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Monday, 14 July 2008

From Today's Papers - 14 Jul

Arjun tank gets black box
Checking ‘Sabotage’ in Trials

New Delhi, July 13
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has installed a black box-like instrument in the indigenous main battle tank (MBT) Arjun, under development for nearly 36 years, following attempts to “sabotage” its engine. The instrument was installed after the Army termed the winter trial of the Arjun tank a “failure”.

Attempts to sabotage the trials of the Arjun tank have failed after the black box was installed, said authorities.

“The German company Renk AG, which is supplying engines for the Arjun tank, stumbled upon the tinkering with its engines after a complaint from the Army that the tank’s gear box failed during its winter trials in Pokhran and Mahajan field range,” a DRDO official told IANS, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Following this we have installed an instrument similar to the data recorder or black box in aircraft that would record all the information related to the engines,” he added.

The Army had told a key parliamentary panel earlier this month that the Arjun tank failed to deliver at the just-concluded winter trials. The Army said many improvements had to be carried out before it was satisfied with the tank.

After the complaint, engineers from the German company were summoned to have a look at the tank while a special team was sent to Germany.

“Army officials were curious to know about the new instrument, which was installed before the summer trials, which has been successful,” the official said.

Minister of state for defence (production) Rao Inderjit Singh has also hinted at a conspiracy to “sabotage” the tank in April.

“The possibility of sabotage needs to be examined. The engines fitted in the tanks were German and were performing well for the past 15 years. I wonder what has happened to them overnight,” Rao Inderjit Singh had said, talking about the reported failures of the tank. However, the Army has denied the allegations of sabotage.

The startling revelation from the DRDO has come even as the Army seems to have sounded the death knell for the Arjun tanks, saying it would purchase no more than the 124 it had signed a contract for.

Fourteen Arjun tanks were handed over to the Army for user trials last year but were returned to the manufacturer - the combat vehicles development establishment - with a list of defects. These included a deficient fire control system, inaccuracy of its guns, low speeds in tactical areas - principally the desert - and the tank’s inability to operate in temperatures over 50 degrees Celsius.

The Army had laid down its qualitative requirement (QR) for Arjun in 1972. In 1982, it was announced that the prototype was ready for field trials. However, the tank was publicly unveiled for the first time only in 1995.

Arjun was originally meant to be a 40-tonne tank with a 105 mm gun. It has now grown to a 50-tonne tank with a 120 mm gun.

The tank was to supplement and eventually replace the Soviet-era T-72 MBT that was first inducted in the early 1980s. However, delays in the Arjun project and Pakistan’s decision to purchase the T-80 from Ukraine prompted India to order 310 T-90s, an upgraded version of the T-72, in 2001.

Of these, 186 were assembled from kits at the HVF at Avadi. An agreement was also signed for the licensed production of another 1,000 T-90s. With the development of Arjun delayed further, India last year signed a fresh contract with Russia to buy another 330 T-90s. — IANS

Army turns heat on ULFA
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, July 13
The Army and Assam police have decided to go all out against the rest of three active battalions of the banned United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) following declaration of unilateral ceasefire by the ‘A’ and ‘C’ companies of the 28th battalion, the main strike force and fund raiser for the proscribed insurgent outfit.

A security source informed that the Army had tightened the noose around the 27, 109 and 709 battalions of the ULFA in central and western Assam to force the cadres to follow the path shown by the ‘A’ and ‘C’ companies of the outfit’s 28th battalion which have declared unilateral truce with the Government of India Forces.

The general officer commanding (GOC) 4 Corps of the Indian Army, Lt-Gen B.S. Jaswal has termed the unilateral truce declared a very significant development given that these companies were the main strike force of the outfit in upper districts of the state and were mainly involved in raising fund for the ULFA through extortions.

The Army is very much elated over the first discernible vertical fissure that had appeared in the ULFA during all these years with the move made by the ‘A’ and ‘C’ companies defying the top brass of the outfit.

The security forces are of the view that fugitive ULFA commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah will not be able to raise a new Battalion in these districts to negate the move made by the companies of the 28th Battalion given the hitherto overwhelming mass response to the peace initiative suo moto undertaken by the leaders of the companies.

People in general from the ULFA bastion in Tinsukia and Dibrugarh districts are celebrating the unilateral truce declared by the two ULFA companies and it has been very well reflected in huge gathering at different public meetings addressed by leaders of the two ULFA companies so far in their bid to mobilise public opinion for ‘direct and unconditional talks’ between the ULFA top brass and the Government of India.

Officer objects to charge of weapon possession
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 13
An officer from the Military Intelligence being tried by a general court martial (GCM) for unauthorised contact with Ethiopian girls has objected to the charge of possessing a weapon without a licence.

In a petition sent to the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Command, the GCM’s convening authority, the officer, Maj Rajeev Sirohi, has contended that according to Section 45 of the Arms Act and relevant provisions of the regulations for the Army, an Army officer is legally permitted to possess one pistol or revolver without license and such possession is not an offence.

The defence had raised objection to the charge in the court earlier, but the GCM had overruled it. The GCM being held at New Delhi, is scheduled to re-assemble tomorrow after a brief adjournment.

The officer is facing four charges. The second charge framed under the Arms Act alleges that he had possessed a .38 pistol without holding a licence and without due authority. Other charges include bringing Ethiopian girls to his residence and conducting intelligence operations beyond his charter of duties.

Alleging “legal mischief” while framing the charge against him, the officer has contended that legal provisions, which warrant to be read along with the relevant sections of the Act, had been suppressed. He has claimed that the sections specifically mandate that nothing in the Act shall apply to possession of firearms by public servant in the course of his duty.

It is because of such immunity that the central government has made further provisions in tune with provisions of Arms Act, vide paras 944 and 945 of the Regulation for the Army, that an officer while in service is allowed to possess without licence a privately owned pistol/revolver of any pattern in addition to one service pistol/revolver, he has further claimed in his petition.

The officer has sought that a benign and careful consideration be given to the aforementioned legal issue and the “unwarranted” charge be cancelled, besides seeking that the judge advocate, the court’s legal advisor, be changed for seemingly not acting impartially.

‘We have to learn to honour our brave soldiers’

Express News Service

Posted online: Monday , July 14, 2008 at 12:57:06
Chandigarh, July 13 The Army is extremely disappointed with the lack of high-level civil and military representation at the state funeral of Field Marshal Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw, the iconic former army chief. It was disheartening to know that Defence Minister A K Antony failed to make it to the ceremony at Ooty in Tamil Nadu. In a

rare gesture, though, the government decided to accord a state funeral, complete with a 21-gun salute, to Manekshaw.

Issuing tributes, however, was not enough for India’s most distinguished soldier; the politicians were too busy to attend the funeral for they were battling inflation or trying to sign the nuclear deal, knowing well in advance that Sam was on his last lap.

The political parties, which always find opportunities and slackness in government to pull it down on even minor issues, did not utter a single word on the apathy of the Centre. From the very next day, the comrades were pondering over when to pull the plug of the government and the Centre was busy shaking hands behind the curtains with the Samajwadi Party leaders to save their face.

The Defence fraternity, at various levels, is angry with what they feel is a baseless argument of the Defence Ministry that the low-key government representation at Manekshaw’s funeral was because Field Marshals do not figure in the protocol list.

Where is the question of protocol in such matters? Does the government considers it a shame to honour a legend like Manekshaw who led the Indian Army to a historic victory in 1971 and to the surrender of 93,000 Pakistani troops? Doesn’t the government realise that Field Marshals never retire and Manekshaw was the senior-most serving officer and was entitled to nothing less than a state funeral?

In Britain, there is an icon Horatio Nelson — the British Admiral who won the Battle of Trafalgar — the most decisive sea battle for Pax Britannica. Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw presided over the most decisive military victories our country has seen ever. He led the Indian Army’s brilliant surgical strike — December 3-16, 1971, that saw the emergence of Bangladesh as an independent nation out of the erstwhile East Pakistan.

Just compare the way the British acknowledge Nelson even today and compare it with how we have given the salutes to Sam. No wonder our defence forces in the present times are struggling to attract the right talent for enrollment, in the defence of the nation. The Chiefs of Staff of Army, the Navy and the Air Force, have a warrant of precedence, a Field Marshal does not have one other than that he had when he was in service.

Only Sam Manekshaw had the warrant of precedence as the Chief of Army staff. Why was then there a confusion on the kind of a funeral that should be given to him and the people who should be present at the final farewell. The government had to take a special decision that Sam Manekshaw should have a state funeral.

The government’s action has not only come as disrespect for the Field Marshal but can have serious implications on the defence forces. The young generation, which aspires to serve the country, may have been discouraged. The government should immediately start looking at the defence personnel with respect. In India, we have to learn to honour our brave soldiers.

Growing defense budgets protect military jet makers

By Matthew Saltmarsh

Sunday, July 13, 2008

PARIS: The surge in oil prices, a sinking dollar and sagging Western economies have left commercial aviation on its knees, but the outlook for military aviation sales is brighter, helped by demand from emerging defense markets, evolving security threats and continuing conflicts around the world.

In the past six months, at least a dozen commercial airlines have failed, while others have been forced to ground planes, raise fares, cut jobs and consider mergers as oil prices have climbed to record levels.

But military procurement is different. Governments, not private companies, order the planes and pay the fuel bills. It is an opaque world, in which politics often trump economics in determining contract awards, and accusations of foul play, favoritism and outright bribery are common.

Over all, the biggest market by far is the United States, which spends almost as much as the rest of the world combined.

"Despite the downturn in the United States, we see no big change in orders there over the short to medium term," said Guy Anderson, editor of the industry publication Jane's Defense Industry. "The core budgets should stay constant."

After the Cold War, procurement budgets stalled or fell, particularly in Europe. But in the wake of the terrorist attacks in the United States in 2001 and the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, they picked up again. Even if the U.S.-led conflicts wind down, there will be an element of "retooling" to replace battered or destroyed hardware, Anderson said.

Countries like Brazil, India, South Africa and some Southeast Asian nations are using the dividends of recent growth to upgrade their military aircraft fleets, while other economies, including Switzerland, Norway, Denmark, Croatia and Romania, are upgrading Cold-War-vintage hardware, despite tight budgets.

According to estimates from Jane's, total military spending in the United States is set to rise to $696 billion, or 4.9 percent of GDP, this year and $708 billion next year from $630 billion in 2007. It may then dip to $671 billion in 2010.

Britain, the No. 2 client in the global defense market, is set to raise annual spending to $86 billion by 2010 from $79 billion, or 2.6 percent of GDP, this year.

China is not far behind, with expenditures expected to hit $79 billion in 2010, up from $58 billion, or 1.6 percent of GDP, this year, while Jane's expects defense spending by India to rise to $34 billion in 2010 from $27 billion this year, which is 2.4 percent of GDP.

While it is difficult to say what share of total expenditures may go to aerospace manufacturers, air force budgets often take the largest share. Last year, for example, the U.S. Air Force consumed 29.5 percent of the Pentagon's budget, with 28.8 percent going to the navy, 25.1 percent to the army and the remainder spread among other services, according to government data.

"Asia is now really the big prize," Anderson said, citing India, South Korea and Japan among countries not covered by a Western arms embargo, along with Russia, China and many Middle East governments. "They're all very hot economies; some have petrodollars to spend."

Still, not everyone is so gung-ho. Keith Hartley, a professor of defense economics at the University of York in Britain, predicted cutbacks in U.S. military outlays if the Democrats win the White House in November and American forces wind down in Iraq.

"U.S. spending will still stay high, but probably not at these levels," he said. "Spending in Europe will at best be constant in real terms, with some cuts in forward programs."

Britain, where the budget deficit is climbing, would probably not cut total spending but might "fudge" the issue by, for example, delaying orders for large-scale programs, including two planned aircraft carriers, he said.

Another big European spender, France, published a new defense strategy in June that calls for a cut of 54,000 soldiers and support staff from the armed forces, and the closing of several bases. The plan puts off a decision on a new aircraft carrier until 2011 or 2012.

"Asia will take up some of the slack," Hartley said, "but not enough; they want to bring work to their own defense industry." Many manufacturers are trying hard to woo India, which is upgrading its forces in line with its new wealth.

"We are currently spending about 2 percent of our GDP on defense, which is not very large," Pradeep Kumar, secretary of defense production in the Indian Defense Ministry, said during an interview at a trade conference here last month. "But as the Indian economy is growing at a steady rate of around 8 percent, we expect to spend around $150 billion in the next five years, out of which about $50 billion will be spent on acquisitions to modernize our three services."

One bumper contract, worth an estimated $10.2 billion, is for 126 jets to replace the country's aging Soviet-era MiG-21s. Much of the order will have to be built in India.

Industry speculation puts Boeing as the frontrunner with its F/A-18 Hornet. Other contenders are Lockheed Martin's F-16 Falcon; the Eurofighter Typhoon from BAE Systems, EADS and the Italian company Finmeccanica; the Rafale from Dassault Aviation of France; the Gripen from Saab of Sweden; and Sukhoi jets from Russia, fitted with European avionics. But New Delhi is not giving anything away.

"The decision will take time," Kumar said. "The papers that have been submitted are very voluminous: They run up to 10,000 pages. Technology transfer is a key issue with us. Companies try all the time to be competitive, and we try to take advantage of that."

Despite these new markets, most European companies have no choice but to try to sell in the United States because of the scale of orders. But the strength of the euro against the dollar has tended to put European exporters at a disadvantage, and some have been frustrated by hurdles like the Buy American Act, passed by Congress in 1933, which allows preferences for the procurement of U.S.-produced goods.

U.S. auditors last month upheld an appeal by Boeing against an Air Force contract awarded to the European company EADS to build midair refueling tankers with Northrop Grumman of the United States. On Wednesday, the Defense Department ordered the bidding reopened.

Daniel Keohane, a research fellow at the European Union Institute for Security Studies in Paris, said the case was of enormous significance to future trans-Atlantic military trade in an era where the aerospace supply chain is increasingly global.

Some European companies have used acquisitions as a route into the U.S market. Figures compiled by Jane's indicate that European groups spent $8.5 billion acquiring 26 U.S. companies in 2007 and $2.6 billion on six companies a year earlier.

In May, BAE Systems of Britain spent $4.1 billion to buy Armor Holdings, a U.S. maker of bulletproof vests and trucks. It also spent $4 billion in 2005 to acquire United Defense Industries, which makes the Bradley fighting vehicle used in Iraq. Finmeccanica agreed in May to pay $5.2 billion for DRS Technologies, while analysts say Thales of France also appears interested in U.S. acquisitions.

BAE has tried to set up as many local operations as possible. "One of our major strategic thrusts is to develop home markets, where not only is there a good spend rate but additionally we can participate in the industrial capacity of those countries," said Dennis Dellinger, president of mobility and protection systems at BAE. "So we have positioned ourselves throughout the globe."

The company recently expanded in Australia and India and expects "further announcements throughout Asia over the course of the next few months," Dellinger said.

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