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India-Pakistan Arms Race Heats Up -2

IAF vs PAF

To tell candidly, India being a regional power has somehow lost its edge over Pakistan in terms of air force capabilities. Indian official reports suggest that with the present shaky and obsolescence systems, IAF can’t even raise a minimum deterrent against PAF.

With the go-ahead for the $48 billion investment in infrastructural development plan for Pakistan, China is selling 110 units of JF-17 Thunder to Pakistan where India desperately searches for a multirole, if possible, nuclear capable 4++ generation fighter aircraft alternative for its aging fleet of MIGs and Sukhois, with also eyes for the 5th generation stealth capable Sukhoi PAK-FA T-50. In the meantime IAF has grounded many of its MIG-21s. BJP government has cancelled the previous government’s plan to buy 126 fighters from French firm Dassaut and is trying to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets from France. During a visit to France in April, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that New Delhi was ordering 36 of the "ready to fly" planes costing €5 billion ($5.5 billion). On the other hand, much talked about purchase of Multi Role fighters from Russia is deemed to be cancelled. Tejas- the indigenous fighter of India has so far produced no positive results and failed to join IAF after number of test failures. After facing procurement problems from its traditional ally Russia, IAF has been trying to purchase Apache Attack helicopters, Chinook heavy lift helicopters from USA and negotiations are on in this regard.  

For PAF, apart from indigenous production of JF-17 Multi Role fighter, Russia has stretched its supportive hands to supply hi tech attack helicopters and Multi Role fighters. It is already reported that Russia has signed a deal to supply two to three squadrons of Mi- 35 Attack Helicopters and one squadron of most sophisticated SU- 35 Multi Role fighters to Pakistan. So far Russia hasn’t sold SU-35s to any other country and definitely this procurement by PAF is going to change air balance in this subcontinent. This Russia- Pak alliance, though seems very strange is going to open a new era in the world perspective also. 

PAK FA T-50

On the other hand, Pakistan’s long time trusted ally China would deliver the first patch of 50 JF-17 Thunder to PAF over the next three years where total number of fighter aircraft delivered would be 110, although Pakistan herself manufactured JF-17 Thunder indigenously.

Side by side a more advanced version (with a new air-to-air refueling probe, enhanced oxygen system and improved electronic countermeasures system) will also soon enter service.

It is also reported from various unconfirmed sources that China has already delivered J-10 Multirole fighter aircrafts to PAF and is planning to dispatch J-20s.

PAK-FA Decision

New Delhi faces a series of decisions on fast jet procurements that will determine the future direction and capabilities of the Indian Air Force's (IAF's) combat aircraft fleet.

At the heart of the matter is the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) program - for which France's Dassault, Rafale were down-selected in January 2012. IAF also prioritized Russia's Sukhoi T-50/PAK-FA fifth-generation fighter (FGFA).

But the difficulty is that there is a massive discontent between the Ministry of Defense [MoD], the IAF, and the political community in India who have to contend with larger diplomatic and industrial issues on what the future IAF should look like.

At the center of this conflict are those in favor of the Rafale and those who would instead place funds earmarked for that procurement into the development of a version of the T-50/PAK-FA, known in India as the Fifth-Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA).

For New Delhi, the problem is budget for both the planes, in simple words- the money does not exist to have both the Rafale and T-50 programs. 

If the Indian government  puts  resources into the T-50, then the IAF becomes an almost all-Russian fleet, and they have to bet their future force structure on a fighter that is almost solely on paper at present. If they decide to go with the Rafale, then they have to forget about having a fifth-generation fighter.

The Rafale's fortunes are helped by what is regarded as a growing pro-Western shift within the IAF. The combined experience of working with the United States on programs like the Boeing C-17 and Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 and Dassault aircraft such as the Mirage 2000 has led IAF officers to embrace the Western model for running and supporting programs over the Russian style of doing business.

At the same time, however, the shift in the preference for Western aircraft within the IAF does not translate into a future market for a US-made fighter. The IAF is happy to have US-made transports and other platforms, but is not inclined to purchase a US aircraft for frontline combat requirements.

Su-30 Issue

The IAF’s Su-30MKI multirole fighter fleet is plagued by frequent engine failure-in-air and engine-related problems and poor operational serviceability. Five twin-engine Su-30MKIs have crashed since the platform began to enter service in 1997.

According to Indian Defense Minister Parrikar,  between January 2013 and December 2014 the IAF had recorded technical problems with 35 Saturn AL-31FP engines that power the license-built Su-30MKIs. The problems were related to faulty bearings and low-pressure oil.

Metal fatigue caused these bearings, which are incorporated to reduce friction between the fighter's moving parts, to chip or fragment and the resulting particles contaminated the oil flow.

Of 69 Su-30MKI engine failures investigated since 2012, 33 were due to finding [metal] chips in the oil, 11 due to vibration in the engine, and 8 because of low pressure of lubricating oil.

The IAF operates 200 Su-30MKIs, but of these only 110 or 55% were operationally available due to poor serviceability which would increase to 70% by the end of 2015.

Up Gradation Of An-32 Transport Planes

IAF is trying to secure the return of around 10 of 40 IAF Antonov An-32 military transporters that are stranded in Ukraine where they were undergoing an upgrade. Around 30 An-32s, which were upgraded to An-32RE levels in Ukraine under an INR19.67 billion (USD313.3 million) agreement inked in 2009, had returned home by 2014.

The upgrade, aimed at increasing the An-32's operational lifespan from 25 to 40 years, includes advanced avionics, cockpit layout modifications, noise and vibration reductions, and improving serviceability.

The IAF's Base Repair Depot at Kanpur in northern India has been similarly retrofitting a further 65 An-32s.

AEW&C

The INR51.13 billion (USD815 million) program to indigenously design an airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) system and mount it on two Airbus A330 military transport aircraft was among programs worth a total of INR83.41 billion approved by India's Ministry of Defense (MoD) on 28 March 2015.

Under the proposed AEW&C program, the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) aims to eventually build eight such platforms for the Indian Air Force (IAF).

Airbus Defense and Space was the sole bidder for the DRDO's AEW&C program - and so required approval by the Defense Acquisition Council (DAC) under the MoD's Defense Procurement Procedure (DPP).

The Indian Air Force's Big Problem: Not Enough Pilots!

Currently IAF is facing  a critical shortage of both planes and pilots. A parliamentary committee has already raised questions to  the Indian Ministry of Defense (MOD) over the poor state of the Indian Air Force (IAF) in comparison to its Chinese and Pakistani counterparts. The committee finds that  IAF faces a critical shortage of both planes and pilots .

The report of the Indian government’s 35-member  Standing Committee on Defense noted that “even the slight edge over rival neighboring nations” would be lost if “complacency” remains. The Indian officials particularly lamented that the number of current active fighter squadrons (35) is seven below the sanctioned strength of 42.

Furthermore, according to HIS Jane’s Defence Weekly, the IAF’s current fighter aircraft to pilot ratio is 1:0.81 where the Pakistan Air Force’s fighter to pilot ratio was 1:2.5.The sanctioned cockpit to pilot ratio for the IAF’s transport aircraft is 1:1.5 and 1:1 for its helicopters.

Submarines For IN And PN

India has started its indigenous submarine building project with a hope to launch its first one by September 2016. On 5 April 2015,  Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar launched the country's first indigenously-built Scorpene submarine at the Mazagaon Dockyard Ltd in Mumbai.

The Scorpene is part of the Project 75 of Indian Navy's submarine program, undertaken with French collaboration, which will include six such vessels joining the fleet over the next few years.

Presently, Indian Navy has 14 conventional diesel-electric powered submarines which include 10 Russian Kilo Class and four German HDW class vessels.

In the meantime Indian Navy is engaged in indigenously constructing B class stealth destroyers at MDL(Mazagaon Dockyard Ltd) under the Projet 15.

Pakistan To Get Eight Chinese Subs

On 01 April 2015  Pakistani government confirmed the purchase of eight new submarines from China. The procurement of a new fleet of submarines constitutes Islamabad’s most expensive arms deal by far. Estimated total costs range between $4-5 billion.

Details of the type of submarines is not yet clear but there is a big possibility that PN might procure Type-041 Subs from China.

According to IHS Jane’s Fighting Ships the Type 041 Yuan-class is,“a diesel electric attack submarine (SSK), potentially with Stirling air independent propulsion, that is armed with YJ-2 (YJ-82) anti-ship missiles and a combination of Yu-4 (SAET-50) passive homing and Yu-3 (SET-65E) active/passive homing torpedoes.”

According to sources, Pakistan will build two types of submarines with Chinese assistance: the Project S-26 and Project S-30. The vessels are to be built at the Submarine Rebuild Complex (SRC) facility being developed at Ormara, west of Karachi. S-30 submarines are based on the Chinese Qing class submarines-3,000-tonne conventional submarines which can launch three 1,500-km range nuclear-tipped cruise missiles from its conning tower. A Very Low Frequency (VLF) station at Turbat, in southern Balochistan, will communicate with these submerged strategic submarines.

Pakistan’s current submarine fleet consists of two upgraded French DCNS Agosta-70 and three Agosta 90Bs (equipped with air independent propulsion.

[Sources: Jane’s Defence Weekly, India Today, The Diplomat, Dawn, PTI]

Fakhrul Islam is a Student of Computer Science at North South University