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Wednesday, 1 January 2014

From Today's Papers - 01 Jan 2014

 Wish you a very Happy New Year. Best wishes for 2014

 Arup Raha takes over as IAF Chief
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 31
Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha took over the command of the Indian Air Force today becoming its 24th Chief of the force. He replaced Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne. After assuming charge, Air Chief Marshal Raha said he expected sustained effort from the air warriors to maintain high operational readiness.

“The IAF is on a trajectory of modernisation and is transforming into a strategic aerospace power with full spectrum capability,” he said.

Raha, a fighter pilot who commanded the MiG-29 squadron at Bathinda Punjab during Operation Parakaram in 2002 lauded the IAF for “exceptional dedication and commitment during” flood rescue efforts in Uttarakhand in June 2013.

A record 3,702 sorties were flown, while 24,260 people were airlifted to safety during the operation.

“Our professionalism and grit has earned accolades from all quarters, not only in India but from abroad as well,” the new IAF Chief said.

Commissioned into the Flying Branch of the IAF in December 1974, Air Chief Marshal Raha graduated from the National Defence Academy (NDA) in Pune with the President’s Gold Medal in 1973.

In his career spanning nearly 39 years, he has commanded the vital Western Air Command, which is tasked with the responsibility of Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and parts of Rajasthan.

He was also the Air Officer Commanding at the IAF base at Adampur, near Jalandhar, and Advance Headquarters, Western Air Command, at Chandimandir.
6 Army officers booked for harassing junior
Six Army officers, including two Brigadier rank officials, have been booked by the Ajmer police for allegedly harassing a junior officer and trying to prove him mentally ill after he raised his voice against certain irregularities.

In his complaint, Lt Col Arun Kumar of Composite Artillery Brigade in Nasirabad cantonment alleged that his superiors conspired and tried to prove him mentally ill after he complained against certain irregularities and corrupt practices by the senior officers of the brigade.

Following a court's directive, an FIR was lodged against Brigadier A K Ganguli, Commander of the Brigade, his deputy Col Lalit Agnihotri, Col Rohit Jha, Military hospital Nasirabad's Commander Brigadier Sanjeev Vaspyan, Medical Officer Maj S V Rekha and officiating Registrar Maj Gurmendra Singh on December 19.

Defence spokesperson Col S D Goswami said a Court of Inquiry has already been initiated.

"The Army has already instituted a Court of Inquiry to ascertain the facts. The military chain of command is fully aware of the incident," he said.

In the complaint, 54-year old Kumar alleged that he found misuse of funds and other corrupt practices in the brigade and raised a voice against it but this invited adverse action against him and the brigade commander and deputy conspired against him.

After the complaints, the brigade commander allegedly threatened the Lt Col that he would not be able to continue his service in the Army.

On May 17 this year, the Brigadier issued him a notice stating that he was mentally ill following which he was admitted to the military hospital where, Arun alleged, Brigadier Ganguli conspired with the military hospital's Commander to prove him sick.

He was also harassed in the military hospital, he alleged.

After the alleged conspiracy and harassment, the officer wrote to the Jodhpur police seeking intervention on May 21 and also pleaded his case before the Chief of Army staff.

He also filed a complaint with a local court of Ajmer which gave direction to the police to lodge a case against the six accused under appropriate section.

Investigating officer of the case, Ashok Meena, SHO Nasirabad, said the matter was under investigation.|head
India Awards $1B Contract for 6 More C-130Js

NEW DELHI — Top brass in the Indian Army and Air Force expressed shock over the Defence Ministry’s decision to award a $1 billion repeat contract on Dec. 27 for six additional C-130J Hercules transport aircraft, saying the military has many more pressing purchases to tackle.

“Our top priority is [to] have fighters as soon as possible, but we are surprised by the MoD move on why the government is not signing the $12 billion Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft [contract with Dassault of France] and instead is buying transport aircraft for us,” a senior Air Force official said.

An Army official pointed out that the service has no combat-worthy artillery systems and that it was hoping the MoD would finalize a deal for 145 ultra-light howitzers from the US. He added that more than $40 billion in Army procurement is in the pipeline but no significant purchased are being made.

The Air Force official pointed out, however, that the service does need the troop-lift capacity the new aircraft will provide, especially for combat and logistics in view of the threat perceptions on the Sino-Indian border.

The military relies mainly on An-32 aircraft for troop lift and other logistical assignments. The Air Force had already ordered six Lockheed Martin C-130Js, and the new order would bring the total inventory to 12.

An MoD source said the Indian government had cleared the deal, ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Washington in September.

The Indian Air Force bought six C-130J transport aircraft in a $962 million deal in 2007. The Indian Air Force also proposes to buy 10 Boeing C-17 transport aircraft worth over $4.5 billion to add to its transport fleet of Russian-made IL-76 and An-32 aircraft.

India has signed contracts worth over $10 billion since 2002 after Washington lifted sanctions against India. Over $4 billion worth of contracts are awaiting inking, likely to take place within the next three to six months, sources said. These include purchase of 22 Apache attack helicopters, 15 Chinook heavy-lift choppers, four P-8I maritime patrol aircraft, all made by Boeing, and 145 M777 ultra-light howitzers guns.
Defence spending hits the skids as 2014 polls cast a shadow on the sector

As with almost everything else, the 2014 general elections are bound to cast a shadow on India's defence sector. Be it modernisation plans or general preparedness, the polls could prove a roadblock.

With the UPA government going into poll mode on the back of scams and a general policy paralysis, it's unlikely there will be anything new to cheer about till the elections end in May.

If a new government is sworn in, it would bring the curtains down on A.K. Antony's uninterrupted seven-year run - more than any of his predecessors - as defence minister. He looked happy in his last public appearance in Bangalore at the initial operational clearance ceremony for Tejas.

"The Light Combat Aircraft is finally a reality, aircraft carrier Vikramaditya - sailing back to India from Russia - is a reality and the indigenous main battle tank Arjun for the Army is a reality," Antony had announced with exuberance, pointing to the three frustratingly long-pending and much criticised projects that have finally seen the light of day.

It was a personal triumph for Antony as well, as he will have something to show in his final report card.

But the din of celebratory firing and backslapping in the defence ministry failed to muzzle the guns on the border, erase the ignominy of a former Indian Air Force (IAF) chief being named in a kick-back scandal, or neutralise the loss of a frontline submarine with 18 sailors on board.

The year 2014 will be one in search of answers. The CBI will continue to seek evidence in the AgustaWestland scam allegedly involving former IAF chief S.P. Tyagi, and the Indian Navy, hopefully, will get to know what caused the terrible explosions in INS Sindhurakshak that sunk the boat and took 19 precious lives with it.

On the border, the Army will be keeping its fingers crossed and hope that the year pans out better than the last one. Frequent skirmishes on the Line of Control with Pakistan and China's constant nagging on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) had reached new levels of discomfort and the rare stand-off in the Depsang plain of Ladakh last April had all the potential to snowball into a major crisis.

The Army signed off 2013 with a confidence building meeting with Pakistan to maintain the truce on the LoC, and New Delhi has signed a border agreement with Beijing to keep the LAC peaceful. Both will be tested for good measure in the year to come.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) battled one of its worst image crises when its former chief Tyagi was accused of accepting bribes to swing a helicopter deal in favour of Anglo-Italian company AgustaWestland.

The Navy was jolted on August 14 by explosions in its frontline submarine INS Sindhurakshak when ammunition was being loaded into it just before deployment.

But it was not all gloom for the defence sector. The long-pending construction of key home-made equipment like nuclear submarine Arihant, aircraft carrier Vikrant and Light Combat Aircraft Tejas achieved key developmental milestones.

Arihant's nuclear reactor went critical, aircraft carrier Vikrant completed its first phase of construction and Tejas was certified for induction into the Air Force.

The milestones were indeed major breakthroughs, but it will still be some years before these platforms - which can propel India into a select group of countries with the ability to build advanced military assets at home - join the operational fleet.

While Arihant can be expected to start sailing in 2014 on its way to full deployment the following year, Vikrant is not expected to be operational before 2020.

The IAF can expect two Tejas squadrons by 2017, but the more advanced version of the aircraft will not see the light of day by the end of this decade.

Caution is buzzword in acquisition plans

By Mail Today Bureau in New Delhi

In its last meeting in December, the defence acquisition council had cleared the purchase of military hardware worth Rs 16,000 crore. But going by the requirements of the three services, that's not going to be enough.

And India's defence spending might take a hit, with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urging caution during his address to the top commanders of the Army, Air Force and the Navy in November.

The impact of Manmohan's statement of "cutting the coat according to the cloth" will be felt in the months to come.

The IAF's mother of all deals for the purchase of 126 Medium Multi-role combat jets from French aircraft maker Dassault still hangs in the balance. It is unlikely to be finalised within this financial year, and in all possibility the decision will be taken only by the new government.

Sources said key aspects of the contract pertaining to the transfer of technology for making Rafale combat jets in the country and offset proposals submitted by the French company have been finalised, but other issues relating to ownership of the aircraft manufactured in India are yet to be sorted out.

Apart from the combat jet deal, the IAF is also awaiting movement on the purchase of air-to-air refuellers (A-330), attack helicopters (Apache) and heavy lift helicopters (Chinook). The IAF hopes these contracts will be finalised in the first half of 2014.

For the Navy, it is a race against time to get the government's approval for a new line of submarines. The proposal has been pending for several years and the Navy hopes that it will see the light of day in 2014.

The Navy is also critically short of helicopters. It hopes the government will clear the purchase of the entire range of helicopters that need to be urgently replaced.

The Army's quest for new artillery guns also remains to be addressed. A proposal to buy ultra light howitzers M777 from the US is in the final stages and hopes are high that it will be finalised in the first half of 2014.
Change of guard at South-Western command of Army
 The Sapta Shakti Command, the seventh and youngest command of the Indian Army, witnessed a change of guard as Lt. Gen Gyan Bhushan passed over the reins of command to Lt. Gen Arun Kumar Sahni on Tuesday here.

Lt. Gen Bhushan, the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the command, was given a guard of honour at the command headquarters at the Jaipur military station here.

“It’s a matter of great pride and honour for me to have served in the Indian army for the last 40 years. On the eve of relinquishing the command, I wish to convey my sincerest all ranks of Sapta Shakti Command,” said Lt. Gen Bhushan.

Lt. Gen. A.K. Sahni, recipient of the Seva Medal and Vishishta Seva Medal and an alumnus of the National Defence Academy and Indian Military Academy, will assume charge on Wednesday.
Eastern Army commander bids adieu to Kolkata
 KOLKATA: Operational readiness backed by efficient logistics will be crucial for the defence of the country along its northeastern border, outgoing eastern army commander lieutenant general Dalbir Singh said on Tuesday. Singh, who was GOC-in-C, eastern command since June 16, 2012, will take over as vice-chief of army staff in Delhi on Wednesday. He is slated to take over as chief of the army staff after Gen Bikram Singh retires on July 31, 2014.

Sources revealed that Lt Gen Singh's one-and-a-half year stint as GOC-in-C, Eastern Command, will be crucial as India's focus has now become more China-centric than ever before. The Line of Actual Control (LAC) along Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh falls under the Eastern Command.

China has staked claims on Indian territory in both states and there have been instances of incursions by the People's Liberation Army (PLA). Though the official Indian stand has been to pass these off as 'minor' incidents based on faulty perceptions, stress has been laid on creating infrastructure to counter any aggressive move from across the LAC.

Defence of the narrow Siliguri corridor is also a major issue, given its proximity to the Chumbi valley in the tri-junction between India, Bhutan and the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). The PLA is known to frequent this valley and have also carried out exercises there. The interest of China in the Chumbi valley is strategic in nature aimed at keeping India on tenterhooks on security of the Siliguri corridor that connects the north eastern states to the rest of the country.

"Things have already started moving so far as infrastructure build-up is concerned. Panagarh has already been selected as the headquarters of the Mountain Strike Corps that is presently being raised. The deal has already been finalized for the second lot of six C-130J Super Hercules tactical aircraft that will also be based at Panagarh. These would be used to move men and material to forward areas at short notice. The Indian Air Force has already landed C-130J Hercules aircraft from their base at Hindon at the Advanced Landing Grounds (ALGs) in Arunachal Pradesh. The air-supported forward bases are crucial for the country's defences in these parts and this was the efficient logistics that the outgoing GOC-in-C was referring to," an officer said.

Before leaving the Eastern Command Headquarters at Fort William, Lt Gen Singh paid tribute to martyrs at Vijay Smarak. His wife Namita Suhag, regional president of the Army Wives Welfare Association, visited the Command Hospital during the day and interacted with patients. There she met an eleven-year-old girl, daughter of a soldier, who was diagnosed with the rare Guillain Barre Syndrome six months ago. Suhag had visited her then and promised to meet her before she left Kolkata. The child has recovered fully now.

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