Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Meeting Indian Military Needs

Defense Technology International Feb 01 , 2011 , p. 50
Neelam Mathews
New Delhi

Printed headline: Managing Assets

Procurement policies—and related issues such as technology transfer and intellectual property rights—impact many organizations, especially the services that get the equipment. The Indian air force is set to deploy a number of game-changing platforms, from the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft to advanced sensors and missile systems. Contributing Editor Neelam Mathews discussed plans for new capabilities and strategies for maintaining legacy equipment with Air Marshal Pradeep Vasant Naik, air force chief, at his New Delhi office.

Defense Technology International: What is your biggest challenge in an era when technology can be obsolete before it is installed?
Naik: Aviation is techno-intensive. Hence, the rate of obsolescence is as rapid as the evolution of new technologies. The biggest challenge is to keep pace with changing times and maintain operational preparedness in the face of obsolescence. While induction of new and modern weapon platforms is the answer, it is not always practical, as affordability and funding are factors that dictate procurement.

How do you balance needs with fiscal reality?
We have a three-pronged strategy. First, preserve and maintain present assets. This is achieved with a well-conceived product and maintenance support plan. Second, selectively upgrade and improve assets with adequate residual life. Third, seek acquisitions and replacements. This will help the Indian air force maintain its combat edge, ensure we have capabilities to tackle threats and that our operational preparedness is never compromised.

You reportedly said 50% of Indian air force equipment is obsolete. Is this still the case?
What I said was that some of our equipment is at various stages of obsolescence. Obsolescence is what any organization, especially a combat force, deals with. Obsolescence does not make equipment useless. It reduces capabilities and makes spare parts scarce. To overcome these constraints and maintain operational capabilities we follow our three strategies.

What determines upgrade priorities?
The armed forces road map is compiled in a long-term perspective plan (LTPP). The plan is reviewed periodically to guarantee our combat edge. Numerous factors ranging from future threat perception to economic viability dictate finalization of the LTPP. Modernization is put in action according to this plan.

What is your procurement wish list?
Our procurement is based on the geopolitical environment, perceived threats, economic viability and a credible deterrent. The focus is more on building capabilities than amassing inventory. The Indian air force has a number of new programs on the anvil. The MMRCA, Light Combat Aircraft and Fifth-Generation Fighter will enter service in the coming decade. Our tactical and strategic airlift capability will improve with the C-130J Hercules and C-17 Globemaster. Procurement of modern sensors and surface-to-air missiles (SAM) are progressing to reinforce air defense. We are also modernizing airfields and improving infrastructure.

When will the indigenous Akash medium-range SAM batteries be delivered and where will they be deployed?
The Akash system performed credibly during trials. Six missile systems are required for layered air defense to protect strategic and tactical sites in the east. These will be delivered from 2013-15 and enter operational service soon after.

When will you start receiving the first of 18 Israel Aerospace Industries-Rafael Spyder quick-reaction, medium-range missile systems?
The Spyder system will be added from March onward.

What are your thoughts on joint development of the Indo-French Maitri short-range SAM?
The Defense Research Development Organization (DRDO) proposes to codevelop the short-range SAM system for the Indian air force and navy with MBDA. A significant contribution by MBDA in development and production is envisioned. Government approval for joint development with MBDA was obtained by DRDO. Techno-commercial negotiations by a price-negotiating committee (PNC) with MBDA for the joint development and production of the SAM systems are likely to commence shortly. The PNC will firm up costs, after which the government will again be approached for a single integrated contract between the defense ministry and MBDA.

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