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Sunday, 14 December 2008

From Today's Papers - 14 Dec

CDA floats ‘incorrect’ pension tables to banks
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 13
Pension blues for the Armed Forces personnel continue. It has now been brought out that the pension tables sent by the Controller of Defence Accounts (CDA) to various banks are incorrect.

According to sources, an annexure containing pension details circulated by the CDA along with the pension letter issued by the defence ministry is not the same as was originally notified by the ministry.

Annexure-II of the ministry’s letter issued on November 11, 2008, states the pension of the Brigadiers, the Major Generals and the Lieutenant Generals to be Rs 26,150 on completion of 28 years of service. The annexure circulated by the CDA to banks, however, mentions Rs 26,150 for brigadiers, but Rs 24,566 for major generals and lieutenant generals. There are several other inconsistencies vis-à-vis the ministry’s annexure and that circulated by the CDA.

Ministry of Defence, had issued the pension sanction letter for pre-2006 pensioners on November 11, 2008. Pension fixation tables based on old basic pension and rank were also enclosed with this letter and basic pension was to be fixed by either multiplying the old basic pension by 2.26 or fixing it at 50 per cent of the lower end of pay band, plus grade pay plus military service pay (MSP), whichever was higher.

Annexure-II detailed the calculation based on the second option for different ranks. By this option, the pension of the Maj-Gens and the Lieut-Gens was coming to be lower than that of the Brigadiers (Rs 26,150) since the MSP is not admissible to ranks above the Brigadiers.

As a result, the pension for the Maj-Gens and the Lieut-Gens was also stepped up to the Brigadier level because according to the policy, senior ranks cannot be placed in lower pension grades than a junior rank. Consequently, as per Annexure-II of the letter, the pensions for Brigadier, Maj-Gens and Lieut-Gens were all placed at Rs 26,150 and the same was correctly reflected in Annexure-II of the ministry’s original letter.

Ministry sources said probably an incorrect, provisionally compiled table, which was later rectified, was sent across to the CDA, who due to an oversight floated the incorrect table to all banks. The Army Headquarters has taken up the matter with the ministry and the matter is expected to be resolved soon, sources added.

Pakistani press: Changing for the better?

Happily, the Pakistani press has woken up at last. It has urged the Pakistani government to initiate strict action against those who are into training terrorists on its soil. It is not for nothing that the press is called the fourth estate..

ALTHOUGH IT is better late than never, one is inclined to point out that the Pakistani press instead of acting as a friend , philosopher and guide of the government and people of Pakistan, has all along encouraged a mood of warlike jingoism. In India, at least a section of the press, even at the height of emergency, stood up for truth and justice. It called a spade a spade and thereby kept the people informed of the misdeeds of the government of the day. When a country is treading the path of self-destruction, either willingly or otherwise, the press should not content itself with reporting because its job does not end there. It should editorialise. That is what a section of the Indian press did when India passed through the darkest chapter of its post-independence phase. As a result, the political party behind the imposition of emergency paid a heavy price in the elections that followed the termination of emergency. The said section of the press paid a heavy price for its bold stand during the emergency, though. But it is something the press has to pay if it wants to be called press. Otherwise, it should get out. As a former US President rightly said, if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

According to press reports, The News of Pakistan has opined that the Pakistani government should not go on the back foot when it is accused of turning a blind eye to terrorist activities being conducted on its soil. It has advised the government to take the initiative so it can shed its tainted image.

The leading Pakistani daily, The Dawn, has rightly slammed the former Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf for encouraging outfits of the LeT kind. It has rightly implicated the White House too alongside. It has advised the Pakistani government to isolate all terror outfits – not just the ones named by India or the US. Its implication is that there are other terror outfits which have not been named by India or US but they operate all the same from Pakistani soil. Pakistan and US now hopefully realise that if they sow the wind, they will reap the whirlwind.

Rasul Bakhsh of Daily Times has opined that non-state actors, militants and private groups of various shapes and sizes are putting national security and stability at risk. Neutralising them will not be easy. If Pakistan does not neutralise them, it will find itself even more isolated in the world. The daily should realise that by blaming the non-state actors Pakistan cannot hope to insulate itself from blame. How will Pakistan feel if we in India encourage anti-Pakistan elements like a section of the Baluchis to train on Indian soil in order to destabilise Pakistan? We do not permit LTTE rebels to use India as their base for their operations against Sri Lanka. Do we?

Pakistan’s Urdu press believes that India has provided an opportunity for the country to unite. It believes that thanks to India, Pakistan has become a nation. Khushnood Ali Khan opined in Jinnah “We should thank India because by its propaganda, we have been turned into a united country. Now we all are speaking in one language, moving toward one direction. And that direction is to take on India”.

Sadly, this is where the Urdu press has erred. It does not realise that Pakistan is today at a crossroads only because it has toed this line – the line suggested by Khan all along. Instead of focusing on its own development and growth, Pakistan has been all along focusing on anti-India activities. Had it used at least some of the resources like money, men and material spent on its anti-India activities , the country will not be in such a mess today. Khan should realise that the founder of Pakistan, Md Ali Jinnah, after whom his newspaper is named, himself regretted seceding from India while he was on his deathbed. This fact has been documented.

The claim about Pakistan becoming a nation owing to India’s propaganda is premature although India will be only too happy if Pakistan matures into a nation. A nation is a country considered especially in relation to its people and its social or economic structure. Pakistan has people, no doubt.

Going by history and going by the track record of countries of the Pakistan kind across the world, it is too ambitious on the part of the Urdu press of Pakistan to believe that it has matured into a nation. To mature into a nation, Pakistan has to first mature into a democracy. As I said, countries of the Pakistan kind have seldom succeeded as democracies because their people have not given unto themselves a secular government. The only exception is perhaps Turkey and even that can be attributed to the European ambience it finds itself in. Not surprisingly, Turkey any day would prefer to be associated with the European Union. It would not ally with countries of the Pakistan kind. The Urdu press of Pakistan should instead prevail on the people and government of Pakistan to move towards one direction. And that direction should not lead Pakistan to take on India – it should place Pakistan on the road to development, growth and prosperity. A country of the size of one of the states of India and nowhere near India in terms of economic power and democratic credentials should focus on doing something better than ‘taking on India’. I hope wisdom will dawn on the Urdu press of Pakistan as it has on the English press of Pakistan!

Indian Navy Nabs 23 Pirates off Aden

New Delhi

Responding swiftly to a distress call, the Indian Navy Saturday arrested 23 pirates who attempted to hijack an Ethiopian vessel some 160 nautical miles off the Yemini port of Aden, an official here said.

The pirates - 12 Somalis and 11 Yemenis - are being held on board the Indian Navy destroyer INS Mysore that has been deployed in the area while the legalities about their disembarkation and prosecution are worked out, a navy spokesman here said.

Giving details of the incident, the spokesman said: "Whilst escorting merchant vessels in the Gulf of Aden, Mysore received a distress call from the Ethiopian-flagged MV Gibe at about 11 a.m.

"MV Gibe reported that she was under attack by two boats closing her and firing small arms. MV Gibe opened retaliatory fire with small arms that were held onboard the vessel. The position reported by the merchant vessel was 13 nautical miles from Mysore at that time," the spokesman said.

Mysore immediately altered course to close in on MV Gibe and also launched her integral armed helicopter, the spokesman added.

"On sighting the helicopter and Mysore, the pirate boats disengaged from MV Gibe and attempted escape. Mysore closed the vessels and ordered them to stop.

"The larger boat was a green colored dhow of 8-10 meters length. It had taken the second smaller boat, a skiff, under its tow. Subsequently, the name of the dhow was identified as 'Salahaddin' and its hull number as 758(2)," the spokesman said.

Mysore's marine commandoes boarded the dhow at 12.30 p.m. and carried out a search. Twenty-three personnel, including 12 Somalis and 11 Yemenis surrendered on boarding, the spokesman said.

"The search of the dhow revealed a substantial cache of arms and equipment, including seven AK-47 and three other automatic rifles; 13 loaded magazines; a rocket-propelled grenade-launcher along with rockets, cartridges and grenades; three outboard motors and a GPS receiver, the spokesman added.

"The personnel, arms, ammunition and equipment have been taken into custody by INS Mysore and will be handed over to appropriate authorities ashore and the ship will return to her patrol-duties," the spokesman said.

This is the third rescue the Indian Navy has effected since it began anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden early in November.

On Nov 18, the navy earned worldwide accolades after the stealth frigate INS Tabar sank a Somali pirate vessel after coming under attack.

On Nov 8, INS Tabar had, in a daring rescue mission, foiled an attempt by pirates to hijack two ships - an Indian and a Saudi Arabian merchant vessel.

Somali pirates have attempted 95 hijackings this year alone, a 75 percent increase since 2007.

Parliament Attack Victim's Families
Boycott Official Function

New Delhi
The families of the 2001 parliament attack victims Saturday boycotted the official function, where only 15 parliamentarians had gathered, and held a separate function at the India Gate war memorial to pay tribute to those killed when terrorists stormed the complex seven years ago.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Leader of Opposition L.K. Advani, Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi Saturday paid floral tributes to the martyrs at a somber event in the parliament premises.

The prime minister and others placed flowers near a plaque erected in memory of those killed in the attack that almost sparked an India-Pakistan war. Also present were the widow and son of Ghanshyam Singh of the Delhi Police, one of the security personnel killed that day.

Nine people - a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) trooper, five Delhi Police personnel, one parliament watch and ward staffer, a gardener and a security official of the Rajya Sabha - were killed when terrorists attacked the parliament complex Dec 13, 2001.

The five attackers, who India says came from Pakistan, were killed. A cameraman of a news organisation was also killed.

However, the victim's families boycotted the official event and held a separate function at the India Gate war memorial. They demanded that attack mastermind Mohammad Afzal Guru, who is in on death row, be hanged.

Along with the All India Anti-Terrorist Front (AIATF), the families of the victims first paid tributes at the India Gate Saturday morning and then observed two minutes of silence.

A large crowd was present at the India Gate, it being a Saturday. The crowd also sympathized with the families and demanded that Afzal's death sentence should be carried out as soon as possible.

"Till Afzal is not hanged we will not go to the parliament. Two days ago in parliament, the politicians said they are united against terror. But no one talked about hanging Afzal," said AIATF chief M.S. Bitta.

The family members of the security personnel killed in the parliament attack had returned the gallantry medals awarded posthumously to the President's House in 2006, saying they would take them back only after Afzal is hanged.

"Only after Afzal is hanged will the families take the medals. Till then, the medals should be kept at the National Museum, so that the people of the country get to know about the insult of the martyrs," Bitta added.

"The government is not hanging the terrorist in their custody. If he is not hanged today, someone will secure his release," he said.

The families of Central Public Works Department gardener Deshraj and the cameraperson of Asian News International Vikram Bisht, who were killed in the attack, have not received any compensation as yet.

Bitta said the victims had never demanded of any compensation, the politicians themselves had announced it.

"I just want a simple job so that I can raise my children," said Sunita Devi, wife of Vikram Bisht, in a choked voice.

The victims's families said they were hurt at the way the government had insulted the martyrdom of their loved ones.

"Our only demand is that Afzal be hanged. We will not return to parliament till that is done. I don't understand why the government is trying to bring more terrorists from Pakistan. They should first hang those languishing in our jails," said Sardar Singh, father of slain Delhi Police head constable Om Prakash.

The families also demanded that the government erect a memorial for the martyrs of the parliament attack in Delhi so that people can come and pay their tributes.

The AIATF said that they have repeatedly sought an appointment with President Pratibha Patil to submit a memorandum demanding Afzal's hanging, but have not heard anything from her office as yet.

Captured 26/11 terrorist seeks legal aid from Pak

NDTV Correspondent

Saturday, December 13, 2008 6:38 PM (Mumbai)

Pakistan still refuses to officially acknowledge that the men involved in the attacks in Mumbai's were Pakistani. But there is more evidence of their nationality coming from the only terrorist captured alive, Ajmal Amir Qasab.

In a three-page letter written in Urdu to the Pakistani High Commission Qasab has admitted to being a Pakistani citizen.

Asking for legal aid, Qasab has also said that his associates were Pakistani. He insists that the consulate should claim their bodies.

The Mumbai police has forwarded the letter, written two days ago, to the MEA. However, the Ministry of External Affairs says it has received no such letter.

Earlier in his confession to the police as well, Qasab had revealed that he was from Pakistan and had admitted to his role in the attack.

PTI adds: "The letter has been written to Pakistan consulate (Pakistan mission) seeking legal help. We have dispatched the letter to the ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Home Affairs for necessary procedures," Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Rakesh Maria said.

When pointed out that there was no Pakistani consulate in Mumbai and there is only High Commission of the neighbouring country in Delhi, he said, "it is up to the Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Home Affairs to decide to whom to forward (the letter)."

Maria said Ajmal, in his letter, had also said that "he and his associates are Pakistanis and all participated in the terror stikes."

The letter in Urdu has been written two days back, Maria said. However, the Pakistan High Commission denied having received any letter from Iman. "We have not received any letter", a spokesman of the High Commission said.

The Joint Commissioner of Police said Ajmal had also asked the Pakistani mission to take custody of the body of fellow terrorist Ismail Khan who was killed in an encounter in south Mumbai on the night of November 26, the day Ajmal was held.

Mumbai police has also written a separate letter to the MEA and the union Home Ministry to discuss with the Pakistani authorities regarding taking of the custody of the bodies of the nine terrorists killed during the anti-terror operations, Maria said.

MPs forget the day Parliament was attacked

Sidharth Pandey, Akhilesh Sharma, Deepak Bajpai

Saturday, December 13, 2008, (New Delhi)

It seems on Saturday most MPs have already forgotten how they survived the 2001 Parliament attack. Only a dozen Parliamentarians turned up to pay homage to the eight men and women who died fighting on Saturday, the anniversary of Parliament attack in Delhi.

United we stand against terror-that was the message of our politicians in the Parliament.

Just two days later, MPs cut across party lines and vowed in Parliament to stand united against terrorism. (Watch)

Only a dozen MPs, including the UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, leader of the opposition L K Advani and Speaker of the Lok Sabha Somnath Chatterjee, turned up to pay homage to the 10 security men and civilians killed in the attack on Parliament seven years ago.

"Those who don't remember these things. People will not remember them," said S S Ahluwalia, Rajya Sabha MP, BJP.

Security men fought a fierce gun battle with terrorists inside the Parliament complex. It was because of their efforts that not a single member of Parliament was hurt. But on Saturday, seven years on just a handful of them had turned up to honour the dead.

Six security men had died fighting the terrorists inside Parliament. In 2006, their families had at the same ceremony returned the medals given to them to protest the delay in hanging Afzal. All of them boycotted the official ceremony on Saturday.

Sub inspector Ghanshyam's widow had turned up only to hand over a petition to the Prime Minister. "You don't punish them, that is why terrorists keep attacking," she said.

At India Gate in Delhi, many more had turned up to pay homage and stand together with the families of those who laid down their lives.

Their anger was evident many of the family members say that their case has also been caught up in politics.

Ex-Pak PM Sharif proposes an Indo-Pak no war pact

NDTV Correspondent

Saturday, December 13, 2008, (Islamabad)

In a significant proposal, former Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sahrif has suggested that India and Pakistan should sign a 'no first attack, no war pact -- both conventional and nuclear'. That, in his view, was the best for both countries and what they should be focusing on.

In an interview to a news magazine, he also reacted to media reports of Ajmal Amir Qasab, the lone terrorist captured alive in Mumbai, was from Pakistan.

He said if that is true then it was time for Pakistan to take very serious notice of that. "Not just notice, we should take serious action," he added.

Meanwhile, the media in Pakistan has in general appreciated the government action against Jamaat-ud-Dawa. However, some have said that the government needs to do more.

According to the Daily Times, "The government of Pakistan, together with the leaders of the armed forces, have done Pakistan a great service by heeding the voice of the international community."

The News has said that the current action against JuD may not be enough. More needs to be done to remove the hold JuD has established within the society. We need to expose how they have exploited religion to further their own interests.

Another newspaper Dawn News has said, "This time there must be no repeat of those half-hearted measures against militants. If Hafiz Saeed and his men are involved in the Mumbai attacks, they must be prosecuted."

Security Council mulls text in support of Mideast peace

Agence France-Presse

Saturday, December 13, 2008, (United Nations)

UN Security Council envoys huddled behind closed doors today to mull a text in support of the Middle East peace process which their ministers plan to adopt here next week.

US Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad announced on Friday that the council would hold a ministerial meeting next Tuesday to encourage the "successful conclusion of achieving the two-state solution."

He was referring to the roadmap put forward by the Middle East diplomatic quartet--the European Union, Russia, the United States and the United Nations--for the creation of a viable Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel.

The 15 envoys kicked off their consultations shortly after 11 am (1600 GMT) to weigh a proposed US draft resolution that could be submitted to Tuesday's ministerial session.

Khalilzad's proposed text on Friday received strong backing from his Russian counterpart Vitaly Churkin, who stressed the need to "avoid any kind of a pause" in the Middle East peace process.

The Russian envoy noted that the proposed text was meant to send "a political signal which would show the encouragement of the Security Council for the political process to continue on basis of existing understanding within the quartet.

"This in our view should result in an impetus which would be sufficient to carry the political process in the Middle East to the next stage next year," he then added.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is to be in New York on Monday and Tuesday for UN talks on Palestinian-Israeli peace, Zimbabwe's crisis and piracy off the Somali coast.

Pak alleges IAF planes violated its airspace | IAF denies

Press Trust Of India

LIMIT TO THE SKY: A file photo of IAF planes. Pak says 2 Indian planes violated its airspace.

Islamabad: Pakistan on Saturday night claimed that Indian fighter jets had violated the country's airspace in two separate sectors and were forced out by its combat aircraft.

Two Indian jets violated Pakistani airspace in the Lahore and Pakistan occupied Kashmir sectors, TV channels reported.

A Pakistan Air Force spokesman said the Indian jets were "forced to retreat" after Pakistani aircraft responded.

He did not say when the airspace violations had occurred or how long the Indian jets had remained in Pakistani airspace. Information Minister Sherry Rehman said when the matter was taken up with Indian authorities, they had described the violations as "inadvertent".

"We have spoken to the Indian Air Force, they have informed us that this is an inadvertent incursion. We have made a routine response and the Pakistan Air Force is on alert. There is no need to hype the issue further than this," she told Dawn News channel.

The PAF spokesman said the force was on high alert and fully prepared to thwart any "misadventure" by India.

IAF denies violating Pak airspace

Press Trust Of India

AIR FORCE: IAF dismisses Pakistan's claim that two Indian fighter jets violated the country's airspace.

New Delhi: Dismissing Pakistan's claim that two Indian fighter jets violated the country's airspace in two separate sectors, Indian Air Force denied any such incident.

"There were no reports of Indian Air Force fighter jets violating the Pakistani air space," highly placed sources in the IAF told PTI on Saturday night.

Pakistani TV channels earlier reported that two Indian jets violated Pakistani airspace in the Lahore and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir sectors.

A Tribune Special
IAF: A peep into the future
Modernisation must be stepped up, say Gulshan Luthra
and Air Marshal Ashok Goel (retd)

THE Indian Air Force (IAF) needs everything: new aircraft, helicopters, sensors, precision engagement systems, weapons, electronic warfare platforms, AWACs, midair refueling, long-range night attack capability, secure connectivity, anti-missile capability, well-protected modern airbases, space assets, Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAVs) and more.

Why so? Will it not involve too much expenditure? Of course, Yes. After all, it has
to make up for several years of inaction after 1990, when the IAF as well as the
Indian Army and Navy were not given even routine replacement and augmentation
of their equipment.

The costs indeed are heavy. We had thought initially that it would be around US$ 35 billion, then $ 70 billion. We were wrong.

At the recent National Seminar of Aerospace Technologies (N-SAT) held by the India Strategic defence magazine, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal F.H. Major, said that the Indian aerospace sector needed an investment of $ 100 billon in the coming years, pointing out also that IAF was already under a major transformation. The results, he added, would be visible within the next decade.

The Air Chief was merely stating the fact that the Indian Air Force is under an overall “transformation.” He did not indicate any timeline, but did say that the estimated expenditure did not cover only aircraft and systems, but developments like airbases, infrastructure, and so on.

He mentioned the approximate figures of financial implications while inviting the industry to invest in the aerospace sector, which also entailed an offsets element of 30 per cent – or a $ 30 billion opportunity – as mandated now by the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) of the Indian Defence Ministry.

He also assured that IAF took its responsibility of protecting the country seriously, and that nothing but the best would be acquired.

No Chief of Air Staff has ever given such an indication before. But the scale of IAF’s modernisation programme now has also never been matched in India’s history. IAF has never suffered the obsolescence of its systems as today.

Air Chief Major said: “IAF is in a very comprehensive modernisation programme. We are at various stages in the induction of a wide range of equipment which includes all types of aircraft, weapons, missiles, sensors, communications equipment etc. We are even upgrading our airfield infrastructure, laboratories and maintenance facilities.

“The scale is simply immense. We are looking for state-of-the-art equipment and we will not settle for the second best.”

It would be appropriate to recall here that the Indian armed forces as well as the intelligence organisations suffered badly due to the virtual ban by the political leadership in 1990 on all acquisitions in the light of the ill-fated Bofors acquisition programme. It was not easy for the system to restart, particularly as the ban had been imposed by the then Prime Minister himself.

The routine process of replacement and augmentation could be triggered again only by the 1999 Kargil War following Pakistan’s occupation of mountaintops on the Indian side of the Line of Control (LoC) in an attempt to cut off parts of Kashmir from India.

Much to its horror, the government of the day was told that the Army neither had munitions for its Bofors guns nor appropriate clothing for troops to fight in icy heights, the Navy had no protection for its ships against enemy missile attacks, and the Air Force had no helicopters to attack intruding Pakistani soldiers in mountaintops.

If we heard every now and then about the inadequacy of equipment with the Indian armed forces, the Kargil War was an eye opener.

The IAF has been wanting new aircraft to replace the bulk of its strength consisting of Soviet vintage assortment of Migs, the Army wants tanks and artillery guns, and the Navy new ships and anti-missile capability.

Technology is the key and common element in all the systems any of the three services acquire. As the armed forces did not buy much for long, the need of the hour also clearly implies that they buy the best and the latest to take advantage of their late start.

As for IAF, the Air Chief pointed out that the “drivers of aerospace power are markedly different from those” of the surface combatants. “The components of aerospace power are inherently dependent upon technology, and technology largely dictates performance and capability.”

He noted that an air force has to possess an advantage in terms of the quality of equipment, and a demonstrated superiority in tactics and training, saying that “accessibility to and availability of timely and appropriate technology is often the impediment.”

Most of the platforms made in the 1980s did not have modular concepts; this changed in the 1990s. In the 21st century, particularly for India, it makes sense to update and upgrade the equipment of its armed forces. But then, most of our equipment is of the 1970s Soviet vintage, and there is nothing much one can do than to strap on a little booster shot here and there.

The first requirement is to have platforms, in adequate numbers, with sophisticated onboard technology. Technology that can be pulled out like a chip or a computer bus, and replaced with a better module periodically.

By the very nature of its requirements, an air force is powered by hi-tech.

Aircraft have to fly, operate intrusive missions, evading hostile radars and fire, and come back safely after delivering results. If there is a war, and unfortunately possibilities always exist, only an air force can take the war to an enemy’s territory. It is an old principle that battles must be fought “not on my territory but on yours.”

Former Air Chief Marshal S.P. Tyagi, during whose tenure a couple of years ago the IAF finalised the parameters for acquiring 126 Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (M-MRCA) to replace its mostly Mig 21 squadrons, elucidated this principle very well at the seminar. India is a peaceful country, unlikely ever to initiate a conflict. But, he pointed out, if forced into war, “only the IAF can be a delivery vehicle to inflict punishment on an aggressor where he is.”

Four years ago, in the columns of this esteemed newspaper, we had first disclosed that the number of IAF squadrons was falling down.

The government had decided in 1961 to give the IAF 65 combat squadrons, or 1150 fighter jets, keeping in mind the security scenario on the western and north-eastern borders. It was reduced to 45, but actually, their number never exceeded 39, or a little more than 700 aircraft.

More than 300 of these were Mig 21s, a majority of whom are already being phased out, and are due to be replaced gradually by the Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (M-MRCA), the process for acquiring 126-plus of whom is already under way.

As for the combat aircraft, IAF’s focus now is to rely on its growing fleet of powerful SU 30MKIs for long range air dominance, the MRCAs for routine patrols and engagement if needed around the borders, the upgraded Jaguars for deep strikes, and Mig 29s and Mirage 2000s to augment the air defence.

By 2016-17, according to Air Chief Major, IAF should also lay its hands on the futuristic Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) in collaboration with Russia.

As for the MRCAs, for whom six manufacturers have submitted proposals in response to tenders, their field trials are expected to begin by February or March, and the air force expects the first batch of 18 off the shelf supplies from the selected manufacturer by 2012-13.

The focus of IAF was well defined by Vice Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal P.V. Naik, who said that recent conflicts had demonstrated the necessity of network centric warfare capability, and cutting edge technologies in the fields of surveillance, targeting, avionics and weapon lethality.

He specified:
Platforms that combine stealth, and situational awareness as a result of interacting with a broad array of networked systems.
All-weather strike capability.
Standoff attack capability with high degree of accuracy.
Passive radar technology.
Fire and Forget Beyond-the-Visual-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (BVRAAMS).
Sensor technologies for long range BVRAAMS.
Enhancing Electronic Warfare (EW) capability by extension of electromagnetic spectrum to optimal wavelengths, and warning of illumination by Infra Red (IR) Laser or Radar (by hostile elements).

Apparently, the future combat fleet of the IAF would be largely multi-role, with air dominance capability in accordance with India’s strategic requirements to secure its trade routes, say from the Strait of Malacca in the East to the Gulf of Aden in the West. And perhaps beyond.

India’s FGFA would be a piloted aircraft, but gradually, the air force would rely on steadily increasing induction of unmanned aircraft, technically designated Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, which are already being used for surveillance around the borders.

At a later date, say by around 2030, as their developments mature and they become affordable, their combat versions or Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAVs) would be used, piloted remotely from distant grounds.

Classified video recordings have shown US drones sniping successfully at individual targets one by one in the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq.

It’s our estimate that by 2050, at least one-fourth of the Indian Air Force would consist of UCAVs. A fair target though should be 50:50.

At the moment, the only high-powered combat aircraft with IAF are the Russian-built SU-30MKI. Besides being new, these are also the only ones with both long reach and precision engagement capability.

In fact, during the recent four-nation Red Flag exercise held in the US, the SU-30 MKI pilots distinguished themselves, despite the fact that they did not operate all their systems so as not to give away some of their secrets.

This was the first time ever that the IAF took part in such a large simulated war scenario with three other air forces, and with at least 80 aircraft at any time in the air day or night.

Interestingly, when, as part of the exercise, the US Air Force fiddled with its GPS constellation to mislead the participating aircraft, the Indian Sukhois were not affected as they automatically switched to the Russian Glonass system. The US, French and South Korean aircraft did not have this advantage.

Significantly, IAF already has a plan to build its own satellite constellation and use the GPS and Glonass as well. That is another key element of IAF’s modernisation in the future.

The acquisition of the SU 30MKIs was a fortunate decision, although there was some opposition even from former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda. Russia has delivered 60 of them as completely built units as contracted and production of another 170 has commenced in India with a production rate now exceeding 20 per year.

The IAF is upgrading its Mirage 2000 to Mirage 2005 standards, enhancing its performance above the original capability and to extend the aircraft’s life by another 20 years. Thales of France is negotiating with IAF in this regard.

The Mig 29 is similarly being upgraded with better target acquisition systems under a contract with Russia to integrate some western avionics also.

The IAF has inducted the BAE Systems-built advanced jet trainer Hawk to enable its pilots to convert to any fighter jet. But for the IAF to declare “Mission Accomplished,” political will is imperative to give it equipment and capability to reach and engage an aggressor on his territory.

The modernisation process has begun; it needs to continue as scheduled by the Air Headquarters.

The writers are defence analysts.

2 comments:

  1. IAF: A peep into the future.

    Do we have to understand that the information disclosed in the above article is not violating security secrets act?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Acquistion, availability and serviceability of assets with any airforce in the world is never a closely guarded secret. Most acquisitions take place through global tenders hence the chances of keeping aquisition plans under wraps are little.

    ReplyDelete

 

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