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Thursday, 22 January 2015

From Today's Papers - 22 Jan 2015

3G spectrum for defence forces gets Cabinet nod
Girja Shankar Kaura

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 21
The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved 3G spectrum for the defence forces, identifying 49 slots in the band of 3 megahertz and 40 gigahertz. By doing so, the Cabinet earmarked bands for exclusive use of security establishment while making available the remaining radiowaves for commercial use in areas such as telecom and broadcasting.

Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said nine of these slots would be used exclusively by the defence forces. Of these, 31 slots would be those where the defence forces would have to co-exist with other users. The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) cleared two mega road projects in J&K at the cost of Rs 3382.66 crore, which would include four-laning of the Ramban-Banihal and the Udhampur-Ramban sections of the National Highway.

Giving details after the CCEA meeting, the Telecom Minister said the decision to improve infrastructure in J&K was taken as per the commitment made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the people of the state. The four laning of _the Ramban-Banihal section of National Highway-1A _(now NH-44) in Jammu & Kashmir would be done under the National Highways Development Project (NHDP) Phase-II. The approval is in Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) mode. The cost is estimated to be Rs 1,623.98 crore, including the cost of land acquisition, resettlement and rehabilitation and other pre-construction activities. The total length of the road will be 32.10 km.

The CCEA also approved the four laning of the Udhampur-Ramban section of National Highway, again under NHDP Phase-II.

The cost is estimated to be Rs 1,758.68 crore including cost of land acquisition, resettlement and rehabilitation and other pre-construction activities. The total length of the road will be 40.07 km.

The decision to provide defence forces with nine exclusive slots in the spectrum band from 3MHz to 40GHz was taken at the meeting of the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

It was preceded by a meeting between Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.
Pak targets forward posts in Jammu

Ravi Krishnan Khajuria

Tribune News Service

Jammu, January 21
Four days ahead of US President Barack Obama’s visit, Pakistan this morning opened small arms and automatic weapons fire on three Indian posts along the international border in the Arnia sub-sector of Jammu district.
Further, following the Army’s intelligence inputs about a Peshawar-like terror attack in J&K ahead of Obama’s visit, border schools in Kathua district will remain closed on January 24 as a precautionary measure.
A final decision on
all schools across the Jammu region will be taken tomorrow.
“Around 6.10 am, the Pakistan Rangers opened small arms and automatic weapons fire on the Pindi post in the Arnia area, drawing retaliation by the BSF. After a brief lull, they again opened fire around 6.20 am on the neighbouring Pittal and Tent Guard posts, again prompting the BSF to retaliate,” said an Intelligence source.
The Rangers again opened fire around 7 am and the intermittent gun duel between the two sides lasted till 7.45 am, he added. There were no reports of casualties or injuries on the Indian side.
The firing comes after the BSF foiled an infiltration bid in the area on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Kathua Deputy Commissioner Shahid Iqbal Choudhary said that on January 24 all schools near the international border in the district would remain closed. Jammu Divisional Commissioner, Shantmanu, head of all 10 districts of the Jammu region, said that with January 25 being Sunday and January 26 being Republic Day holiday, the administration, if required, might declare a holiday on January 24. “We will take a call in a day or two,” he said.
On January 15, Nagrota-based 16 Corps GOC Lt Gen KH Singh had stated that the Army had inputs of terror attacks on soft targets in J&K ahead of Obama’s visit.

North Kashmir put on alert for R-Day
Srinagar: Ahead of Republic Day, security has been put on an alert in north Kashmir amid inputs about the presence of militants and the possibility of terror attacks in the coming days. Officials said that security men from various agencies have been asked to step up vigil and increase night patrolling, especially in rural areas. The security has been beefed up also because of US president Barack Obama’s visit to the country.
India, Russia to speed up fighter jet project
Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 21
Ending months of deadlock over the joint production of the fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA), India and Russia today agreed to speed up work on the project and iron out the ‘wrinkles’ on draft agreement and design.

The two countries signed an agreement to exchange information about flight safety protocols being followed on all Russian-origin fighter jets, helicopters and transport planes being flown by the Indian Air Force.

The flight safety exchange stems from the recent issues of the mid-air engine burn outs and crash of IAF frontline fighter jets, the Sukhoi-30 MKI, sources said. Russia had contested India’s claim that pilot seats of the Sukhoi ejected automatically during the last crash in October last year.

The decisions were taken today at the 14th meeting of the Russian-Indian Inter-Governmental Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation.

Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu decided to ‘fast-track’ all pending issues of joint projects. Speaking to reporters after the meeting in New Delhi, Parrikar said "all the issues, including the FGFA, were discussed”.

"We have decided to fast-track many of the issues," Parrikar said, adding there was "apprehension" about the slow progress on the construction of the aircraft.

In early January, Russian and Indian engineers had completed a preliminary design for the FGFA, a twin-engine stealth fighter jet. “It is a kind of draft project that is ready,” sources said.

New Delhi conveyed to Moscow that the prototypes of the plane were already being flight tested in Russia and the Indian version had just a few variations, hence a full-fledged R&D contract of $11 billion was a waste of time and resources.

The Russians have built five prototypes in single pilot version. The agreement was to be inked in 2012. Both countries are scheduled to spend $5.5 billion each towards the cost of designing, infrastructure build-up, prototype development and flight testing.

As many as 127 fighters are to be built at the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited facility at Nashik and a sum of $25 billion is listed for spending on the FGFA project.

Parrikar said the government had invited Russian companies to come over to India for other joint projects, specifically the production of spare parts for Russia-made military equipment on Indian soil. He added the Indian Army had a "substantial" amount of Russian and Soviet military equipment in service, including heavy artillery and armoured vehicles.

The two sides also discussed the offer made by Russian President Vladimir Putin in New Delhi during his last-month visit on producing the ‘Kamov’ military helicopters in India.

The Defence Ministers’ meeting was scheduled in October but could not be held due to occupation of the Russian minister in matters related to Ukraine.

In November, Sergei Shoigu became the first-ever Russian Defence Minister to visit Pakistan. The two sides even signed a ‘Defence and Military Cooperation Agreement’ on November 20 at Rawalpindi.
Army modernisation takes a bad hit
Since 2009-10, the Army’s capital budget is on a continuous decline hitting the lowest point in 2013-14 when the capital budget was only 18 per cent of the total allocation. This was spent mostly on the “committed liabilities” or existing purchases. It may be noted that as per Pentagon’s annual report to the US Congress, India’s annual defence budget is just one-third of that of China despite the tensions that remain along their shared border. The official annual defence budget of China in 2013 was $119.5 billion as against India's $39.2 billion

Since 2009-10, the Army’s capital budget is on a continuous decline hitting the lowest point in 2013-14 when the capital budget was only 18 per cent of the total allocation. This was spent mostly on the “committed liabilities” or existing purchases. It may be noted that as per Pentagon’s annual report to the US Congress, India’s annual defence budget is just one-third of that of China despite the tensions that remain along their shared border. The official annual defence budget of China in 2013 was $119.5 billion as against India's $39.2 billion

Modernisation of the Indian defence forces is a continuous process based on threat perception, operational challenges, technological changes and available sources. The process is based on a 15-year Long Term Integrated Perspective Plan (LTIPP), Five Year Services Capital Acquisition Plan (SCAP) and an Annual Acquisition Plan (AAP). Procurement of equipment and weapon systems is carried out as per the AAP in accordance with the Defence procurement procedure. The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) cleared a total of 41 proposals since June last year. This was stated by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar in a written statement in Rajya Sabha, during the winter session of Parliament.

Unfortunately, the Army’s plan to modernise its arsenal with the latest weaponry took a beating as the Finance Ministry recently cut the budget by almost about Rs 5,000 crore, leaving that much less money to make fresh purchases.

Army Chief Gen Dalbir Singh had on 13 January stated that the Army identified seven critical projects, which would be pursued for equipping the soldiers with advanced firepower and mobility. These critical projects which the Army Chief outlined are 814 artillery guns, 8000 third generation antitank missiles (from Israel), acquiring 197 helicopters for the Army, upgrading of tanks and BMP armoured vehicles, procurement of assault rifles, bullet proof jackets and helmets for the infantry soldiers and night vision devices for the infantry mechanised forces.

Out of these two projects, 814 artillery guns at a cost of Rs 15,750 crore and more than 8,000 third generation anti-tank missiles (from Israel) at a cost of Rs 3,700 crore were approved by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) headed by Defence Minister Parrikar. However, other five crucial projects are still under consideration of the Ministry of Defence (MoD). Both would have to be cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) before the procurement process starts because any project with more than Rs 1,000 crore budget needs CCS approval.
Since 2009-10, the Army’s capital budget is on a continuous decline hitting the lowest point in 2013-14 when the capital budget was only 18 per cent of the total allocation. This was spent mostly on the “committed liabilities” or existing purchases.

For 2014-15, the Army's additional demand (for grants) was not met but capital budget, meant for acquisition was reduced by about Rs 5,000 crore apparently because the money was transferred to revenue heads used for paying salary, pension and fuel bill. Other two services are also likely to have suffered from the budget cut and the modernization is likely to be delayed further, which will have adverse effect for the defence forces as well as for national security.

One of the reasons behind enhancement of revenue budget is the BJP-ruled NDA government’s plan to implement one-rank-one-pension (OROP) plan for ex-servicemen which is pending for the past three decades. The government accepted the OROP in principle and modalities of implementation are being worked out.

India cleared a bulk of defence projects worth $13 billion in a bid to boost the country's national defence preparedness, the Indian DAC said on 25 October 2014. The council finalised purchase of 12 upgraded Dornier surveillance aircraft with improved sensors from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) at a cost of Rs 1,850 crore.

The DAC also decided to buy 362 infantry mechanised vehicles at a cost of Rs 662 crore. The decision to manufacture the submarines in the country is in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ‘Make in India’ pitch.

The Indian defence budget stood at $11.8 billion in 2001. On February 17, 2014, the then Finance Minister P Chidambaram announced a 10 per cent increase in India's defence budget, taking it to $36.3 billion. In March 2014 China announced a 12.2 per cent increase in its defence budget, raising military spending to $132 billion.

It may be noted that as per Pentagon’s annual report to the US Congress, India’s annual defence budget is just one-third of that of China despite the tensions that remain along their shared border. The official annual defence budget of China in 2013 was $119.5 billion against India's $39.2 billion.

India announced plans to boost defence spending in 2014-15 by 12 per cent over the previous year, and further opened the domestic weapons industry to foreign investment. The Modi government had long called for a militarily strong India to counter potential threats from both its neighbours – China and Pakistan. In July 2014 the new Indian military budget was set at Rs 2.29 trillion ($38.35 billion) for 2014-15, and the foreign investment limit in the domestic defence industry was raised from 26 per cent to 49 per cent.

Defence expenditure, which was 2.24 per cent of the GDP in 1997-98, has come down to 1.79 per cent of GDP in 2014-15 and this gradual decline is against the modernization of defence forces. Hopefully, the next budget will be around 3 per cent of the GDP keeping in view the long-pending demand of defence modernization and threat perception from adversaries China and Pakistan.
Indian Air Power at Risk as Rafale Warplane Deal Delayed
India’s purchase of 126 Rafale fighter jets from France’s Dassault Aviation SA (AM) is being delayed, even as the South Asian nation struggles for enough squadrons to counter potential threats from China and Pakistan.

The sticking points are the 2007 tender’s $11 billion price tag and India’s requirement for quality guarantees from Dassault for planes made under license locally by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd., three officials with knowledge of the matter said. They asked not to be identified as the talks are private. India had aimed to sign the contract by the end of last year.

The air force estimates at least 45 squadrons are needed to repel a joint attack from Pakistan and China, compared with a current active strength of 25, which includes 14 squadrons whose MiG-21 and MiG-27 jets are due to be taken out of service starting this year. That shows the deal’s importance for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s agenda of military modernization. For Dassault, a sale would be its first export of the combat plane.
“The air force can’t go through the process of selecting another aircraft,” said New Delhi-based Manmohan Bahadur, a distinguished fellow at the Centre for Air Power Studies and a retired air vice marshal. “That would delay induction plans. The deal is huge. It boosts the possibility of Dassault selling Rafale to other countries.”

Nungsanglemba Ao, an Indian defense ministry spokesman, declined to comment on the contract talks, as did Mathieu Durand, a spokesman for Paris-based Dassault.
The price will probably exceed $11 billion given the figure stems from a request for bids that’s more than seven years old, two Indian air force officials said in August. The goal is to conclude the deal by end of 2014, they said at the time.
India chose Dassault’s twin-engine, delta-wing Rafale three years ago over Boeing Co.’s F/A-18 Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-16 Fighting Falcon, United Aircraft Corp.รข€™s MiG-35, Saab AB’s Gripen and the Eurofighter Typhoon.

Further talks about the Rafale contract are due this month, Indian Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha said in a short interview in New Delhi on Jan. 15, adding he hoped remaining issues would be resolved soon.

Modi has cleared about $20 billion of arms procurement proposals since taking power in May, roughly double India’s spending on weapons in the last fiscal year. The blitz spans heavy guns to submarines as he seeks to counter China’s rising military heft and take a firmer stance on border disputes with Pakistan.
India is the world’s largest importer of major weapons. Modi is seeking more domestic production.

BAE Systems Plc, Europe’s largest defense company, said this month it’s given India the option of making howitzers locally to help conclude a deal that would equip an army strike force patrolling the Chinese border with the weapons.

Under the terms of the Rafale deal, Dassault would make 18 jets in France and state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics would produce 108. The French company’s combat aircraft are used by that nation’s air force. Dassault also makes Falcon luxury jets.
Between India and France, one of them have to blink on the issue of the guarantee,” said Nitin A. Gokhale, an independent national security analyst in New Delhi. “Until then, this negotiation cannot progress.”

India’s armed forces have more than 1,200 planes and helicopters of Indian, Soviet, U.S., French, British and Swiss origin.
The air force has suffered crashes that raised questions about local maintenance and manufacturing. On Oct. 14, a Sukhoi fighter jet ejected its pilots without warning as they tried to land in the western city of Pune. The pilots survived.
The air force then grounded about 200 such aircraft, which Hindustan Aeronautics built under a Russian license. The Sukhoi fleet has “problems,” Raha had said before the crash.

At the same time, China has built up the third-largest air force in the world, with about 330,000 personnel and some 1,900 combat aircraft, according to a U.S. Department of Defense report. China’s J-31 stealth fighter made its debut in November last year, a project largely shrouded in secrecy and one that signals the nation’s lead over India in warplane development.

Older aircraft are being taken out of service from the Indian air force more quickly than new ones are being inducted, according to a report last month from the Standing Committee on Defence.

“Early induction of additional aircraft is crucial for arresting the draw down in the strength of the fighter squadrons,” the Defense Ministry said in replies to questions from the panel.

The Rafale deal is key for both parties, Gokhale said.

“Scrapping the tender is not an option,” he said. “Combat fleet numbers are drastically dipping. Both the Indian air force and Dassault need this deal to conclude quickly.”
Russian Defence Minister visits BrahMos HQ; Parrikar makes Make in India pitch

Jan 21: Russian Defence Minister General Sergei Shoigu, along with a high-level delegation, visited the headquarters of BrahMos Aerospace Headquarters in New Delhi today. Praveen Pathak, General Manager, BrahMos Aerospace, told OneIndia that Gen Sergei was given a glimpse of the gen-next BrahMos Mobile Autonomous Launcher (MAL) during the occasion.

"The MAL features were explained by Sudhir Mishra, BrahMos Aerospace, CEO & MD. The MAL has already been inducted by the Indian Army and also in the Indian Air Force for its Land-based Weapon Complex," Praveen said. During the visit, the Russian Defence Minister was also briefed about the key achievements recorded by the Indian-Russian Joint Venture (JV). "The minister was completely given an insight into the progress of the JV in the recent years and also all related developments related of the futuristic BrahMos-NG (Next Generation) missile," he added. Delivery timelines key, says Gen Appreciating the efforts being made by the BrahMos team in India under the command of Sudhir Mishra, the Russian minister wanted the team to stick to the deadlines so that the missile are delivered to the armed forces on time. The minister also visited the BrahMos Simulation Centre which showcases the Strike Planning System for Land & Air Versions. The Minister was briefed on the progress made by the interface of BrahMos air version with Su-30MKI, with the first test launch expected in March 2015. HAL Nasik Division, which is being mandated to undertake the missile integration work on the Sukhoi, had recently conducted the critical Ground Vibration Test (GVT). OneIndia had earlier reported about the GVT, which was done to assess the dynamic behavior of the modified Sukhoi platform. HAL had conducted the GVT for a total of nine configurations.

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