all these induction plans, which are supposed to include direct purchase of an initial number of weapons from a foreign vendor followed by large-scale indigenous production with technology transfer, have failed to materialise so far.

India has to make all out efforts to modernise its armed forces with the latest weapons better than its adversaries to safeguard the sovereignty and integrity of the country.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Col (Dr) P K Vasudeva

Col (Dr) P K Vasudeva is a defence analyst and commentator.

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6 thoughts on “Forces Rejected Advanced Versions of Indigenous Tejas and Arjun

  1. Can anybody show any letter written by army chief rejecting Arjun Mark II? The only objection is the weight. It is high because of the bridges and culverts near the border. do not have the capacity. Except for Russia, all other countries are manufacture tanks between 65 to 68 tones. IF Russia latest T 14 tank is so good the British Army would have gone for a better tank instead of extending the life for further 20 years only fitting new electronic gadgets to the firepower. Kindly read the article given below:-
    “The future of British battle tanks: Challenger 2 will have new weapons and thermal imaging to extend life for another 20 years”
    I have read many articles. stating T 90 tank is invincible. But in Syrie, the rebels damaged turret head of one T 90 tank using TOW missile. Army has got 4300 tanks. 2023 tanks, China does not have any suitable tank which can use in hilly areas, Whereas army has enough T 72 tanks. Till the Govt strengthened the bridges and culverts there is no point in producing Arjun Mark II tank.
    IAF officers will come and Go. Nobody is permanent in the world. In a democracy parliament is supreme. not IAF.
    idle man brain devil workshop”
    Since Kargil war, IAF officers are enjoying life without any responsibility. So the above proverb appears to be. correct. When Ex MoD Parrikar asked the IAF officers why are you not accepting Tejas? They said it is unfit to fly. Immediately he asked them if that is the case why do you continue to use Mig 21 fighter plane knowing well it is a flying Coffin. All officers become stunned. You have not even tried Tejas once and telling casual remark to the minister. So they accepted Tejas without any precondition. He ordered not to use Mig 21 anymore. He said your inspector asked 40 to 42 improvement after the first inspection of Tejas. He called officer from HAL and DRDO and discussed all the points. and HAL agreed to do all modification.

    • Mr. Govindan, please stop accusing IAF officers. The age old adage that idle mind… is applicable to you. If you have any comments on the article or the merits or demerits of the weapon system, you may comment. Foolish statements that IAF officers were stunned or that IAF officers are enjoying life without responsibility is a figment of your imagination. So just shut up. If you do not know what the forces do in peace time it is better you don’t comment.

      The author is right. In all these years India could not develop a combat aircraft or any other principal weapons system. INSAS rifles took years to develop and manufacture. We have lagged behind in procurement of naval and air assets in the last decade.

      • IAF officers should behave like responsible managers. Responsible managers will never ask the young pilots to fly Mig 21 fighter planes knowingly well it is flying machines, particularly during peace. time. Whereas in 1973 Arab to Isreal war when the Isreal lost three fighter planes due to enemy ground fire, they stopped operation till they find a solution to the problem. The present Airchief operated a Mig 21 to show his pilot capability. He does not know the responsibilities of a manager. His first responsibility is to improve the percentage of fit planes from 55% to 75 %. Where did he get the sanctioned strength of 42 squadrons? What is the point in purchasing costly multi-role fighter planes if the IAF officers cannot reduce the requirement of fighter plan squadrons, IAF fought1971 war with 34 squadrons? None of the fighter planes was having night flying facility on those days. Except Mig 21 and 27 all the modified fighter planes are having night flying facility. Out of 34 squadrons, they used 20 squadrons in the West and 14 in the East. Now there is no East Pakistan. With 20 squadrons they achieve Air superiority in the West. With 20 squadrons they conducted 700 sorties in every day. Now IAF has got 518 fighter planes excluding Mig 21 and Mig 27. In 1971 IAF had 16 fighter planes per squadrons, That means IAF has got 518/16 = 32, But all the planes can conduct double the Sorties .than 1971 war. All of them fitted with powerful missiles. The requirement of Sorties will come down if the destructive power and accuracy of the weapon are high. Helicopters were not used to give air support to the army in 1971 war, Now army and IAF will get Helicopter gunships. So IAF should be able to manage with Pakistan with 10 to 12 squadrons.against Pakistan. rest against. China. The condition of PAF is very bad, To counter PAF India will be getting Rafale plane fitted with best BVR missiles. This is management.

  2. The issue with DRDO is that the organisation itself is antiquated. Its thinking in some quarters is obsolete. The Concept of Tejas is 30 years old. It cant even be termed as a technology demonstrator. A combat radius of 400 kms is pathetic in terms of battle effectiveness. Therefore it needs to be given up. Arjun battle tank no where stands out as anything worth its while. Its outdated and lets not have it. DRDO should not become an order supplier – the organisation has to be revamped. Its a government department employing people on Central Government pay scale. You cant have the worlds best with Indian Pay scales. We have to move on beyond DRDO and the governemt has to revamp this behemoth thats stumbling.

    • +++ “The issue with DRDO is that the organisation itself is antiquated. Its thinking in some quarters is obsolete.”
      => DRDO didn’t conceived Tejas

      +++ “The Concept of Tejas is 30 years old. It cant even be termed as a technology demonstrator. A combat radius of 400 kms is pathetic in terms of battle effectiveness. Therefore it needs to be given up”
      => Tejas Mk1 is what is called a “pre-serie”.
      Mk1A will be the definitive version and it’s a real monster!!! It should be renamed Kali! Well, Dassault/Safran/Thales have helped by adding Rafale’s technology.
      So :
      – Safran M88/Kaveri : 98kN version of Rafale’s engine, optional vectoring thrust. M88 is much compact/lighter than both GE F404/F414 while as powerful as F414 (97.9kN) this allows to carry as much fuel as Gripen-E or Mirage-2000.
      – M88 is a modular engine allowing 5-6 daily missions and to be pushed to 10-11 missions/day for at least a full week (tested in combat from the aircraft carrier in Libya). It has also a very serous system to reduce IR signature (IR-stealth)
      – Mk1a is 1t lighter : 5500kg. Note that Gripen-E weights 8t with same thrust/fuel and 5500kg payload. The UAE’s Mirage-2000/9 weights 7800kg with same thrust and carries 7t payload… Air intakes are redesigned (need more air flow), internals have been improved, Rafale’s materials are used.
      – Refuelling probe.
      – RBE2/AESA radar
      – OSF-IT 2nd gen QWIP (quantum-well infrared photodetector) IRST/EO. 1st gen OSF could lock a subsonic F-22 from 95-115km and a supercruise one from… 270-455km (!)
      – Active stealth taken from Rafale’s SPECTRA. RCS is divided by 5 any way.
      – BRS (ballistic recovery system) parachute (in case of engine failure!)
      – Meteor missile
      – Won’t need to do extensive flight tests as flght characteristics are unchanged, only need validation of new elements. RBE2/AESA has been tested for 4 months.
      – Airframe planned for 40-50 years.
      – I can’t tell if DDM-NG (Rafale’s EODAS) is to be fit but it’d make sense
      – Planned price =$42M (Gripen-E = $75-85M, F-16V = $70M)

      In other terms, Tejas Mk1A is a 5.5th generation aircraft and a baby Rafale with outstanding capabilities for a LCA.
      The Tejas concept is REALLY excellent, it just needed the right engine and a few improvements, now they are here. Mk1A is planned to fly in 2018.

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