Monday, February 2, 2015

Do Indian Plans to Counter Chinese Threat Help China Tighten the Noose?

New Chinese Light Tank on the Tibetan plateau. Photo via China Defense Blog

In the Sino-Indian stand-off along the LAC, India seems to be doing the talking, and China the walking.

Bureaucratic tardiness in defense procurement and a loud mouthed press seem to be giving China both clues and time to make sure India remains hopelessly on its back foot.

Invariably, the PLA is already doing what the Indian Army plans to do! Look at these examples.

High Altitude Helicopters to Transport Guns

India invited bids for 15 heavy-lift helicopters in May 2009 to ferry the BAe Land Systems M777 ultra-light howitzers that the Indian Army intended to procure for its new raising - the XVII Mountain Strike Corps.

Boeing (CH-47F Chinook) and Mil (Mi-26 T2) submitted competing bids. In 2012, following extensive technical and commercial evaluation, Boeing's bid was assessed as being more competitively priced and the government decided to procure the helicopters from the US under FMS. In parallel, a decision was also taken to procure the M77 gun from the US under FMS.

Both projects have made no headway so far!

Meanwhile, China recently tested a Z-18A helicopter on the Tibetan plateau at an altitude of 8000-m. The helicopter is reportedly meant to transport AH-4 155 mm light artillery system developed by the China North Industries Corporation which weighs around 4 tons!

Do you get the point?

The Z-18A can also be used for anti submarine warfare and as a troop and VIP carrier. Our press has talked ad nauseam about the M777/Chinook projects but there has been hardly a mention of the Z-18A and AH-4 155-mm gun.

Incidentally, China also has 18 "Black Hawk" attack helicopters manufactured by Sikorsky that can operate on the Tibetan plateau, just in case you were thinking about the 22 Apaches to be procured along with the Chinooks under FMS.

The Chinese are not just a few steps ahead in the game. They are far ahead!

High Altitude Variant of Mi-26T

It was recently reported that Russia and China will co-develop a high altitude version of M-26T helicopter with a take-off weight of 38 tons for use on the Tibetan plateau.

The new helicopter will be smaller and lighter than the Mi-26T, but feature the same engines giving it the reserve of power to lift heavy stuff even at 8000-m

Tanks for the Tibetan Plateau

The Indian Army biggest fear along the LAC is that China might use its superior infrastructure to rapidly mobilize PLA formations and launch a determined push into Arunachal Pradesh, overwhelming Indian forces which would still be in an early stage of mobilization.

Faced with such an eventuality, the Indian Army's only counter would be to open another front, break through Chinese defenses and use armor to strike deep into Tibet.

The problem with the strategy is that it requires light tanks that can be easily transported to the LAC.  India doesn't have light tanks and is relying on it medium sized T-72s and T-90s to do the job! Despite the difficulty in transporting them on the poorly built border roads, the Army has managed to do position these tanks along the LAC.

DRDO hasn't been of any help to the Army in terms of light tanks. According to the DRDO the 60-ton Arjun behemoth is the answer to all armor requirements of the Indian Army!

Meanwhile, since 2011 pictures of a Chinese light tank have been appearing on the internet. The tanks is equipped with a 105-mm gun and features armor protection through sloped glacis plates. The tank has been photographed while being transported to Tibet on flat-bed rail cars. [source]

Chinese Analog of C-130J

India signed a deal for procuring six C-130J-30 Special Operations aircraft in 2008 from the US through FMS. All the 6 aircraft have been delivered. One aircraft - KC-3803 - was lost in an accident on March 28, 2014.

In July 2014, India ordered an additional 6 aircraft bringing the cumulative value of the purchase to $2.06 billion. 

The C-130J procurement is mostly aimed at supporting the newly raised MSC's operations on the Tibetan plateau. The aircraft handles well at high altitudes and can land in pitch darkness on unpaved landing grounds.

Meanwhile, China has been steadily upgrading its An-12 CUB airlifter. The IAF had An-12 but it discarded many years back! The latest version of the Chinese aircraft, Shaanxi Y-9, was recently displayed at the Z airshow. The Y-9 is widely regarded to be a Chinese equivalent to the C-130J Hercules. [source]