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Friday, 17 February 2012

From Today's Papers - 17 Feb 2012




As GCM went beyond 3-yr deadline, apex court lets off Commandant

R Sedhuraman

Legal Correspondent


New Delhi, February 16

Letting off a Commandant charged with causing a loss of Rs 60.18 lakh in the procurement of stores worth Rs 2.2 crore, the Supreme Court has ruled that the order for convening the General Court Martial (GCM) should be issued within three years from the day of noticing a crime and not from the day of initiating disciplinary action.


A Bench comprising Justices Aftab Alam and CK Prasad made the clarification yesterday while allowing an appeal filed by Rajvit Singh, who was posted as officiating Commandant, Central Ordnance Depot, Chheoki, during 2005-07.


The General Officer Commanding (GOC), Madhya Bharat Area, had issued an order on August 23/26, 2010 for convening a GCM to try Rajvit Singh on charges relating to gross financial irregularities punishable under Section 52(f) of the Army Act, 1950.


Singh, however, challenged this order before the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT), contending that the GCM was barred by limitation under Section 122 of the Act. The AFT gave him the liberty to raise this point before the GCM, which subsequently accepted this contention on February 17, 2011.


The officiating GOC, MB Area, however, refused to confirm the GCM order and directed the GCM to proceed with the trial.


In its verdict, the SC pointed out that the GOC-in-C had come to know about the offence on May 7, 2007 but he took one year to pass the order for initiating disciplinary action against the accused on May 12, 2008.


“Reckoning from that date (May 7, 2007), the order passed by the GOC, MB Area, to convene the GCM on August 23/26, 2010 is clearly beyond the period of three years and hence, barred in terms of Section 122,” the Bench ruled.


“One feels sorry to see a trial on such serious charges being aborted on grounds of limitation but that is the mandate of the law,” the apex court held.

Mi-17 V5 copter induction today

To be deployed at Bathinda, Srinagar, Bagdogra

Ajay Banerjee & Vijay Mohan

Tribune News Service


Mi-17 V5 during acceptance trials near Chandigarh.

Mi-17 V5 during acceptance trials near Chandigarh.


New Delhi/Chandigarh, Feb 16

Strategically located Indian Air Force (IAF) airbases at Bathinda, Srinagar and Bagdogra will now deploy the latest armed helicopters - the Mi-17 V5 - that provide crucial all-terrain night-flying capability aided by state-of-the-art avionics.


While Bathinda is located close to the Indo-Pak border, Srinagar sits close to Pakistan and also China. Bagdogra is crucial as it located within the ‘chicken’s neck’ - a reference to the 40 mile wide strip of land in north-Bengal that connects the North-East with the rest of India.


The first lot of these medium-lift category of helicopters is to be inducted into the IAF tomorrow morning at the Palam IAF here. These will then be sent to the three airbases across the country.


IAF spokesperson Wing Commander Gerald Galway today said, “This helicopter falls in the category of armed helicopter having substantial and effective firepower”. It also has the latest and a more powerful engine than its earlier version - the Mi-17 IV.


The powerful engine will enhance its weight-carrying capability in the mountains. It can airdrop some 20 fully armed troops at any location.


This is the first lot of 80 helicopters that was ordered from Russia in 2008. The chopper is equipped with state-of-the-art avionics and onboard navigation systems. It also has an onboard weather radar, state-of- the-art autopilot and is compatible with the latest generation of night-vision goggles.


The new choppers can undertake all-weather and day-and-night operations in any terrain. The helicopter is also equipped with a ‘bambi-bucket’ that can be used for dousing fires while the copter hovers above the fire.


The airframe has a high degree of tolerance to ballistics and is crash-resistant. It is also equipped with an emergency flotation system allowing it to float on water in case of an emergency, Wing Commander Galway said.


The induction of Mi-17 V5 will enhance the capabilities of the Indian Air Force manifold in undertaking varied roles to face the challenges thrown in by unforgiving weather, hostile environment and difficult terrain in the country.


The IAF first inducted helicopters in 1954. They have operated in Siachen Glacier, the highest battlefield in the world, and have also proven their mettle in UN missions.


At present, the first batch of Mi-17 V5s is undergoing acceptance trails at No. 3 Base Repair Depot in Chandigarh after being assembled from semi-knocked down kits.

Daksh robot to get more teeth

Pune:  Terrorists fighting the army in insurgency-hit areas will soon have to face a new combatant that they cannot kill. The Research and Development Establishment (R&DE), Dighi, is developing an armed version of the 'bomb hunter' Daksh robot specifically for fighting militants alongside soldiers.

The R&DE is one of the several laboratories of the Defence Research Development Organization (DRDO), country's premier weapons maker. The Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) Daksh was originally developed for handling bombs like Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and officially inducted into the army in December last year.

Lethal firepower

Christened Gun Mounted Robot (GMR), it will have a 7.62 mm light machine gun with 'belt-fed ammunition' and a 30 mm grenade launcher. The GMR will not only pack lethal firepower but will also have night vision and thermal imaging equipment.

Dr Alok Mukherjee, who heads the Robotics Development Center of R&DE, said that the robot could replace soldiers in sensitive locations in insurgency-hit areas thereby minimising human losses.  "The original platform, which carried the Daksh was too slow for a weaponised version. So we designed a much faster and silent electrical engine that is four times powerful than the original. The batteries will also be replaced with newly developed ones which can last longer along with the range which will be increased to 1km from 0.5 km," Dr Mukherjee said.

He, however, refused to divulge technical and performance details of the engine citing security reasons. 2 varieties of tyres GMR will also have two types of tyres, one for urban environment and the other will be pneumatic tyres for cross-country terrains. However, the notable feature is not the weapons but the Target Tracking System where the guns can move in direction of a moving target after 'locking on' with the camera. "We are trying to enhance the accuracy of the TTS and fine-tuning the integration with the camera so that it cannot miss fast moving targets," he said.

R&DE has already completed the prototype version and it will be another 2 years until the final product is ready after a series of tests and alterations. "We are open to selling the robot to paramilitary and other state police forces," he said.



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Defence cuts in West put BAE's sales into retreat

Britain's biggest manufacturer reports 7 per cent fall in profits and weak outlook for 2012


BAE Systems raised the prospect of even more job cuts yesterday as Britain's biggest manufacturer announced disappointing results for 2011 and forecast that sales would remain stagnant this year.


Reporting a 7 per cent drop in full-year profit to £2.02bn, as the US army's retreat from Iraq propelled a 14 per cent dive in sales, BAE's chief executive, Ian King, outlined a bleak vision of a world in which "affordability has become the priority for our customers".


Endre Lunde, at the defence analysts IHS Janes, said: "It's a market where large contracts are few and far between. Not just in the US and the UK but in the wider industrial world. Pretty much everyone is cutting or flatlining on defence. BAE is doing what it can, but they don't have that much space to manoeuvre in a market this tight."


BAE is trying to win more international business, in countries such as India, Australia and Saudi Arabia, and to offer more support services, such as upgrading armoured personnel carriers. The group is also keen to expand its small but fast-growing, "cyber-security" business, which includes data storage and fraud detection services.


BAE's gloomy prognosis pushed its shares down by 2 per cent, to 325.2p, putting the company which is involved in the production of F-35 and Typhoon fighter jets and the Astute class submarine among the FTSE 100's biggest fallers.


BAE announced 3,000 UK job losses in September and is expected to cut a further 1,500 more positions when a review of its shipbuilding operation is completed that is likely to lead to the closure of its Portsmouth dockyard.


However, Mr King refused to rule out even more job cuts yesterday, as he painted a picture of rising competition and growing austerity, especially in its key US and UK markets.


"We have to continue looking at the efficiency of our business... The [UK] government has a limited amount of money. We need to be efficient, we need to be agile and we can't rule anything out," Mr King said. "BAE Systems is operating in a difficult business environment as defence spending reduces in its largest markets, the US and UK... Little sales growth can be expected for the group in 2012 in current market conditions," Mr King added.


The US accounted for 47 per cent of BAE's sales last year, while Britain made up 29 per cent. The US military capped its military budget at last year's reduced levels for 2012, while Britain wants to cut defence spending by 8 per cent over the next four years. BAE calculated that the Ministry of Defence's spending review cut £500m from UK sales.


Mr King refused to comment on reports that he and senior colleagues were in line for multimillion-pound bonuses, despite falling sales and profits, because a government tax rebate of about £200m will help to boost the company's earnings pershare this year by 14.5 per cent to 45.6p.


Mr King insisted that the Typhoon programme, a joint venture between BAE, the Franco-German EADS and Italy's Finmeccanica, was still in with a chance of scooping up a £7bn contract to supply fighter jets to India, despite a rival consortium being given preferred bidder status.


The Indians chose France's Rafale jet, made by Dessault Aviation, but Mr King insisted yesterday that the "programme has a long way to go before the contract is awarded" and said he would consider lowering the price to win the business.

General: Iran unlikely to strike unless hit

WASHINGTON - The nation's U.S. intelligence officials said Thursday that if Iran is attacked over its alleged nuclear weapons program, it could retaliate by closing the Strait of Hormuz to ships and launch missiles at regional U.S. forces and allies.


Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Defense Intelligence Agency chief Lt. Gen. Ronald Burgess said Iran is unlikely to initiate or intentionally provoke a conflict. His comments came amid growing international fears that Israel would launch military strikes against Iran to thwart its nuclear ambitions and counter recent diplomatic attacks in Thailand, India and Georgia. Israel has accused Iran of trying to kill its diplomats.


Burgess and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said they do not believe that Israel has decided to strike Iran.


Bush adviser: Iran giving same act over nukes

Iran proposes restart to nuclear talks

Expert: Iran offers no surprises over nukes


On the other side of the Capitol, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said intelligence shows that Iran is continuing to enrich uranium but that Tehran has not made a decision to proceed with developing a nuclear weapon. The former CIA director said the United States is open to negotiations with Iran to find a diplomatic solution, but he said the U.S. keeps all options on the table to ensure that Tehran does not acquire a nuclear weapon.


Clapper said it's "technically feasible" that Tehran could produce a nuclear weapon in one or two years, if its leaders decide to build one, "but practically not likely."


Their testimony came as many in Congress are pressing the Obama administration to take tough steps against Iran, questioning whether diplomatic and economic sanctions have taken a toll on the regime. This issue of Iran has united Republicans and Democrats, who have clamored for harsh penalties. Last year, the Senate voted 100-0 to impose penalties on Iran's Central Bank, and President Barack Obama signed the sweeping defense bill containing the sanctions on Dec. 31.


Speaking with reporters, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said that for the sake of Israel and moderate Arab nations, "We need to take further action."


"We gave the president a lot of tools to use," he said, referring to the Iran Sanctions Act. "He's used some of them, but there are more tools available to the president to try to bring Iran into the world community."


Boehner said it is "totally unacceptable" for Iran to develop nuclear weapons and said he agrees with Obama that "we should take no options off the table."


"There has to be some resolution to this issue," Boehner told reporters. "This issue is escalating. That causes me great concern."

Army to step up vigil in Uttarakhand

Shishir Prashant / New Delhi/ Dehra Dun Feb 17, 2012, 00:27 IST


With China spreading its tentacles in Tibet fearing unrest, the Indian army is moving swiftly to increase its presence in the border state of Uttarakhand and construct 13 new helipads.


The army has thus put up a roadmap to acquire 23,216 acres of more land in the hill state, keeping in view strategic importance of Uttarakhand. State chief secretary Subash Kumar held discussions on Thursday with top army officials. The meeting, held at the secretariat here, also decided to give the army NOCs required for its different projects in the hill state. This will be done within ten days, an official statement said.

The meeting also decided in principle that the land required by army should be made available, and there should be no further delay. In this regard, Kumar asked both the commissioners of Garhwal and Kumaon regions to identify such land on top priority basis. The government should carry a joint survey with field officers of the army, he added.


In the meeting, the defence personnel said the army would construct 13 helipads in the state. Besides, it would take up new projects in areas such as Almora, Banbasa, Dharchula, Dehradun, Dharasu, Charmagaurd, Chhiyalekh, Gunji, Ghatoli, Ghansali, Auli, Haldwani, Pantnagar and Pithoragarh, the statement said.


The army is moving ahead to increase its presence in Uttarakhand at time when China has already increased its presence in Tibet fearing turmoil by supporters of Dalai Lama. The Tibetan administration has already beefed up security measures following a spate of suicides by monks and nuns, demanding the return of the Dalai Lama.

Indian Army: Lt-General Ramesh Halagali takes over as the deputy chief

BAGALKOT: Lt-General Ramesh Halagali, who was one of the four generals originally indicted in the Sukna land scam but later emerged somewhat of a 'whistleblower', took over as the Army deputy chief (information systems and training) on Monday. Lt Gen Halagali hails from Bagalkot district.


His parents Gadigeppa Halagali and Kashibai reside in Mudhol taluk and are engaged in agriculture work. His father is a retired soldier. Halagali did his primary education at Bijapur Sainik School and later joined BVV Sangh's Science College. Even though he got admission for medicine, he chose to join the National Defence Academy.


Halagali will retire from service in December 2012.BVV Sangh honoured Ramesh Halagali on his first visit home after taking charge. Speaking to The Times of India Ramesh attributed his growth in the Army to his parents' blessings.Kashibai, his mother, said: "I feel very happy for my son. He has done better than any of us expected him to."Lt-Gen Halagali, who was commissioned into the Sikh Light Infantry in December 1972, was initially punished with 'an administrative censure' after the court of inquiry into the Sukna case. But 'adverse remarks' against him were later 'expunged', and he was rehabilitated by first being posted as the 11 Corps commander in Punjab and then as the director-general of military training at Army HQ.

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