Saturday, May 21, 2016

Livefist Has Moved From Blogger!

It's been a while since Livefist was And now we've shifted base from Blogger too. This 'blogspot' site will no longer be updated. Livefist is now fully & only at only. Thanks for your interest.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

After 33 Years, India Navy's Sea Harriers Bow Out

11 Indian Navy Sea Harriers, the last of a full fleet of the iconic British-built jumpjets stretched their wings for the last time today. It's been a deeply emotional day down at INS Hansa, the Indian Navy's premier aviation base in Goa.

India's Harrier ride began in 1983 with the purchase of 26 Mk51 and 4 TMk60 Harriers, plus a final two trainers purchased in 2003 called T4i, converted from RAF T4 aircraft to the Indian Navy variant. Arriving in two batches between 1983 and 1986 the aircraft were part of 300 Squadron Flying White Tigers and 552 training squadron. The Sea Harrier operated from both INS Vikrant and INS Viraat, where the use of the ski jump allowed the aircraft to take off from a short flight deck.

The Sea Harriers will likely be converted into static mounted displays at naval bases around the country (more specific details on this soon).

Speaking at the ceremony today, Indian Navy chief Admiral RK Dhowan lauded the "stellar role played by the squadron in the defence of the country and professionalism of the pilots, the maintainers and all those personnel associated with flying and maintaining the aircraft in peak efficiency during their service."

BAE Systems, which was still British Aerospace during the acquisition, has serviced the fleet for over three decades. 

We are very proud of our support to the Indian Navy in keeping the iconic Sea Harriers airworthy over the last 33 years. Three decades ago, when the Sea Harriers were inducted, these aircraft with modern weaponry, avionics and an engine which could land the aircraft vertically, defying all the laws of aerodynamics, introduced V/STOL for the Indian Navy. On this symbolic day, we re-dedicate ourselves to our partnership with the Indian Navy through our continued support on the Hawk advanced jet trainer," Alistair Castle – Vice President and General Manager - India, BAE Systems said today.

The Harrier squadron, which last flew off INS Viraat's deck on March 6, will now be officially replaced by India's in-service MiG-29K fighters.


Saturday, April 23, 2016

IAF Jets Arrive In Alaska To Red Flag 'Aggressors'

Lots of planespotter buzz around Eielson AFB, Alaska in the run up to Red Flag ALASKA 16-1 that begins April 28. The Indian Air Force's contingent (4 x Su-30MKI, 4 x Jaguar Darin II, 2 x Il-78M & 2 C-17 Globemaster III) that arrived on April 16 have been on routine practice runs at the base with USAF jets.

Squaring off with mostly US Air Force 354th Operational Group 'aggressor' F-16s and other support jets, the joint exercise will involve simulated interdiction, attack, air superiority, defence suppression, airlift, air refueling and reconnaissance aircraft -- all profiles the IAF has proven to be formidable at in past Red Flags/Cope India/Thunder exercises. 

This will also be the second time that the IAF gets to stretch its legs in the US Department of Defense's largest airspace -- the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex (JPARC), which according to the Eielson page, contains 67,000 square miles of airspace, 11 military operating areas, and three weapons ranges.

As you know, it's been a big month for Eielson AFB, which has been chosen to be the USAF's first F-35A operational base in the Pacific Air Forces' Area of Responsibility. The first aircraft are expected to arrive in 2020.

Will have a full report up here on the exercise during and after. Enjoy these pictures by U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Turner.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Has India Finalised Rafale Deal At $8.8 Billion?

Has India finalised its deal for 36 Rafale fighters at a contract value of $8.8 billion? The MoD was quick to advise a couple of recent media reports not to 'jump the gun' that a deal had finally been reached -- and no official comment is out yet on the deal. But the ruling party of India's government, the BJP, posted the image on the left a few hours ago on its official Facebook page.

This is perplexing at several levels. For starters, the infographic explicitly mentions that the deal has been 'finalised', something the MoD refuted only 72 hours ago. The message also looks to address continuing concerns that the Rafale deal was too heavy to handle -- the BJP says here that the Modi government has successfully 're-negotiated' the deal and saved an estimated $3.2 billion, bringing the contract value down from an earlier $12 billion.

Probably most strange of all, it is unclear where the $12 billion for 36 Rafale jets equation comes from. It is well known that the original M-MRCA, for 126 fighters, carried a prospective price tag of about $12 billion. So is the BJP forking out erroneous figures to illustrate a humdinger of a bargain? Again, unclear.

Right off the bat, that's Prime Minister Modi's photograph up there on the image. The message is simple: it was the Prime Minister (and his visit to France in April last year) who saved a deal that was in a doomed spiral of cost. The credit, the BJP is saying here, goes to the PM who ensured India got a tight deal even after scaling down the jet requirement from 126 to a measly couple of squadrons, 36 aircraft. It was leadership that saw the deal done -- that's the clear message from the BJP here, not the endless bureaucrat-led negotiations, not the multiple levels of international intrigue and instances of delegations flinging rules and books at each other, not about brinkmanship in numbers. Just cold, hard leadership. We'll only know how true that is once we get the details.

The MoD hasn't officially commented on the BJP post, except to say that a public announcement will be made when "there's something to announce". In the social media age, it's easy to imagine a political party's digital wing putting out information of this kind. It isn't however, when you consider that the BJP's own digital wing is comprised of a highly professional and networked team that rarely puts out material that isn't vetted at the highest levels of party (and government when it concerns public policy, deals etc). Finally, is the BJP referring to unconfirrmed reports that popped up a few days ago about the Rafale deal being finalised -- or were they simply given the go-ahead to break the news ahead a slightly mystified MoD. Answers ahead, surely.

The Rafale deal has had a turbulent ride in India. So, right now it's about waiting to see if the MoD feels the party that rules India's government has 'jumped the gun'.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

India Conducts Twin Secret Tests Of K-4 SLBM

India tested it's most ambitious weapon -- the K-4 submarine-launched long range ballistic missile -- twice last month. Top sources tell Livefist that the two tests, both conducted at less than ceiling range of 3,500 km were conducted at an undisclosed location in the south Bay of Bengal.

The two tests on March 7 and March 31 are understood to be the second and third tests of the K-4. The first test, the details of which remain shadowy, is understood to have been carried out in March 2014. The K-4, a submarine-launched derivative of the Agni-III -- but a vastly different weapon, obviously -- was revealed first by my India Today colleague Sandeep Unnithan back in 2010. The lower range K-15 submarine-launched missile was launched in 2013.

The Indian government barely acknowledges the existence of the K-4, so nobody's expecting anything official from the DRDO or MoD on the lines of what they put out for literally every other weapon test, including the doddering Prithvis (that are up for a progressive phase out soon, but more on that later).

A big congratulations to the K-4 team!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

1st India-built Apache Fuselage Rolls Out In 2018

The first Indian-built AH-64E Apache fuselage, built in Hyderabad by the Boeing-Tata Advanced Systems Ltd joint venture, will be rolled out in 2018, with the first chopper to be delivered to the Indian Air Force in 2019. Livefist can confirm that work has begun towards the ground-breaking ceremony for a new facility that will take place in April. That sets down a crucial and substantial part of the Make in India push.

Announced in mid-2015 as the big plan, a definite date now on the first fuselage roll-out is the most tangible step forward for aerospace manufacture in India in years -- and bodes well for budding aspirations towards making India a credible aerostructure and subsystems hub on par with countries like Korea. Tata's focused aggression in the space has also served as a template for other private players with resources, and augurs solidly for similar work that should come India's way. Chinook aerostructures (ramps and pylons) are being churned out already by India's Dynamatics Technologies.

Livefist can also confirm through sources that the IAF has asked for -- and will be receiving -- 11 Longbow radar versions of the AH-64E. India has signed up for 22 of the AH-64E variant (the re-designated AH-64D Block III). Neither the Indian Air Force nor Boeing has officially revealed how many of the 22 will be Longbow versions, sporting the NorthropGrumman AN/APG-78 'Longbow' fire control radar. Unlike the US Army that counts one Longbow in every three airframes, Longbows will arm every other airframe in IAF service.