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Saturday, 7 March 2009

From Today's Papers - 07 Mar 09

Yet another setback for Rodrigues
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 6
In yet another setback to General SF Rodrigues (Retd), the union government has directed the UT Administrator to restore the Adviser's authority to write annual confidential reports (ACRs) of his subordinate officers.

The Administrator had withdrawn the powers following a corruption complaint against the Adviser was referred to the Central Vigilance Commission. But although the CVC absolved the Adviser, Pradeep Mehra, of the charges in January this year, the power of writing ACRs was not restored to him.

Earlier, the Administrator had forwarded to the Election Commission an objection to the Adviser being designated the Chief Electoral Officer for the Chandigarh Lok Sabha constituency. This objection too was overruled by the EC.

This time, the Ministry of Home Affairs ( MHA) is learnt to have issued a stern letter asking the administration to restore the Adviser's power. The letter reads, "the ministry is of the firm view that the prevalent channel of writing ACRs of subordinate officers by the Adviser be restored forthwith and the status quo ante maintained."

The communication, signed by MHA director Ashwani Kumar, says, "I am directed to say that it has been brought to the notice of the ministry that the instructions have been issued to the PersonnelSecretary/Home Secretary, Chandigarh that the ACRs of any subordinate officer would not be put to the Adviser in any capacity for the present year 2008-09. This is a clear departure from the laid-down guidelines of the Government of India."

The order, reads the last sentence, was being issued with the approval of the Union Home Minister. The war of attrition between the Administrator and the Adviser has been going on for the past several months and took an ugly turn. General Rodrigues had even denied Mehra's application for three days' Casual Leave at one point during the slugfest. The stand-off started with Mehra objecting to prime commercial land being given to big realtors such as Parsvnath, DLF and Unitech at preferred rates and by ignoring claims of others.

The Adviser had also objected to the two mega projects, namely Medicity project and the Film City project, given away for a reserve fee of Rs 203 crore. The two plots of prime land, contended the Adviser, were worth over Rs 2000 crore. Mehra had recommended an investigation by an independent central agency into the allotment.

The two controversial projects and the other land deals are now being investigated by the Chief Vigilance Commission.

Last salute of a powerful flying machine
Sanjeev Singh Bariana
Tribune News Service

Halwara, March 6
An emotional Wg Cdr YJ Joshi took the last flight of MiG-23 BN at the Air Force Station here today before the aircraft was phased out of active service. In a formal ceremony, Wing Commander Joshi handed over the pilot notes to Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major, Chief of Air Staff, to mark the phasing out of the fighter planes after 27 years of active deployment.

A nostalgic Wing Commander Joshi said, "I know it is not going to be easy to get up in the morning and not go to the air base for a flight on the machine, we loved all our lives. The most important part of my life is not going to be there tomorrow. The entire team of 16, handling the aircraft, will be disbanded and we go our own ways to our next posting."

Equally emotional were senior officers and their family members who participated in the ceremony to bid adieu to one of the strongest machines on wheels.

Addressing the gathering, Air Chief Marshal Major said, "While being immensely capable, it was not also easy to fly. Its handling characteristics at high angles of attack were tricky. Many a reputation lay in tatters around this aircraft, particularly with respect to landing". A spokesperson said "just for the record, the aircraft has logged more than 1,54,000 flying hours."

Air Chief Marshal Major said "it is inevitable that these aircraft will be replaced by more modern platforms. They retire today with dignity, in pristine shape, almost as good as they were when new." The 221 Squadron here, known as 'Valiants', was currently the lone owner of the MiG-23 BMs on its inventory in the country.

The aeroplanes were brought from the USSR in 1982 particularly with a view to counter Pakistan's strong F-16s. The aircraft got its first taste of operation in April 1984 when the squadron was alerted for the launch of Operation Meghdoot for securing Siachen Glacier. In 1986, the aircraft got the distinction of being the first fighter aircraft to cross the Banihal Pass in Jammu and Kashmir.

At least 10 pilots lost their lives in aeroplane crashes, over the years, although the total number of accidents was a little higher. The aeroplanes, also known as the 'Swing Wingers', have also participated in Operation Safed where MiG-23 BNs targeted enemy positions in Tiger Hills and the ensuing seven weeks saw 155 attack missions. The aircraft was also deployed during the Kargil conflict.

India Readies Missile Shield
with Successful Interceptor Test

New Delhi/Bhubaneswar
Registering a hat-trick, India Friday successfully test-fired an indigenous interceptor to neutralize an "enemy" ballistic missile at an altitude of 75 km and demonstrate its capability to defend itself against Chinese and Pakistani missiles, an official said.

The test was a key element in the efforts of the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) to put in place a missile defence shield to protect populated areas and vital installations like nuclear power plants.

The interceptor was fired from Wheeler Island off the Orissa coast at 4.24 p.m.

"To mimic the incoming missile's trajectory, a Dhanush missile was launched from a ship about 100 km from the coast. It rose to a height of 120 km and as it began its downward trajectory, the interceptor was launched and successfully achieved a kill," the DRDO official said in New Delhi.

"The test marks the completion of the first phase of the programme and it will secure operational clearance by 2012-13," the official added.

With three successful trials conducted, DRDO, after analyzing data from the latest firing, might conduct one more test before certifying the system as ready for deployment. Thereafter, the armed forces will put it through a series of trials before the missile defence shield is put in place.

M. Natarajan, the scientific adviser to the defence minister, programme director V.K. Saraswat, and armed forces and government officials witnessed Friday's test.

The first test of the interceptor was conducted in 2006.

On Dec 6, 2007, DRDO had for the second time successfully tested an endo-atmospheric - below 30 km altitude - version of the ballistic missile defence shield, which will have highly sensitive radars to track incoming missiles. The guidance system would ensure that the interceptor collides with the incoming missile within a matter of seconds, thereby saving vital targets from destruction.

Baptised as the Prithvi Air Defence system, the agile interceptor has now been renamed 'Pradyumna'.

DRDO says its missile system is comparable to the Israeli Arrow system and the American Patriot system, both of whose manufacturers are courting the Indian defence establishment for possible orders.

DRDO expects the ballistic missile shield to take care of threats from existing Chinese and Pakistani missiles. While Pakistan possesses missiles with ranges between 400 and 2,000 km, the Chinese arsenal varies from a range of 300 km to 2,800 km.

Indian Air Force Bids Adieu to MiG-23 Fighter Jets

Halwara (Punjab)
The Indian Air Force's (IAF) swing-wing ground attack fighter jet MiG-23 BN took to the skies for one last time Friday at this airbase, as the force bid a nostalgic adieu to the formidable supersonic combat aircraft.

The MiG-23 BN, renamed in the IAF as Vijay (victory), was retired after 28 years of glorious service and flying more than 154,000 hours.

"We know that airplanes, like air warriors, cannot go on forever. While there is thunder and pride in their prime, they fade away with quiet dignity when the time comes," the IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major, said at the phasing out ceremony.

As Wing Commander Y.J. Joshi and Squadron Leader T.R. Sahu of the No.221 Squadron flew the aircraft from this airbase in Punjab, many eyes went moist at this airbase near Ludhiana. Present at the phasing out ceremony was Air Marshal N. Chatrath, under whose command the squadron known as 'Valiant' was formed in 1963.

Over the years, the No.221 Squadron had become the lone squadron with the MiG-23 BN on its inventory.

The 'Valiants' entered the swing-wing era with the induction of MiG-23 BN in the IAF Jan 24, 1981 as a result of the force's need for tactical air strike aircraft in the late 1970s and to counter the Pakistan's then newly acquired F-16 fighter aircraft.

The jets were designed to replace the ageing fleet of MiG-21.

"The MiG-23 BN entered the IAF with an awesome reputation. It was the most powerful single-engine fighter in the world, was of a revolutionary design with a variable wing sweep and air intake and a very complex weapon delivery system, that was fairly advanced for its times," a nostalgic air chief said.

"It gave the IAF a tremendous boost in its capability and we had to get used to the tremendous roar of its R-29 engine. They also played havoc with the surfaces of our runways!"

This single seater ground attack aircraft, which was brought from the erstwhile USSR, had a 'swing wing' concept to compromise on the conflicting requirement of high-speed flight with good low speed handling.

"Whilst being immensely capable, it was also not easy to fly. It had tremendous thrust, its handling characteristics at high angles of attack were tricky, to say the least. And there was one other thing - landing the BN
. It separated the men from the boys and has been the stuff of many bar-room yarns," Major added.

The air force got its first taste of operation with the aircraft April 4, 1984 when the squadron was alerted for the launch of Operation Meghdoot for securing the Siachen Glacier in northern Ladakh.

"Intensive flying began in Kashmir Valley, the Mig-23 BNs were employed to the limits, flying in the mountainous region by day and night. In 1985, the MiG-23 BN got the unique distinction of being the first fighter aircraft ever to cross Banihal Pass in Jammu and Kashmir region by night," an IAF official said.

On May 25, 1999, Operation Safed Sagar (Operation White Sea) was launched during the Kargil conflict. The IAF was to commence offensive air action at first light of the next morning. The MiG-23 BNs were launched into action targeting enemy positions at Tiger Hill with rockets and bombs.

"The ensuing seven weeks from May 26 to July 15 saw the squadron fly 155 attack missions more than those during December 1971 operations.

"During the 1999 Kargil conflict, this aircraft had the distinction of being the single aircraft type to fire the maximum weapon load over the dizzy heights of Drass and Kargil," the official added.

Most of the IAF's MiG-23s had already been phased out. Its superior version the MiG-23 MF was phased out in 2007.

Pakistan On Back Foot on Lahore Security Lapses

The Pakistani authorities Thursday went on the back foot in the face of charges that lax security had led to the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore - and TV footage showed motorcycle-riding gunmen fleeing past an approaching police vehicle.

Sri Lankan spinner Muthiah Muralitharan, Australian umpire Simon Taufel, English match referee Chris Broad and former England player Dominic Cork went public with their charges of security lapses - a chorus that former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf also joined in.

In an attempt to cool passions, Punjab provincial Governor Salman Taseer maintained Thursday that security was adequate and that report of the probe into the incident would be released Friday.

"It is wrong to say there was no security. We had provided four vehicles (with security personnel)," Taseer said at a press conference in Lahore.

"We delivered what we promised. Chris Broad is wrong. How can he say there was no security?" the governor wondered.

Broad, the match referee for the second cricket Test between Sri Lanka and Pakistan, Wednesday said he was "extremely angry" about security in Pakistan.

The former England batsman was in a minibus directly behind the vehicle carrying the Sri Lankan players in Lahore Tuesday when both came under terrorists' fire which wounded six cricketers and killed six policeman and the minibus driver.

"I am extremely angry that we were promised high-level security and in our hour of need that security vanished," Broad said upon arrival in Manchester.

He said the match officials were left like "sitting ducks" after the security forces ran for cover when the attack happened close to the Gaddafi Stadium.

His remarks were borne out by TV footage aired Thursday that clearly showed two of the terrorists who attacked the Sri Lankan team fleeing past an approaching police vehicle.

Captured by a CCTV camera and aired by Geo TV, the visuals showed two men on a motorcycle, one of them brandishing an automatic, entering the frame from the bottom of the picture.

A police vehicle approaches from the other side, crosses the motorcycle and speeds on without even attempting to stop the duo as they ride out of the frame.

On their part, Muralitharan and Taufel both spoke about an inexplicable change made to the departure timing of the Pakistani team's bus that had the effect of sparing the host nation's team from the terrorists' bullets.

Taufel told The Times that while the two teams had travelled to the stadium together on the previous two days, on the day of the attack the bus carrying the Pakistan team left five minutes later.

"One thing I have been impressed about in Pakistan is that logistically they are usually very well organised. They normally depart on time," he said in comments quoted Thursday.

"We knew we were departing at 8.30 a.m. on the third morning. As to why the Pakistani team left at a different time, I don't know."

Muralitheran suggested the terrorists may have had inside information.

"Somehow in this incident there were no police with guns on the bus - if someone was there with a gun we would have had a chance of defending ourselves," Muralitharan told Radio5aa in Adelaide, Australia.

Cork said the Lahore attack was "one of the most frightening experiences" imaginable.

"It's just been one of the most frightening experiences you could ever witness," said Cork, whose bus was just ahead of the ones carrying the Sri Lankan players and umpires.

Musharraf, speaking for the first time in public on the Lahore attack, blamed the security forces for not reacting swiftly and effectively when the terrorists struck.

"I expected the security forces to shoot down those people who attacked the Sri Lankan team. There are elite forces placed there and they are expected to react within three seconds of any such incident," he told reporters here.

"This the kind of training that these forces are provided with. The standards of the training have to improve if we are to tackle such situations effectively," the former president maintained.

On Top:India tests interceptor missile
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 6
The India's Missile Defence Programme today took a leap forward as scientists demonstrated the capacity to intercept an enemy missiles in mid-air and destroy it. A third test in the continuing programme was conducted off the wheeler island in Orissa this afternoon.

An "enemy" missile was destroyed at a height of 75 km above the earth. The test was successful, the Ministry of Defence and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) confirmed today.

With this India joins a select band of nations such as the USA, Russia and Israel, who have similar capabilities. China, has, in the past few months demonstrated it ability that went a step in different direction. It destroyed an old geo-stationary satellite in space and that triggered alarm bells across the globe.

India's test today was against a moving missile. This provides a credible defence against long-range missiles owned by Pakistan having range between 400 and 2,000 km and the Chinese arsenal that varies from a range of 300 km to 2,800 km.

Countering an incoming missile is one of the biggest challenges in modern-day warfare. All long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles leave the earth's atmosphere and re-enter it near the destined target.

Today's test was to destroy the incoming missile at a greater height so that the debris of the missile gets burnt out on re-entering the atmosphere hence reducing the damage on the ground.

Long-range missiles once fired can hit destined targets within a matter of minutes, the challenge is to shoot the interceptor within the first minute or at best two minutes so that the enemy missile is destroyed further away from the Indian soil. Sensors pick up an incoming enemy missile.

The interceptor missile has a killing probability of above 99 per cent. It can also carry a warhead of about 25 kg. Today's test achieved all the mission objectives. The two-stage "interceptor missile" hit the target. To mimic the incoming enemy's ballistic missile trajectory, a Dhanush missile was launched from a ship about 100 km off the coast off Orissa coast. This missile achieved a height of 120 km.

The interceptor missile sensed an "enemy" missile and was fired from a mobile launcher located on wheeler island. This was the third consecutive interception of a ballistic missile. The first was carried out in November 2006. This was outside the atmospheric region at a height of 48 Km above the earth. The second inside the atmospheric region at 15 km height using and was conducted in December 2007.

3 killed in Saras crash
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, March 6
Three Indian Air Force (IAF) personnel, including two test pilots, died today when the prototype aircraft Saras of the state-run National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) crashed near Bidadi, about 30 km from Bangalore.

The aircraft, which took off from the HAL airport in the city at 2.55 pm on a test flight, crashed around 4.05 pm in a field near Bidadi on the outskirts of the city. Two pilots and the flight engineer aboard the aircraft died in the accident.

The deceased pilots were Wg Cdr Praveen and Wg Cdr H D Shah. The flight engineer who died in the accident was Sq Ldr Iliaraja. "The plane was on an experimental sortie", Wg Cdr Ranjan, IAF spokesperson in Bangalore, said.

Three IAF pilots die in trainer plane crash


PLANE CRASH: Investigation begins into small aircraft crash near Bangalore.

Bangalore: Three Indian Air Force (IAF) test pilots were burnt to death on Friday when the prototype Saras aircraft of the state-run National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) crashed and caught fire in an open field near Bidadi, about 30 km from Bangalore, a top official said.

An IAF official said the deceased pilots were Squadron Leader Ilayiraj, Wing Commander Praveen and Wing Commander Shah.

"The second prototype of our small aircraft was on a regular flight test when the tragic mishap occurred claiming the precious lives of three young IAF pilots. We are very distressed and feel sad for the loss of their lives. Our sympathies to the bereaved families," NAL director AR Upadhya told IANS after he rushed to Bangalore from Hyderabad on learning about the accident.

Earlier, an official of the IAF's Aircraft Systems & Testing Establishment (ASTE) said the ill-fated Saras-PT2 took off from the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) airport in the city at 1455 hours IST on a test flight southwards and crashed in an open field near Bidadi around 1605 hours IST while returning from Mysore.

"An hour after the aircraft took off from our runway, we lost contact with it. As we were trying to ascertain what happened, the Bangalore rural police called our air traffic control (ATC) and informed that a yellow-coloured aircraft had crashed in a field and caught fire. A police spokesman also said there bodies were found in the charred wreckage," the ASTE official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Within 30 minutes, the ASTE rushed a few IAF and NAL officials by helicopter to the mishap site for rescue operations.

Meanwhile, the rural police cordoned off the wreckage site to keep away curious crowds from the nearby villages and fenced the place. An ambulance from the IAF Command Hospital was rushed to the spot to recover the bodies.

"An inquiry will be ordered in consultation with the IAF. The director general of civil aviation (DGCA) will conduct the probe. It is too early to say what caused the crash. Efforts are on to recover the black box and ascertain from the ASTE what transpired between the Saras crew and the ATC during the flight, especially in the last minutes," Upadhya said.

The 14-seater multi-role Saras has been designed and developed by the Bangalore-based NAL for use by the military and civil aviation sector. NAL is a constituent of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

The Bangalore rural police said no civilian was injured or killed on the ground as the plane crashed in an open field near a village.

Named after the Indian crane, the airframe of Saras-PT2 was built with lighter composites to reduce its overall weight by about 400kg from its first prototype, which was overweight by about 900 kg. The aircraft is powered by two Canadian Pratt & Whitney turbo-prop engines.

China must build aircraft carrier 'soon' military says

China must build an aircraft carrier "soon" if it wants to be taken seriously as a global superpower, a Chinese military official has said.

By Peter Foster in Beijing

Last Updated: 4:19PM GMT 06 Mar 2009

China must build aircraft carrier 'soon' military says

The Chinese navy has been lobbying for permission to build an aircraft carrier since the 1980 Photo: AFP

Speaking on the fringes of the National People's Congress, China's rubber stamp parliament, the official added that China now had the technology to build an indigenous carrier and should use it.

"Building aircraft carriers is a symbol of an important nation. It is very necessary," said Admiral Hu Yanlin in an article published in the government-sanctioned China Daily newspaper bearing the headline "Build aircraft carriers soon".

"China has the capability to build aircraft carriers and should do so," he added in remarks that will fuel speculation that, after two decades of research, China is ready commission its first carrier.

The comments come two days after China announced a 14.9 per cent increase in defence spending for 2009, a rise that will have seen total Chinese military spending increase by more than 50 per cent since 2006.

The Chinese navy has been lobbying for permission to build an aircraft carrier since the 1980s, but analysts say it has been over-ruled by the country's Central Military Commission anxious that China's rise should not appear to upset regional security balances.

However remarks last December by a spokesman for China's National Defence Ministry that aircraft carriers were "a reflection of a nation's comprehensive power" and were needed to meet the demands of a modern navy were seen as an indication that China would build a carrier soon.

The Chinese government is highly sensitive to claims that its increased military spending will have a potentially destabilizing effect in the Asia-Pacific region.

Earlier this week Li Zhaoxing, the official spokesman at the National People's Congress, bristled at suggestions that China's increased military spending was grounds for concern.

"China's limited military force is mainly for safeguarding our sovereignty and territory and forms no threat to any other country," he said.

Defence analysts say that acquisition of aircraft carrier, which would allow China to project power into the South China Sea, could be seen as a first step towards a long-term goal of challenging US pre-eminence on the high seas.

More immediately, however, the decision to build a carrier could threaten to expose a renewed rift with neighbouring Japan, whose long-strained relations with China have eased in recent years to enable top-level visits.

Under Japan's "peace" constitution, aircraft carriers are considered an "offensive weapon" and a decision by China to build a carrier would, some analysts believe, increase pressure within Japan to reconsider its non-offensive military posture.

* Japan and China are expected to agree to exchange information and cooperate in operations against pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia, the first time the navies of the rival Asian superpowers will have worked in tandem.

Beijing has already dispatched warships to the Indian Ocean and two of Japan's Maritime Self-Defence Force destroyers are expected to sail for the region before the end of the month.

WARRIOR WOMEN | A Fighting Chance

7 Mar 2009, 0000 hrs IST, G K GUPTA

India has a history of women warriors. The fiery Rani of Jhansi fought in the 1857 War of Independence. Early in the thirteenth century, the brave Razia Sultan ruled Delhi and fought battles.

The dauntless women of Coorg are a clan of warriors and legend says that they are descendants of the soldiers of Alexander the Great.

But in the Indian armed forces, women are mostly in the medical corps, serving as doctors and nurses. However, the defence ministry recently decided to grant permanent commissions to women officers in branches including judge advocate general and army education corps.

There have been cases of gender slur in the army. Sushmita Chakraborty, a 25-year-old female lieutenant, committed suicide in Udhampur not long ago causing some to question whether women are capable of handling the pressures of serving in the armed forces.

Reacting to that, Lt Gen S Pattabhiraman, ex-army vice-chief, declared: "Ideally we would like to have gentlemen and not lady officers at the unit level. We can do without them." This has since been repudiated as "quoted out of context" but that excuse hasn't gained much traction.

A reversal of opinion came from A K Antony, the defence minister. A day ahead of International Women's Day last year, he said, "Women could someday be inducted as combatants in the Indian armed forces. I am sure that at some point of time it will happen."

The Indian Navy is taking the lead in this direction by making sure that all future warships have exclusive berthing facilities for women. So, women could find themselves serving on the Rs 3,200 crore aircraft carrier, the largest of its kind to be built in India, for the first time.

The Shivalik-class frigates and the latest Kolkata-type destroyers have also been designed to accommodate women officers. The government is yet to give its approval but the navy is clearly thinking ahead. However, at present, women continue to be excluded from induction in forces that would call for close-combat, which includes serving in the infantry, armoured corps, flying fighter planes and serving aboard warships.

There is the widely held view that men are more successful in handling strenuous situations in the army. But the foremost reason the defence minister gave in the Rajya Sabha was that there existed a very high chance of their physical contact with the enemy. The conundrum is obvious and the issue is far from closed.,prtpage-1.cms

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