Military & Aerospace

Tejas, Arjun – and vilification of the Armed Forces
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 18 Nov , 2017

Arjun Tank

A massive information campaign has been mounted to vilify the Armed Forces with respect to the not so indigenous Tejas LCA and the indigenous Arjun main battle tank (MBT) produced by the DRDO. Media headlines, editorials, articles are implicit with the news that the Armed Forces have said no to the indigenous Tejas fighter and the Arjun Tank. This is misinformation campaign aimed at maligning the Armed Forces once more; picture painting military as the villain that hates indigenization.

The news cites the request for information (RFI) issued recently for global original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) for an initial 1,770 future ready combat vehicles (FRCVs) geared for rapid dominance in an expanded battle space. It goes on to say that the IAF also is to shortly issue an RFP for 114 single-engine fighters; concluding that the Armed Forces have debunked the proposed advanced versions of the indigenous Tejas LCA and Arjun MBT, strongly pitching for mega acquisitions of foreign single-engine fighters and FRCVs through the ‘Make in India’ route under the strategic partnership (SP) policy.

There is also a parallel campaign going on about deliberate vilification of the Tejas LCA – purportedly by the IAF, which obviously is being orchestrated by HAL-DRDO. If that were the case, AOC-in-C Southern Air Command would not have flown solo in the Tejas LCA on 14 November, 2017.

The public at large needs to understand a few things here. First, any decisions with regard to defence procurements are not the exclusive forte of the Armed Forces, much that it so portrayed. When the MoD can force the 7th Pay Commission down the throat of the military without rectifying the anomalies despite objections by the three Service Chiefs, do you really think decisions about fighter aircraft and tanks is left to the Armed Forces?

A powerful MoD where a petty bureaucrat can sit on a file for 18 months to sanction replacement batteries for submarine available in India, causing the submarine to sink and indirectly ‘murdering’ number of naval officers and sailors without qualms, it should be clear where the finger should point – ever heard of that babu being censored?

Second, the numerous defence scams have the involvement of the PMO-NSA-MoD who orchestrate all defence procurements. Why else would General VK Singh, now MoS (External Affairs), write in his autography that the ‘pipeline’ goes right up to the PMO? Why else would Sree Iyer pen in his recent article on November 6 that the AugustaWestland probe has been deliberately “diluted”, making it only IAF officers accused centric? Why is it that despite scores and scores of defence scams, no politician or bureaucrat is ever questioned, even as the Defence Secretary signs the deal, and he along the DG (Acquisition) ensure the bribes reach concerned quarters before or concurrent to the deal being signed? Why is it that the NSA takes briefings on procurements and equipping directly from Services HQ, while he has taken no steps to define a national security strategy for the country?

Third, if the Armed Forces are against indigenization, why would they agree to ‘Make in India’? Is ‘Make in India’ not indigenization, the hallmark of which is transfer of technology (ToT)?

Fourth, the IAF has not said no to the Tejas LCA. According to one report the IAF wants to place an order for 83 x Tejas Mk 1 and go for balance requirement with Tejas Mk 2 version. Though Manohar Parrikar, then Defence Minister had compared Tejas Mk 1 in its present state to the F-16, it was no more than a political boast, leaving aside the gaffes he is famous for, including the latest one questioning why Naval HQ is at Delhi and ‘Rear of the Admiral’.

As per IAF, Tejas is yet to become combat-ready or achieve final operational clearance after being in the making for over three decades. Media reports citing IAF sources say, 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. Obviously, the excessive shortfalls of fighter squadrons in the IAF (33 presently, while they will need 50 squadrons by 2025-2030 to face dual-front war) cannot be made up by Tejas LCA only. So, they are obviously looking for a mix – and so is the government.

The Tejas Mk 1 version will have 83 planes with 43 upgrades over the base version. On November 7 last year, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), approved the procurement of 83 planes of the ‘Mark1-A’ version. The IAF wants an AESA radar, in place of the manually scanned Israeli Elta radar. Besides it wants a ‘self-protection jammer’, fitted with external re-fuelling capability.

Fifth, of the Arjun MBT (project sanctioned 43 years ago in 1974), again the Army has not said no. 124 of the Mk 1 tanks have already been inducted into the Army. With a weight of 62 tons, the Arjun Mk 1 cannot cross bridges and culverts in plains and semi-desert sector. The Mk 2, with 89 improvements weighs even more at 67 tons. Moreover, as per media reports these tanks have poor serviceability and cannot shoot straight. Yet, the Army is awaiting the Arjun Mk 2 to clear field trials, much that the DRDO wants the Army to place an order for 118 x Arjun Mk 2 MBTs at a cost of Rs 6,600 crore. But what stops the DRDO to export these heavy tanks to countries that have terrain suited for their deployment?

DRDO’s insinuation that Armed Forces are against indigenization is simply to cover its inadequacies. Let them match ‘Make in India (which is also indigenous), emerge winner, and give the best to the Armed Forces of India. It should be abundantly clear that the decision for any imports is that of the government, not of the Armed Forces; latter only want weapons and weapon systems that are compatible to meet present and future conflict requirement.

What is also not talked about at all is the fact that the DRDO-MoD have been playing the game over past decades of creating critical deficiencies in equipping of Armed Forces, whether deliberately or due to inadequacies, to enable bulk imports when critical situations occur – bigger the packet, bigger the cuts. Has the government, any think tank, or media ever analyzed why ISRO is so efficient and DRDO nowhere comparable to it.?

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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

Lt Gen Prakash Katoch

is a former Lt Gen Special Forces, Indian Army

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13 thoughts on “Tejas, Arjun – and vilification of the Armed Forces

  1. First, every body in the Army, Airforce or Navy all get paid by Indian tax payer. They are not working for free they get paid for their services. India does not have compulsory armed service like some countries do!
    Having said that there a lot in the triforces who do for pride of the nation! Great and salutation to them.
    Second, the idea Indian is bad but foreign is better is just colonial hangover just like every body want to become white using creams and lotions these days!
    Third: DRDO is like triservices tax payer funded profession. IF they are not performing they should be sacked, wait most of them will think they get jobs in the US or Europe and migrate, let it be, atleast they will do a honest day work there!

    The MOD babus should be accountable and sacked without pension etc with criminal sanctions, if they are dragging their feet or getting bribes, if they take 18 months to buy battery for submarine, somebody should be made responsible and put to task and set as a example.
    Personally I think they should build 100’s of LCA and go for improvement every model, it will be still Indian and India can do what ever it want with it!

  2. Whether readers who have commented like it or not Tejas does not pack a punch and is way behind Grippen and Rafale in performance. So also the Army was eyeing the Spike ATGMs which are far superior to Nag and Anamika ATGMS made in India. But for reasons best known, the RFP was scrapped at the last moment and DRDO has been tasked to develop Man portable ATGMs. We cannot compromise on larger national interests and security on the altar of indigenisation. I entirely agree with Col JP Singh’s comments especially on the ATGMs.

  3. The respected general is shooting from the hip when he writes “IAF wants an AESA radar, in place of the manually scanned Israeli Elta radar”. First to note, you cannot have a “manually scanned radar” mounted on a fighter aircraft – not sure even what “manual scanning” implies for radars which are always mechanically scanned when not electronically. Most probably the Israeli Elta is an off-shoot of the “phased array radar system” which is electronically scanned, albeit in the “passive” mode instead of the recent in vogue “active” mode (AESA) where each (or a number of) sensor element(s) in the underlying phased array architecture can be individually (separately as a block) powered. AESA is further development of the phased array system (not to forget Russians have been the master in this field of technology). The active system (AESA) could excel over its counterpart passive system only for tracking (hence engaging) several hostile targets in the sky instead of very few. It has some jamming capacity on its own indeed, but only on certain narrow bands, which means severely limited (or ineffective) in contrast with independent jamming modules which can be mounted alongside. For the uninformed AESA is just a jargon to hoodwink the gullible buyers. Its implementation is problematic due to managing power supply, but it can use the same antennae for operations as the phased array.
    I could not understand why “limited range of Tejas” could be such a big handicap for IAF, since a range of 200-300km radius could be adequate on Punjab-Kashmir battle front or even in the mountainous Himalaya for Tibet operation. I do not understand Army operations with Arjun tank surely to comment on, but I found this article is just bad mouthing DRDO. And you need to be brain dead to swallow the present PM’s catch phrase “Make in India” slogan. In fact, for the bullet train from Japan, there is no stipulation made for “Make in India” as per news reports.

    • Sankar
      You have asked some valid questions. Whoever comparing Tejas with f 16 and Gripen are the agents of those companies. Tejas has been designed to meet India’s specific. requirement considering the geographic condition of India. near LOCs. In 1971 war each plane was able to conduct 5 sorties in the daytime, There was no night flying arrangement on those days. Now except Mig 21 and 27 all the fighter planes have got this facility. AESA radar is required only to increase the range of BVR missile beyond 70 Km. Pakistan purchased 500 BVR missiles having a range of 105 Km. But later on, they came to know that they will get 105 Km range in eighteen f16 fighter planes fitted with AESA radars. Luckily the USA did not supply other fighter planes. So AESA radar is really a waste for Tejas at this stage. Our BVR range is only 70 Km. That is the reason India asked for Meteor (missile) along with Rafale planes having a range of 150 Km. The 21st century is the age of missiles, rockets, radars and avionics. India does not require any fighter planes. Modi Ji’s Diplomacy is very good. He is keeping the USA in good books.

  4. I am a big fan of the articles by Gen Katoch but this one seems to be written by layman and not by a professional soldier. You are quoting media reports that the Arjun MBT cant shoot straight but forget to mention that the same media had reported that in a head to head contest the Arjun had beaten the T-90 in the deserts of Rajasthan or that it was found out that there was some tampering done with the Arjun tanks to make it perform poorly. I am not trying to defend the lack luster and lethargic functioning of the DRDO and PSU’s but the armed forces specially the Army and Air Force needs to accept some blame for the lack of indigenous platforms. The home defence industry does not develop out of the blue. You cant make a world class platform unless you start somewhere and work on it to get better. What baffles me is that the same DRDO which cant make a decent gun is able to make world class ballistic missiles- the same missiles which are cannot be bought from the market due to various regulations. Same is true for a nuclear submarine. We need the french to make our conventional submarines but at the same time we have designed a nuclear submarine ourselves( with help from our russian friends). Does not make any sense to me. I think we all know how o defence deals happen without the involvement of middle men and commissions. I think both the DRDO and our armed forces are to be blamed for the state of affairs.

  5. Totally agree with you General. Why should the DRDO/Defence Production whose only customer is the Armed Forces not be managed by the Armed Forces? Unless, the Armed Forces are not responsible for the defence of India?

  6. Gen!!

    We should be real in our analysis.

    Firstly the Submarine never sank because of a battery problem.
    It was an explosion triggered by a “handling problem” of ammunition on board.
    I will leave it at that!
    The Navy was bedevilled with accidents at that time, most of which seemed to old “sea dogs” like me, as pure training inadequacies and inadequate attention to SOPs.

    Adm Joshi had his own reasons for resigning and he highlighted the battery problem as an example bureaucratic delays, that had broken his patience levels.
    Adm Joshi had been in the Navy for a very long time and was a top of the line professional.
    He and all of us know the problems of Defence/MOD/Ministry of Finance etc.interface.
    So why it broke his equanimity that one particular day, was a bit surprising.
    I am sure it was not the batteries or the “beauractic slowness!

    The Governmental System is a bit ponderous and slower, but 6 or 7 countries who are big powers in the military equipment and systems, face similar problems when Govt money has to support a development .

    Having been in the procurement/acquisitions sector for a considerable part of my career and post retirement Consulting, I would say certainly there is an “entrenched discomfort” by the Armed Forces with anything other than top of the line imported equipment.
    Denying that would make any analysis skewed.
    I think we should not deny that this “entrenched discomfort”, causes a brake on indigenisation efforts too.

    The best example we can take is China-more real to our situation.
    China would not be the military power it is now, if it did not accept their own manufactured equipment, even when it was 85 t0 95% only.

    A indigenous developed equipment, except in the World’s 6 or 7 countries with very successful military industrial comlexes, willl be below par than an equipment imported from Lockheed Martin,Boeing, DCNS, or a US/SA/Israeli/German Tank etc.

    A way forward needs the Armed Forces to commit itself to indigenisation much mor

    • Cmde Mathews, Agree with your view point on indigenous equipment. But hte question is that India started with a very poor R&D content as part of its modernisation. Rather than going in for R&D the DRDO has been trying to push its agenda on the armed forces with substandard equipment. We havent been able to produce a Rifle for our Army – INSAS could have been manufactured by a Ludhiana factory. It was a cut paste job and poor machine work. They were doing stamp cutting of metal sheets for the body of the rifle. Not heard of in the small arms industry. They are sluggish in their schedules. How long have they been at Tejas and the Arjun Tank. They finally come up with an aircraft with 400 km combat radius. To be of any use we have to literally park these air craft at the LOC or the LAC. We are to late and the world is racing much faster than us in technology. The latest blunder is of the SPIKE ATGM from Israel. I challenge the DRDO to come up with anything better even in the next ten years. Our problem is that there is no rep-representative of the Armed forces anywhere in the system of this country. We will keep blundering on at the cost of national security – hope the DRDO understands that.

  7. Line up a 100 Soldiers and they are all dressed different ,,, that is the state with Uniforms that needs to be uniform !! We simply have very poor standards … African Nations have better Hallmarks than us !!!!

  8. Line up a 100 Soldiers and they are all dressed different ,,, that is the state with Uniforms that need to be uniform !! We simply have very poor standards … African Nations have better Hallmarks than us !!!!


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