Wednesday, 4 September 2013

India widens footprint at MAKS-2013

Thanks to expanding overall defence cooperation with Russia, India considerably widened its footprint at the 11th International Aerospace Show – MAKS-2013 held last week in Zhukovsky – a satellite town of the Russian capital.
This year the premier Indian aerospace giant Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and New Delhi-based Indo-Russian joint venture – BrahMos Aerospace Limited set up impressive stalls in the prestigious front row pavilions next to the main Russian pavilion of the United Aircraft Corporation – an umbrella organisation for virtually entire military and civilian aircraft industry of the former Soviet Union.
Over 900 Russian and foreign aerospace companies from 43 countries had taken part in the MAKS-2013.
The history of this biggest Russian aircraft salon began in the summer of 1992 as the Moscow Air Show – to show the world that in spite of the Soviet collapse a few months earlier, the Russian aircraft industry was ‘alive and kicking’.
Since 1993, it is being held at alternate years at the Ramenskoe airfield of the Gromov Flight Research Institute, which boasts of the Europe’s longest runway of 5403 metres.
In this year’s edition, BrahMos Aerospace Limited, a joint venture between India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Moscow-based NPO Mashinostroyenie, had for the first time displayed the aerial of version of the ‘world’s best’ supersonic cruise missile for Sukhoi Su-30MKI multi-role fighter with a catchy slogan: Many Missions, Many Targets – One Missile System.
It had also displayed a model of submarine with a battery of underwater launched BrahMos cruise missiles, giving it the capability of precision strikes at the land targets of the enemy.
However, the interaction in the field of joint development of military aircraft is the main thrust of India-Russia defence cooperation, which has confidently transcended from ‘buyer-seller’ relationship to joint research, development and manufacture of new cutting-edge platforms. HAL is the main player in this mutually beneficial cooperation with Russia.
The development of Sukhoi Su-30MKI multi-role fighter in mid-1990s on the basis of Su-27UB trainer aircraft is the first success story of India-Russia cooperation in aircraft building. It is the product of joint efforts of Russian designers and engineers and experts of HAL and the Indian Air Force.
“This aircraft was tailor-made to meet the requirements of the Indian Air Force,” Managing Director of HAL’s Nasik (MiG) Complex, S Subrahmanyan told this writer at MAKS-2013.
Under the Sukhoi transfer- of- technology (ToT), today HAL is assembling these state-of-the-art fighters at its Nasik Complex, simultaneously with the production of AL-31FP aircraft engines at its Sukhoi Engine Division in Koraput.
It is no secret that today this multi-role fighter is Russian defence industry’s ‘hottest’ export item. Not only this, HAL is also supplying avionics for Su-30 series fighters exported by Russia to third countries.
However, the cooperation of HAL with Russian aircraft designers, which began in 1964 with the assembly of MiG-21 fighters under Soviet license, has now entered into a qualitative new phase.
Under the Indo-Russian government agreements HAL is currently working with Russia on two joint projects for the development and production of futuristic fifth generation fighter (FGFA) and Multi-role Transport Aircraft (MTA) for the armed forces. A joint venture company has already been set up to implement the MTA project.
FGFA is an outstanding example of strategic partnership between India and Russia. It is based on Sukhoi’s T-50 PAK-FA project. HAL Nasik complex MD, S. Subrahmanyan, who looks after the joint projects with Russia, told that a team of 25 Indian experts was based in Moscow and the two sides have almost completed ‘deep design phase’ (DDP) for the Indian variant of the FGFA, which would be lighter because of massive use of composite materials than the all metal T-50 prototypes. At the MAKS-2013 air show three T-50 aircraft gave an impressive demonstration of its aerobatics skills.
Subrahmanyan expressed confidence that the first jointly designed prototype will take to skies in 2015 and the induction of FGFA could began as early as 2017.
Air shows are also used as a venue to sign major business contracts. Under the Indian government’s offset requirements Russia’s MiG fighter jet maker has signed two additional contracts with an Indian private company worth a total US$ 55 million.
However, the biggest surprise of the MAKS-2013 for Indian visitors was the mobile integrated TOR-1 ME air defence surface-to-air missile system mounted on TATA cross-country 6×6 and 8×8 truck chassis. According to its manufacturer Almaz-Antei Concern’s representatives, it was the Indian customer’s desire to mount their complex on TATA chassis, which were brought from India to Russian plant for fitting the missiles module, loader and command post.
They did not rule out that other foreign buyers of this highly effective air defence system for the protection of high value assets could also ask for installing the Russian system on Indian vehicles. This could become another example of growing India-Russia cooperation.

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