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Sunday, 18 January 2015

From Today's Papers - 18 Jan 2015

32 yrs on, IAF gets first LCA ‘Tejas’
Shubhadeep Choudhury
Tribune News Service                                                              

Bengaluru, January 17
Thirty-two years after the project was sanctioned, “Tejas” — the first indigenously built supersonic Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) — was today handed over by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar to the Indian Air Force. The handover signals the start of the process of induction of the fighter jet being built at home under a project that has already cost the exchequer thousands of crores.

The series-production aircraft that featured at a low-key event on the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) premises today has got the Initial Operational Clearance (IOC)-II. IOC-I was given to the LCA in 2011. IOC-II, which followed two years later in December 2013, was a more serious step and did indicate that the aircraft was now operation-worthy.

Talking to the TNS, PS Subramanyam, director of Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), which designed and developed the LCA, said: “The NFTC (National Flight Testing Centre) pilot who flew the LCA today before the dignitaries was earlier chief of the IAF’s Aircraft and Systems Testing Establishment (ASTE). That way IAF pilots have been always flying the LCA.” Subramanyam said the aircraft handed over to the IAF today would be stationed at Bengaluru for the time being and flown by the test pilots of the HAL (contractors for manufacturing the plane) and occasionally by pilots of NFTC. He added after a while, the plane would be shifted to the IAF base at Sulur in Tamil Nadu where a 20-aircraft squadron of LCA would be raised.

Regular pilots of the IAF would fly the LCA — aimed at replacing the ageing fleet of MiG-21 and MiG-27 — once the aircraft was stationed at Sulur. The Final Operational Clearance (FOC) is, however, still awaited. The FOC standard LCA is slated to have mid-air refuelling capability and a gun as its last defence against attack by enemy planes. “We are aiming to get the FOC in the last quarter of this year,” Subramanyam said. “Tejas is a 4.5th generation aircraft. It is notable for its lighter weight and greater agility and manoeuvrability. The other significant features of this indigenous aircraft are the Digital fly-by-wire system, flight control systems, open architecture computer, etc.” a press release issued by the HAL said.

The press release quoted HAL chairman as having said Tejas was 60 per cent indigenous (the foreign components include its American engine built by the GE).

The HAL targets to produce six aircraft next year (2015-16) and subsequently scale it up to eight and 16 aircraft per year. IAF chief Arup Raha was among those present at the “handing over” function..
Pak not mending its ways, threats won’t deter India, says Rajnath
New Delhi, January 17
With Intelligence reports suggesting Pakistan-based terrorists planning strikes in India, Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Saturday attacked the neighbouring country for “not mending its ways” despite being given a befitting reply many times.

“Pakistan is not mending its ways. Despite getting a befitting reply many times, it is not mending its ways. But India is not scared of Pakistan’s threat,” he told PTI. He was replying to a question on Intelligence inputs, which said strikes could be carried out by militant groups on “soft targets” in Jammu and Kashmir ahead of US President Barack Obama’s visit this month.

Rajnath Singh, however, said no effort would be left to foil any such attempts by terrorists to disturb peace. “For security, whatever necessary steps are required, we will take,” he said.

Obama will arrive here on January 25 for a three-day visit during which he will attend the Republic day parade as chief guest. General Officer Commanding (GOC), 16 Corps, Lt Gen K H Singh had said that 200 heavily-armed militants were waiting in 36 launching pads across the Line of Control (LoC) on the other side of Pir Panjal range and there is every possibility that Pakistan might try to divert the fringe elements of the home-grown terrorist groups on this side of the border.

“There are general inputs that terrorists might try to attack soft targets, including schools, religions places, Army convoys and other civilian areas,” he said. Asked about reports that Pakistan plans to ban 10 terror outfits, including JuD and the dreaded Afghan-based Haqqani Network, the Home Minister said even though Pakistan has banned a number of organisations in the past, they have come up with new names.

“They have banned many organisations. But these organisations have come up with different names. Pakistan must ensure that no terrorist organisation comes up with a new name and again start terror activities,” he said.

There have been reports that Pakistan plans to ban 10 terror outfits, including 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed-led Jamaat-ud-Dawa and the dreaded Afghanistan-based Haqqani Network. — PTI
Little defence for way DRDO chief was asked to go
DRDO revamp is fine, but govt must learn to be more graceful while dealing with senior scientists and technologists who have served the nation well
As Union Defence Minister, Manohar Parrikar has a great deal going for him. He has an air of informality and appears sincere, committed and determined to bring a change in the vital ministry he heads. When he took over two months ago, he promised to be “clean, transparent and open”, much needed in a ministry that has been rocked by bribery scandals and pay-offs.

A graduate in metallurgical engineering from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, Parrikar was welcomed by scientists of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) as someone they could talk shop with. They were confident that he would understand their work and the constraints they operated in.

Yet, many of them in DRDO were both “shocked” and “dismayed” by the manner in which Parrikar terminated the services of Avinash Chander, his Scientific Adviser and Director General, DRDO. Only in November last year, Chander, who is also an IIT graduate, was given a contract to serve for another 16 months after he reached the age of 64 years – the age of superannuation. On January 14, he got to know from TV news that the government had cut short his tenure and he was to serve only till January 31.

What was the tearing haste for the government to announce his departure without the courtesy of informing Chander first before making it public? If there were serious charges against him, shouldn’t he have been asked to go immediately rather than being given three weeks to pack up? Chander has had a long and distinguished career and was a key member of the team that built and perfected the Agni, India’s nuclear-tipped missile. Why treat him so shabbily and display a lack of grace and respect for a top scientist who had served the country with distinction?

While the Narendra Modi government may have had good reasons for removing Chander, so far no one has said sorry for the manner in which it was done. Parrikar’s explanations to the press are as intriguing. He said he had recommended Chander’s removal from the post because “he is too old” and that “we should introduce a slightly younger generation in the scientific world”. He went on to add that the other reason was “that a person holding a contract should not be holding such a high position”.

Parrikar should have done some checking about the history of DRDO and what other departments of the Modi government were doing before making such statements. Just a day before Chander was asked to go, the government appointed AS Kiran Kumar as chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation on contract for a period of three years. Kumar is 62 years old and will go on to serve till he is 65. Incidentally, K Radhakrishnan, his predecessor, was informed by fax  that there would be no post-retirement extension for him only on his last day in office.

 So while age or contract employment is not a bar to head another premier scientific organisation, it suddenly becomes a no-go for DRDO. Parrikar should also know that the venerable APJ Abdul Kalam served as DRDO chief till he was 68 years of age. There is also talk of separating the posts of Scientific Adviser from that of the DG, DRDO. Before making drastic changes in the current setup, Parrikar may be well advised to go into the reasons as to why it was decided that these two posts would be held by the same person since the late 1970s.

All this is not to say that the DRDO does not need a revamp. Sure it does. While it has delivered on strategic missiles, in other key areas of technology, whether in tanks, guns, aircraft and engines, there have been huge delays and cost overruns. Clearly, there exist major gaps between defence research and production that need to be bridged. There is also need for far greater collaboration with private industry and even international entities to speed up research and development.

As important is to identify key defence technologies that the country requires and build clusters of expertise rather than a let-us-do-it-all approach. On the lines of the Space Commission, the government could set up a Defence Technology Commission which has as its members technologists, users and financial experts who can identify vital defence technology missions and have these executed in a reasonable time-frame and cost at the various defence research and development establishments.

Parrikar’s idea of having younger scientists at the helm is welcome and he must dig deep to find out the best of them and put them in key positions in DRDO. The Defence Minister is also advised to study the existing structure and organisations carefully before going in for a revamp of DRDO. And the government must learn to be more graceful while dealing with senior scientists and technologists who have served the nation well.
Unlike China, India doesn’t arm-twist countries: VK Singh
New Delhi, January 17

Any country that seeks aid would prefer to engage with India rather than China because they know New Delhi will not get into any “arm-twisting”, Union Minister General VK Singh (retd) said today.

Singh, a former chief of the Indian Army, said the countries seeking aid from China were aware that some amount of “arm-twisting” would take place.

“Today if you see China, in large parts of the world it is there because its economy is supporting it...Again it is an interesting issue (that) all countries which seek or take aid, (they) view India and China differently. They would much rather engage with us, because we do not arm-twist them,” he said.

The Minister of State for External Affairs said the countries knew that if they sought assistance from China, “arm-twisting would take place... whether it was in terms of taking concessions from them or asking for certain favours”.

Speaking at a panel discussion here on “Emerging Dynamics of Modi government’s Foreign Policy”, Singh also rejected suggestions that the Prime Minister’s Office and National Security Adviser took decisions regarding foreign policy vis-à-vis Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“(That) perception is not correct,” he said, adding that the policy decisions were taken depending on the pros and cons involved. He dismissed perception that the External Affairs Ministry was kept out of decisions on Pakistan and Afghanistan. — PTI
'Hope more women will join Army after seeing us on R-Day'
New Delhi: As the Indian Army's all-women contingent prepares for its first-ever presence at the Republic Day parade, its commander expressed hope that seeing the officers march down the Rajpath will inspire more women to don the olive green uniform.

Captain Divya Ajith, who scripted history by becoming the first woman cadet in the history of the Army to win the 'Sword of Honour' for best cadet at the passing out parade of the Officers Training Academy (OTA) in Chennai in 2010, is now all set to write another, when she leads the contingent on the ceremonial boulevard on January 26.

"For me it's a matter of great pride to command an all-women contingent for the first time in the Republic Day parade. And, I think many of those parents who will be seeing us either at the Rajpath or on television, will feel inspired to send their girls to the Army and many of those girls would themselves be motivated to don the uniform," Captain Ajith of the Corps of Army Air Defence, told PTI.

The 25-year-old woman officer, who hails from Chennai, said, she always wanted to join the Indian Army and after serving for five years, it's an honour for her to lead the march, in front of the country.

"The entire contingent is also excited about marching in front of US President Barack Obama, who will be the chief guest on the occasion," she said.

But, with glory comes a lot of hard work, as the entire contingent has been preparing rigorously since coming to Delhi.

"From 6-9 AM in the morning and then 3-6 PM in the evening, all seven days, it's been a tough regimen but our training at the OTA is coming in handy. Also, since we are marching here for the first time, we are training doubly harder vis-a-vis our male counterparts," she said with a smile.

The women contingent would also comprise some women cadets, a Defence official said.

A multi-faceted personality, she is an accomplished Bharatanatyam dancer, percussionist and well-versed in sports like basketball, discus throw, among others.

"We also marched for the first time on Army Day this year and we are all excited about the R-Day now," she said.
Fulfilling the Army's basic needs a priority
In May, a couple of days after the Narendra Modi-led government had assumed office, I had an occasion to write about the need to get the priorities in defence ministry right. The burden of my argument was: the defence forces, especially the foot soldier in the Indian army, needs to be given the best of basic equipment on priority.

Seven months down the line, it is heartening to know that the Army has identified, among other aspects, the necessity to equip the infantry soldier with more modern arms and equipment on a fast track basis.
Army Chief Gen Dalbir Singh, speaking to the media at his annual Press conference on 13 January, said: " To provide impetus to our modernisation projects, we have identified selected capabilities as Fast Track Endeavours. Concerted efforts are being made to make up deficiency of weapons and ammunition."

 The need to arm the 350-odd infantry battalions with new and more lethal weapons is now among the top seven priority projects that the Army HQ has taken up. The infantry will get the basic assault rifles, the carbines, the light machine guns (LMGs), the sniper rifles and even the 3rd generation  anti-tank guided missile (ATGMs) over the next two years. This is good news for the foot soldier since many of the weapons currently used by the troops are of 1960s vintage. The Dragunov sniper rifle, for instance. Or the ATGMs which are of second generation variety.

 Each infantry battalion in the Indian Army normally holds about 494 pieces of the basic rifles. In the first phase, 120-odd battalions deployed in CI-CT (counter-insurgency, counter-terrorism) role under Northern and Eastern Commands should get the replacements first. In phase II, transfer of technology needs to be ensured and the production taken up by India's Ordnance Factory Board (OFB). Army HQ is also processing the tender for purchasing modern, lighter bullet-proof jackets for the units deployed in Kashmir and the north-east.

 Well-known gun brands like Colt and Beretta are among five or six companies competing for the big tender of 60,000 assault rifles estimated to cost Rs. 5,000 crore at current prices. The current version of the LMGs-- 45 in each battalion-- are of 5.56 mm bore and weigh a bulky 6.23 kg. The Army plans to replace them with much lighter and more lethal ones with longer range and 7.62x51 mm bore. The general staff qualitative requirements (GSQR) for the new LMGs are in place but a quick selection of the supplier and placing the order is needed.

The other big procurement on the anvil is the induction of the new generation carbine. India has plans to procure over 43,000 carbines at a cost of over Rs. 3,200 crore. Each infantry battalion currently holds an inventory of about 230 carbines  each.

Yet, there are critical shortages. For instance, the Army’s light helicopters are more than 40 years old; it has not bought new artillery guns since 1987 and its tanks are night-blind.

The Army Chief  in fact admitted: "Today, as we face numerous challenges, the Indian Army needs to modernise and enhance its operational effectiveness. On taking over as the Chief of the Army Staff about six months back, I had laid down my vision and identified thrust areas for the Army. These provide the guiding framework and reflect our aspirations to become a modern combat force capable of meeting our mandated role and responsibility towards the nation."

Apart from upgrading the infantry, equipping the tank fleet with night vision capability and procuring artillery guns at a cost of over 15,000 crore is now on top of the priority list. Hopefully, the political executive will support the Army's plans to make it combat ready for the varied roles that the force has to perform, both in peace and in war.
Pakistan desires peace with India: COAS
Gen Raheel urges resolution of Kashmir for long-term regional stability | Govt doing best for implementation of National Action Plan
LONDON/RAWALPINDI - Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif has stressed the need for regional peace and better ties with India, urging negotiations between both the countries on an equal level.

Speaking at International Institute for Strategic Studies in London on Friday, General Raheel Sharif emphasised on the settlement of Kashmir dispute for establishing long-term peace in the region.

He said that Pakistan was now focusing on war against terrorism which was aimed at uprooting extremism from the country very soon.

Gen Raheel said that National Action Plan (NAP) was a comprehensive long-term strategy to address extremism and terrorism in the country with the government doing best for its implementation.

The army chief said the ongoing military operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan against terrorists was making good progress.

The COAS said that there were no favourites, all terrorists of any kind were being hit, according to ISPR Director General Maj Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa’s tweet on social media.

Gen Raheel said that the relations with Afghanistan were improving, adding “We are working for stability in the region.
He said that longstanding Kashmir issue has to be resolved for long-term peace, stability in the region, Pakistan wants peace, but with dignity and honour.
He said that the world needs to understand our environment.
“Our cooperation with United Kingdom (UK) in security and social sector is growing.
About return of Temporarily Displaced Persons (TDPs) from North Wazirastan Agency, the army chief said the world should help in dignified resettlement of TDPs.

Earlier, during his visit to Royal Military Academy and Royal College of Defence Studies in London, the army chief said that the Peshawar massacre has united the whole nation, adding the political and military leaders of the country were working together against terrorism.

During his visit to London’s Royal Military Academy, the army chief met Pakistani cadets under training at the academy.

General Raheel urged Pakistani cadets to become team leaders and to bring honour to the country.
General Raheel also visited Royal College of Defence Studies and presented Pakistan’s stance on security challenges and terrorism.
He said Pakistan was determined to work against terrorism.

The Pakistani High Commission in London also held a reception in the army chief’s honour in which British Defence Minister Michael Falcon, members of parliament Lord Tariq Mehmood, Saeeda Warsi, Lord Nazir Ahmad, Khalid Mehmood and members of European parliament Dr Sajjad Kareem and Amjad Bashir and leaders of local Pakistani community participated.

In his address to the reception ceremony, General Raheel said the entire nation has united after the Peshawar massacre, one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in the country that left 150 dead including 132 schoolchildren.

He said the operation against the terrorists was continuing and that several areas have been cleansed of terrorists.
The army chief said that Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan were improving and that Pakistan’s political and military leaders were working together to root out terrorism from the country.

The Pakistani community congratulated the army chief on successful UK visit.

Director General Inter Services Public Relations Maj Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa has reiterated the Army’s resolve to ensure writ of the state in Bajaur and North Waziristan agencies at all costs by wiping out terrorists.

Addressing a think-tank of Royal United Services Institute in the United Kingdom, he said effective military operations are under way in these agencies to purge the areas of terrorists.

He said the security forces have so far killed 2,000 terrorists in North Waziristan Agency while 200 soldiers embraced martyrdom in operation Zarb-e-Azb and 800 others sustained injuries.

The ISPR director general said the army chief has clearly directed to carry out operation against terrorists without any discrimination.

Bajwa said even the United Nations has acknowledged the achievements of Pakistan Army against terrorists in the operation Zarb-e-Azb.

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