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Wednesday, 26 February 2014

From Today's Papers - 26 Feb 2014

India conducts successful trials of Akash surface to air missile system
India on Monday successfully flight tested Akash, the indigenously designed developed and produced Surface to Air missile for the Indian Army, at the Integrated Test Range here.

These were part of a series of trials being conducted in various engagement modes from the first of Production Model system being produced to equip two regiments of Indian Army.

Both flights destroying a target in receding ting mode, as well as the one conducted on February 21, destroying an approaching target, fully met the mission objectives and few more trials are planned in different engagement modes.

Congratulating the production agencies, Indian Army and DRDO team, Avinash Chander, Scientific Advisor to Defence Ministry and Secretary Department of Defence R and D said, "Development and production of Akash weapon system with the active participation of DRDO labs, Public Sector Units (PSUs), Ordnance Factories, National R and D Laboratories, academic Institutions and about 200 private industries is yet another symbol of India's strength in making indigenous weapon systems."

"The successful trials show the continuing excellence of Indian weapon systems," he added.

'Akash' is India's first indigenously designed, developed and produced air defence system Surface to Air missile capable of engaging aerial threats upto a distance of approximately 25 kms.

The multi target, multi directional, all weather air-defence system consisting of surveillance and tracking radars, control centres and ground support systems mounted on high mobility vehicles for the "Army" version of Akash is designed to enable integration with other air defence command and control networks through secured communication links.

Developed by DRDO, the Army version of Akash is being produced by Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) as the nodal production agency with the involvement of Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) and a large number of other industries.

The total production value of Akash air defence systems cleared for induction by Indian Army and Indian Air force is more than ' 23,000 crore.

G. Chandramouli, Project Director Akash, supervised the overall trial operations in the presence of senior army officials and officials from BDL and BEL who are attending the trials. M.V.K.V. Prasad, Director of ITR supervised the trials activities.
Defence Ministry defers decision on 4 major purchases
New Delhi: Defence Ministry on Monday deferred decisions on four major deals expected to be worth over Rs 40,000 crore even as it approved another set of proposals worth over Rs 13,000 crore for procuring weapon systems for the armed forces.

At the meeting of the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) headed by Defence Minister AK Antony, the Ministry deferred decisions on projects including procurement of 145 Ultra Light Howitzers for the Army, amphibious warship vessels worth over Rs 20,000 crore and multi-role helicopters worth over Rs 6,000 crore for the Navy, Defence Ministry officials said here.

The decision on a deal to procure 56 transport aircraft for the IAF has also been deferred as the Ministry felt there was need to further deliberate issues related to them, they said.

The DAC was to deliberate on the offsets issues related to the 145 ULH deal with the US and another tender to procure 16 Multi-role Helicopters for the Navy from vendors Sikorsky and NH Industries, which includes scam-tainted AgustaWestland.

The offsets proposal offered by the US Army for the ULH deal is not in compliance with the defence procurement procedure and the firm has sought deviation from it from the Army, which has not inducted even a single howitzer in the last 30 years.

The proposal regarding the amphibious warships or the Landing Platform Decks (LPDs) for the Navy was deferred under which the government had to decide on the inclusion of Cochin Shipyard Limited as one of the vendors.

The list of proposals cleared for the armed forces includes an IAF plan to upgrade 37 airfields under the phase two of the Modernisation of Air Field Infrastructure (MAFI-II) project in which Tata SED will carry out the works under the Rs 1,127 crore project.

An Israeli firm has also been given approval to supply 252 air-to-ground stand-off weapon systems to the IAF under a Rs 622 crore project.

A number of projects to do away with the night blindness of the Army were cleared including a Rs 4,000 crore plan to procure Hand-held Thermal Imagers with Laser Range Finders from Bharat Electronics Limited.

A project for procuring thermal imaging sights worth around Rs 3,000 crore was also cleared for the tank fleet of the Army including T-90 and T-72 tanks along with the BMP armoured personnel carriers was cleared by the DAC, sources said.

The DAC also approved a project to enhance the firepower of the three services by giving nod to procure 44,000 Light Machine Guns (LMGs), which will have to be manufactured in India.

The major chunk of over 40,000 of these guns will go to the Army, and the IAF and the Navy will get around 3,000 pieces from this acquisition.

The Army's Special Forces also got approval for the Light Armed Multi-purpose Vehicle worth around Rs 1,200 crore under which 702 vehicles would be procured.

The DAC also approved a Rs 1,800 crore project to modernise five ordnance depots of the Army. The meeting also discussed IAF's plans to procure Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AWACS) for the IAF.
Leave the Indian army alone
The Cross of Fire, a 1992 Colin Forbes thriller, had its plot set in France against the backdrop of a neo-Nazi movement. A right-wing army general disgusted with the problem of immigrants and indifference of democratic leadership decides to take matters into his hands. He conferences in his army commanders and issues them an ultimatum. Either they support him on a well-planned coup or they don’t leave the room alive. The army commanders are forced to concede and the general then proceeds to take a majority of middle-rung officers into confidence, replacing many key appointments with officers personally loyal to him.
Next the general unleashes several Special Forces units incognito to create a series of “terrorist” actions all over France, plunging the country into chaos. One such action bombs a TGV train carrying the entire democratic leadership; liquidating them in one go. Other units are positioned near important communication centres, radio and TV stations, administrative buildings and major highways. The plan is to push the country into anarchy with riots, explosions, killings and general pandemonium until the desperate French populace starts begging the army to take over. The general then plans to reluctantly oblige, promising a return to democracy as soon as the situation stabilizes.
And that is how a coup happens even in fictitious imagination. Not by a couple of units fanning out of their garrison in a routine mobilization exercise. The fact that routine movement of two army units sparked a front-page story two years ago probably surprised the army more than anyone else, primarily because it is not in their DNA to even contemplate such a possibility. As pointed out by the defence minister and other senior officials—at best the incident was a misunderstanding which should have been put to rest then and there. So it is bizarre that this non-issue is being dredged up again.
India is currently going through unprecedented socio-political, economic, external and internal security challenges. The looming political uncertainty, allegations ranging from corruption to nepotism, accusations and counter-accusations, hypocrisy and opportunism are combining to create a perfect storm. Every opportunity to undermine adversaries is being exploited with scant regard to propriety, its relevance or implications of such actions.
In these circumstances, it would behoove saner minds to leave the Indian Armed Forces—an institution that has been apolitical, non-parochial and perhaps one of the only remaining instances of national integration working for the national cause—out of this mudslinging. The Armed Forces (though recently tarnished by aberrations of individual and tragically, senior officers) are possibly the last bastion of what our founding fathers conceived this nation’s strength in diversity to be.
This million-plus army is drawn from each and every part of our country, purely on merit, kept largely insulated from its degenerating environment, trained to value mission above self and honed to a point where it sacrifices lives for us. Whether it is military operations safeguarding our country, aid to civil authorities or action during disasters, this organization has delivered each and every time—selflessly with no expectation of reward or recognition beyond their professionalism and honour.
It is perhaps one of the last remaining unsullied role models for our youth, who have been disillusioned by several other establishments.
Raking up a bogey, which anyone remotely familiar with our army will dismiss as pure nonsense, is possibly the worst insult that can be inflicted on it, especially if it is being done for self-serving goals and not for any organizational improvement. Tragically, our nation attempts to learn very little about its own defence forces. We don’t appreciate their travails or hardships. Most of us are ignorant about their organizational structures, command and control mechanisms, safeguards, deployments, previous operations, modus operandi and an unblemished tradition of political detachment.
And, therefore perhaps, we don’t appreciate that the army marshals its strength from the morale of the nation behind it. Our troops don’t fight with just weapons; they fight with resolve drawn from 1.2 billion people.
They don’t scale the impossible heights of Siachen glacier with just mountaineering equipment, they claw up, buoyed by a sense of responsibility towards our safety. Our pilots don’t fly rescue missions through storms just using instrumentation; they are also guided by the desire to save fellow citizens from death. Our soldiers stand between us and our enemies, so we can sleep peacefully in the knowledge that nothing will happen to us—not during their watch. It is their sacrifice which allows us to enjoy our freedom and the democracy whose current manifestation has reached a nadir that no country could be proud of.
Of all ranks in the Forces, none have a tougher job than its junior officers—the lieutenants, captains and majors. It is these young men and women who have to lead soldiers into combat. It is they who shoulder the enormous responsibility of motivating troops and explain to them the incredulous insinuations of trust deficit between the military and political leadership.
They have enough painful battles on their hands without having to add this one. And such mongering for whatever objective is a great disservice to troops of an army that prides itself on apolitical professionalism and draws its strength from it.
Americans sceptical about plans to downsize US military
WASHINGTON: The Obama administration's push for a smaller, nimbler military must now face the scrutiny of a Congress that has spent years resisting cuts to the defence budget, often advocating costly programs the Pentagon does not even want.

Defence secretary Chuck Hagel is proposing to shrink the army to its smallest size in three-quarters of a century, hoping to reshape the military after more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan at a time when the Pentagon is roped in by fiscal constraints set by Congress.

The plan unveiled on Monday is already raising red flags among leading Republicans and Democrats.

"What we're trying to do is solve our financial problems on the backs of our military, and that can't be done," said Republican representative Howard "Buck" McKeon, the house armed services committee chairman.

"There's going to be a huge challenge," Democratic Senator Carl Levin, the Senate armed services committee chairman, conceded.

Having backtracked just this month on cutting veterans benefits by less than 1 percent, lawmakers appear in little mood to weigh difficult, if necessary, decisions on defence reductions, especially as the nation gears up for midterm elections in November.

They have resisted cutting tanks and aircraft the military doesn't even want, or accepting base closings that would be poison in their home districts. They have consistently advocated bigger pay increases for service members than the government has requested.

And although Congress has agreed on an overall figure for the military budget in 2015, at just under $500 billion, there are still major decisions to be made on how that money should be spent.

"We are repositioning to focus on the strategic challenges and opportunities that will define our future: new technologies, new centers of power and a world that is growing more volatile, more unpredictable and in some instances more threatening to the United States," Hagel said Monday at the Pentagon.

President Barack Obama will submit his budget to Congress next week.

At its core, the plan foresees the US military as no longer sized to conduct large and protracted ground wars. Instead, more emphasis will be on versatile, agile forces that can project power over great distances, including in Asia.

The active-duty army would shrink from 522,000 soldiers to between 440,000 and 450,000. That would make it the smallest since just before the US entered World War II.

Other contentious elements include the elimination of the air force's A-10 "Warthog" tank-killer aircraft and the Cold War-era U-2 spy plane; army national guard reductions; and domestic military base closings that Congress has roundly rejected since Obama became president. Military compensation will also decline slightly. Another flashpoint could emerge over the fleet of 11 aircraft carriers that the Pentagon insists it is maintaining.

The last time the active-duty army was below 500,000 was in 2005, when it stood at 492,000. Its post-World War II low was 480,000 in 2001, according to historical tables provided by the army. In 1940 the army had 267,000 active-duty members, and it surged to 1.46 million the following year as the US approached entry into World War II.

In Congress, the issue could come up as early as Tuesday when the Senate armed services committee considers the nominations of six senior Pentagon officials, including a new deputy secretary of defence.

Both parties are divided on defence funding levels. Republican hawks don't see eye-to-eye with some supporters of the small government tea party movement and fiscal conservatives who say all sectors of federal spending must be reined in. For every Democrat supporting the Obama administration, there's another in a military-heavy district or state worried about the fallout.

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