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Friday, 6 June 2008

From Today's Papers - 6 Jun

Into the wide blue yonder

Jun 5th 2008 | SINGAPORE
From The Economist print edition

Asia's main powers are building up their navies. Is this the start of an arms race?

IN THE 15th century China possessed a mighty navy of “treasure fleets”. They sailed as far as Africa and the Persian Gulf, spreading China's economic and political influence across several continents. Had this naval expansion continued, some scholars say, China could have dominated the world. But successive emperors turned the nation inwards on itself, seafaring was banned and the country's great shipyards were closed. In Asia as elsewhere, it is America that rules the waves—its naval might is still needed, for example, to help defend the Malacca Strait, route for much of the region's oil and other trade.

Today a resurgent, confident and globalising China is rebuilding its naval strength. Like India, its rising Asian rival, it already has an impressive army. But both countries are finding that rapid economic growth is providing the money to realise long-cherished dreams of building ocean-going “blue-water” navies that can project power far from their home shores.

In the past two years China's navy has acquired new destroyers, frigates and submarines, some home-built, some (including its most advanced kit) Russian. A recent study by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) concluded that China was also close to beginning the production of aircraft-carriers, which would give it the ability to project airpower over great distances. China has long wanted to create a force capable of thwarting the intervention of America's Pacific fleet in any war over Taiwan. But it is also increasingly keen to protect its supplies of fuel and raw materials from threats such as piracy and terrorism.

America has particular worries about a naval base China is building on Hainan island, from where its vessels will have easy access to South-East Asia's shipping lanes—most importantly the Malacca Strait. The Indians are afraid that China's reason for building ports in Myanmar, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and conducting naval exercises with Pakistan, is to extend its dominance into the Indian Ocean. Thousands of Chinese-flagged merchant ships now cross the ocean each year, giving China plenty of justification for increasing its naval presence. India, in turn, is pushing into the South China Sea, and seeking port facilities in Vietnam.

India shares China's concern that, as trade volumes and energy consumption soar, its security is vulnerable to any disruption of sea traffic. The flagships of its new blue-water navy will be three aircraft-carriers—the same number as Britain. The first of two Indian-built carriers is now under construction, with a launch date of 2010. A third, bought second-hand from Russia, is suffering delays and disputes over its refitting.

Tim Huxley of the IISS says that with so much attention focused on China and India, the naval expansion of other Asian countries is often overlooked. Yet several, especially South Korea, are also building long-range naval capabilities. Besides new submarines and destroyers, the South Koreans, like the Japanese, are commissioning helicopter-carriers.

Is this an arms race? As Asia's defence ministers and military chiefs gathered in Singapore last weekend for their main annual summit, the Shangri-La Dialogue (organised by the IISS), the conclusion of most analysts seemed to be: not yet. A classic arms race, says Mr Huxley, consists of two main countries that have one dominating dispute. Asia is different. Instead, it has the makings of a pair of opposing alliances. A “quad” group (India, America, Australia and Japan) plus Singapore now conduct naval manoeuvres together. So do China and Pakistan. But China and India seem keen to avoid provoking each other. Indeed, they are seeking to build good relations between their navies.

Military chiefs at the summit insisted they were not seeking an arms race and gave various justifications for all their new warships. Rather implausibly, China and others insisted they were mainly to ward off pirates and terrorists. South Korea's defence minister, Lee Sang-hee, said North Korea's navy threatened its maritime supply lines. As if to prove him right, on May 30th the North test-fired three ship-to-ship missiles in the Yellow Sea.

Disaster relief is also commonly cited as a reason to have a bigger navy. Within days of Myanmar's cyclone, three existing blue-water navies—those of America, France and Britain—had ships off the country's coast, laden with supplies (see article). South Korea's and Japan's new helicopter carriers could also one day be useful for moving troops in United Nations peacekeeping operations.

So there are plenty of ways for Asian powers to use their navies co-operatively. Equally, plenty of disputes might more easily escalate into war if the countries concerned had the naval strength to wage it. The potentially oil-rich Spratly and Paracel Islands, for example, are claimed in whole or part by six countries. In 1988 more than 70 Vietnamese sailors died in a naval battle with China in the Spratlys. Dozens of Koreans died in battles over a disputed sea border in 1999 and 2002.

Even without any ill intent, accidents will happen at sea. France's defence minister, Hervé Morin, worries about all the new submarines that will soon be lurking in the region's shallow and crowded shipping lanes. If one went missing, or suffered a collision, there is a danger of this being misconstrued as hostile action. He argues that to prevent minor incidents escalating in this way, Asian countries need to invest a lot more time in discussions of regional security and do more to replace mutual suspicion with co-operation and confidence-building. If not, Asia's cautious naval build-up could indeed mutate into a classic, old-fashioned arms race.

Date:06/06/2008 URL:

Front Page

Major indigenisation of military aviation

Sandeep Dikshit
Total investment will be Rs. 22,000 crore; thrust on design and development

Design and development will be the thrust area

Mega tender for 350 imported helicopters slashed

NEW DELHI: In a move that could make overseas defence companies uncomfortable, the government has embarked on a major indigenisation of the military aviation sector. The total investment will be Rs. 22,000 crore and the bulk of the amount is to be spent on design and development of fixed wing aircraft and helicopters.

The programme envisages increasing the workforce in the sector to 2,600. One-third of the new additions will be design engineers.

“Design and development will be the thrust area. While licensed production leads to a maximum value addition of 45 per cent, this route will increase the percentage to 80,” said a highly placed source privy to a special review meeting on Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) by Defence Minister A.K. Antony. HAL accounts for half of the sales by all defence public sector undertakings taken together.

Mega tender slashed

In line with this thinking, the mega tender for 350 imported helicopters had been slashed. Only 197 helicopters would be imported and the remaining manufactured in the country, the source said.

Similarly, Sukhoi fighters would be made from the raw material stage, ending the peculiar problem of domestically assembled fighters being costlier than the imported ones. In both cases, the cost of India-made platforms would come down by 15 to 20 per cent.

With an order in hand for 159 advanced light helicopters, HAL planned to produce 18 this year. Of these, 66 would be configured to carry air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles, thus ending the move to import the gunship version.

Medium lift helicopters, numbering 346, would also be indigenously made, the source said.

HAL had entered into an agreement with a Russian company to replace the ageing An-32 transport plane. Under the $600 million plan, India would manufacture 205 military transport planes. Of this, Russia would take 100. Of the rest, India would retain 45 and 60 earmarked for export to third world countries.

“This would be a major addition to India’s product range. So far, we have done helicopters and fighters. This will be our maiden attempt to go into the transport area,” said the source.

The government had sent the technical requirements for the fifth generation fighter aircraft to Russia and is waiting for their observations.

The tonnage would be in line with the Sukhoi-30 MKI, but the plane would have stealth and other advanced features. Development was expected to take a decade.

Sukhoi production

The major production this year would be of Sukhoi-30 MKI fighters. HAL planned to produce 19, against 13 last fiscal. Mr. Antony, however, had asked the company to examine the possibility of making 23 planes.

The bulk of these planes would be made from the raw material stage, thus ending the problem of domestically made planes being more expensive than the imported ones. In all, 170 Sukhois would be manufactured by 2015. This would be in addition to the 50 imported from Russia. HAL has already produced 34.

The biggest setback to overseas countries would be curtailment of the mega helicopter tender. “This marks a victory for HAL because the armed forces favour imports. We argued that we don’t want to pay the licence fees. We also have competence in this area, having made nearly 600 helicopters indigenously. The maintenance of the imported helicopters will also be HAL’s responsibility,” said the source.

The company planned to make 50 advanced jet trainers, including 14 this year. It would then make another 57, as the armed forces have decided to expand the initial order of 66 to 123.

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Govt pares order for foreign choppers from 384 to 197
6 Jun 2008, 0002 hrs IST,TNN

NEW DELHI: In a setback to the Army and Air Force that were banking on an early acquisition of light helicopters, the government, in a last-minute move, has decided to scale down its global tender for the purchase of such helicopters from 384 to 197.

The remaining 187 will be indigenously developed and manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), the defence acquisition council has decided, overruling the objections from the army and air force brass.

The decision to provide an opportunity to HAL to manufacture helicopters indigenously is in line with the recent remarks of defence minister A K Antony that India will strengthen its own research and development organizations in view of some western countries' unwilling to part with strategic defence technologies.

Antony had also told a parliamentary panel a few days ago that the defence technologies being "offered to India were mostly previous generation tactical systems and that too on unacceptable terms and conditions".

The government's earlier decision to float a global tender for 384 helicopters — 197 for the army and 115 for the air force — was estimated to be worth more than $2billion.

The deal, from the very beginning, has been jinxed as a previous attempt to float a tender for 197 helicopters was cancelled in December last year following allegations of irregularities.

Besides the light helicopters, the defence ministry proposes to acquire at least 200 medium-lift choppers and 20 attack and heavy-lift helicopters each taking the total worth of helicopter purchases worth more than $4 billion.

The navy also plans to purchase six medium-range multi-role reconnaissance aircraft to boost its surveillance along the vulnerable coastline. The defence ministry is believed to have cleared the Request for Proposals (RFPs) for initiating the tender process.

Agency reports, quoting unnamed HAL officials, say the country's bluechip aviation company will set up a specialized chopper division at its Bangalore set-up for the manufacture of the light helicopters. It proposes to increase investments from the present Rs 1,000 crore to Rs 4,000 crore in the next five years.

The report says the defence ministry will provide Rs 435 crore as development fund for the project. HAL, meanwhile, has already drawn up a major expansion plan and is likely to increase its helicopter designers and engineer workforce from the existing 850 to more than 2,500 in the next four years.

6 multi-role aircraft for Navy

New Delhi, June 5
With a view to boosting surveillance by the Navy along the country's coastline, the Centre will soon initiate the process to acquire six medium-range multi-role (MRMR) reconnaissance aircraft.

The defence ministry has given the clearance for Request for Proposals (RFPs) which will be issued any time now, official sources said here today.

The induction would be done in a phased manner after the order was executed in one or two years, the sources said.

The six MRMR aircraft would replace the Navy's Islanders (BN-21A) from Britten Norman that were being used for coastal surveillance for many decades.

At present, the Navy operates about 12 of them but they are on the verge of being phased out. — PTI

LTTE looks for Indian intervention

As the LTTE is currently facing a series of setbacks in the Vanni warfront with senior LTTE military leaders killed by the security forces, the LTTE is once again seeking India’s help to stop the ongoing military operations.

In a recent statement, the LTTE had openly ‘urged’ the Indian government to immediately intervene in the Sri Lankan issue. The Tiger’s Political wing had initiated a campaign to pressurize the Indian central government to take action in this regard.

In order to achieve this goal the LTTE is using several channels for the purpose and mainly the pro-LTTE politicians in Tamil Nadu. In the recent past Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) General Secretary Vaiko had made several statements to this effect.

He reportedly issued statements that the Sri Lankan government should not be supported on any defense related matters, since the latter was using these facilities to put pressure on the Tamil speaking people. On Wednesday, the LTTE’s political advisor K. Balakumar informed through the media, that the decades long conflict can be resolved only if the Indian government intervenes and solves it. He said that his organization was expecting India to play an active role in the Sri Lankan conflict.

Knowing that the Indian government can put pressure on the Sri Lankan government it is learnt that the Tigers are expecting to use the opportunity to come into a Ceasefire Agreement.

In another development, the LTTE’s Political Chief S. Pulidevan told a group of journalists that the LTTE would wait for the Norwegian facilitators to be granted access to Kilinochchi to further discuss issues relating to future peace talks with the government.

He also said that the organization had been in close contact with key Norwegian figures such as Erik Solheim and the Norwegian Ambassador and it would wait for the facilitators to be granted access to Kilinochchi to further discuss issues relating to future peace talks with the government.

Wanni battle continues as troops near Malavi entrance

The Army continues to march further towards Kilinochchi in the LTTE held Wanni region. In the latest military offensive the army has captured the strong LTTE Forward Defence Lines (FDL) further to Palampiddi, North-West of Mannar.

So far the soldiers from the 57 Division have captured almost all the LTTE FDLs near Periyamadu.

Ground sources said that the FDLs were heavily fortified and some had seven feet high stockpiles in deep trenches. Following the intense pressure applied by the military on the LTTE FDLs, the Tigers had fled the area, moved further back and re-positioned their defences.

The Military believe that the Tigers had forcibly used civilians in the area to prepare these trenches prior to the military advance.

The 57 Division’s aim now is to reach the Malavi area that is considered as the next most strategically important area for Tigers. Earlier, the same division successfully gained full control of the sacred Madhu Church and the surrounding area.Currently, the military is moving slowly towards the LTTE held areas despite the rains and the anti-personal mines and booby traps laid by the fleeing Tigers. Sources have confirmed that the LTTE are not putting up heavy resistance against the military, as they are short of men and women to fight.

According to the military, the LTTE is presently setting up a massive forward defence line further north of Periyamadu in order to prevent the advance of the forces. It is also learnt that the Tigers had forced a large number of civilians to set up these defences.

The 57 Division had advanced to the areas of Mallavi and Thunukkai a distance of 45 Kilometres into LTTE controlled areas from the current defence lines of the military. The latest fighting has opened-up the new front in Mallavi.

North of Mannar, the troops succeeded in capturing a 40-foot-deep bunker of the LTTE, which is the largest ever captured so far. Located in Nedunkandal north, troops believe that the bunker could have been used for its senior leaders to escape from artillery barrage and air-raids.

Tigers continue targeting civilians

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) carried out yet another attack on civilians in Dehiwala, two days after six civilians inside their controlled area in Oddusuddan died in a claymore mine attack.

However, this attempt failed and alert civilians in the area noticed the suspicious movements of an unidentified person, near the Railway track in Dehiwela on Wednesday morning. But as a result of this person’s actions at least 27 civilians received minor injuries due to a cutting charger that had been fixed to the railway track.

Initial police investigations revealed that the suspect had been identified as Jatheesan Balasubramaniyam, a resident of Wattala. Bomb squad officers said that the bomb was a cutting charger and the suspect might have attempted to cut the railway track and thereby derail the crowded office train which was plying from Panadura to Maradana that morning.

Realizing that the public had noticed him, the suspect had exploded the track using a remote control device and fled the scene. Though several bystanders had chased him they were unable to apprehend him. However he had left behind a bag belonging to him.According to eyewitnesses he had run towards the main road and got into a passenger bus moving towards Dehiwela. It appears that he has got off the bus at a certain point for no one saw him thereafter.

Police found several documents in his bag with drafts that showed circuits of explosive devices and calculations indicating the damage from the blast. Police believed that the suspect should be a mastermind in explosives and most probably an engineer.In his bag, an identity card suspected to be of the attacker was also found bearing number 782413538 V. A few hours after the blast the Police released the photograph of the suspect bomber and other details pertaining to him.

This latest attack had been carried out by the LTTE two days after the killing of six civilians in a bomb blast in the uncleared areas in Oddusuddan. According to the pro-LTTE Tamilnet website “six devotees including two children on their way to Naakathampiraan Temple in Maangkulam were killed and 4 wounded, in a claymore mine explosion in Vanni.” The LTTE Peace Secretariat head S. Puleedevan “blamed the Deep Penetration Unit operated by the Sri Lanka Army for the attack on civilian target,” the website stated.

However, Military spokesman Udaya Nanayakkara denied the LTTE allegation and said the military did not operate in the area which is under LTTE control.

“We have no personnel in the area to obtain information about the casualties though the LTTE claims six people were killed in the attack,” the Brigadier said.

Considering past incidents whenever a bomb blast took place killing civilians in uncleared areas, the LTTE had carried out deadly bomb attacks targeting civilians in the south.

The LTTE claimed that on May 23, seventeen civilians in the uncleared area in Kilinochchi were killed in a claymore attack. It charged the Army’s deep penetration unit for the attack. Two days after the incident, the Tigers detonated a powerful bomb targeting a train carrying the office crowd in Dehiwala. As a result of that attack nine civilians were killed and 84 others injured.

Considering these incidents, it is clear that the Tigers have been carrying out revenge attacks in the recent past.

Punj collaborates with Singapore Technologies

BS Reporter / New Delhi June 5, 2008, 11:08 IST

Gurgaon based Punj Lloyd, an engineering, procurement and construction specialist has signed a collaboration agreement with Singapore Technologies Kinetics, for the manufacture of defence equipment.
Under this agreement, both ST Kinetics and Punj Lloyd will be pooling their resources in the execution of supply contracts for the Ministry of Defence, Government of India.

The partners will be involved in the engineering customisation (but not limited to the design and development) of ST Kinetics defence equipment and in the event of award of a supply contract, in the manufacture and maintenance of such defence equipment to meet the requirement of the Indian army.

DRDO's secret technology wish list

Ajai Shukla in New Delhi | June 05, 2008 | 15:00 IST

This is the last of a four-part series on the DRDO, which has instituted fundamental changes in the way it will approach equipment development.

Part I: New DRDO: An engagement with the military

Part II: New DRDO: Technology first, weapons later

Part III: DRDO's plan for an eye in the sky

Symbolising the Defence Research and Development Organisation's transformed approach to technology is its new direction towards that holy grail of defence technology: the cutting-edge fighter aircraft.

Already, the DRDO-Hindustan Aeronautics Limited combine that is developing the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft, has asked global aerospace majors for help in developing key systems -- the engine, flight controls and aircraft radar amongst them -- which are delaying the entire LCA programme.

And now, in a series of interviews to Business Standard, the DRDO's high priests of technology -- the chief controllers of various divisions -- frankly admit that foreign technological assistance will be essential for India's planned aircraft development programmes: the Fifth Generation Fighter Programme, the Multi-Role Transport Aircraft and the Light Combat Helicopter amongst others.

Dipankar Banerjee, chief controller of aeronautics and materials sciences, explains that a foreign partner will be vital for speeding up delivery; an Indian programme would eventually deliver, but the time frame would be unacceptable to the military.

Banerjee acknowledges, "I don't in the future see a programme without a strong foreign partner. The timelines would be enormous� So I don't see a future without a strong foreign partner in the area of fifth generation combat aircraft."

This new outreach from a traditionally inward-focused DRDO is rooted in a realistic assessment that the international sanctions regimes have loosened; global arms majors are eager to provide technologies that can fill in gaps in the DRDO's own technology bank.

The organisation's top scientists believe that the only laws and agreements that continue to restrict technology inflows are:

  • The Missile Technology Control Regime.
  • The US Department of Commerce's Control List, which lists dual use technologies.
  • The ITAR, or International Trade and Arms Regulations of the US.
  • The US Department of Energy, Atomic Energy Control Lists.

And even these logjams, it appears from the DRDO's discussions with the US government and arms corporations can be officially bypassed.

For example, Lockheed Martin has offered the DRDO assistance in developing India's anti-ballistic missile ABM) shield, a complex system that the DRDO has successfully tested, but which still holds major technological challenges.

The DRDO is listening carefully to this new talk from a potential technology ally. Says Banerjee, "We have a perception that there could be greater inputs in terms of the variety of technology to DRDO programs from (external) sources from out of the country� much of this has arisen from the interactions with the United States."

Now the DRDO has generated a top-secret 'technology wish list', which must be obtained from foreign partners. V K Saraswat, chief controller, missiles and strategic systems reveals, "The document highlights the technology areas in which we would like to have cooperation. This will not be divulged, in case foreign technology developers start clamping down on those (technology) areas."

But still unresolved is the issue of how the identified technology will be obtained. The DRDO wants these technologies to be obtained as a part of offsets; foreign vendors who obtain any contract for supplying defence equipment, must provide the DRDO with high end technology that features on its wish list.

Saraswat reveals that the ministry of defence's director general (acquisitions) has already been given that list of technologies, "to help people to take decisions about what are the areas which we have to negotiate, when we negotiate offsets".

But the MoD feels differently. It has stated publicly that vendors are unlikely to part with cutting edge technology as a part of offsets; instead, the MoD will include its technology requirements in the contract document and pay for it up front.

The request for proposals for supply of 126 medium fighters (worth about $11 billion) has specified the technology that will be provided and paid for. The draft of the new Defence Procurement Policy of 2008, which will be promulgated shortly, does not allow for high technology to be included as a part of offsets.

Either way, the DRDO's new technology wish list will form the basis for technology inflows.

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