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Sunday, 25 May 2008

From Today's Papers - 25 May

IAF’s Sarang ready for Berlin, UK air shows
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 24
The IAF’s helicopter aerobatics display team ‘Sarang’ will be performing at the Berlin air show and also at four other air shows in the UK in the coming weeks. The first display starts on May 27 at Berlin where India is a partner country at the show.

The ‘Sarang’ team of 14 officers and 32 airmen, led by the Commanding Officer, Wing Commander Shashank Misra, is slated to perform at Berlin. Subsequently, the team will participate in various displays in England starting with the Biggin hill air show at Biggin Hill, an airfield just south of London, on June 7.

This is followed by displays at the Waddington air show on July 5 and the Fairford royal international air tattoo on July 12, which is being held to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the Royal Air Force. The team’s tour culminates with a display during the Farnborough international air show from July 12 to 20.

The Sarang team has formulated and executed a three helicopter display profile with little experience in the field of display in a very short span of time. The first public display of the Sarang tam was during the Asian aerospace at Singapore in 2004. The display was appreciated by viewers across the globe and the team earned reviews from international media. Since then, the team has graduated to a four-helicopter team and has participated in numerous displays in India and abroad.

The team is a regular participant during the bi-annual Aero India International air show held at the Air Force Station, Yelahanka. Other than this, the team undertakes displays during various prestigious events such as Air Force Day, National Defence Academy Passing out Parade, and other events of national and international significance.

Paperwork bogs down aircraft deal
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 24
The sheer amount of paper work for the India’s biggest military tender to purchase 126 medium range multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) has become a task in itself for the ministry of defence (MoD). So much so that it may take several months just to read the proposals submitted by global players, who are in the business of making fighter jets.

The deal to buy the 126 aircraft, worth $ 11 billion, has resulted in a huge volume of “paper work” as the six leading bidders have submitted proposals to the MoD running into thousands of pages each, said a top ranking official in the ministry of defence. The proposals of each of the manufacturers are anything between 6,000 pages and 8,000 pages each and reading them is a task in itself.

Sources in the IAF believe that it will take two years from now just to place the order to one of the manufacturers.

Each detail has to be scrutinised. It will take six months to first evaluate the fighter jets on a technical basis that is a comparison of each of the jets of what they promise.

The second part will be the financial bids, said the official while confirming that a team of 14 officials has been deputed just to read the proposals and then submit an assessment. These officials are virtually closeted inside the rooms to maintain the secrecy of the bid.

Since it is one of the biggest defence deals the officials are being very careful. The defence minister A.K. Antony has already made it clear that no middlemen will be allowed. The existing defence procurement procedure is also to be amended.

Once the MoD does its shortlisting the IAF pilots will be called in to test fly the same and give their own assessment.

Once an order is placed only a few of the jets will be available in a ready to fly condition while the others will have to be manufactured under the transfer of technology arrangement that the foreign bidders will have with their Indian counterparts. The transfer of technology is the biggest comparison being made by the MoD.

The government of India had sent out a request for proposals to American firms Lockheed Martin (F-16 Fighting Falcon), Boeing (F/A-18E/F Super Hornets), Eurofighter (Typhoon), Dassault Aviation (Rafale), Russian UAC (Mig-35) and Swedish Saab (Gripen NG).

The bids were received in the South Block in the last week of April.

On Record
‘No threat from China’
by Ajay Banerjee

Rao Inderjit Singh
Rao Inderjit Singh

THE member of Parliament from Mahendragarh in Haryana is 58-year-old Rao Inderjit Singh. He is comfortable in his urbane setting as Union Minister of State for Defence Production and does not feel out of place when he reaches out to people in his largely rural constituency in southern Haryana.

Rao Inderjit Singh is at ease in donning the political-mantle of his father, Rao Birender Singh, who had been the Chief Minister of Haryana and former Union Agriculture Minister.

Rao Inderjit Singh has been an MLA in Haryana for four terms and is now enjoying his second term as an MP. He has been a minister in Haryana on two separate terms.

In the central government he has been Union Minister of State for External Affairs before being handed over the important portfolio of Defence production. He talked to The Tribune and debunked several fears over the “nation’s security and was candid to admit that our defence spending is less”.


Q. China is increasing its military prowess — infrastructure along the Indian border, long-range missiles and an underwater nuclear submarine base. Are these a threat to India?

A. I do not see China as a threat. At least not for the next 25 years. The Chinese will utilise this time to build financial status rather than indulge in a show of strength. Somehow, we have got into this race with China. As long as we are able to defend our frontiers, it is fine.

Q. But how do we counter this?

A. To counter the northern neighbour there will be a massive thrust on infrastructure in the North-East. A clear message has been sent that India means business and infrastructure in these areas is a priority.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Defence Minister AK. Antony have already visited the North-East and seen things for themselves. I am myself going in the middle of this month to Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh.

Q. Are we lacking in spending on defence and defence production ?

A. When compared with China and Pakistan, India is way behind in defence spending and its share in the gross domestic product (GDP). China is spending 7 per cent of its GDP on defence while we are at 2.5 per cent only.

And this is China’s officially declared spending, the actual spending by way of other unrelated aspects may be much more. Even Pakistan is spending more than us. However, we are in defensive preparedness. It is just to deter the enemy from invading us.

Q. Is China not moving faster than expected?

A. China is where it is because it can take decisions faster under its existing political framework. In our case, we are a democracy and have to go through the entire democratic process and ensure accountability.

Q. What are the problems we face in the procurement of defence equipment and what is hampering the process?

A. The delay in acquiring anything is the biggest constraint. The political banding which begins as soon as any purchase procedure starts, brings in the delay.

This was happening in the past as officers and ministers feared that they could be hounded by the CBI or other agencies if they carried out some defence purchase.

This mindset had come to haunt the successive governments in the past 20 years. To sort this out and have a well laid-out plan, the UPA government has come out with a defence procurement procedure.

It is simpler now for officers to follow a set pattern and not fear prosecution at a later stage as they would be only following the procedure that is a government policy.

Q. What have been the after-effects of the delay?

A. Defence preparedness suffered as knee-jerk reactions stalled the transfer of technology. It is happening far too often that when technology is to be transferred to India, news stories start appearing about some defects or some kickbacks and as a result things stop. These things are slowing down the transfer of technology.

Q. What is the status of public sector undertakings like Hindustan Aeronautics and Bharat Electrical Limited that were doing good work, specially for the armed forces?

A. The government has assured the unions that it will continue to give work to the existing PSUs and whatever work that is not being handled by the PSUs will be given to the private industry. Unfortunately, we are yet to issue a notification designating PSUs as “Raksha Utpadak Ratna”.

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