Thursday, April 30, 2009

The first Sukhoi-30MKI goes down

Considered to be the safest aircraft in the world, the first Sukhoi-30MKI aircraft, of the Indian Air Force (IAF), went down today morning at 10.30 killing one of the pilots, Wing Commander PS Nara in the process.

The crash took place 70 kilometers southeast of Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, while on a routine training mission. Both the pilots ejected out of the aircraft. While Wing Commander SV Munje survived the crash, Wing Commander PS Nara succumbed to his injuries.

There is no reported damage to any civil property or life on ground, as er an IAF release. A Court of Inquiry has been ordered to investigate the reasons for the accident.

Sukhois, made by the Russian giant Sukhoi Aviation Corporation, entered the IAF in September 2002, and ever since have been the main frontline fighters of the force. There are three squadrons of the fighter jet presently, with the one in Bareilly moving to Tezpur.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Rafale Mystery

The Rafale Mystery

Following reports about Rafale's ouster from the 10 bn dollar MMRCA competition (Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft), which some say may or maynot be true, I spoke to a French research scholar who is also tracking this deal. And following are his inputs.

Dassault Aviation's reluctance, which was initially keen to project Mirage-2000 as their aircraft, is a bigger reason than technical problems in the rejection, which has not been made official but will be made in due course. There are technical shortcomings even in Gripen and Eurofighter Typhoon, and even they ought to be shown the door.

The French Government's growing closeness to the US, given their re-entry into the NATO's military command after 40 years, may have provided the initial trigger to New Delhi to re-consider Rafale, as this deal is more geo-political, diplomatic and strategic, than military. Anyway, the French Government pushed for the Rafale, as the Mirage production lines had come to a close-down. But Dassault was not too keen on Rafale, and stayed away from promotion and publicity. Dassault's main revenue comes from thier civil aviation line, which was being affected by the economic meltdown, thereby bothering its share-holders of this private player owned by Mr Edelstenne.

The military section of Dassault is supported by the French Government, which includes its exports as well. But Rafale's huge cost is what seems to have put off Dassault and it was just a submission in reply to the tender that they recieved, and not an active pursuit of the world's single largest deal.

After having lost bids for Rafale, in Singapore, Morocco and South Korea, Dassault's hopes were further dashed, who is now eyeing Brazil , Switzerland and UAE, and even considers Brazil more important than India.

Now for the technical problems plaguing the aircraft. The APG-79 AESA radar, which is actively functional in the Falcon and Super Hornet, is still undergoing trials and will be fitted in the French airforce and naval aircraft by 2012. The aircraft currently uses the RBE-1 PESA radar. As the RFP requirement the AESA radar should be available on the aircraft on the day of the submission of the bid, which is actually the problem with Typhoon and Gripen also.

Besides the Mica missiles on teh Rafale is more expensive than the American missiles. Rafale has been using GBU-12 bombs in Afghanistan, where the aircraft is part of the western forces. The laser infra-red is just being fitted.

The Rafale costs close to 67 million Euros, in the price of which two MiG-35s can be bought. Well, the costliest of the lot is Typhoon, with its staggering 77.7 million Euros, per piece. The argument of France palying on both sides, by selling its Mirages and Scorpenes to India as well as Pakistan falls flat as Saab 2000 too has fitted the avionics on the Pakistan airforce AWACS, and so has Lockheed martin sold the falcons to Pakistan airforce.

But now the US will play its card of inter-operability, saying that their equipment is suitable in a NATO environment and is also suitable for joint exercises, which is not the case with Russian equipment. But sources have confirmed that not just price-wise is MiG in a fair chance to win, but Moscow is also ready to make their aircraft NATO compliant in every way. But it will be a close fighting finish between F-16IN, 'Super Viper' and the MiG-35 at the negotiating table, finally. And any prizes for guessing the winner??

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Marshal of the IAF turns 90

Marshal of the Indian Air Force, Arjan Singh, turned 90 on April 15, on the occasion of which the Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal F. H. Major released his biography, quite aptly titled, 'The ICON'.

On the occasion were present the present serving Chiefs, former Chiefs, top brass of the IAF, former bureacrats and diplomats among others.

The 300+ page book, priced at Rupees 880, has been compiled by the Director of Centre for Air Power Studies, retired Air Commodore Jasjit Singh. The Marshal, who had commanded 1 Squadron ,called 'Tigers', spoke about Jumbo Majumdar and Air Cmde Meher Singh, called 'Meher baba', in his hilarious speech, which was full of anecdotes from his rather illustrious career. Majumdar and Meher, according to the Marshal were real heroes during the WW-II.

The book covers 90 years of the Marshal's eventful life with an authentic record of the 1965 war. It dispels all the myths of the war and lays all ambiguities to rest. According to the author, it is the history of the IAF during that period and not just the biography of the Marshal, who has flown 65 different types of aircraft in his career.
Also covered in the book is the humane side of the Marshal, which speaks about the Trust set up by him in 2004 to help the needy IAF veterans.

M K Rasgotra, former diplomat and a trustee in CAPS also proposed the Bharat Ratna for the Marshal.

Marshal Arjan Singh, DFC, was the Chief of Air Staff from 1964-69 and became the first and only five star officer of the IAF in 2002.