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Monday, 16 June 2008

From Today's Papers - 16 Jun

The Arjun battle tank acquires a growing fan club

Ajai Shukla / New Delhi June 16, 2008, 0:45 IST

India's own Arjun tank is finally proving its worth. Despite continuing criticism from an army establishment that judges the Arjun far more strictly than foreign purchases like the T-90, the Arjun is successfully completing a gruelling 5,000-kilometre trial in the Rajasthan desert.

During six months of trials, the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO), along with tank crews from the army's 43 Armoured Regiment, have proved not just the Arjun's endurance, but also the ability of its computer-controlled gun to consistently blow away suitcase-sized targets placed more than a kilometre away.

The army's Directorate General of Mechanised Forces (DGMF), which must eventually okay the tank, is not impressed but key decision-makers are rallying behind the Arjun.

The head of the Pune-based Southern Command, Lieutenant General N Thamburaj, strongly backs the Arjun. On a visit to the Mahajan Field Firing Ranges in Rajasthan to watch his troops exercising, Lt Gen Thamburaj noticed the Arjun firing nearby.

After walking across, he was invited by the DRDO team to drive and fire the tank. Half an hour later, the general was an Arjun backer; two holes in the target he aimed at testified that a soldier without previous experience operating tanks could get into the Arjun and use it effectively.

Business Standard has evidence of many more such incidents. On June 29, 2006, the commander of the elite 31 Armoured Division, Major General BS Grewal, visited the Mahajan Ranges along with a colleague, Major General Shiv Jaswal. Both drove and fired the Arjun for the first time that day; the two rounds that each fired punched holes through targets almost two kilometres away (see picture).

That same month, 43 Armoured Regiment, which is the first army tank unit equipped with the Arjun, pronounced itself delighted with the Arjun's firing performance. After firing trials in summer 2006, 43 Armoured Regiment endorsed: "The accuracy and consistency of the Arjun have been proved beyond doubt."

But the establishment was quick to strike back. Barely three months after that report, the commanding officer of 43 Armoured Regiment, Colonel D Thakur, was confronted by the then Director General of Mechanised Forces, Lt Gen DS Shekhawat. Eyewitnesses describe how he was upbraided for "not conducting the trials properly". But in a career-threatening display of professional integrity, Colonel Thakur's brigade commander, Brigadier Chandra Mukesh, intervened to insist that the trials had been conducted correctly.

In a series of interviews with the army, including the present Director General of Mechanised Forces, Lt Gen D Bhardwaj, and with the MoD top brass, Business Standard has learned that opposition to the Arjun remains deeply entrenched. This despite the soldiers of 43 Armoured Regiment declaring that if it came to war, they would like to be in an Arjun.

Minister of State for Defence Production, Rao Inderjeet Singh recounts: "I've spoken, off the record, to officers who have gone through the trials. Even the crews (from 43 Armoured Regiment)… who have been testing the tank… I forced them to choose between the Russian tanks and the Arjun.

I said, you've driven this tank and you've driven that tank (the T-90). Now mark them out of ten, which tank is better? And I've found that the Arjun tank was given more numbers than the T-90 tank."

With new confidence, the Arjun's developer, the Central Vehicles R&D Establishment (CVRDE), is arguing strongly for "comparative trials", in which the Arjun would be pitted head-to-head, in identical conditions, with the army's T-90 and T-72 tanks. But the DGMF continues to resist any such face-off.

IMA team scales Mount Black Peak
Tribune News Service

Dehra Dun, June 15
After successfully scaling the Mount Black Peak, known as Kala Nag on June 9, a team of the Indian Military Academy (IMA) led by Major Bharat Bhusan and Capt S.P.S. Chauhan, including two officers, one JCO, 10 NCOs and 10 Gentleman Cadets is back.

The team prepared a helipad in Ruinsara Tal. It also cleared the Bandarpoonch Glacier to make it more environmental- friendly.

The Mount Black Peak is at an altitude of 20,954 feet in the Har-Ki-Dun Valley
at the confluence of Jamdar and the Banderpoonch Glacier and forms part of the
lower Himalayas.

The area of expedition has a great mythological importance as the route is believed to be “the gateway to heaven” taken by the Pandavas.

Woman power behind DRDO
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 15
If one thought that the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), which is accepted as the country’s top defence research body, was an “all-men’s club”, it is not so.

Women are also in the forefront and are working on sensitive projects connected to the country’s security and long-term strategic needs.

Hundreds of women hold key posts at the organisation. These scientists, all achievers in the true sense, are behind India’s indigenous programme of developing missiles, aircraft, tanks and weapons.

Like their male colleagues at the DRDO, they are also shy from being identified in public. “No photos please,” said the DRDO top brass as The Tribune approached for photos of the women to highlight their work.

A careful look into the DRDO and its associated labs located across the country revealed that about 15 per cent of 7,000-odd scientists are women.

A series of successes have been achieved by the women scientists and its is not just a case of one-odd woman doing well, said a DRDO official.

Rohini Devi, a senior scientist, has pioneered the design and development of rubber seals for the surface-to-air missile system for the missiles that the country often fires and tests.

She is presently the technology director, High Temperature Composites Centre, Hyderabad.

Pilots who test-fly the LCA interact with another woman, Meera Kaushal, for the generation of engine power settings for various mid-air manoeuvres of the LCA.

Kaushal has developed a simulated mission endurance test schedule for testing the engine.

If this is not enough, the DRDO’s field lab at Leh is headed by a woman - Dr Shashi Bala Singh. At present, she is the only woman heading a DRDO laboratory.

Dr Shashi Bala Singh has rich experience in the field of high altitude human physiology which is very critical when our soldiers fight in places like Kargil, Dras or the Siachen glacier.

She has contributed in the development of antioxidants to improve high-altitude induced impairment. She is the recipient of the Bharat Nirman Talented Ladies Award-1995.

Renuka Chitrakar is based at the Defence Electronics Research Lab and has configured a high sensitivity and high probability interception of signals.

She made a contribution in the development of ground-based signal intelligence gathering surveillance system for the Air Force.

Jhumur Lahiri has worked on the development of a process monitoring technique. The Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment also has two women - S. Savitri and Swarna Ramesh - at senior positions.

The Gas turbine research establishment also has a woman - Anuradha Kumar - at a senior position. The scientific analysis group, the Defence Bioengineering and Electromedical Laboratory are among other critical areas where women are working.

Army to train officers for war in space

New Delhi, June 15
Set to make forays in use of space applications, the Indian Army will take a leaf out of US forces’ experience to train its officers in optimising the effective use of space-based resources to meet its operational requirements.

A week after India announced setting up of an integrated cell to coordinate all military operations based on space assets, the Army’s Directorate of Perspective Planning (DOPP) will organise a training programme tomorrow for officers to make them understand the tricks of the trade, Army sources said today.

To be inaugurated by the Chief of Army Staff, Gen Deepak Kapoor, the seminar would also look into the role of space-based applications in recent conflicts around the world.

“In particular, the use of space-based assets by the US forces in Afghanistan and Iraq would be debated. Army officers would learn the practices adopted by the US forces in utilising space applications to counter enemies in its battles in Iraq and Afghanistan,” sources said.

The meet, to be organised in association with the Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS), would witness officers discussing and imbibing “space-based application used by militaries of the space-faring nations,” sources said.

“It is imperative that Indian Army, being the largest user of space, exploits space-based resources optimally to meet its operational requirements,” a note prepared by the DOPP to organise a day-long training for officers, said.

“The training will focus on improving Army officers’ awareness and understanding about defence applications of space,” sources said.

The meet would witness lectures from experts in the filed of space-based military applications, and a particular emphasis would be made to apprise Army officers on issues related to space security.

India’s defence establishment was shaken up after China’s capabilities to shoot down satellites was demonstrated in January 2007. Efforts are now on to put in place counter measures to ward off the anti-satellite (ASAT) threats.

The Integrated Space Cell under the Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) Headquarters would now be the prime mover of India’s aerospace defence applications.

The space cell would act as a single window between the armed forces, the Department of Space and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to work out measures to protect India’s space-based assets.

While India remains committed to non-weaponisation of space, emergence of offensive counter space systems and anti-satellite weaponry posed new threats, defence minister A.K. Antony had said in his address to the IDS commanders conference held last week.

Among the armed forces, the Indian Air Force (IAF) was the only force to have a separate cell for space operations in 2006 headed by an Air Vice Marshal-rank officer designated as the Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Operations-Space) at the
IAF headquarters.

The IAF move was seen as a precursor to the formation of an Aerospace Command that the IAF had been pushing for.

Officially, though, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) had not capped the Aerospace Command idea, but had been claiming that it was progressing towards having a tri-services formation, instead of an IAF-specific one.

“Keeping in view the potential for growth in space-related applications, there is an urgent need to enhance awareness among Services officers regarding military-specific space issues,” Army sources said, justifying their effort to train their officers. — PTI

Army guns down 4 ULFA militants
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, June 15
The Army today shot dead four militants of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), according to a spokesman.

The shootout took place at Balijan in Sivasagar district of eastern Assam, Army spokesman Col Rajesh Kalia informed.

The troops recovered one AK- 56 assault rifle, one M-16 rifle, one grenade- launcher, three grenades, one .12 bore gun, and assorted ammunition from them.

CRPF may finally have intelligence wing
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 15
Faced with threat from naxalites in the eastern parts of the country, the ministry of home affairs is considering having a separate and independent intelligence wing of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).

The demand is almost two years old and at one point of time it was expected that the CRPF would have its own intelligence wing, but things slowed down. Finally, the proposal was turned down by the finance ministry citing lack of funds.

The CRPF, which is the world’s largest paramilitary force, is presently headed by V.K. Joshi, whose career has been mostly spent in central intelligence agencies. Sources said the importance of good intelligence gathering could not be undermined since the CRPF was dealing with counter-insurgency.

A few months ago the paramilitary force has again proposed setting up a separate intelligence wing. The proposal has been mooted again after the CRPF decided to set up a special armed force to counter left-wing extremism amid reports that Naxalites would be stepping up their activities across the eastern corridor.

In May, the CRPF based in Jammu and Kashmir killed six Jaish-e-Mohammed militants after it received intelligence information from its own personnel. The paramilitary force has selected a few people from every battalion to gather intelligence locally.

Last month, two of its jawans were killed while they were gathering information about militants in Pulwama district. With such a history to it, the CRPF has once again pressed for having institutionalised intelligence gathering. The MHA is also favourably inclined to the demand.

Counterinsurgency operations of the CRPF have been affected by irregular communication and intelligence sharing between the force and various affected states, an official said, adding that this was the need of the hour.

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