On training sortie, 2 Air Force copters collide mid-air, 9 dead
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, August 30
Nine Indian Air Force personnel, including five pilots, were today killed when two MI-17 choppers collided mid-air just after take-off from the Jamnagar airbase in Gujarat.
The Russian-made twin-engine copters were on a training sortie and flying in close formation. The crash occurred at 12.05 pm, five minutes after the take-off,” said IAF spokesperson Wing Commander Gerard Galway. A Court of Inquiry has been ordered. This is the first-ever MI-17 mid-air collision for the IAF.
Among the dead are three Wing Commanders - Vikram Singh, S Saxena (a qualified flying instructor) and Ashish Sharma. The other casualties are Squadron Leader Manoj, Flying Officer Srijith and 4 air warriors - an IAF nomenclature for other ranks - Patel, Rana, Murugan and Sahni. It is learnt that at least three of the officers were not based in Jamanagar and had come for special combat training from forward bases.
Preliminary reports suggest a pilot error could have caused the crash, said sources. The choppers were headed for field firing practice and flying close to each other. Under the IAF guidelines, the Mi-17 choppers have to maintain a distance of 60 meters from each other. A Mi-17 on such missions flies at a speed of 180 km per hour. “It appears that one of the pilots took a wrong turn or followed a command incorrectly like taking a left turn instead of right or vice-versa,” said sources. “In such a scenario, there would have been no reaction time for pilots to correct the error, leading to collision. In this case, the upper rotors had come in contact causing the collision,” said officials. A Wing Commander who flies such a chopper in tactical flying formation would ideally have a flying experience of 1,200 to 2,500 hours. The choppers belonged to the Tactical Development Establishment, Gwalior. Sources said the choppers turned into a fireball after collision and the bodies were badly charred.
All in 5 minutes
The Mi-17 choppers took off from the Jamnagar airbase at 12 pm and crashed five minutes later
The IAF copters were headed for field firing practice and flying in close formation
Preliminary reports suggest a pilot error could have caused the crash. A Court of Inquiry has been ordered
Indian army helicopters in deadly collision
At least nine military officials dead after two Russian-made MI-17 helicopters crash into each other in Gujarat state.
Two military helicopters have collided during a training sortie over India's western state of Gujarat on Thursday, killing nine air force personnel, the government has said.
Television pictures showed the burnt out remains of the Russian-made MI-17 multi-utility helicopters in what seemed like a sparsely populated area.
The wreckage was surrounded by police, firefighters and military officials.
Officials quoted by the media said the crash site was a military area near the Jamnagar airbase in Gujarat, a state bordering Pakistan. No casualties or loss of property on the ground was reported.
The military has been plagued by several fatal accidents, often due to obsolete hardware. More than half of the 872 MiG fighters India bought from Moscow since the early 1960s have crashed.
India plans to spend about $100bn over the next 10 years to upgrade the largely Soviet-era military equipment.
China Test Fires Nuclear-Capable ICBM, Defense Minister to Visit India
China has announced this week that they have recently test-fired a new generation inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) that is capable of carrying up to 10 nuclear warheads. The missile, called Dongfeng-41, has a strike range of 14,000 kilometers.
The announcement, which was broadcasted on China’s state-run CCTV, said that “China last month tested a new generation of intercontinental ballistic missile, the Dongfeng-41, or DF-41, which is believed to have a maximum strike distance of 14,000 km.”
In a rare occurrence, the announcement also contained video footage of mobile missile units in action.
Perhaps provocatively, the announcement also said that “the new missile’s mobility, precession and war head yield combined give China a first strike capability.” China claims, however, that it would never be the first one to use nuclear weapons, and that its arsenal is strictly designed as a deterrent and for counter-attack in the event of a nuclear strike against its territory.
On Tuesday, China’s CCTV also reported that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) mobile missile units have been undergoing training in different parts of the country to become familiarized with local, climatic conditions.
This missile launch is of significant strategic importance for India. China’s test-fire has occurred in the aftermath of India’s own launch of its Agni-V missile, which has the capability to reach several cities deep within China. It then begs the question, is China’s recent launch in reaction to India’s own missile launch?
At a time when China and India have been militarizing their shared border within the Himalayas, such missile diplomacy is an unwanted addition to already tense Sino-Indian relations.
High-level interactions and negotiations between China and India, however, are set to increase. China’s Defense Minister, General Liang Guanglie, is due to visit India for official meetings from September 2, 2012. This will be the first visit from a Chinese defense minister to India in the past seven years.
The purpose of the trip is to deepen military ties between the nuclear-armed neighbors, especially along their heavily-armed Himalayan border. It is expected that successful negotiations will result in the creation of confidence building measures, and possibly the revival of their “hand-in-hand” bilateral exercises (which have been placed on hold since 2010 after China denied an Indian general a visa).
In an official statement, the Indian government noted that measures to increase “peace and tranquility” along the Sino-Indian border is on the agenda. The government further stated that “the two sides will also discuss measures to promote defense cooperation between their armed forces.”
The overall situation is thus quite positive. In recent years the militarization of the border between China and India has been a contentious issue – any confidence building measures that can be put in place will only serve to decrease tension in the region. However, further testing of nuclear-capable ICBMs could potentially inject a degree of uncertainty into the strategic calculations of both sides. Nonetheless, continued high-level interaction between China and India can only help to preserve the positive relations between the Asian giants.
Five Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan
SYDNEY: Australia on Thursday mourned the deaths of five of its soldiers in Afghanistan, three killed by an Afghan army colleague, in what have become the nation's deadliest hours of combat since the Vietnam War.
The Australians were killed in two separate incidents just hours apart late Wednesday and early Thursday.
The first incident took place at a base in Uruzgan province, when a man in an Afghan army uniform opened fire on Australian soldiers, killing three and wounding two, according to Air Marshal Mark Binskin, vice chief of the Australian Defense Force. Hours later, two Australian soldiers died and a crew member was wounded when their helicopter rolled over while landing in Helmand province.
"In a war of so many losses, this is our single worst day in Afghanistan," Prime Minister Julia Gillard said. "Indeed, I believe this is the most losses in combat since the days of the Vietnam War and the Battle of Long Tan. This is news so truly shocking that it's going to feel for many Australians like a physical blow."
Eighteen Australian soldiers were killed in the Battle of Long Tan in 1966. Tom Vasey, a spokesman for the Australian War Memorial, said five Australian soldiers were killed in a 14-hour period in 1971 during the Battle of Nui Le, making that the last time so many died so quickly in a combat zone.
The Australians were relaxing at the base when the assailant began shooting at close range with an automatic weapon, Binskin said. Soldiers at the base returned fire, but the shooter scaled a fence and escaped.
The Australians tried to revive their comrades, but the wounds proved fatal, he said. One of the wounded soldiers sustained a serious gunshot wound and was evacuated to another base for further treatment. He is in satisfactory condition. The other was treated at the scene.
The Afghan soldier accused of the shooting is named Hekmatullah, and was working as a night guard at the Afghan army base where the international troops had stopped to spend the night, Afghan officials said. Hekmatullah fired at the Australians as they entered the base in Uruzgan province's Chora district, said Abdulhameed Hameed, an Afghan army commander in the south.
Australian and Afghan soldiers were hunting for the killer Thursday, Binskin said. He would not release further details of the attack, and said the shooter's motive was unknown.
Insider attacks, in which Afghan security forces or insurgents posing as soldiers or police fire on their coalition allies, have been rising over the past year and have surged even higher in the last few weeks. Including the latest strike, there have been at least 34 such attacks so far this year, killing 45 coalition members, mostly Americans. Last year, four Australian soldiers were killed by Afghan troops.
In response to the spike in killings, the U.S. has begun using "guardian angels" _ armed NATO service members who are assigned to watch over any gatherings of NATO troops and Afghan soldiers. Binskin said Australia also uses guardian angels, but he didn't know whether such a soldier was in place during Wednesday's shooting.
Gillard, who in the wake of the deaths will be returning early from a meeting of Pacific nation leaders in the Cook Islands, said security for Australian soldiers had been heightened following the latest attack. She acknowledged the incident was a blow for relations between the two nations' soldiers.
"These insider incidents are very difficult for trust between Australian soldiers and the Afghans that they train. They are corrosive of trust," she said.
Thirty-eight Australian soldiers have been killed in the Afghanistan war, and the latest incidents were the country's worst loss of life in a 24-hour period since the campaign began more than a decade ago.
Australia has 1,550 troops in Afghanistan and makes the largest military contribution of any country outside NATO. The Australian soldiers' primary focus is training an Afghan battalion to take responsibility for security in restive Uruzgan.
Australian plans to begin withdrawing troops once the Afghan battalion is fully trained, as early as next year. Gillard said the latest bloodshed would not speed up that timeline.
"Our strategy is well defined, our strategy is constant. And we cannot allow even the most grievous of losses to change our strategy," Gillard said. "We are there for a purpose and we will see that purpose through."
Two army officers honey-trapped by foreign operatives: Antony
Press Trust of India / New Delhi August 30, 2012, 17:05
Two army officers have been honey-trapped by alleged foreign operatives in the recent years, Defence Minister A K Antony has said.
"Two instances have been reported where officers were compromised by alleged foreign operatives," Antony said in written reply to a question raised yesterday in Rajya Sabha.
He said inquiries were conducted by the army and appropriate action has been initiated in the respective cases.
Two cases of honey-trapping have come to light in the recent years. In the first case, a Lt Col-rank officer from the Parachute Regiment was honey-trapped by a woman while he was doing a course in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
While in the other case, a Major-rank officer posted in Sriganganagar (Rajasthan) was found to be compromised online as he was in touch with the same lady over social networking websites.
The army had ordered separate Court of Inquiries in both the cases and taken measures to check such incidents.
Replying to another query, Antony said a Brigadier and a civilian officer working with the Canteen Stores Department (CSD) were arrested by the CBI for illegal gratification.
"Two officers of the CSD including Bikash Ranjan Dashchaudhary and Brig Anuj Kainthala were arrested by the CBI, Anti-Corruption Bureau for accepting illegal gratification," the Defence Minister said.
On the suicide of a jawan in Samba, Antony said an inquiry has been ordered by the army to look into the matter.
Indian Navy afflicted with common defence diseases: Hopelessly low indigenisation and criminal cost overruns
C Uday Bhaskar
Visiting Fellow, National Maritime Foundation
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, while addressing Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) scientists in Delhi on July 31, drew timely attention to a perennial shortcoming of the Indian defence R&D and production sector: the low level of truly indigenous content in major platforms and the huge time and cost overruns.
While commending the DRDO for its contribution and the success achieved in high-visibility items such as the Agni V missile, Singh, in his characteristically low-key manner, noted with commendable candour, "The reality is that the share of indigenous content in defence procurement continues to be low. We need to take a hard look at the pipeline of our projects and focus our time and material resources on selected areas where we have demonstrated capacity to deliver projects within reasonable time and cost."
Established in 1958, the DRDO is over 50 years old and acquired its institutional credibility and relevance under the stewardship of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi when India was placed under a severe US-led technology denial regime after the peaceful nuclear test of May 1974.
Predictably, the national strategic military capability received the highest priority and the country's current missile and nuclear weapon profile was enabled due to the perseverance shown by the techno-scientific leadership of those decades that included Raja Ramanna, V S Arunachalam and Abdul Kalam who headedthe DRDO during a challenging period.
However, there are many areas where the DRDO has not been able to deliver as envisaged and the big-ticket items that are still stuck as it were include the main battle tank for the army and the light combat aircraft for the air force. Despite its progress in other sectors, India's truly indigenous defence production is woefully inadequate and the country has the dubious distinction of having a one-million-plus army but is unable to produce its own artillery gun - and the Bofors syndrome has afflicted the entire defence procurement and production edifice.
There is a perception, albeit misplaced, that it is only in the case of naval ship design and production that India has been able to make commendable strides, and that the Indian Navy is ahead of its larger peers - the army and the air force - as far as indigenisation is concerned. The commissioning of the stealth frigate, the INS Sahayadri, on July 21 in Mumbai is illustrative of this dominant perception.
The 6,300-tonne Sahayadri is the second in a series of three guided-missile frigates with stealth characteristics built at Mumbai's defence public sector Mazagon Docks and epitomises the observation made by the Prime Minister. Estimated to cost Rs 10,000 crore, the three frigates will undoubtedly add muscle to the Indian Navy, and defence minster A K Antony exhorted the shipbuilding fraternity to rise to the challenge and asserted, "The country's warship-building programme must meet the Navy's force-level requirements. Over the years, there has been a gradual shift from being a buyer's navy to a builder's navy."
Antony added that Indian shipbuilding must benchmark itself against the best international practices and urged the private sector to join in this endeavour. This, alas, is where the plot thickens, in a not-so-flattering manner.
The stealth frigate project is one of many ambitious procurement programmes that the Indian Navy has embarked upon and is portrayed as an example of India gradually making the transition from a 'buyer to a builder.' However the reality is more modest. A warship is indexed by the credibility and potency of its ordnance punch, precision guidance, surveillance and propulsion capabilities. A closer examination of the equipment fitted on the INS Sahayadri reveals that barring the electronic warfare kit and the sonar, every other significant inventory item - be it guns, missiles, radars or the engines - are all imported, with Russia, Israel and France being the major suppliers.
As the Prime Minister correctly observed, the indigenous content of major Indian military platforms is woefully low. And as for benchmarking them against the best international practices, the contrast is even more dismal.
The Sahayadri took over nine years from the laying of the keel to the commissioning - March 2003 to July 2012 - and this has become the norm for building a major naval ship in India. The first ship in the guided-missile destroyer class, the 6,800-tonne INS Delhi, took almost 10 years from keel to commissioning - and this is indicative of the timelines that prevail in Indian shipyards.
The track record for comparable ships in other countries is: China four years and Japan three years. Time overruns invariably translate into cost overruns and the fact that Indianyards take more than double the time to deliver a ship to the Navy does not augur well for the future.
By current reckoning, the country will allocate upwards of Rs 1,00,000 crore for naval shipbuilding over the next 10 years in domestic yards and clearly, the current indigenisation-cum-cost and time indicators need drastic and determined improvement.
This can happen only if the reality is accepted that there is an 'emperor's new clothes' syndrome at play as far as the country's defence production sector is concerned. The Tatra vehicle scandal is the tip of a murky iceberg of make-believe and this virus is widespread in other domains.
An objective techno-commercial and politico-strategic audit of the country's naval ship and submarine building is called for. Placing the sequestered Rama Rao committee report that reviewed the DRDO in the public domain will be a very useful starting point.