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Sunday, 4 October 2009

From Today's Papers - 04 Oct 09

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Army to procure 300 light tanks
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 3
Even as the Indian Army continues to rectify problems that cropped up with its recently inducted T-90 main battle tanks, it has drawn up plans to procure about 300 light tanks.

A request for information issued to prospective vendors has pegged the requirement at about 200 wheeled light tanks (armoured cars) and about 100 tracked light tanks.

The Army wants tanks for effective employability in the high-altitude areas and mountainous terrain as well as in the deserts and urban and semi-urban terrains in the western sector. The numbers and type of tanks and the projected areas of deployment is indicative of the Army's threat perceptions and operational requirements in various theaters and its doctrinal approach.

Defence sources say the numbers could rise. The army, at present, has 63 armoured regiments out of which about half a dozen have been re-equipped with the T-90

Russian T-90s, procured a few years ago, faced problems while operating at high temperatures in the desert, affecting the tanks' electronics, fire control system and thermal imagers.

According to sources, trials are on in desert to evaluate ratifications and modifications to overcome the problems. About a dozen Russian experts are assisting the Army in the Rajasthan ranges. The Army initially bought 310 T-90s and placed an order for another 330 in 2007 besides license producing another 1,000 by 2020.

Military experts say that light tanks would primarily be used for reconnaissance, where speed and stealth are preferred over firepower. Wheeled tanks have a much lower audio signature and are more manoeuverable than tracked tanks.

Maj Gen Raj Mehta, a cavalry officer, said light tanks are more effective in areas like paddy field, water-logged terrain, sand and marshy ground, where the ground pressure is very low.

Then there is the issue of logistics and cross-country transportation. A light tank weighs up to 14 tonnes while the T-90 or the Arjun weigh 45 and 58 tonnes, respectively. This makes it easier to transport them to the high-altitude areas in Ladakh or North-East by road or air.

Floods: Army, Navy intensify rescue efforts

Press Trust of India / New Delhi October 3, 2009, 15:44 IST

Armed forces today intensified search and rescue operations using 13 helicopters and over 100 boats in flood-hit states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, reeling under one of the heaviest floods in the last century.

IAF has deployed 13 helicopters, including five Mi-8s and eight Chetaks, in the two southern states and already carried out 17 sorties, Defence Ministry spokesperson Sitanshu Kar said.

While, four AN-32 aircraft have carried out 13 sorties airlifting men and material provided by the National Disaster Management Authority from Pune to the affected areas, another AN-32 sortie transported relief material for the affected people in Kurnool.

Around 350 men and 50 boats are being sent to the affected districts in an IAF IL-76 from Bhuwaneshwar and another 100 men and 30 boats are being airlifted to Hyderabad from Pune, he said.

Besides, seventy personnel and 30 boats will be airlifted from Bhatinda and Delhi to the affected areas as per decisions of the NDMA, Kar said.

However, a large number of Jawans and boats have been held up in Bengaluru due to heavy rains. The Navy in Karwar and Goa have been providing relief operations in the affected areas along the West Coast of Karnataka, he said.

Meanwhile, army has deployed around 900 men along with boats, medical teams and an engineer task force. They along with 12 diving teams from the Navy are carrying out relief operations and rescued around 130 people till this afternoon.

IAF aids rescue operations

Express News Service

First Published : 03 Oct 2009 04:43:38 AM IST

BANGALORE: The Indian Army and the Air Force have been pressed into action to assist in flood relief and rescue operations in the floodaffected areas of North Karnataka.

Upon being called by the state government to assist relief operations, army columns were moved out from Belgaum to assist the district administration in Gadag, where Ron and Nargund taluks have been badly affected with entire villages being cut off and marooned.

The districts of Belgaum, Raichur, Gadag, Bellary, Haveri and Koppal are the worst affected, with heavy rains over the last 24 hours in excess of 200 mm to 250 mm.

Similarly, the Air Force also flew sorties to rescue marooned people and drop food packets in the affected areas.

The Bangalore-based Training Command has launched helicopters and fixedwing aircrafts. A round-the-clock flood relief cell has been set up at the Air Force stations in Yelahanka and Hakimpet.

The first helicopter with the specialist equipment to winch up survivors went airborne early morning on Friday to the affected areas.

By afternoon, six helicopters of IAF station, Yelahanka flew 12 sorties, dropping about 750 kgs of relief material, mainly food packets, in and around the flood-hit areas and rescuing 43 persons by carrying out live winching, said a Ministry of Defence statement.

The IAF personnel evacuated about 12 people caught in neck-level deep water in low-lying areas of Bellary district and dropped them at safe places. In addition, 32 lives were saved from Mantralayam in Raichur district.

The crew of the helicopter hovered close to the rooftops on which the people had gathered in the low-lying areas.

The IAF also responded to requests from the Andhra Pradesh government to assist them in rescue operations.

Chinks in the armour

Rajat Pandit, TOI Crest 3 October 2009, 11:52am IST

Admiral Sureesh Mehta isn't one to mince words. But for his verbal volleys at the media following the 26/11 Mumbai attacks which landed him in

avoidable controversy, Mehta, who till a month ago was chairman of the chiefs of staff committee, would have been remembered more for his many achievements. One of them was to enhance a strategic footprint on the sea lanes of the Indian Ocean through which come over 80% of Chinese crude oil imports. If choked, it could cripple the energy-guzzling dragon.

Despite stealing this march over the Chinese in the deep seas, Mehta was a realist. Days before he retired on August 31, he gave a candid appraisal of Chinese military might and intent. In a reflective mood, the admiral said, "In military terms, both conventional and non-conventional , we neither have the capability nor the intention to match China. China is in the process of consolidating its national power and creating formidable military capabilities. Once that is done, China is likely to be more assertive in its claims. Our trust deficit with China can never be liquidated unless our boundary problems are resolved."

In other words, he was suggesting that the political bosses ought to work out a partnership of trust and mutual respect with China and settle the border disputes. Or else, China could put pressure at any point along the 4,056-km fuzzy Line of Actual Control (LAC) from Aksai Chin in Jammu & Kashmir to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh and give India, at best, a bad bout of migraine, and at worst, a bloody nose.

The perennial mist in the high Himalayas often obscures the Chinese superiority along the LAC. Over the years, China has built an envious network of air, road and rail links along the border. These include 40,000 km of roads and a 1,118-km rail link from Lhasa in the Tibetan Autnomous Region to Gormo in Qinghai province of mainland China. This massive infrastructure build-up makes it possible for Beijing to amass a huge number of troops at the border in double-quick time. In contrast, Indian troops have to deal with sloppy infrastructure, with many roads stopping 60-70 km short of the LAC and the nearest railhead being at least 100 km away, impeding swift troop mobility. (Ironically, one reason India didn't move quickly to build communication lines to the border with China was the fear that they would allow quick and convenient passage to Chinese troops once they crossed over.)

Still , it won't be a walkover like 1962. The slow and ponderous Elephant is now quite capable of giving the Red Dragon a tough fight. In short, even though the military asymmetry with China remains stark, Indian armed forces cannot be trifled with any longer.

No one is really talking of a full-blown military face-off between India and China, let alone a war. Such a possibility remains extremely remote, as the two Asian giants are today busy consolidating their economic gains in a geo-strategic environment completely different from the uncertain 1960s.

But as India continues to engage with China to resolve the festering border issue as well as seek more transparency in its military policy and posture, it has no option but to keep a watchful eye and prepare for any contingency. "Pakistan is just a short, or at best, a medium-term threat. China is the actual longterm threat. There is concern about its strategic intent," said a top Army officer. Or, as the Western Air Command chief Air Marshal N A K Browne responded last week to a question on China, "We need to engage with everyone in our neighbourhood, but also keep our gunpowder dryĆ¢€¦".

Indian armed forces have reasons to be extremely wary. One, China continues to help Pakistan with its missile and nuclear programmes, as also conventional military capabilities, in keeping with its long-standing strategy to keep India bogged down in South Asia. Two, it's been making strategic moves in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), which India views as its own backyard, by forging maritime linkages with eastern Africa, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Pakistan, among others. In other words, while China may need to secure its energy shipping lanes, it has moved to achieve a strategic encirclement of India.

Moreover, China has set a scorching pace in modernizing the 2.25-million strong People's Liberation Army - almost double the size of the Indian armed forces - with straight double-digit hikes in defense budgets for over two decades now. China has also moved ahead to build its strategic trans-border and "area-denial" military abilities as well as bolster its nuclear, space and cyber warfare capabilities. It has enhanced its ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile), SLBM (submarine-launched ballistic missile) and SSBN (nuclear submarines armed with long range strategic missiles) programmes. Its road-mobile , solid-fuelled DF-31 A ballistic missile can hit targets 11,200-km away - in other words, not just any Indian city but any in the US too - while the Chinese JL-2 SLBM has a reach beyond 7,200-km .

"All this talk of the 'peaceful rise' of China should not lull us into sleep," says a senior army officer. He draws attention to Chinese deployment of medium-range ballistic missiles on the Tibetan plateau, which clearly target India. Besides, a satellite pictures analysis shows 58 missile launch pads and command and control facilities spread over a large area near Delingha and Da Qaidam in Qinghai province of central China that are meant "for targeting Russia and India" .

With Russia, as with its other neighbours, China has moved quickly to resolve border disputes. But it has shown no such urgency on the Indo-China border. In fact, it has adopted an aggressive border management posture, indulging in frequent sabre-rattling over Arunachal Pradesh and even needling India on "settled" issues like Sikkim.

It's only now that India - after going into a care-worn and withdrawn military outlook on China following the 1962 debacle - has begun work in earnest to create a meaningful deterrence. It is furiously working to add the 3,500-km-range Agni-III and the yetto-be-tested 5,000-km Agni-V to its somewhat limited missile arsenal. It has also deployed Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter jets at Tezpur in Assam, which will be followed by Chabua and other airbases.

Even as work is in progress to improve infrastructure for strategic sustenance along the LAC, old advanced landing grounds in Ladakh (Daulat Beg Oldi, Fukche and Nyama) have also been reactivated after decades of disuse, and airfields in Arunachal Pradesh (Pasighat, Mechuka, Walong, Tuting and Vijaynagar) are being fortified for military operations. The Army is now raising two additional infantry mountain divisions for the Chinese front in Arunachal Pradesh as well as for new artillery brigades. "During the 1962 war, our troops were ill-equipped and illprepared . That is no longer the case," says a senior Army officer. In 1962, the IAF was also not used for any offensive air operations. Since then its counter-air capability has grown manifold. So, while China has several airbases in Tibet, fullyloaded Sukhois can take off from Tezpur and other airbases. With a cruising speed range of 3,200 km, they can conceivably strike high-value targets inside China with much greater impact. Similarly, Indian warships can well threaten Chinese sea lanes.

In short, while India cannot match China's military might, its armed forces seem confident of being able to deliver some stinging blows to ensure Beijing will think twice before launching a 1962-like operation to teach India "a lesson." But all these are defensive calculations.

The real offensive doctrine lies in learning to live with China.

Indian Army To Buy Specialized Weaponry

India has initiated a fast-track programme for the procurement of of $300 million worth of weaponry and equipment for the elite special forces. Under the program, around 10,000 elite troops will be provided weaponry and equipment in the next 15 months which will be bought from the global market.

Indian Defence Ministry officials said that India's Defence Acquisition Agency (DAC), the highest weapons acquisition agency has recently cleared the $300 million fast-track modernization program for the infantry. The global bids for this specialized weaponry will be floated in a couple of months.

Indian Army sources said that the 10,000 elite troops will be trained with the advanced weapons and equipment with the help of Israel. The intensive training will be held at an Infantry Training School, in the state of Madhya Pradesh.

The weapons and equipment to be procured under the program will include Helmut Mounted Display systems, anti tank rifles, anti mine boots, software embedded communication systems, Global Positioning System (GPS), thermal imaging sights, precision guided ammunition, protective clothing and other equipment. The Helmut subsystem would be light and will also house the microphone unit for the radio and Head Up Display and a Nuclear Biological and Chemical (NBC) gas mask. The soldier's personal computer would be attachable. The radio sub system would enable soldiers to transmit and receive complex voice and data signals.

The Indian Army had already envisaged a multi-billion dollar modernization programme for the infantry soldier called the F-INSAS (Futuristic Infantry Soldier as a System) in 2006. The objective of the programme is to enhance the capabilities of infantry soldier in terms of lethality, mobility, survivability, sustainability, situational awareness and battle command and make him a multi-mission war fighter.

Under the F-INSAS program the Indian Army plans to buy new Anti-tank Guided Missiles (ATGM) launchers, bullet proof vehicles, anti-material rifles, new generation carbines battle surveillance radars, Thermal Imaging Sights for ATGM launchers, ground sensors, secured communication systems, precision guided ammunition, laser rangefinder to provide the soldier with range and direction information and light clothing and bullet proof jackets. The Indian Army would commence trials for the F-INSAS prototype from 2011 and aims to equip its entire infantry troops comprising 500,000 by 2020.

The F-INSAS programme was jointly conceived by the Indian Army and the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO). However, the Indian Army has virtually rejected the involvement of DRDO in the F-INSAS project estimated to be over $3 billion. The Army has termed the 25-kilogram weight of the entire personal system for the soldier as too heavy. This includes his uniform, the boots, handheld GPS system, night vision equipment, helmet, personal weapon, etc.

The prototypes and concepts were conceived by the DRDO and were deemed unfit by the Indian Army. Most of the weaponry will now be sourced internationally.

While the procurement for the F-INSAS programme is yet to begin, the Indian Army is relieved that some of the hi- tech weaponry is coming their way through the latest fast-track acquisitions.

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