Sunday, 17 December 2017

Lockheed Martin says F-16 orders flowing in

Lockheed Martin anticipates $16 billion in new F-16 orders, $6.5 billion in upgrades, more upgrades ahead

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 17th Dec 17

Lockheed Martin, the US firm that is offering to relocate F-16 fighter production to India as the world’s only F-16 line, has rebutted the argument that perceptions of the F-16 as an “outdated fighter” would mean very little international business flowing to India.

The company points out that, over the last three months, the US State Department has informed the US Congress of the proposed sale to Bahrain of 19 fighters in the F-16V configuration for an estimated $2.8 billion; and the upgrade of 123 Greek F-16s for an estimated $2.4 billion.

Asked about further F-16 orders, a Lockheed Martin spokesperson revealed that, beyond the 100-200 fighters India would buy, “F-16 production opportunities include multiple countries in the Middle East, the Mediterranean, Central Europe, Southeast Asia, and South America — approximately 200 aircraft altogether.”

Further, “Lockheed Martin also has three F-16V upgrade programs on contract today — a total of around 325 aircraft — and is in discussions with several other customers interested in upgrading their F-16 fleets with the latest technology.”

Assuming a price of $80 million for each current version F-16 Block 70 fighter, the production of 200 new fighters would bring to India business worth $16 billion.

And, extrapolating from the Greek order an upgrade cost of $20 million per F-16, Lockheed Martin already has $6.5 billion worth of upgrade orders. With 4,588 F-16s delivered over the decades to some 25 air forces, and an estimated 3,000 of them still in service, the Indian F-16 line could expect to upgrade some 1,000 F-16s over the years, bringing in $20 billion of business.

Lockheed Martin is competing to build the F-16 Block 70 in India, with its rival being the Gripen E fighter offered by Swedish company, Saab.

In the absence of an Indian production line – which would only be established if the Indian Air Force (IAF) selects the F-16 – these orders will flow to an alternate F-16 production line Lockheed Martin has set up in Greenville, South Carolina.

Randy Howard, who heads Lockheed Martin’s international business development, told Business Standard, the Greenville production line had to be established as a “temporary measure”. This was to meet continuing F-16 orders, since the India line was uncertain and the old F-16 production line at Fort Worth, Texas was being given over to building the F-35 joint strike fighter.

Were India to choose to buy the F-16, the Greenville line would be shut down, says Howard. “What’s on offer for India is to establish a production line here that would be the world’s only production line.”

The India line would be gradually ramped up to build 3-4 fighters per month, says Howard, a production rate India has never come close to achieving while building other fighters like the Jaguar, Sukhoi-30MKI or Tejas.

This would position Indian industry at the center of the world’s most extensive and successful fighter aircraft supply ecosystem. We expect Indian industry… to be highly competitive within that global supply ecosystem, which in turn opens the door for new relationships and opportunities… around the globe”, says a Lockheed Martin spokesperson.

A confident Howard points to Lockheed Martin’s success building up the Turkish aerospace industry: “[The Turkish F-16 production line] was a wheat field. There was nothing there. Today it is the largest aerospace facility in Turkey, and there is a complete eco-system around it. We know how to do this.”

If Lockheed Martin has a compelling business case for India to choose the F-16 and transfer the production line to India, Sweden’s counter is the offer of unmatched technology transfer to India. A senior Swedish government official told Business Standard on Wednesday: “We all know the F-16 would have technology ‘black boxes’ that the US would not part with. The Gripen E comes with far greater levels of technology transfer.”

Defence analysts point out that the US defence industry is in a win-win situation. India’s choice of the F-16 would be a windfall for US firms. But if New Delhi opts for the Gripen E instead, US industry would still benefit, since 40 per cent of the Gripen E is American.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Scorpene submarines lack torpedoes, navy initiates secret procurement

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 16th Dec 17

The defence ministry has issued a secret Request for Information (RFI) to global torpedo firms, for supplying over 100 heavyweight torpedoes for the Indian Navy’s Scorpene submarines, the first of which – INS Kalvari – was commissioned on Thursday.

Prospective vendors are unwilling to speak, since they have signed a non-disclosure agreement. However three sources in the defence ministry and industry have verified this development.

While the torpedo RFI was issued in August and replies received in November from at least three global “original equipment manufacturers” (OEMs), a long wait lies ahead before the new torpedoes become available to arm the Kalvari and five more submarines that will follow it into service. The defence ministry’s Defence Procurement Procedure of 2016 allows 114 weeks (two years and three months) for concluding a contract, in practice an over-ambitious target. After the contract, manufacture and delivery would take another 2-3 years.

Until then, the navy’s six Kalvari-class boats (as the navy refers to submarines) will share 64 obsolescent SUT torpedoes with four HDW Shishumar-class vessels. This is woefully inadequate if the submarine fleet has to fight a war.

Further, there are question marks over the efficacy of the SUT torpedo, even though German OEM, Atlas Elektronik, was contracted in July 2013 to upgrade 64 SUT torpedoes and extend their service life by 15 years.

Business Standard learns the navy’s new torpedo RFI went out to 5-6 torpedo OEMs, but will boil down to a contest between French OEM, Naval Group, which is offering its F-21 torpedo; and German firm, Atlas Elektronik, with its Seahake Mod 4. It is understood that Russian and Japanese OEMs and Swedish company, Saab, were also sent RFIs. However, the Japanese did not respond; the Russian torpedo does not meet the Indian Navy’s specifications; nor does Saab’s, which is driven by a combustion engine while the navy wants an electrically driven torpedo.

The heavyweight torpedo is a submarine’s weapon of choice for sinking warships and submarines, which it typically engages from 50-100 kilometres away. Fired from a torpedo tube, it is driven through the water by a motor powered by electric batteries. It is guided towards the target by signals conveyed through a wire that unspools behind it. Approaching the target, the torpedo switches to “active guidance” using on-board sonar. When it slams into the target, an explosive charge detonates, creating an underwater hole that often causes catastrophic flooding, sinking the target vessel.

Besides torpedoes, submarines also carry anti-ship missiles (ASMs) like the Kalvari’s SM39 Exocet missile. ASMs are fired through the same tubes as torpedoes, and they emerge from the water and fly, skimming the sea, towards their target. But ASMs can be intercepted, and they are less lethal since they strike above the waterline.

The navy’s torpedo deficit has arisen due to the blacklisting of Italian conglomerate Finmeccanica, after allegations emerged in 2012 of bribery in the sale of twelve AW-101 helicopters to India by a Finmeccanica subsidiary, AgustaWestland. The defence ministry, on August 26, 2014, banned all new contracts with Finmeccanica group companies, including WASS, which had been chosen to supply 98 Black Shark torpedoes to India for the Scorpene fleet.

Global torpedo manufacturers believe India could be their largest customer. Although the current procurement is for only 100-plus torpedoes, industry experts say the navy actually requires 400-600 torpedoes. These are needed to arm six Scorpenes currently being rolled out, six Project 75-I submarines that are on the anvil, and a planned fleet of up to ten nuclear submarines.

With the cost of a heavyweight torpedo hovering around $2-3 million apiece, that represents a business opportunity of $800 million to $1.8 billion – a mouth-watering prospect for torpedo makers.

If the cost of the torpedoes the navy is currently buying tops Rs 2,000 crore ($311 million), the OEM will incur a 30 per cent offset liability. This would involve ploughing back 30 per cent of the contract value into Indian defence production. Since each torpedo costs an estimated $2-3 million, a 100-plus-torpedo order would be on the offset threshold.

Industry sources say buying torpedoes piecemeal – initially for the Kalvari-class, then for Project 75-I, and separately for the nuclear boats – would disadvantage India. Instead, a single order that combines India’s torpedo requirements would result in cheaper prices through economies of scale; and also create a compelling industrial logic for transferring torpedo production to India.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Five years late, Scorpene submarine INS Kalvari joins navy

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 14th Dec 17

After 11 years in construction at Mazagon Dock Ltd, Mumbai (MDL), the first Scorpene (French for scorpion) submarine, INS Kalvari, was commissioned into the Indian navy by Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi in Mumbai on Thursday.

The Kalvari is the first of six conventional submarines for which the navy signed a Rs 18,798 crore contract in 2005 with French-Spanish submarine consortium, Armaris. That company was taken over by France’s Direction des Constructions Navales Services (DCNS), and its cost went up to Rs 23,562 crore. In June, DCNS changed its name to Naval Group.

All six Scorpenes were to be delivered between 2012 and 2015, but that schedule has slipped to 2017-2020. The second vessel, INS Khanderi, is currently undergoing sea trials and is on track for delivery in March. The other four are scheduled for delivery, according to the defence ministry, at nine-month intervals till mid-2021. Naval Group however said in a statement on Thursday that the Scorpenes “will be delivered at a rate of one every 12 months. By that estimation, the last Scorpene would be delivered in early 2022.

Compounding the five year delay in building the Kalvari, the submarine has been languishing for almost three months after it was handed over to the navy, fully built and tested, in September. Since then, it has awaited the PM’s availability for half a day for the commissioning ceremony.

In the event, a galaxy of VIPs attended the ceremony, included Maharashtra governor, Vidyasagar Rao, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Minister of State for Defence, Subhash Bhamre and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.

According to the “commissioning warrant”, read out by Kalvari’s first commanding officer, Captain SD Mehendale, the vessel has been placed under  the navy’s Western Command. This means it will primarily operate in the shallow waters of the Arabian Sea, blockading Pakistani ports and naval bases in wartime and sneaking up on enemy warships to destroy them with torpedoes and anti-ship missiles. It could also be used to blockade shipping from West Asia, entering the Arabian Sea through the Strait of Hormuz.

In a war with China, Indian submarines would guard four major south east Asian straits – Malacca, Lombok, Sunda and Ombai Wettar – preventing Chinese warships based in the South China Sea from crossing into the Indian Ocean.

Even in peacetime the Indian Navy has, since June, continuously maintained a submarine and a surface warship off the Andaman Islands on “Malacca Domain Awareness” patrols, as part of a new posture of “mission based deployment”.

In fulfilling multiple operational tasks, the six Scorpene boats (as navies refer to submarines) will be a welcome addition to the navy’s aging fleet of 13 conventional submarines. These include four 23-31 year-old, German-origin HDW Type 209 boats (called the Shishumar-class); and nine 17-31 year-old, Russian-origin Kilo class 877 EKM vessels (called the Sindhughosh-class).

The Kalvari is being commissioned almost exactly on the Golden Jubilee of the navy’s submarine arm. On December 8, 1967 the navy commissioned its first submarine, a Soviet Foxtrot-class boat that was the original INS Kalvari. That boat’s captain, Commodore (Retired) Subramanian attended the commissioning in Mumbai today.

The new Kalvari is a technological marvel compared to its forebear. Displacing 1,565 tonnes, it is 67.5 metres long and 12.3 metres high and is powered by a quiet “Permanently Magnetised Propulsion Motor” that drives it underwater at 20 knots (37 kilometres per hour, or kmph) and, while surfaced, at 12 knots (22 kmph). There are plans to equip the last two Scorpenes with advanced “air independent propulsion”.

A submarine’s key attribute is stealth, since it is extremely vulnerable once an enemy detects it. Stealth comes from reducing engine noise and from silencing the boat’s internal systems. In the Kalvari, systems are mounted on shock absorbing cradles to dampen vibrations and reduce its noise signature.

The defence ministry says the Kalvari is armed with the heavyweight, 533-millimetre, wire-guided Surface and Underwater Target (SUT) torpedo, an old German armament acquired in the 1980s for the navy’s four Shishumar-class submarines. The navy had initially chosen the modern Black Shark torpedo, built by WASS. That option fell through when the defence ministry banned all buys from Finmeccanica group companies (including WASS) after Italy began investigating corruption by Agusta Westland (a Finmeccanica company) in selling VVIP helicopters to India.

Besides the outdated SUT torpedo, the Kalvari packs the Exocet SM39 anti-ship missile, built by the Franco-British-Italian conglomerate, MBDA. The defence ministry says the Kalvari has already “undertaken successful torpedo launch as well as the navy’s maiden SM 39 Exocet combat missile firing on 02 Mar 2017.”

Like all underwater predators the Kalvari is superbly equipped to detect targets. It uses sonar and ranging equipment that is integrated into a digital Submarine Tactical Integrated Combat System (SUBTICS). This includes a Low Frequency Analysis and Ranging (LOFAR) sonar, which detects and classifies targets at long ranges (exact ranges are a closely guarded secret). Its periscopes are equipped with infrared and low light cameras and laser range finders.

Naval Group says the Kalvari is the fifth Scorpene submarine in the world. It has already delivered two each to Chile and Malaysia. In addition, four are under construction in Brazil.

While commissioning the Kalvari, the PM described INS Kalvari as a prime example of “Make in India.” In fact, Project 75, as the Scorpene procurement is named, pre-dates “Make in India” by 18 years. In 1999, the cabinet approved the navy’s 30-year submarine building programme, which involves the indigenous construction of 24 submarines by 2029. Project 75, to build six submarines, is the first part of that.

Alongside Project 75, six more submarines with “air independent propulsion” are to be indigenously built under Project 75-I. The defence ministry has allocated this to the private sector under the “Strategic Partner” policy, and a Request for Information has gone out to global vendors. Subsequently, Project 76 would kick off, which envisages the indigenous design and construction of 12 more submarines.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Aerospace industry eyes business worth Rs 12,500 crore

HAL chief promises increased outsourcing in building 106 trainer aircraft, 187 light choppers

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 13th Dec 17

On Tuesday, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) offered the aerospace vendors that feed its aircraft assembly lines a tantalising glimpse of major business opportunities ahead, adding up to some Rs 12,500 crore.

HAL’s chairman, T Suvarna Raju, told a gathering of the company’s vendors in Bengaluru that they would soon participate in building 100 trainer aircraft – the indigenously designed Hindustan Turbo Trainer–40 (HTT-40). In addition, the Light Utility Helicopter (LUH), of which the Indian Air Force is committed to buying 187 pieces, is nearing certification.

“Given our large number of platforms with the Indian defence forces, we remain committed to increase the scope of work to our vendors to ensure success of our programs. HAL is looking to produce 100 basic trainer aircraft HTT-40 soon, once spin tests are completed in the coming months. In the rotary wing segment, our efforts are on to achieve basic certification of LUH by the middle of 2018”, said Raju.

In 2013, then IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne wrote to the defence minister stating that the HTT-40 would cost Rs 59.31 crore in 2018, and escalate by 2020 to Rs 64.77 crore. That letter was intended to scuttle the HTT-40 project as too expensive, and make a case for importing more Pilatus PC-7 Mark II trainers from Switzerland.

Now, however, it has emerged that HAL will build the HTT-40 for an affordable Rs 45 crore apiece. With the defence ministry having already approved the procurement of 106 indigenous trainers for the IAF, this would translate into business worth about Rs 5,000 crore for the aerospace sector.

HAL has managed to develop the indigenous trainer for a frugal Rs 450 crore, employing internal company funds, Raju told Business Standard in July. An additional Rs 120 crore will go on establishing the HTT-40 manufacturing line.

Separately, the manufacture of 187 LUHs, each costing an estimated Rs 40 crore according to internal HAL estimations, will generate business worth Rs 7,500 crore for the aerospace industry.

HAL says indigenisation levels in these platforms would be as high as 80 per cent, given that many imported components, sub-systems and systems would be progressively manufactured in India under transfer of technology. That means Rs 2,500 crore would flow abroad to global original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). Even so, Indian aerospace vendors, for the most part micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) that depend almost entirely on government orders, see the remaining Rs 10,000 crore as a significant opportunity.

Business is also expected to flow from a separate acquisition of 197 Kamov-226T light helicopters, which Russian helicopter manufacturer, Kamov, will initially supply ready-built, and then transfer technology to progressively manufacture in HAL.

In manufacturing aircraft like the Jaguar, Sukhoi-30MKI and the Hawk trainer, HAL had monopolised most of the manufacturing work, relying on very little outsourcing. More recently, the manufacture of the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) has seen HAL assume the role of “systems integrator”, with a significant percentage of the supply chain outsourced to private aerospace industry. In the future, HAL envisages functioning exclusively as a systems integrator, with a private industry supply chain feeding in components, sub-systems, systems and even major assemblies like the forward, middle and rear fuselage.

Monday, 11 December 2017

Interview with Kieth Webster: “India is a US defence partner on par with NATO allies”

By Ajai Shukla
Edited interview in Business Standard
11th Dec 17

Keith Webster handled US-India defence relations for several years as a senior Pentagon official in the Obama administration. Now a Senior Vice President with the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF), he talks to Ajai Shukla about the trajectory of the defence relationship.

Q.        Why has the US designated India as a “major defence partner” (MDF)?

In the US system, this was a very significant step. In May 2016, during the waning months of [former President Barack] Obama’s administration, we began debating in the Pentagon the need to cement the solid defence relationship we had achieved. We decided the best way to “immortalise” the relationship was to bring in the term “major defence partner” into the June 2016 joint statement between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Obama.

At a meeting with [Defence Secretary] Ash Carter that was attended by every political appointee in the Pentagon, I was the only career official in that office. I told them: “In nine months, I will probably be the only person here who will still be in this building (the Pentagon). I need this relationship formalised.” We proposed the MDP designation, and the Modi government accepted putting it into the [Modi-Obama] joint statement.

Later in 2016, there was a short exchange of letters between Ash Carter and [Defence Minister] Manohar Parrikar on what MDP broadly meant. And then, MDP was mentioned in our National Defense Authorization Act of 2017, signed by Barack Obama in December 2016. That means the legislation is in place on the US side.

Q.        What does MDP mean in practical terms for India?

While both governments have acknowledged MDP, we need to see how India defines it. When Secretary [Jim] Mattis returned from India in September, he said: “We need to work on this definition [of MDP].” I spoke to Secretary Tillerson about this when he was here in October. So the Trump administration will flesh this out with the Modi government: what exactly will MDP be?

Q.        As a MDP, where does India stand in the hierarchy of US defence partners?

The US has a pyramid of trust, based on which we part with military capabilities and technologies. Naturally, the best goes to the US military alone. Next, at the top of the pyramid are the allies that fight alongside us the most. That would be the “Five Eyes” [an intelligence-sharing alliance between the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand]. One level below are the other allies who fight alongside us, which comprises NATO – “Old NATO”, as opposed to “New NATO”. India hasn’t figured in that pyramid of trust because we never fought as allies. But we are now friends. So we have moved India up, policy-wise, to near the top of the pyramid. Not to the pinnacle, but near the top of the pyramid.

Q.        Below the Five Eyes, but at par with older NATO members?

India’s status is consistent with members of NATO, other than the Five Eyes.

Q.        What about the category of “major non-NATO allies” (MNNA), which the US has designated Pakistan?

That status was unacceptable to India because there are 15-16 nations in that category, including Pakistan. We needed to do something unique for India, which is more than what we’ve done for Pakistan.

Q.        Why would India accept that its designation is above Pakistan’s in the hierarchy of allies?

Because our actions will prove it. Look at the F-16, the Block 70 as we call it now. That is well above your neighbour’s F-16s. What we are proposing for India reflects its status… I don’t believe Pakistan would be sold the F-16 Block 70.

Q.        What benefits does MDP provide India?

First, in transferring defence capabilities, India will be on par with NATO allies. Second, when we talk about “Make in India”, we can now transfer more critical technologies to Indian industries than without MDP categorisation.

Q.        Delhi worries that the Trump administration will be more transactional and focused on defence sales rather than a technology partnership…

In February this year, I too wondered: How do we reconcile “Make America Great Again” and “Make in India”? The good news is the Trump administration has reconciled that, specific to India. It fully backs everything the Obama administration proposed to India, including the exhaustive preparatory work been done on F-16 and F/A-18 “Make in India”.

The Heritage Foundation, which is close to the Trump administration, wrote on why it makes sense to support “Make in India” on the F-16, even though much of the supply would shift to India. The argument was: “An F-16 line in India is better than shutting it down. If an Indian line keeps twenty American suppliers in business, that’s better than zero.”

Q.        Over the last decade, the US has concluded a wave of arms sales worth over $15 billion. What do you think the next wave will consist of?

Hopefully, the F-16 and F/A-18. Realistically, even one of those would be huge. It would be a huge symbolic gesture of trust. A fighter aircraft is a power projection capability. Transport aircraft and helicopters are great, but to take that next step – to trust America or not to supply a power projection platform – and have the confidence that the US would be there through its service life, it would be hugely symbolic.

Q.        Would there be negative repercussions if India chose not to buy a US fighter?

Not really, but there would be huge disappointment. In the Pentagon I spent 30 per cent of my time on India, much of it pre-positioning the government approvals needed for making the F-16 and F/A-18 in India. We don’t normally do that. We normally require governments to request for a [weapons] platform and then we make the release decisions.

Q.        Would you call the Quadrilateral a step towards an alliance?

I think it’s huge. This was discussed for the past 3-4 years, and the fact that the Indian government has allowed this to be publicly discussed, no matter how it’s presented, is a huge step for me.

Q.        Is militarizing the Quadrilateral through Malabar an essential next step?

It would be a good, positive next step. We are not allies and, in our system, we have to have a reason for why we would transfer cutting edge technology to anyone. With allies, there’s a reason. But with India, what we have used to justify moving forward is cooperating on maritime domain awareness, search and rescue, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Q.        The co-development and co-manufacturing mantras; how are they going to work, given the huge asymmetry between US and Indian defence industries?

Indian industry will have to learn how to: crawl, walk, and then run. It has technology absorption challenges, as there are with anyone that starts this journey. You have to start somewhere, build a work force, build infrastructure… It’s not insurmountable.

Q.        When you talk co-development, you assume both sides have something concrete to bring to the table. In the Indian case, this is not always so…

That is true today. But it’s possible five or ten years from now. We don’t have to do co-development on Day One. You would [first] do some co-assembly, co-production and then graduate to co-development.

Q.        With close cooperation happening in the Joint Working Group on aircraft carriers, will the two navies be at the forefront of the defence partnership?

Yes, given the cooperation on aircraft carriers and maritime domain awareness. Also the Indian Air Force, because they fly [the C-17 and C-130 transport aircraft and will fly the Apache and Chinook helicopters soon.

Q.        Are there no lines of convergence between the two armies? In India, the army is the most important and influential service…

There is the M777 ultra-light howitzer [that the Indian Army has bought]. Maybe some day the Indian army will have the Javelin [anti-tank missile]. It is possible the Indian army gets some Apaches [attack helicopters] from the second tranche that has been ordered. There is an Apache Users Group globally that brings armies together. There are reports the Indian army is seeking new armoured vehicles; maybe there are some opportunities for cooperation there. I would argue there are promising lines of cooperation with the Indian army too. 

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Unlike India’s chaotic preparations in 1962, a Chinese war plan made months in advance

The Dalai Lama's escape (pictured here, struggling to the Indian border) led Mao to "teach India a lesson"

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 9th Dec 17

On October 20, 1962, when China attacked Indian posts on the Namka Chu rivulet near Tawang, marking the start of the disastrous Sino-Indian war, the troops that conducted that attack – the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA’s) 11 Infantry Division – prepared for that battle in three years of battling Tibetan guerrillas, called the Chushi Gangdruk.

Earlier, on August 25, 1959, the first-ever armed clash between Chinese and Indian soldiers, took place when an Indian patrol ran into a Chinese company (roughly 100 soldiers) stationed in Migyitun “for work with the masses”, as Beijing euphemistically termed operations against the Chushi Gangdruk.

PLA General Yin Fatang reveals that, on June 11, 1962, the Tibet Military Command constituted the “Advance Command Post for China-India Border Self-Defence Counter-attack” code-named Z419 (“Z” stands for “Xizang”, or Tibet). Yin was appointed its political commissar.

Four days earlier, PLA General Tan Guansan, who had brutally put down the Lhasa revolt in March 1959, relayed orders from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Central Committee and Central Military Commission to prepare to fight the Indian army.

These are some of a range of new details of the 1962 Sino-Indian war gleaned by Chinese scholar, Jianglin Li, from Chinese Communist Party (CCP) documents and interviews with People’s Liberation Army (PLA) veterans. Li’s research is posted on the “War on Tibet” website in a research article entitled  “‘Suppressing Rebellion in Tibet’ and the China-India Border War”.

The war clouds began gathering in May 1962, when Beijing decided to “create conditions for peacefully resolving the border dispute” by “resolutely fighting back” against the advancing Indian army, says Wei Ke, director of Z419’s political department. Then itself, it was decided that the main front would be the eastern sector, specifically the Tawang and Walong areas. 

By October, 10,300 Chinese soldiers were placed under Z419 Command Post, charged with attacking India in Kejielang (Nyamjang Chu valley) and Tawang, according to a PLA “Studies on Battle Examples”.

Yin says: “From mid-June 1962, Z419 Command Post started to collect intelligence in the battle zone and work on a battle plan.” Intensive military training began, including individual training, unit training and battle exercises at regimental level. Based on the experience of fighting the Chushi Gangdruk, Z419 replaced physically unfit officers and soldiers. Well-trained rocket launcher operators were dispatched to Tibet from Wuhan, and artillery personnel were sent from several military commands. Beijing Military Command sent communications equipment and operators. Over one hundred English, Hindi and Tibetan interpreters from different areas were sent to Tibet for the coming “self-defence counter-attack”.

Meanwhile, in contrast with China’s formidable build up, the Indian Army was struggling to send to the border an inadequate formation of 2,400 soldiers – the ill-fated 7 Infantry Brigade – which was short of soldiers, arms, equipment and acclimatisation for high-altitude combat.

Beijing took the final decision to go to war in two meetings. The first was on October 8, between Mao Zedong and China’s top leadership – Zhou Enlai, Deng Xiaoping, Liu Shaoqi, Zhu De, He Long, Nie Rongzheng and Luo Ruiqing. The next day, Z419 received the pre-order for battle.

The die was cast, According to General Zhang Guohua, who was selected to command the battle; he flew back to Lhasa from Beijing on October 13th. A “Frontline Command Post”, positioned at Tsona, replaced Z419 for the battle.

The second meeting, at which the final go-ahead was given, took place at 1:30 p.m. on October 17. The Central Military Commission and Mao himself approved General Zhang Guohua’s battle plan.

Besides the PLA’s overwhelming advantage in combat soldiers numbers, Li’s research reveals the CCP’s Tibet Work Committee supported the frontline with a major logistic effort. It dispatched 1,280 party cadres to lead civilian workers functioning as logistical support teams. 32,237 Tibetans and 1,057 pack animals were drafted to load, unload and transport supplies, carry wounded soldiers back from battlefront, and clear up battlefields, etc. Over 10,000 civilians were drafted to repair and construct roads.

It is hardly surprising that, on October 20, Indian defences in the Tawang sector crumbled in hours.