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Monday, 18 July 2011

From Today's Papers - 18 Jul 2011




China's defence industry offers lessons to India

Ajai Shukla / New Delhi July 18, 2011, 0:31 IST  In a closed-door discussion here on Thursday, a leading authority on China’s military modernisation explained how that country’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA, the term embraces navy and air force, too) has transformed into a top-rung, largely indigenously equipped force in barely a decade, even as India’s military languishes as the world’s biggest importer of defence equipment.  Tai Ming Cheung, who spoke to the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis, is a professor working with the US Pentagon’s Minerva Project, in which academics like him pore over Beijing’s Chinese-language releases to track military and technological developments within the PLA.

Tai noted both China and India were “catch-up countries”, attempting a technological leapfrog by taking just decades to reach a technology level that Western countries had taken more than a century to achieve. China still trails the US and western European powers, but is catching up fast, powered by an official science & technology (S&T) roadmap that the leadership backs. From a global innovativeness ranking of 24 in 2004, China jumped to six in 2009. It now targets fifth place by 2020, with global leadership in the high-tech arenas of space, nuclear, information technology and biotechnology. By 2040-50, China aims at S&T parity with the US.  “Until the late 1990s, the Chinese approach to defence S&T was in a much worse state than what India is in today. They have been able to deal with a lot of these issues in the last decade alone,” says Tai.  The change India largely plays by established rules — technology denial regimes, and an intellectual property rights (IPR) regime to safeguard technology leads. While, China has benefited from its willingness to defy rules. Beijing’s opportunism was evident in the early 1990s, from its large-scale recruitment of out-of-work scientists from the former Soviet Union. Its careful strategising is evident from an innovation plan endorsed and pushed from the highest levels of the political and military leadership.  “Hu Jintao (the Chinese president) always talks about S&T being a key component of the race for comprehensive national strength. China sees S&T as a zero-sum game; they can’t afford to depend upon foreign countries for critical technologies. Stealing, reverse engineering and cloning is acceptable,” says Tai.  At the start of the 21st century, in its first step towards becoming an innovative military builder, China embarked on a process of “creative adaptation”. Using its imitative capabilities, its aerospace industry indigenised critical parts of the Russian Sukhoi-27 fighter (an earlier version of India’s Su-30MKI), developing it into the “indigenous” J-11B fighter. In this high-end imitation, the basic platform remained Russian but key avionics, including the fire control system, were Chinese.  “It is all about being able to absorb technology from outside,” says Tai. “In catch-up countries, it is initially all about absorptive capacity, not about invention. The equipment has already been built elsewhere.”  Emboldened by Russia’s passive acceptance of the Su-27 IPR violations, China embarked upon its innovation path, the first step of which was ‘incremental innovation’. As evident from the J-10A, still China’s frontline fighter, this involves developing a basic platform and then incrementally indigenising and improving it, batch by batch. The J-10A initially contained many Russian and Israeli components, which the Chinese gradually indigenised.  From here, China moved to ‘architectural innovation’, transforming existing systems by rearranging their architecture. A commercial example is the iPad. Most of its components had been around for a while, but Apple rearranged these into a radical new product. In a similar way, Chinese engineers juggled existing technologies to build a missile that specifically targeted US Navy aircraft carriers, the Dong Feng 21B anti-ship ballistic missile. The DF-21B has surprised US defence planners not just technologically but also operationally, forcing them to cater to a completely new operational threat.  The third level of innovation, with which China is currently struggling, is ‘component innovation’. In this, improved components — microprocessors, precision engineered parts, digital components, etc — are used to improve platform efficiency. But this requires advanced scientific and technological skills, making such innovation difficult for a catch-up country.  “The Chinese have not been able to develop a world-class turbofan engine; their microprocessor capabilities are still relatively poor. So, they don’t yet qualify as a component innovator,” says Tai.  But on January 11 this year, when the Chinese J-20 stealth fighter made its first flight, there was a global firestorm of speculation that China had conducted a coup in “disruptive innovation”. This ultimate form of innovation combines architectural with component innovation, assembling improved components into a creative new design. But Tai dismisses such talk: “The J-20 is not really a “disruptive innovation”. It lacks the component level innovations and is, therefore, merely an architectural innovation.”  Contrast Nevertheless, China’s defence industry has achieved major recent successes, triggered by its restructuring at the end of the 20th century. Earlier, the Chinese defence industry was separated, Soviet style, between research and development (R&D) and manufacturing units. When the R&D developed a product, the defence industrial ministry — called the Commission for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence (Costin) —would assign a factory to build the equipment. But when the factory got the blueprints, there was confusion because they had not been involved in the design.  “The Chinese leadership saw that this did not help the national interest; it only helped the defence industry. One of the first reforms was to overturn the power of Costin and allow the military a central role in overseeing the defence industry. If you don’t have end-users, particularly war fighters and the acquisitions community, playing a central role, then you’re not going to have innovation. If you’re just going to have industry administrators, then they are going to be looking just at their interests,” says Tai.  The result has been surging growth in the innovativeness of Chinese defence industry. In 1998, they filed for 313 patents. In 2008, it had gone up to 11,000 patents. In 2010, 15,000 patents were applied for.  India’s defence industry today mirrors its Chinese counterpart in 1998. The R&D element (the DRDO) functions separately from the manufacturing element (the defence PSUs). India’s military has little say, and no oversight, in what is researched and manufactured. And the Indian ministry of defence’s department of defence production is an accurate mirror image of China’s Costin, pushing back the innovative private sector to safeguard the interests of the state-owned enterprises.

Indian Army organises fair in Leh

Leh (Ladakh), July 17: Indian Army personnel organised a fair on Saturday in Leh. Ladakh, with an objective to showcase weapons and security equipment to the locals.   Locals in Leh and Ladakh got a good opportunity to acquaint themselves with the functioning of the army and the kind of life led by them.  At the 'Know Your Army' exhibition, which was inaugurated in Leh by the Chief Executive Councillor of Leh, Rigzin Spalbar, visitors got an opportunity to see weapons, which the army had got into its custody after conducting raids in the valley with an aim to capture illegal arms and ammunitions with the militant.  "The Army mela that has been organised is basically to reach out to the people. You know it is their army, the people of Ladakh particularly. We want to reach out to the people and tell them that we love the people of Ladakh and we really want to salute them. It is for them that this army has been raised and it is a people's army in that sense. I would like to convey my message to the people of Ladakh that they must come forward and join it," said Lieutenant General Ravi Dastana, General Officer Commanding-in-chief, and 14 Corps, Ladakh.  The main purpose of the exhibition was to create awareness about the working of defence forces among the general population and the various career opportunities provided by the armed forces (army).  The visitors got an opportunity to see tanks and infantry combat vehicles and they were also allowed to take a ride on few of these vehicles.  "Whatever we have seen today, we really feel proud that the soldiers of the Indian Army work so hard to ensure the security of the people. Women and children of all age groups have come here to visit this fair and learn about the Indian army. There is so much enthusiasm among the people," said Rigzin Spalbar, Chief Executive Councillor, Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development, Leh.  The highlight of the exhibition was the equipment used in extreme cold climates, like in the Siachen glacier and during mountaineering and rescue operations.  The Indian Army is the world's second largest standing army with about 1.1 million soldiers in active service and thousands in reserve troops.

Patrick Mercer: Sack the civil servants - not our brave soldiers  Read more:

Throughout history, Britain has displayed a proud military tradition, regularly punching above its weight with a relatively small but hugely capable army. That’s why Ministry of Defence proposals to cut our armed forces by some 17,000 personnel are so disturbing – and wrong-headed.  Not only will the plans, the result of a nine-month armed forces review, see our troops slashed to around 84,000 by 2020, but they will do so at a time when we are a nation at war on two fronts – in Afghanistan and Libya.  It is an act of utter folly which will put us at risk – above all, those brave men and women who go to war in our name. Every time numbers are reduced, greater pressure is placed on the soldiers who remain.  Read more:

Consider also a new report from the Defence Select Committee which concludes that the British task force sent into Helmand province five years ago was too weak numerically to defeat the Taliban, and that its size was capped for financial reasons.  But it is not just conflicts we are already caught up in that we should be concerned about: we face new threats every day. For instance, the current instability in Pakistan threatens to drive it into armed confrontation with America, right on the borders of Afghanistan.  And as illustrated by the latest bombings in Mumbai, hostilities between India and Pakistan are increasingly threatening. Any British government would be naive in the extreme to think it impossible that Britain could be called on to intervene at a later date.  Read more:

 India to push for tech transfer

Clinton arrives today for strategic talks  Despite growing bilateral strategic and defence ties, the US has refused to provide high technology in critical areas like conventional warfare and space to India. Top defence sources said that during the last six months, the US had rejected India’s demand for transfer of technology for night vision devices, including telescopes and goggles as well as Global Positioning systems (GPSs) and “seeker” technology, which gives ballistic missiles pin-point accuracy.  The matter likely to come up during discussions at Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s strategic dialogue with External Affairs Minister SM Krishna starting Monday.  The Indian defence sector urgently needs transfer of technology in key areas like missiles, navigation and electronic warfare.  The US has, so far, been reluctant to part with dual use technology in these core and strategically important areas. Since the approval for transfer of technology in these core and strategically important areas comes from US Department of State, India may take up the matter during the Clinton-Krishna talks.  The two countries also set up a High Technology Co-operation Group a decade back to analyse and overcome problems in transfer of technology. The eighth round of talks of this important group comprising Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission and US Under Secretary of State for Commerce was held here last week.  Sources said here on Sunday the US was still reluctant to part with dual use technology to the commercial sector, including private sector and the High Technology Group meeting did not yield anything substantial.  Given this background where the US was unwilling to provide high technology for purely business and commercial ventures in India, New Delhi was not hopeful of gaining any concession in transfer of technology in defence areas.  Sources said the Indian defence establishment tried to procure technology transfer from the US in some important fields in the last six months and could not do so even as the US removed several Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) laboratories off its Entity List.  The DRDO and Bharat Dynamics Limited laboratories were taken off the Entity List following President Barack Obama’s announcement during his visit to New Delhi in November last year.  However, the US was still not ready to provide the much needed technology to India for strengthening its conventional military capabilities, sources said. While Russia had indicated to have a tie up with India in space sector including satellite system after its successful trial of Glosnass satellite, the US was not willing to transfer technology for its GPS.  Glosnass is the counterpart of the GPS and Russia recently agreed to provide some crucial bandwidth for high resolution to the Indian civil and military industry without any reservations, officials said.  Space technology is one of the most important and vital components of modern day warfare and India wants to rapidly enhance its capabilities in this sphere and GPS or Glassnoss will go a long way in achieving this objective.  Giving another instance, sources said the US despite repeated efforts by India in the last three or four months refrained from providing “seeker” technology. This technology gives the ballistic missile the pin point accuracy in striking any target.  Terming “seeker” technology and space as part of India’s strategic needs, sources said the US so far did not agree to share technology in the field of navigation. This dual use technology can be used for navigating commercial and military aircraft as well as ballistic missiles.  Battling with insurgency and infiltration in Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian Army needs top quality third generation night vision devices including telescopes and goggles. While the US indicated it was willing to sell infra-red and thermal imagers forming night vision devices, but it would not agree to transfer of technology, sources said.


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