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Sunday, 24 February 2013

From Today's Papers - 24 Feb 2013







Indian armed forces building deadly drone arsenal, also want combat UAVs
NEW DELHI: With an eye on both the western and eastern fronts with Pakistan and China, the Indian armed forces are slowly but steadily building a formidable arsenal of spy, target acquisition and "killer'' drones or UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles).

Even as the Navy sets up spy drone bases along the coastline and IAF inducts "killer'' drones, the Army has inked yet another contract to acquire two more "troops'' (eight drones each) of Israeli `Heron' medium-altitude, long endurance UAVs.

"Under the Rs 1,200 crore contract with Israel Aerospace Industries ( IAI), the Army will begin inducting these new Heron drones from January 2014,'' said a senior defence official.

The drones, to be inducted into the new SATA (surveillance and target acquisition) regiments being raised, form a part of the overall modernization plan for the 1.13-million force being pushed by Army chief General Bikram Singh.

"The force wants speedy induction of various UAVs, from man-portable micro and mini spy ones to `killer' ones that act like missiles to hit targets. It will bolster capabilities for surveillance, weapon delivery and direction of artillery fire,'' said an officer.

In keeping with the plan to progressively induct drones right down to the battalion-level by the end of this decade, the Army is already establishing new UAV bases from Nagrota and Manasbal in J&K to Kumbhigram and Lilabari in the north-east.

The Navy, in turn, is looking to raise new UAV squadrons after establishing three at Kochi (Kerala), Porbandar (Gujarat) and Uchipuli (Tamil Nadu) to detect threats emanating from the sea.

Similarly, IAF is inducting additional Harop ``killer'' drones equipped with electro-optical sensors to loiter over high-value military targets before exploding into them. The force has also experimented with "add-ons or attachments'' to its existing fleet of Israeli Heron and Searcher-II surveillance drones to add a killer role to them.

The armed forces eventually want full-fledged UCAVs (combat UAVs) - akin to the American Predators and Reapers being used in the Af-Pak region - which return to their bases like fighter jets to replenish their missiles for fresh missions.

They have inducted over 100 UAVs, mainly from Israel, as "major force-multipliers'' since the 1999 Kargil conflict. DRDO, too, has got into the act by stepping up its drone programmes, from the already inducted Nishant to the under-development Rustom-I and II drones.

As earlier reported by TOI, DRDO has also launched the secretive AURA (autonomous unmanned research aircraft) programme to develop stealth UCAVs capable of firing missiles, bombs and precision-guided munitions.

Similarly, another ambitious project on the drawing board focuses on designing solar-powered high-altitude, long endurance UAVs that can cruise in the sky for several days at a time for round-the-clock ISTAR (intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance) missions.

Indian Army developing easy oral implants: President


New Delhi, Feb 23 (IANS): The Indian Army is developing technology that could make oral implants more efficacious and readily available for men and women in the forces as well as civilians, President Pranab Mukherjee said Saturday.

Addressing the Second South East Asia Implant Symposium on 'Implant Esthetics', Mukherjee said: "I also gather that dental tourism as a concept has caught the imagination of foreign visitors, who would like to take advantage of the high quality of implant services and related treatment that are more affordable in India".

He said the Dental Council of India proposes to take up the study of the epidemiology of oral diseases, including dental caries, periodontal diseases and oral cancer.

"I am told that the Army Dental Corps, together with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), are presently developing indigenous technology that can make implants all the more efficacious and readily available to our armed forces and civilian population," the president said.

He said a continuous assessment of ethical, socio-economic and legal implications of courses of treatment should be undertaken, and that institutions should be accountable for the healthcare solutions they adopt.

AugustaWestland replies to showcause
New Delhi, Feb 23 (IBNS): AgustaWestland of UK, a subsidiary of Italian defence giant Finmeccanica, which was accused of bribery charges in the Rs.4000-crore VVIP chopper deal with Indian defence department, has replied to a showcause sent by the Indian authorities, denying all charges of paying kicbacks.

The reply by AgustaWestland on Friday denied any involvement of bribery in the deal and said it fully complied with the norms in honouring the defence requirement of India, media reports said.

An Indian probe team comprising CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) and defence officials are in Italy to investigate the scam though without much success so far.

The government in India earlier initiated action for cancellation of contract and the Integrity pact for procurement of 12 AW101 helicopters for the use of VVIPs.

"The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has initiated action for cancellation of contract for procurement of 12 AW101 helicopters for the use of VVIPs," Ministry of Defence said in a statement last week.

"MoD today issued a formal show cause notice to the AgustaWestland of UK seeking cancellation of contract and taking other actions as per the terms of the contract and the Integrity Pact," the ministry said on Feb 15.

Besides bribing Indian officials for a 12-helicopter deal, Finmeccanica discussed kickbacks for a larger deal with a serving Brigadier in the Indian Army, Italian prosecutors had said.

The government had provided the company with a term of seven days to come clear on why the deal should not be cancelled.

The report by the investigators said that an alleged middleman for helicopter manufacturer AgustaWestland was seen touching the feet of former Air Force chief SP Tyagi.

The scandal scandal involved kickbacks worth upto Rs 360 crores for the deal that was worth about Rs 4,000 crores and allegedly took place during the tenure of Tyagi who headed the air force from 2004 to 2007.

Tyagi has denied the allegations and has said that he met one of the alleged AgustaWestland middlemen just once contrary to the charges of "six or seven" meetings.

The middleman Ralph Haschke has "confessed" that he met Tyagi six or seven times and once greeted him by touching his feet as a sign of respect, the Italian prosecutors have said.

The Italian inquiry has also found that in 2003, a serving Brigadier of the Indian Army allegedly demanded $5 million dollars to influence a contract for 197 light helicopters in favour of AgustaWestland.

Tyagi's family members were also linked to the scam but his brother vehemently denied it.

Italian police earlier arrested Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of state-controlled Italian defence and aerospace giant Finmeccanica Giuseppe Orsi in Rome for alleged bribes paid in order to secure the deal.

India To Provide Army With Improved Version of Cheetah Helicopter


NEW DELHI — While awaiting procurement of light helicopters from the overseas market, the Indian Army will buy an improved version of its existing Cheetah helicopters to help ferry troops at higher altitudes.

An agreement was signed between the Indian Defence Ministry and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) Feb. 22 to acquire 20 Cheetal helicopters. Work on Cheetal began after it was found in 2009 that India’s homemade Advanced Light Helicopter was unable to fly, as intended, at heights above 20,000 feet. The Cheetal can fly up to a height of 25,000 feet, meeting the Army’s logistical needs.

Meanwhile, the procurement of 197 light helicopters is pending with the Defence Ministry after a rebid of a 2008 tender. Eurocopter of France and Kamov of Russia are competing.

“Cheetal is the re-engined variant of the proven Cheetah helicopter being manufactured by HAL for over four decades.” the HAL statement says. “The Cheetal helicopter is equipped with a Turbomeca TM 333-2M2 free turbine turbo shaft engine, which is more fuel efficient and provides higher payload capability of 90 kilograms at an altitude of 6 kilometers. The Cheetal helicopter can operate up to 7 kilometers altitude and has a range of 640 kilometers with an endurance of 3.50 hours.”

The Cheetal is fitted with a full authority digital engine control (FADEC) system for engine control and an electronic backup control box, which automatically takes over engine control in the event of FADEC failure.


Countering Urban Terrorism in India
Yesterday’s twin bomb blasts in Hyderabad has reiterated that the phenomenon of urban terrorism has taken firm root in India. In less than a decade, there have been about 20 major attacks in urban areas, averaging two a year. The targeted cities include Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Jaipur, Varanasi, Pune, Kanpur, Coimbatore, Srinagar, Jammu and Ahmedabad. All of these attacks have led to large-scale casualties, material damage and disruption of life and economic activity.

While urban terrorism is relatively new to India, it has a long history in the international arena. The Irish Republican Army had fought British forces in Northern Ireland for several decades before a political settlement was finally negotiated. The Baader-Meinhof gang, a communist urban guerrilla group, was responsible for several acts of terrorism in Germany in the 1960s and 1970s. Most of the terror groups in Latin America are urban-based. Palestinian militants have managed to launch numerous urban terror attacks on Israeli civilians despite Israel’s vigorous pre-emptive measures and a pro-active response strategy. Members of Aum Shinrikyo, a cult group, carried out five co-ordinated sarin gas attacks on several lines of the Tokyo Metro in March 1995. Chechen rebels have been fighting Russia since the 1990s mostly in urban areas.

As terrorists are rational in their choice of terrain and targets, evaluating strengths and weaknesses as well as costs and benefits, the urban terrain holds significant advantages. As is the characteristic of urban areas, the population is not only high, but also dense. Unlike in rural areas, inhabitants in cities and towns are more heterogeneous, which provides more scope for anonymity. It is anonymity that enables the terrorist fish to swim in urban waters easily; an excellent place for camouflage. For terrorists, logistical support like arms, medicines, food, and lodging are readily available in an average urban area. Manoeuvrability of terrorists is guaranteed by the presence of public and private transportation facilities that are both dependable and unobtrusive. In urban areas, a terrorist group may find it easier to recruit prospective terrorists in a predictable manner, for it is the city that nurtures dissidence in general.

Cities are the nerve centres of a country. It is in urban areas that targets are most varied and abundant: laymen, officials, foreign nationals, corporate leaders, government buildings with symbolic/strategic value, bus stands, railway stations, airports, markets, foreign embassies, communication centres, etc. By attacking high profile symbolic targets, the terrorists wish to make a point that if a government fails to protect high value targets, it is obvious that it may not be in a position to protect the normal ones. As a result, the credibility of the government of the day is undermined. Since the quality and quantity of terrorists’ ‘defined enemy’ is high in cities, the impact of a destructive act is more widespread. This also gives an added advantage to terrorists to prevent any kind of indiscriminate counter-terrorist operation by the state that could maximise collateral damage. For the same reason, the use of aerial bombardment against terrorists becomes difficult. Urban operations for terrorists also often demand less in the way of brute physical strength and endurance than do operations in mountainous or rural terrain. And they do not need sophisticated long-range weapons to inflict the desired damage.

Since terrorism is ‘propaganda by the deed’, the attention-seeking goal of terrorists is well served in the urban environment where the immediate audience is greatest and where representatives of the print and electronic media are readily available and quite eager to report. Such coverage also magnifies the fear-generating capabilities of terrorist acts. If the general population begins to fear, the objective of a terrorist group may have been achieved. Overall, an urban landscape facilitates terrorists in realising their goals: surprise, maximum damage with minimum risk, hyper media attention and subsequent disappearance. As the 26/11 experience has shown, well-armed terrorists are not easy to fight in urban terrain as tall buildings and narrow lanes and alleys provide inherent protection to them and make the security forces easy targets. The presence of hostages further complicates military or police operations. Similarly, IED attacks and suicide bombings are extremely difficult to detect or prevent in time.

The key to success in fighting urban terrorism lies in obtaining accurate intelligence about impending attacks and the neutralisation of the terrorists before they can launch their planned attacks. Since the threat of urban terrorism is transnational in nature, there is an urgent need for regional and international networking of friendly intelligence agencies. Most importantly, the Central and state intelligence agencies should share information methodically and it must trickle down in real-time to the user. While electronic surveillance, including the interception of communications, is no doubt useful, it is of critical importance to penetrate the networks and sleeper cells of the terrorist organisations so as to gain actionable intelligence.

Since the terrorists usually choose high-profile soft targets, where the presence of the ‘defined enemy’ is abundant, they should be put under maximum surveillance and protection. The staff manning these places should be trained in rendering first aid, evacuation techniques, and rescue and relief operations. Surveillance cameras, metal and explosive vapour detectors and X-ray scanning machines should be installed at key access points. Technology to detect and alert for suspicious activity such as loitering by an individual or vehicle should be made use of. Security personnel should be sensitised to spotting and segregating suspicious objects that are left behind.

The success of counter-terrorism operations, especially in the urban domain, depends to a considerable extent on a speedy response by the right force that is trained, armed and equipped suitably for the job at hand. As the National Security Guard is India’s primary strike force for counter-terrorist operations, it must be given the wherewithal to respond swiftly to urban terror attacks to minimise casualties and deny the perpetrators the ability to consolidate. The Central Government’s recent decision to locate NSG echelons in cities that have been targeted most frequently will enable the force to respond in a swift manner. The NSG, however, must also be equipped with state-of-the-art technology and equipment to enable the commandos to enhance their operational performance and minimise their own casualties. Where necessary, the Indian Army’s elite Special Forces should be employed to counter terrorist attacks in urban areas. Every state, in fact, should have a NSG-type of commando force to counter lethal terror strikes. Rehearsals should be periodically undertaken for search-and-rescue operations after large-scale terrorist strikes. Different contingencies should be simulated and practised. Future training should also cater for tackling terrorist attacks using WMDs.

Without the eyes, ears and intuition of the general public, it is difficult to identify a terrorist who is anonymous and blends seamlessly into the environment in which he is living and operating. An effective battle against terrorism can be waged only by involving members of the public. This includes creating societal awareness to keep a steady eye on tentative or errant behaviour in the neighbourhood and sharing of information of suspicious movements with point persons in the police and intelligence agencies. For instance, on every New York City subway train, the message to passengers since the terrorist attacks of 9/11 has been clear: “If you see something, say something.” For this purpose, urban Indians must organise themselves into neighbourhood watch committees through community consensus mechanisms based on genuine concern to prevent future terrorist attacks. All communities should be co-opted in counter-terror measures instead of perceiving some as the “other”. The community of Indian fishermen should keep a constant tab on coastal waters. Awareness creation among people should also include ‘golden rules’ to be followed by them in case of a terrorist attack. Such familiarisation will not only minimise the lethality of terrorist attacks, but also reduce the consequent panic.

In short, unless a comprehensive approach is adopted, involving all stake holders of society, it is difficult to counter urban terrorism.

Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the IDSA or of the Government of India.

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