Modernisation and austerity

Discussion in 'Defence & Strategic Issues' started by arnabmit, Sep 16, 2013.

  1. arnabmit

    arnabmit Homo Communis Indus Senior Member

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    Modernisation and austerity | idrw.org
    SOURCE: EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE

    Yesterday, India jubilantly tested the long-range Agni-V ballistic missile for the second time, en route to the missile’s induction into the Strategic Forces Command in several years. But trouble looms on India’s borders. In the recent monsoon session, Defence Minister A.K. Antony stood before Parliament to defend the government against the charge that it is permitting Chinese encroachment along the border and Line of Actual Control. Ground realities are difficult to discern from New Delhi, but much of the Indian media seems fearful that the Chinese are winning a slow border game of chicken. To the west, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif continued to make conciliatory noises towards Delhi while also chairing a National Command Authority meeting, which affirmed its support for “full spectrum deterrence”.

    To deal with this rough neighbourhood, India has embarked on an ambitious military modernisation programme. Indians have triumphantly witnessed progress on a nuclear ballistic missile submarine, the Arihant, whose reactor recently went critical; watched the aircraft carrier Vikrant set off from dry dock; cheered news of the successful Agni-V test; and learned of political clearance to raise a Mountain Strike Corps in the east to be headquartered at Panagarh. Each of India’s three armed services is moving to modernise itself.

    But can India afford it all? The defence budget for 2013-14 grew by 5 per cent over the previous year, with defence capital acquisitions growing by 9 per cent. But, with inflation averaging more than 5 per cent since February, and the rupee depreciating by 14 per cent against the dollar over the same period, that modest nominal budget increase is actually a real budget decrease for defence. In a time of austerity, strategic planning is about prioritisation. How should India prioritise its future military modernisation to meet its envisioned security requirements? Each of the three services can claim urgent need.

    First, there is the Indian Air Force. Saddled with an ageing, shrinking set of fighter aircraft and a stalling deal to buy France’s Rafale, the IAF desperately needs an infusion of modern fighter aircraft. While the Sukhoi-30 MKI is an incredibly capable aircraft, and India plans to ultimately acquire 272 of them, one fighter alone cannot meet the full range of India’s needs and mandated squadron strength. Despite high hopes, the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) deal with Dassault for its Rafale jets appears to be sputtering. Between French cutbacks in production and the falling rupee, it is an open question whether Dassault can live up to the terms of its lowest price bid. The IAF’s joint development with Russia of a fifth-generation fighter, the Sukhoi PAK FA, is still in the early phases of development. That leaves India still relying on obsolete MiG-21s— in service for 50 years, with an increasingly abysmal safety record — as the backbone of its fighter strength. The IAF is similarly strained on transport and close air support capabilities.

    While the air force struggles to replace obsolete platforms, the navy has launched an ambitious expansion plan of its surface and submarine fleet demanding significant capital expenditures. The half-decade process of developing and arming the Arihant and Vikrant is only beginning. But to have a fully operational nuclear deterrent at sea, India will need at least three nuclear submarines — at an estimated $3 billion each, not including the cost of developing the submarine-launched ballistic missiles. Similarly, the Vikrant will need time in port for maintenance and refitting. To keep up its forward naval air presence, India will need to complete the Vikrant’s bigger sister ship, the Vishal, and finalise the painfully expensive, long-delayed acquisition of the aircraft carrier Vikramaditya from Russia.

    The army has its own ambitions for replacing and expanding capabilities. The recent clearance to raise a Mountain Strike Corps will cost an estimated Rs 65,000 crore. Meanwhile, the army is in the process of fully upgrading India’s main battle tank to the Russian T-90, even as it upgrades the army’s attack-helicopter fleet and basic infantry, artillery, and armoured equipment. The army still has to decide where to hide its indigenous Arjun tank, which it has never been excited about but had thrust upon it by the DRDO. If the goal is indeed to be capable of waging offensives simultaneously on India’s western and eastern fronts, the army still has a long way to go.

    None of this will be cheap. So can India afford to simultaneously modernise all three services at its current pace?

    This debate between competing services and strategic visions will be a painful one, but it must be had. All countries have difficulty picking winners and losers among services. It’s always tempting to spread the wealth around. But doing so can carry very real costs. Instead of a clear-headed strategic rationale for investment, driven by a vision of its future strategic posture, India might find itself under-equipped in all three services — and dangerously vulnerable. India’s civilian defence managers are particularly ill-equipped to make strategic choices, with many senior officials appointed to the defence ministry with no prior national security experience.

    Choosing among weapons systems and services requires making bets about India’s future security landscape and determining what sort of wars India may have to wage in future. For example, is India’s future security best obtained with a strong land and air force, or does it make sense to invest heavily in naval capabilities, where India presently has an advantage, but which could pit it against a growing PLA Navy and lead to a potentially expensive naval arms race? Can India best deter China by developing a capability for land grabs along the border or by threatening China’s maritime trade? Can India best deter Pakistan with the capability to attrite the Pakistan army or with the capability to strike deep into Pakistan’s heartland?

    No single service can answer these questions, and the military cannot do so without civilian guidance. But India’s services are so stove-piped, and its civil and military leaders so sharply divided, that South Block cannot ask such questions, let alone answer them. Until real defence reform occurs in India, military modernisation in a time of austerity will just mean less of the same.

    Christopher Clary and Vipin Narang

    Clary is a Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow at the RAND Corporation. Narang is assistant professor of political science at MIT
     
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  3. arnabmit

    arnabmit Homo Communis Indus Senior Member

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    Indian Naval Air Defenses: Another Avoidable Crisis | idrw.org
    SOURCE: DEFENCE INDUSTRY DAILY

    India’s dysfunctional political and procurement systems have created another security crisis for its military, by creating a growing risk that a number of its ships will have weakened defenses against aerial attack.

    The problem stems from the government’s inability to issue a follow-on contract for Barak-1 missiles, last ordered in October 2000 when India brought 9 systems and 200 missiles in a pair of deals with IAI and RAFAEL worth INR 15.1 billion (then around $326 million). The blockage is delaying key upgrades, and missile stocks for existing ships are critically low and shrinking.

    As usual, the culprit is a combination of a bureaucratic culture divorced from operational needs, inability to make decisions, and overly rigid rules…

    The Indian Navy has repeatedly asked to buy about 262 more Barak-1 missiles, at a reported cost of about $150 million.

    They need them because radar-guided Barak-1 missiles now equip India’s lone aircraft carrier INS Viraat, all 6 Project 16/16A Godavari/ Brahmaputra Class 3,850t frigates, and 2 of 6 Rajput Class 4,974t destroyers. Current missile stocks aren’t adequate to cover that, and readiness requires regular training launches against live targets.

    Barak-1 missiles are also supposed to be part of upgrades to India’s 3 Delhi Class 6,200t destroyers, in order to remove the hole created by the Russian SA-N-7C ‘Gollum’ air defense missile system’s limited firing arc.

    The Barak deal had its Indian critics, most especially in the state’s DRDO defense R&D bureau. They wanted the Navy to keep waiting for their Trishul missile, but it was such a failure that it was eventually discontinued in December 2008, about 25 years after development began.

    The Barak’s real problems in India reach back to a 2001 Tehelka magazine investigation, which alleged that 15 defense deals were compromised by kickbacks to public officials, including defense minister Geroge Fernandes. The Barak missile deal was included. An Indian CBI report was submitted in October 2006, and some charges were laid against alleged middlemen in the case, but CBI isn’t getting the responses it wants from Israel and Britain, and hasn’t made much legal headway.

    With a pending CBI case, even one that showed no signs of legal movement, the Ministry of Law and Justice had blocked referral of the Navy’s Barak-1 requests to the political Cabinet Committee on Security for approval. To the Navy’s credit, it has continued to push for revised legal opinions, and the Economic Times reports that all legal barriers have now been removed. The Ministry of Defence can now make a decision on the Navy’s request – but won’t.

    The Barak-1's small space footprint, and dedicated vertical launch system, makes its replacement by other options much more difficult.

    A new local missile might offer India a way out for some ships, but it won’t come in time. A joint LR-SAM project with Israel is producing the longer-range Barak-8 for Naval use, but it has fallen behind schedule. Israel will refit its 3 Eilat Class corvettes by the end of 2013, switching from Barak-1 to Barak-8 missiles in response to recent Syrian moves, but India doesn’t expect to make its decisions before 2015. Fielding LR-SAM before 2020 would constitute an achievement by Indian standards, and its ships need to defend themselves in the interim.

    While India neglects its Navy’s basic defenses, Pakistan has fielded 3 new Agosta 90B AIP submarines armed with Exocet anti-ship missiles, is equipping its P-3 aircraft fleet with Harpoon Block II anti-ship missiles, and bought and fielded 4 F-22P Zulfiquar Class frigates from China that carry C-802 anti-ship missiles.
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2013

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