Fighter procurement for dummies: Ashley Tellis does it again! (Part-3)

February 13th, 2011 - 1:01 pm ICT by ANI  

By Admiral Arun Prakash New Delhi, Feb 13 (ANI): Amongst the strategic analysts on the Indo-US horizon, few are as incisive and diligent as Ashley J Tellis. In this context Tellis has the advantages of an Indian background and, consequently, a profound insight into India’s security issues.

Tellis offers the sum total of his advice under the rubric of three broad injunctions or Commandments for the consideration of policymakers in New Delhi. He commences his arguments by enjoining upon India’s decision-makers to “Conclude the MMRCA competition expeditiously.” While this may appear to be superfluous and gratuitous advice, we must remember that we have a pretty dismal track-record of slothful decision-making. Projects involving acquisition of the Advanced Jet Trainer, construction of the Air Defence Ship, re- starting of the submarine production line and the artillery modernization plan are just a few recent examples where apathy and indolent decision-making has cost us dearly, not just in financial terms but also in terms of eroded security. To buttress his advice Tellis graphically outlines the developing South-Asian air threat scenario, and the opportunity-costs of delay.His next injunction, “Do not split the MMRCA purchase”, arises from the, not unrealistic, apprehension that India’s political leadership, might attempt to “satisfy defence and geo- political objectives simultaneously” and to “assuage different international allies” by splitting the lucrative MMRCA purchase and buying smaller numbers of two aircraft types instead of one. A very recent example of such a politically driven compromise was the splitting of a large commercial aircraft purchase between Boeing and Airbus Industrie. However, as Tellis rightly points out, the Indian armed forces are already burdened with the immense handicap of excessive diversity in their weapon inventories, and adding two new types to the IAF stable will be yet another unkind blow. Subsequently, while providing a balance-sheet of the political pros and cons of each aircraft choice, he offers sound advice for the US administration. In order to overcome the disadvantage of fielding relatively older (albeit equally capable) aircraft for the MMRCA selection, the USA must not only provide assurance of “supplier reliability” but it must “fight and win in the arena of technology transfer.”It is for the last, and most unexceptionable, of his three Commandments, “To buy the best aircraft for the mission”, that Tellis saves his firepower. In what can only be termed a tour de force, for a person with no aviation background (other than a million miles logged on United Airlines), he defines the operational context in which the IAF seeks a new combat aircraft, identifies the essential performance and hardware capabilities which must be used for evaluating the MMRCA contenders, discusses the technology and cost issues, and finally provides a lucid comparative assessment of the six aircraft in the field.Tellis examines the “multi-role” aspect of the new induction from the IAF viewpoint and discusses the degree of optimization that can be attained between the air-to-air and anti-surface roles in a single airframe. He concludes that, because of the traditional bias of the Service towards fighter aviation, and the primacy assigned to homeland defence, whichever aircraft is finally selected in the competition, “…its fundamental worth will be assessed, first and foremost by its air-to-air performance, with its capacity to undertake precision strike missions being……somewhat secondary in assessed importance.”Detailed discussion follows on arcane issues like the air-defence environment, the role of AWACS, as well as the counter-AWACS operations, airborne electronic attack (EA) and within visual range (WVR) as well as beyond visual range (BVR) engagements. Adequate note is taken of land as well as maritime anti-surface mission requirements before concluding that the MMRCA candidate selected will have to be an utterly versatile platform that can shift from air-combat to ground-attack by day or night with felicity.Having established the future operational milieu in South Asia, Tellis defines six criteria for judging the MMRCA candidates, which may well be identical with those used by the IAF: sensors and avionics; weapons; aerodynamic effectiveness; mission performance; technology- transfer and cost. However, he sensibly adds a seventh criterion which is unlikely to figure in any official Indian matrix; political considerations.Having done his homework conscientiously, Tellis undertakes an enlightened discussion that would be heard with rapt attention in any fighter crew-room. He dwells, knowledgeably, on a range of complex technical issues including; active electronically scanned array (AESA) and low probability of intercept (LPI) radars, infra-red search and tracking (IRST) systems, defensive avionics suites (DAS), BVR combat, wing loadings, thrust/weight ratios, instantaneous turn- rates and overall mission performance et al. (ANI)Attn: News Editors/News Desks: The views expressed in the above article are that of the former Chief of Naval Staff and now Chairman of the National Maritime Foundation (NMF), Admiral Arun Prakash (Retired). Please note that this article is from the NMF web site

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