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Wednesday, 9 November 2011

From Today's Papers - 09 Nov 2011




Award for Army team

Tribune News Service  New Delhi, November 8 A team of the Indian Army has won an international competition beating almost 100 teams from 14 countries. The 'Cambrian patrol competition' known as the ‘Olympics of patrolling’ is conducted at Wales, United Kingdom, every year.  The 4th Battalion of 9th Gorkha Rifles, which is a part of the Bhopal-based 21 strike corps, won top honours at the event, the Defence Ministry spokesperson said today.  Lt Gen AK Singh, Army Commander, Southern Command, felicitated the team today. He said the event is a widely-known military competition conducted by the British Army and is held under adverse battle conditions in arduous terrain.

Boeing Seen Winning Indian Air Force Deal

NEW DELHI — The Indian government is signaling that Boeing soon will be awarded a contract for 22 AH-64D Apache Longbow Block IIIs for the Indian air force (IAF).  The U.S. Army rotorcraft, which is said to have outperformed the rival Russian Mi-28N Night Hunter in tests, was strongly recommended by the IAF earlier this year as its choice following trials in 2010.  Defense ministry sources reveal that differences in performance between the two helicopters was so great that the IAF’s case was difficult to question. The final contract, a direct commercial sale, could be worth $1.5 billion.  An IAF trial team member, who asked not to be named, says, “The Apache scored consistently over Mi-28 in several key operational criteria. Broadly, these fell under the categories of electronic warfare, survivability, situational awareness in the cockpit, night-fighting capabilities, sensor efficacy and weapons. The helicopter was also found to be far more maneuverable. We worked directly with Boeing and the U.S. Army to test this helicopter.”  Another IAF source suggests that the Apache also had superior armor protection and performed well in both desert and high-altitude conditions.  Boeing said it would not comment on the outcome of the competition since nothing was known officially yet. A Rosoboronexport official says he had read local Russian media reports about the Mi-28N losing out in the contest, but was unaware of why. The Russian helicopter had proven itself in field trials, he declared, but would not say more.  The new helicopters will replace the IAF’s aging Mi-35s. The AH-64D and Mi-28 were put through field evaluation trials in mid-2010 at the Jaisalmer desert base in western India and Leh, the world’s highest operational air station, in the Himalayas. This was followed by weapons firing trials, targeting and maintenance trials in the contenders’ home countries.  Expected Order  In a December 2010 notification to the U.S. Congress, the Pentagon said it expected the Indian government to order 50 T700-GE-701D engines, 12 AN/APG-78 fire control radars, 812 AGM-114L-3 Hellfire Longbow missiles, 542 AGM-114R-3 Hellfire II missiles, 245 Stinger Block I-92H missiles and 23 modernized target acquisition designation sights. U.S. Embassy officials said the notification was to start due-process paperwork that would save time in the event of a contract award later.  After the abrupt elimination of both U.S. contenders — the Lockheed Martin F-16 and Boeing F/A-18 — from the IAF’s $12 billion MMRCA fighter competition last April, U.S. companies have moved quickly to mop up other Indian deals. In June, Boeing was awarded a $4.1 billion prize for 10 C-17 heavy-lift transports, and Lockheed is close to securing a follow-on, $1 billion contract for six more C-130J special-mission airlifters. There have been indications that Boeing’s CH-47 Chinook has also emerged on top against the Russian Mi-26T2 in a competition for 12 heavy-lift rotorcraft for the IAF.  The acquisition of attack helicopters comes at a particularly delicate time for relations between the IAF and Indian army. Locked in a spat for years over who should operate battlefield assault helicopters, the army has asked the government to allow it full command-and-control over all tactical battlefield air assets.  The IAF remains unmoved, and has argued that while attack helicopter flights will be controlled by the army, sorties will be flown only by IAF pilots. To boot, the IAF is a primary customer for the indigenous Light Combat Helicopter and weaponized Dhruv helicopter.

Gorkha battalion to mark 125th anniversary

One of the most decorated battalions of the Indian Army — 2/5 Gorkha Rifles (Frontier Force) — will be celebrating its 125th anniversary at Almora on November 10. The battalion was raised in 1886 at Abbottabad (Gorkhas call it Howrahbas) — where US commandos killed Osama bin Laden.  “It is the only battalion in the Indian Army, indeed anywhere, to have won three Victoria Crosses in the Second World War in the Burma Campaign. Two around Imphal in a single action and one more later further east. It is naturally called the VC Paltan,” said Major General Ashok Mehta, a veteran Gorkha soldier.  Havildar Gaje Ghale won the first VC in 1943 fighting against the Japanese at Basha Hill. A year later, Subedar Netra Bahadur Thapa posthumously earned the VC for defending Mortar Bluff picket. Withing 24 hours, Naik Agansingh Rai led an impossible charge to recapture the lost Mortar Bluff and was decorated with the VC.  The battalion fought against rebels in the Congo in 1962. The battalion earned a battle honour at Charwa during the 1965 Indo-Pak war, followed by honours in Pirganj and Bogra in 1971. Army chief Gen VK Singh and Central Army commander Lt Gen VK Ahluwalia will attend the celebrations in Almora.

Slow response to Chinese buildup near Ladakh

Faced with the Chinese army’s infrastructure and galloping capability-building on its side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) across Ladakh, security considerations have compelled New Delhi not to activate its advanced landing grounds (ALGs) at Fukche and Chushul in the eastern part of the region.  Instead, the Indian Army will be inducting an armoured brigade, including 18 T-72 tanks in the area to deter any muscle flexing by Beijing.  And in the wake of China enhancing its air capability in the region, India will rely only on the newly-built Nyoma airstrip on the banks of the Indus in eastern Ladakh to tackle any hostile moves by China. Top government sources pointed out that New Delhi could no longer depend on the ALGs at Daulat Beg Oldi, Fukche and Chushul in eastern Ladakh as they are under direct observation by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and could be easy targets if hostilities break out.  The airstrip at Daulat Beg Oldi can be used only to drop supplies from aircraft and helicopters due to its high altitude (16,700 feet), low oxygen and high winds. To connect this airstrip, the government has cleared an ambitious plan to tunnel through the glaciated Saser La, on the right side of the 25,000-foot-high Saser Kangri peak in eastern Ladakh.  While the defence ministry offers a baffling argument of democracy versus dictatorship to justify the slow progress of road infrastructure-building in Ladakh, the Chinese army operates no less than five ALGs across the LAC.  The Chinese army has two regiments of 16,000 troopers at Qizil Jilga (40 km from the LAC) and Shiquanhe (50 km), two battalions of 2,000 men at Rudok (22 km) and Spanggur (8 km) and a company of 120 soldiers at Old Demchok, just 1 km from the LAC. Besides, Beijing has five civilian  India has airbases in Leh, Thoise and now, Nyoma. A dusty track links Daulat Beg Oldi with Demchok in eastern Ladakh to carry supplies to the posts on vigil against the PLA.

Rahul and Varun gandhi among young MPs to witness army exercise

Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi and his cousin Varun Gandhi from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) may be among young MPs to get an opportunity to witness a massive winter war game underway in the Rajasthan desert with the Indian Army drawing up plans for this.  An army officer told reporters here that a proposal to showcase the army's prowess in desert warfare through nearly 50,000 troops and over 250 battle tanks to young MPs had been sent to the defence ministry and a final call is awaited on this.  Apart from the two Gandhis, Congress' Naveen Jindal and Meenakshi Natrajan, Rashtriya Lok Dal's Jayant Chaudhary, Samajwadi Party's Akhilesh Yadav and Biju Janata Dal's Kalikesh Singh Deo could be among the list of young MPs to witness the exercise, the officer said.  The army's Bhopal-based 21 'Sudharshan Chakra' Corps, one of the three strike formations, is holding the exercise that will last till mid-December, as first reported by IANS. The strike corps has its troops and forces spread all the way till southern Rajasthan.  "The idea is to give the young MPs an exposure to the army's capabilities and strengths, and military matters," the officer said.  The army already has plans to attract young MPs to join the Territorial Army, a reserve force comprising civilians. Former minister of state for defence from the Congress, KP Singh Deo, is a retired Territorial Army brigadier.  The army has in recent times honoured leading cricketers, Olympians and film personalities with honorary ranks in the Territorial Army such as Kapil Dev, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Abhinav Bindra and Mohan Lal.

Indian Army desperately needs modern artillery

Since a major power’s military capabilities or those of a group of major powers still play a decisive role in the world (as recently demonstrated in Libya), it is important to take stock where India’s modernisation plans stand in this regard.  India’s defence preparedness has always been adversary-specific. The arming and organisation of the Indian Armed Forces have been planned mainly keeping Pakistan in mind. However, a minimum deterrence against China has been maintained since 1962 was too bitter a pill to swallow for India.  However, over the last 12 years, there has been a perceived change. The three wings of the Armed Forces have advocated moving away from an adversary or threat-specific approach to a capability-specific approach. The political class has, in principle, agreed to this.  The second-largest standing volunteer Army in the world is currently undergoing a transformation in terms of organisation as well. The Indian Army currently has a mix of offensive, defensive and mixed corps. India right now has three ‘Strike’ or ‘Reserve’ Corps – 1 Corps headquartered in Mathura, 2 Corps headquartered in Ambala and 21 Corps headquartered in Bhopal.  However, since a doctrinal change in terms of swift penetration inside the adversary’s territory without the need to mobilise the old-fashioned way has been doing the rounds, the requirement for cutting-edge weaponry is being felt more and more.  While the Army plans to induct a total of 1600 Russian-origin tanks, a mix of T-90M Bhishma and the older T-90S, the indigenous Arjun MBT has finally proved its mettle. Though substantially heavier than the T-72s and T-90s, the Arjun has proved to be more capable in terms of firepower and armour protection, if certain sources in the Army are to be believed. Till now, around 248 Arjun tanks have been ordered and a regiment of tanks (numbering around 90) are already in service.  There were certain technical issues with the Russian T90 series tanks in terms of their performance in the extreme desert climate but Army HQ sources are saying they have been sorted out.  However, the Army’s artillery modernisation drive has taken a major hit. The Army’s last major artillery buy was in the 1980s when they bought about 400 FH-77 guns from Bofors, Sweden.  Just when a contract for 120 self-propelled (SP) guns on tank tracks and 180 wheeled SP 155mm guns was about to be concluded after years of protracted trials, Denel, the South African arms manufacturer and a leading contender for the contract, was alleged to have been involved in a corruption scam in an earlier deal for anti-material rifles (AMRs). Since, the other two howitzers in contention, from Soltam of Israel and BAE Systems, reportedly did not meet the criteria, the Army recommended fresh trials.  In January 2008, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) issued three global tenders for 155mm guns and howitzers for the mountains, the plains and self-propelled guns for the deserts. The Defence Acquisitions Council (DAC) of MoD had earlier approved the procurement of 1,580 guns in 2007 and an RFP issued within the first quarter of 2008. It was issued to eight manufacturers including BAE Systems, General Dynamics, Nexter (France), Rhinemetall (Germany), Samsung (South Korea) and ST Kinetics. The guns of BAE Systems and ST Kinetics were shortlisted. But since ST Kinetics came under the scanner for some wrongdoings, the RFP was cancelled.  The DAC had also approved the procurement of 145 light-weight towed 155mm, 39-calibre howitzers in 2006 and an RFP was issued to ten global vendors in 2008. ST Kinetics was the only one to submit a technical and commercial offer for its Pegasus Light Weight Howitzer. As it became a single-vendor situation, the MoD initiated the procurement of light-weight howitzers through the direct Foreign Military Sale (FMS) route from the US government. Trials of the US BAE Systems M777 A1 howitzer were held in the Pokhran range and reportedly trials were held in the mountains of Sikkim too. But a sudden report leak case, which the Army is probing, has since held up the matter.  Since the Bofors 155mm Howitzer was introduced into service, the indigenously designed and manufactured 105 mm Indian Field Gun (IFG) the Light Field Gun (LFG), inducted further back, also need replacement. Approximately 180 pieces of 130mm M46 Russian medium guns have been successfully “up-gunned” to 155mm calibre with Israeli help. The new barrel length of 45-calibres has enhanced the range of the gun to about 40 km with extended range ammunition.  It was recently found out that the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) was sitting on the drawings of the FH-77 guns which came with the Bofors’ deal – and this when the Army has been keeping about 300 of the old guns fit by cannibalising the other 100 pieces. OFB has now been asked by MoD to build six prototypes within 18 months.  However, the Army’s artillery power has received a major shot in the arm by progressive induction of modern rocket artillery systems. Two regiments of the 12-tube, 300mm Smerch multi-barrel rocket launcher (MBRL) system have been raised. The Russian system has a 90 km range and has massively added to the true long range firepower of the Army. Extended range (ER) rockets have enhanced the 122 mm Grad MBRL’s range from 22 to about 40 km.  The indigenous Pinaka MBRL system has also added to the Army’s firepower. The system had first proved its mettle in Kargil War where it successfully neutralised enemy positions. The Army has inducted three Pinaka regiments till date while more are likely to be inducted between now and 2017. Each Pinaka regiment typically consists of three batteries with each battery comprising six 12-tube launchers. A full battery salvo of 72 rockets in 44 seconds can neutralise one square km of area. A few sources say India already has inducted as many as 80 of these systems.  The Pinaka will be operated in conjunction with the Indian Army’s Firefinder radars and indigenously developed BEL Weapon Locating Radar of which 28 are on order. The Indian Army is networking all its artillery units together with the DRDO’s Artillery Command & Control System (ACCS), which acts as a force multiplier. The ACCS is now in series production. The Pinaka units will also be able to make use of the Indian Army’s SATA (Surveillance & Target Acquisition) Units which have been beefed up substantially throughout the late 1990s, with the induction of the Searcher-1, Searcher-2 and IAI Heron UAVs into the Indian Army as well as the purchase of a large number of both Israeli made and Indian-made Battle Field Surveillance radars. These have also been coupled with purchases of the Israeli LORROS (Long Range Observation and Sighting System) which is ideally suited for long range day/night surveillance.  Induction of the Brahmos cruise missile and Prithvi ballistic missile systems has re-affirmed the Army’s battlefield domination ambitions. With modern infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) and armoured personnel carriers (APCs) joining the force every year and the Army in the process of augmenting its flying gunship force levels, it is the necessary induction of between 3000 and 4000 pieces of towed and self-propelled artillery that can really hamper the 1.1-million strong Army’s progress on the battlefield. The Army has recently beefed up its mountain warfare force by inducting two new mountain divisions or about 30000 terrain-fighting soldiers.


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