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Saturday, 14 September 2013

From Today's Papers - 14 Sep 2013






Second Agni-V test flight likely tomorrow


Balasore, September 13

The second test flight of long-range nuclear-capable Agni-V missile may take place on September 15 from Wheeler Island off the Odisha coast. “If everything goes to plan and weather conditions permit, the test may be taken up on September 15 from launch pad No. 4,” an official of the Defence Research and Development Organisation said today.


Scientists and officials associated with the project were hopeful of a successful run as the first trial on April 19, 2012 went to plan.


“Preparation in the integrated test range has reached its final stage and the missile and its sub-systems have been put to last-minute check,” the DRDO official said.


“As it is a developmental trial, the missile system and battery of networks associated with the test are to be validated before going for the final launch,” he said.


The surface-to-surface three-stage solid propellant missile is designed to deliver nuclear warheads of 1,000 kg at a range of 5,000 km, sources said. The 17-metre-tall missile may take off from a mobile launcher with or without a canister system. — PTI

Khurshid meets Pakistan PM’s Adviser in Bishkek

Discusses PM’s meeting with Sharif in New York

Ashok Tuteja/TNS


New Delhi, September 13

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid today held an “informal” meeting with Pakistan Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on the margins of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit at Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan.


This was the first top-level interaction between the two countries after the recent tension over the killing of five Indian soldiers on the LoC. Khurshid and Aziz are understood to have discussed the possibility of a meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York.


The meeting is likely to take place on September 29. In a statement later, Khurshid said he had conveyed to Aziz that a possible meeting between the two PMs in New York would require a conducive atmosphere. He said he discussed with his Pakistani interlocutor the ground realities and the need to factor in India’s sensitivities to take bilateral engagements forward.


The Indian minister said he also discussed justice for the victims of the Mumbai terror attack. Aziz conveyed to him that a prosecutor has been appointed and the visit of the judicial commission from Pakistan to India was scheduled for September 23.


“We welcome the step,” Khurshid added. The SCO Summit brings together leaders of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Currently, India, along with Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and Mongolia are observers at the SCO. Its three dialogue partners of the grouping are: Sri Lanka, Belarus and Turkey. The SCO members are currently working on modalities for the grouping’s expansion, taking into account administrative, financial and legal issues.


In his address at the summit, Khurshid reiterated that India was ready to play a larger role in the SCO as a full member, once the organisation reached consensus on the expansion process. He said India was increasingly concerned about the security challenges that might emanate from the developing situation in Afghanistan. Khurshid opposed any external military intervention in Syria.


Crucial interaction


    This was the first top-level interaction between the two countries after the recent tension over the killing of five Indian soldiers on the LoC

    Khurshid said he had conveyed to Aziz that a possible meeting between the two Prime Ministers in New York would require a conducive atmosphere


Rs 10,000-cr defence buys get nod

Ajay Banerjee/TNS


New Delhi, September 13

The Ministry of Defence today okayed the purchase of six more special operations planes, the C-130-J. It also accorded approval for the purchase of 235 Russian T-90 tanks and 4,400 light machine guns to provide an edge to the ground troops.


The purchases were cleared by the Defence Acquisition Council of the MoD that met under the chairmanship of Defence Minister AK Antony.


It allowed a spending of Rs 4,000 crore to purchase additional six C-130-J aircraft from the US under the foreign military sales route.


The first lot of six such planes was ordered in early 2008 at a cost of $1.059 billion (then approx Rs 4,500 crore). Sources elaborated on the lower price this time. In 2008, India had also paid for the training of pilots and other support paraphernalia which was not needed this time.


The other big purchase is that of 235 T-90 tanks. The indent order for these has been placed with the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) at a cost of Rs 6,000 crore. These will be produced locally and will be for the Army’s strike formations that face Pakistan. T-90 tanks are produced at a factory at Avadi in Tamil Nadu. The Russians had transferred technology for the same for its production here.

Not enough

Mountain Corps needs more aircraft


THE Ministry of Defence has proposed the induction of six more US-made C-130J Hercules transport aircraft into the Indian Air Force (IAF) as part of a first-ever Army Mountain Strike Corps that is to be raised for deployment in case of a war with China with which India currently shares a 4,000 km long disputed border demarcated by a Line of Actual Control (LAC).


While the requirement for additional transport aircraft is understandable, what is unclear is whether half-a-dozen of these aircraft would be sufficient for the Mountain Corps and other Army formations deployed along the mountainous border with China.


Only recently, the IAF, which inducted six of these American aircraft mainly for the Army's Special Forces, landed a C-130 aircraft in the desolate high altitude airfield at Daulat Beg Oldie located not too far from the LAC in Ladakh. In addition to demonstrating India's faster reach into that portion of the mountain desert of Ladakh, New Delhi was also able to send a message to Beijing that it has now developed the capability to airlift troops and logistical support to safeguard its interests in that part of the contentious border region. Yet, the fact remains that China has a major head start as far as infrastructure near their side of the LAC in Tibet is concerned. Beijing has elongated its runways in Tibet, has a far better network of roads on their side and has a train service connecting Beijing to Lhasa and beyond by which it can quickly ferry troops in large numbers.


In contrast, India's infrastructure remains dismal. It will take more than a few aircraft to bolster a Mountain Strike Corps just as it will take more than just one such corps to safeguard the LAC and develop a capability to counter any hostility by China. What is needed is a well thought-out comprehensive plan to bolster the country's defence on the ground, in the air and on sea. Currently, India's overall military balance and capability vis-à-vis China and infrastructure along the LAC is hardly satisfactory. New Delhi must remain alive to this reality.

India to buy six more C-130J Hercules aircraft from US

India will buy six more C-130J Hercules medium lift aircraft from the United States of America. These aircraft will be positioned at Panagarh in West Bengal and will be largely dedicated for operations along the India-China border.


The six new C-130J Hercules will cost India an estimated Rs. 4000 crore.


The decision to buy the additional six aircraft was taken by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) - the highest decision making body on purchases of the Ministry of Defence - today. The DAC also cleared the acquisition of another 230 odd Russian made T-90 tanks at a cost of Rs. 6000 crore. These will be produced by the Heavy Vehicles Factory Avadi in Tamil Nadu.


India already has six C-130J aircraft, some which are equipped for special operations. They are based at the Hindon Airbase on the outskirts of Delhi. The first lot of six aircraft, bought in early 2008, came at cost of about 1.059 billion dollars (approx Rs. 4,500 crore).


Panagarh is the Headquarters of the newly created Mountain Strike Corps. The C-130J Hercules aircraft can carry about 20 tons at one go and has ability to land at make-shift landing strips.


"With its ability to land almost anywhere, the additional C-130J will give the Mountain Strike Corps ability to move around troops and rush reinforcements along the front at a very short notice," a senior Ministry of Defence official said. Recently the C-130J Hercules landed at the Daualt Beg Oldie Advanced Landing ground in Ladakh creating a world record of sorts for this category of transport planes.

Arms deals worth Rs 15,000 crore cleared

NEW DELHI: The defence ministry on Friday cleared several arms acquisition projects worth almost Rs 15,000 crore for the armed forces, which included six more American C-130J "Super Hercules" aircraft, 236 Russian T-90S main-battle tanks and 4,400 new light-machine guns (LMGs).


The projects were cleared in a meeting of the Defence Acquisitions Council (DAC) -- chaired by defence minister A K Antony and included the three Service chiefs and the defence secretary -- just four days before US deputy secretary of defence Ashton B Carter arrives here next week.


As first reported by TOI in its Friday edition, the C-130J deal is among the four major Indian deals worth around $5 billion that the US is all set to clinch within this financial year. The other three are for 22 Apache attack helicopters ($1.4 billion), 145 M-777 ultra-light howitzers ($885 million) and 15 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters (around $1 billion).


The new contract for six more C-130J planes - worth over Rs 4,000 crore in the direct government-to-government deal under the US foreign military sales (FMS) programme - will now go the Cabinet Committee of Security (CCS) for the final nod by next month.


While the first six C-130J aircraft already acquired by IAF are based at Hindon airbase, the six new "Super Hercules" will be housed at Panagarh in West Bengal. Panagarh will be the headquarters for the new mountain strike corps, along with two "independent" infantry brigades and two "independent" armoured brigades (totalling over 80,000 soldiers), which will be raised over the next seven years to plug operational gaps against China.


Russia - not too happy with the US bagging Indian defence deals worth over $8 billion in recent years - also had some reason to cheer on Friday with the fresh order for the 236 T-90S tanks. They will be built by the Indian Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), at a cost of around Rs 6,000 crore, under transfer of technology (ToT) from Russia. India, in 2001 and 2007, had inked two contracts worth Rs 8,525 crore with Russia to import 657 T-90S tanks. With the OFB subsequently beginning to manufacture these tanks under licensed production, the Army has till now inducted around 780 of the 1,657 T-90S tanks it eventually wants.


The LMG project is part of the Army's endeavour to overhaul the basic weaponry of its infantry soldiers, which range from new-generation assault rifles to close-quarter battle (CBQ) carbines, as reported earlier.


Infantry battalions will induct the new 7.62mm calibre LMGs, with spare barrels and an effective 1-km firing range, under the new project worth around Rs 530 crore. The project will see the OFB tying up with a foreign vendor after issuing a global tender. The existing 5.56mm LMGs have only a 700-metre range and weigh much heavier at 6.23-kg.


The US, of course, is steadily cornering a major chunk of the lucrative Indian defence market. It has already bagged defence contracts worth over $8 billion from India in recent years, including the first six C-130J aircraft for $1 billion, 10 C-17 Globemaster-III strategic-lift aircraft for $4.1 billion and eight P-8I long-range maritime patrol aircraft for $2.1 billion. Another major deal being negotiated is the follow-on order for four more P-8I aircraft for the Navy.

Race begins for new army chief in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: With Pakistan's powerful army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani's term coming to an end in November, names of top generals who are likely to succeed him are being discussed in the political circles and in the corridors of power.


The appointment of the next army chief has gained wide attention in view of past difficulties faced by civilian governments in appointing persons to the coveted post. Another key post, which is the post of the Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) will fall vacant next month and analysts feel that this would have a bearing on who becomes the next chief.


A number of names are in circulation for the chief 's post and leading the race seems to be Lt Gen Haroon Aslam, currently Chief of Logistics Staff. He will be the senior most General when Kayani steps down. He has served as Director Military Operations, commanded Elite Force Division and had been Corps Commander of Bahawalpur. However, some analysts say he is likely to be made the CJCSC and a final name could be a surprise.


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