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Thursday, 8 May 2014

From Today's Papers - 08 May 2014

INS Vikramaditya is now operational: Navy Chief
Tribune News Service
 New Delhi, May 7
Indian Navy Chief Admiral Robin Dhowan today announced that the country’s sea-borne aircraft carrier, the INS Vikramaditya, was now fully operational and integrated with the western Naval fleet based in Mumbai. The 44,500-tonne Russian-origin carrier is based at Karwar, south of Goa.

Dhowan made the announcement on a routine visit to the Southern Naval Command at Kochi in Kerala. The Navy Chief said: “INS Vikramaditya is operationally deployed with MiG 29-Ks integrated with the carrier.”

The warship, costing $2.35 billion, arrived in India in December last year, almost five years after its original delivery deadline of December 2008. Russia had offered the warship to India in 1995 with the clause that New Delhi was to pay for the refit.

Since December, Indian Naval pilots were being trained for on-deck landing and take-off. “Resistor-E” system aids pilots and guides the fighter jet in autopilot mode. It takes the jet just 30 metre away from the warship after which the pilot takes over for a final landing. It is the first-ever such facility onboard an Indian naval warship.

All this is handled by the “Resistor-E”, which comprises a microwave landing system, precision approach radar and a beacon. This is like an instrument-aided landing system (ILS) installed at airports, which allow operations in all weather conditions. An array of sensors, radars and communication aids, the Vikramaditya is capable of detecting threats within 500 km of air space. Besides the fighter jets, the Kamov-28 and Kamov-31 helicopters specialising in anti-submarine warfare pick out under-sea threats.

The INS Vikramditya will augment the Navy’s stated blue-water aspirations and a role in protection of sea lines of communication (SLOCs) passing through the Indian Ocean and will be the second carrier after ageing re-fitted INS Viraat.
A reunion with a difference

 Regimental reunions are an integral part of military culture that bonds the old with the young, boosts camaraderie and strengthens tradition. While reunions are generally associated with a single regiment, there was one with a difference that was held at Rashtrapati Bhawan this week. First, it was hosted by the President, Pranab Mukherjee, who is also the Supreme Commander of the armed forces and second, it was a reunion of officers who had serves as aide-de-camp (ADC) to the Presidents, who come from all three services and different regiments.

The first such official reunion saw officers converging on Raisina Hill from not just across country but from the US, Australia, UK, Egypt and the UAE. The event was attended by the past and present ADCs representing the time of all the Presidencies since Independence. Rear Adm Kirpal Singh (Retd.), ADC to C. Rajagopalachari and Air Marshal MM Sinha (Retd), ADC to Dr Rajendra Prasad were amongst the oldest former ADCs present. Lt Gen Rameshwar Yadav, Director General Infantry, and Lt Gen SK Gadeock, Commandant, Staff College, Wellington, were the senior most serving former ADCs.
Packing a punch for Navy

After being in the doldrums for quite a while over a series of mishaps and consequent changes at its helm, the Navy now appears to be sailing on the high tide. After its largest warship, the recently inducted aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, becoming fully operational, the Navy is set to commission its most powerful indigenously built destroyer, INS Kolkata. Navy sources said the ship could be commissioned in about a month’s time. Constructed by Mazagon Dock Limited INS Kolkata is the lead ship of the three guided-missile destroyers being built under Project 15A. The ship was also in the news recentlty when a gas leak during trials killed a naval officer. Its sister ship, INS Kochi is expected to be commissioned in October, while the third ship, INS Chennai would join the Navy mid next year.

Band of brothers

In a rare instance, two brothers, both of whom have risen to the rank of Air Marshal, have been posted at Air Headquarters at the same time. Air Marshal SBP Sinha, has taken over as the Deputy Chief of the Air Staff, while his elder brother, Air Marshal BBP Sinha was already serving as the Director General (Works and Services) at the Air HQs. While the deputy chief, a fighter pilot with experience on the Hunter, MiG-21, Mirage 2000 and Su-30MKI, will be associated with acquisitions and combat capability, his brother would be overseeing the IAF’s infrastructure and allied facilities. There have been several instances in the armed forces, especially the army, where siblings have made it to the top echelon.
 Air Chief given demo of DRDO’s new projects
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 7
Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha today visited the Terminal Ballistics Research Laboratory (TBRL) ranges at Ramgarh near Chandigarh today for technical discussions and review of the joint collaborative projects being undertaken by the TBRL and the Air Force. He was briefed about the activities and facilities at TRBL by its director, Dr Manjit Singh and presentations were made on the new projects taken up by TBRL, that include development of fuses for air armament, high calibre bomb, deep earth penetrator and the jet propulsion system for RTRS National Test facility.

The Air Chief was also shown experimental trials on Flux Compression Generator. TRBL is a laboratory of the Defence Research and Development Organisation.

Earlier, on his arrival at Chandigarh, he was received by Air officer Commanding, 3 Base Repair Depot (BRD), Air Cmde AK Barik and was presented a guard of honour. He was briefed on the operational and administrative aspects of the Chandigarh Air Force Station that includes 12 Wing, an operational transport base and the lifeline to the northern Himalayan region, and 3 BRD that carries out repair, overhaul and maintenance of helicopters.
The dogfight over procuring trainers for IAF
Hindustan Aeronautics Limited has not been able to meet the IAF’s requirements. Its lack of initiative and flip-flop over the modalities for producing a new generation trainer aircraft indigenously left the Air Force without a basic trainer for some time, forcing the IAF to look elsewhere
Air Marshal Dhiraj Kukreja (Retd)
A controversy stirred by a recent article on the Air Force being at war with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and wanting to import rather than build an indigenous a trainer, was discussed in the print and visual media for a few days, but seems to have lost the public interest. The pot, however, has been kept boiling through some well-timed 'plants'. During this writer's two tenures, one as Commandant, Air Force Academy (AFA) and the subsequently as Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief (AOC-in-C), Training Command, the writer had an experience of the aircraft in question — HAL built basic trainer aircraft, HPT—32. Hence, it was felt necessary to set the record right, even though it may mean plunging headlong in to an ongoing controversy.

The genesis lies in the repeated engine failures, many of them fatal, on the HPT—32, and HAL's failure to resolve the cause and provide a lasting solution. Since its induction in 1988, there have been more than 120 engine failures resulting in 13 accidents, killing 19 experienced and a few under-training pilots. That the number of fatalities is low speaks highly of the professionalism of the Indian Air Force. A fatal accident that killed two experienced instructors at the AFA in May 2009, led to a decision that enough was enough and to stop flying the aircraft — ground the aircraft in a flier's parlance — even though it meant that the IAF would be without a basic trainer for some time to come. The lack of a basic trainer aircraft created a crisis-situation, but it goes to the credit of the entire training and maintenance branches of the air force to have risen to the occasion and overcome it. Air Headquarters rendered Training Command and the basic training was transferred to the HJT—16 Kiran aircraft, even though this particular type was also on its last legs. This also entailed the closure of the much popular Surya Kiran aerobatic team, as training had to be given the due priority.

Simultaneously, the critical void thus created was recognised by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and approval was granted in September 2009 to acquire 181 basic trainer aircraft, of which 75 were to be from the global market and the balance 106 to be supplied by HAL through indigenous production. To give the devil its due, it is pertinent to mention that HAL, on its own, had suggested a replacement for the HPT—32 as far back as October 2003. The proposal, however, did not suggest any major upgradation of technology. In addition, the residual life of a decade plus of the HPT—32 aircraft would have seen the IAF through, before a new aircraft would be required. The proposal, therefore, was considered premature.

HAL took no initiative thereafter. Considering the long gestation period in aviation acquisitions, it was Air HQs that finally submitted fresh requirements and held meetings with HAL from 2007 onwards. After a series of meetings, in March 2009, the Preliminary Staff Qualitative Requirements (PSQR 06/09) were finalised and ratified by the appropriate departments at Air HQs and the MoD. The finalised PSQR was then forwarded to HAL for it to study and submit a Detailed Project Report (DPR). While awaiting the DPR, Air HQs, in May 2009, circulated a proposal for procurement of 181 aircraft as 'Make' by HAL. The nomenclature of the aircraft was HTT—40, being the one being developed by HAL as per the given PSQRs. The aircraft was to be totally indigenous as it has always been the endeavour of the IAF to encourage the local aerospace industry. Meanwhile, engine failures on the HPT—32 aircraft were occurring with worrying regularity and the entire fleet was finally grounded in that very month itself.

Considering the new urgency created by the lack of a basic trainer aircraft, Air HQs proposed a change from 'Make' by HAL, to 'Buy' globally the initial critical numbers, while the balance order still remained with HAL. Air HQs also approved the proposal that the PSQRs be maintained for the HAL HTT—40, and a fresh Air Staff Qualitative Requirement (ASQR) be issued for 'Buy' (Global) after receiving the responses to the Request for Information (RFI). The appropriate departments ratified the fresh ASQR and a case for the procurement of 90 aircraft was processed, with the balance 90 to be made by HAL as a separate proposal. The project for HTT—40 was still not cancelled. The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), chaired by the Raksha Mantri, reduced the initial acquisition to 75. The Council, however, added a clause to its decision that should HAL not fly the first aircraft (HTT—40) by the time the first aircraft of 'Buy (Global) type' arrives, then the option clause would be invoked and the numbers to be made by HAL would be reviewed. The PSQRs for the HTT—40, were later realigned with the ASQR for the new aircraft and issued to HAL in December 2009. HAL, with the issue of its first project report, confirmed its acceptance in September 2010.

The Ministry of Defence accorded its approval to the project report in June 2011 and at the same time instructed HAL to process a case for the sanction of funds. HAL, for whatever reasons, chose to submit a revised project report in January 2012 with an enhancement of costs. This obviously was not acceptable to the MoD. The revised report was referred back to HAL, which then resubmitted it in May 2012 with reduced costs.

It was now that Air HQs, on review of the revised project report as submitted by HAL, recommended foreclosure of the HTT—40 project. It also added that should HAL be interested in obtaining the technology from Pilatus, the Swiss manufacturer whose trainer aircraft had been selected in the ensuing period, IAF would consider the balance numbers to be procured from HAL rather than from the original manufacturer.

All actions as stipulated in the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) had been followed under close scrutiny of the MoD. Any deviation in the ASQR, as has been alleged in some media reports, would have been immediately detected and the project would not have been cleared by the Ministry. That the project cost, as submitted by HAL, was high and rejected by the Ministry, and subsequently reduced to within acceptable limits, has been conveniently missed out by the media. Having been at the receiving end of HAL's poor production and maintenance record and sheer ineptness and clumsiness, at times it so seems that the case has been projected at the behest of HAL to shroud its poor performance record. The thinking of HAL has always been that it has a 'captive customer' in the IAF and the aviation arms of the other two Services and hence, could not be bothered much about competitive costs and quality. The hype of the Air Force not encouraging indigenisation is just that — hype. About 60 per cent of the components, including the engine, were to be imported for the HAL product.

The Air Force has often been at the receiving end for not encouraging indigenisation. Till date, anything and everything associated with aviation in India, more so defence aviation, had the HAL stamp on it. The reader needs to be apprised that maintaining a war machine of varied technology and origin is not an easy task. The maintenance branch of the Air Force, however, has always been encouraging small and medium enterprises to produce equipment for ensuring serviceability of the varied inventory, which otherwise is a nightmare and at the total mercy of the original manufacturers. Suffice to say, that the industry has responded and shown that it has the capability and desire, notwithstanding the high standards that are demanded in the realm of aviation and aerospace.

HAL, by its own admission, has developed more that 2,000 tier—3 suppliers, but not any in the tier—1 or tier—2 categories. It has about 30-licence produced and a few indigenous aircraft to its credit. Nonetheless, it has not been able to meet the requirements of the IAF or why else would the Air Force go shopping abroad.

The reputation of HAL is now at stake because the IAF, with the nod of the MoD, is wanting to break away from the stranglehold of the HAL. It has not issued a request for proposal for the replacement of the Avro aircraft, which the 'holier than thou' HAL has considered as a slight. (A project since then stalled by MoD allegedly at the behest of an outgoing Minister).

HAL can still hope to salvage its battered reputation if it progresses well on the jet trainer and other projects, and delivers them as per stated schedule and costs. In aviation, initial teething problems of any new product are always present. Even the US-built Boeing 787 Dreamliner has had its fair share of initial problems. The IAF, being the professional force that it is, well understands it. This time, however, the IAF has put its foot down and will not be taken for granted anymore. HAL, for its own good should recognise the fact before it slowly but surely looses out to the private sector.
Indian army chief to visit Maldives
Indian army chief, General Bikram Singh is to visit the Maldives on Thursday, the Indian high commission in Male announced Wednesday.

In a statement, the high commission said that during his two-day official visit, Singh would meet President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom and defence minister Mohamed Nazim. Official discussions would also be held with his Maldivian counterpart, Major General Ahmed Shiyam, the high commission said.

“India and Maldives enjoy robust cooperation in the field of defence and the upcoming visit will further enhance bilateral defence cooperation,” the statement read.

According to the high commission, India’s commitment to Maldives defence has been steadfast and growing with each passing year. Both countries have inter-linked mutual security interests which need to be protected for the safety and security of the South Asian region and the Indian Ocean, the high commission added.

The last Indian army chief to visit the Maldives was General Deepak Kapoor in February 2010.

Maldives and India have enjoyed close defence cooperation over the years, with India gifting the Maldives with two helicopters and a landing craft, and proving many training opportunities for Maldivian soldiers.
Andaman ‘theatre’ command needs to be strengthened to counter China
NEW DELHI: The urgent need to strengthen the strategically-located Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC) in the backdrop of the ever-growing military asymmetry with China, both in terms of hardware as well as infrastructure, came to the fore at a top military conclave on Tuesday.

While defence relations with China may now be on an upward trajectory, the unified commanders' conference, attended by defence minister A K Antony, General Bikram Singh, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha and Admiral R K Dhowan, among others, felt India has to systematically build its military capabilities as well as infrastructure to tackle any exigency.

The funds crunch, however, remains a big problem affecting India's defence preparedness. "Leave alone modernization, sustaining the Indian armed forces at the current levels is proving difficult with revenue cuts. The deferential is growing every day in favour of China, which has the will and wherewithal to usher in transformation of its People's Liberation Army,'' said a senior official.

Then, the Army, Navy and IAF often pull in different directions without concrete efforts being made to resolve inter-Service doctrinal, planning, procurement and operational issues. The slapdash decision-making in the defence establishment, with no real integration between the ministry and the Service headquarters, only compounds problems further.

The 572-island A&N archipelago is a case in point. The tri-Service ANC was established in October 2001, as part of the national security reforms after the 1999 Kargil conflict, as the country's first - and till now - only "theatre command" with all armed forces there being under one commander-in-chief.

But with the infrastructure to host adequate force-levels still not in place there, coupled with the reluctance of the three Services to part with their "assets", the ANC has not really evolved into India's frontline military outpost it was initially envisaged to be.

"A powerful ANC could effectively counter China's strategic moves in Indian Ocean, protect our 600,000 sq km of Exclusive Economic Zone in the region and ensure security of sea lanes converging towards Malacca Strait," said another senior officer.
Fourth ceasefire violation by Pak army in 11 days
In yet another provocative attack, Pakistani troops violated the ceasefire on Tuesday by firing on Indian posts along Line of Control (LoC) in Rajouri district of Jammu and Kashmir, forcing Indian troops to retaliate effectively.

“Pakistani troops resorted to firing from automatic weapons on Indian posts along the LoC in Bhimber Gali area of Rajouri district from 2330 hours last night,” said a defence spokesperson.
Troops guarding the borderline fired back resulting in intermittent exchanges of fire but there was no casualties or damage , he said, adding, “firing exchanges continued for a brief period”.

This is the fourth incident of ceasefire violation in the past 11 days along the LoC.

Earlier, on May 3, Pakistani troops resorted to firing from small arms and automatic weapons on Indian posts along the LoC in Mendhar in Poonch district, on April 28, along the LoC in Bhimber Gali in Rajouri district and on April 25, along posts in Doda battalion areas in Poonch district.
Army chief reviews mountain strike corps
NEW DELHI: With India keen to acquire "quick reaction force (QRF) capabilities" against China, Army chief General Bikram Singh on Wednesday reviewed the raising of the new mountain strike corps that will give the force a "concrete" counter-offensive option in the event of any attack by the People's Liberation Army.

On a visit to the Kolkata-based Eastern Command, Gen Singh was briefed by Lt-Gen M M S Rai and others on the progress of the XVII Mountain Strike Corps, which made a small beginning with the raising of 22 major and minor units under its ambit last December.

The entire XVII Corps, with its headquarters at Panagarh in West Bengal, will however be fully raised with 90,274 troops at a cost of Rs 64,678 crore only by 2018-2019. With units spread across the 4,057-km Line of Actual Control (LAC) from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh, the corps will have two high-altitude infantry divisions (59 Div at Panagarh and 72 Div at Pathankot) with their integral units, two independent infantry brigades, two armoured brigades and the like. "It will include 30 new infantry battalions and two Para-Special Forces battalions," said an officer.

Incidentally, Gen Singh will also be visiting Maldives from Thursday to assure the 1,190-island archipelago about India's continuing support in meeting its security needs. China has been trying to make deep inroads into Maldives as part of its expanding strategic footprint in the Indian Ocean region.

India has only belatedly taken to countering China's deadly build-up of trans-border military capabilities, backed by its expanding nuclear, space, electronic and cyber warfare abilities.

The development of the 3,500-km Agni-IV and 5,000-km Agni-V ballistic missiles, progressive deployment of Sukhoi-30MKI fighters, spy drones, helicopters and missile squadrons in the eastern theatre, and the XVII Corps are all meant to gradually transform the present "dissuasive posture" against China into "a meaningful deterrence" one.

Holding that the XVII Corps "is not only for war-waging, it's for war-prevention as well", Gen Singh has himself said the overall roadmap is to "raise and convert our combat power into certain amount of QRF capabilities". In effect, the Army wants to ensure it can launch an attack into Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) if there is a Chinese foray across the border.

The Army has already raised two new infantry divisions (1,260 officers and 35,000 soldiers) at Likabali and Missamari (Assam) in 2009-2010 to reduce the adverse land combat ratio with China, which currently hovers around 1:3.

But the costs involved are quite high. Apart from the Rs 64,678 crore on the new corps, of which Rs 39,209 crore is for capital expenditure, the price tag for infrastructure development on the "northern borders" with China is pegged at another Rs 26,155 crore.
MP writes to Air India for not announcing presence of army officer's body on flight
New Delhi: Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar has written to the Air India questioning why one of its crews refused to announce the presence of mortal remains of an Army officer on a flight carrying his body from Srinagar to Delhi.

In a letter written to Air India Chairman Rohit Nandan, the MP said that on April 28, Air India carried the body of brave-heart Major Mukund Varadrajan, who was killed in an encounter with militants at Shopian in Jammu and Kashmir, from Srinagar to Delhi and then onward to Chennai where his family lives.

"A request from the Army officer accompanying the body of the slain officer on the Srinagar-Delhi flight, that an announcement be made that his mortal remains were on board was turned down by the airline crew, citing aviation rules.

"The Major sacrificed his life and future for the countrymen but the bureaucratic manner in which the airline crew responded to this request, is sad and shameful, and conveys an impression of callousness and disrespect towards brave men and women, on part of Air India," Chandrasekhar said.

The Rajya Sabha MP from Karnataka urged the Air India chairman "to find out the people involved in this incident. I would also request you to let me know what are the aviation rules' that were quoted in this instance."

He said if rules prevent the people from honouring their heroes, "then they need to be changed or abolished altogether. A nation must honour its brave people who sacrifice their lives for the country."

Chandrasekhar said the pilot of the flight which carried the body of the officer from New Delhi to Chennai has written a letter to the parents of the officer, saying he was honoured to have flown their son's body.

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