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Saturday, 9 May 2015

From Today's Papers - 09 May 2015

2 envoys among 7 killed in Pak copter crash
Islamabad, May 8
A Pakistan military helicopter carrying diplomats to a tourism project crashed in Pakistan occupied Kashmir today, killing seven persons, including the ambassadors of Norway and the Philippines and the wives of the Malaysian and Indonesian envoys.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for downing the helicopter saying Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was the target. The Army, however, ruled out the possibility of a terror attack, saying a technical fault led to the crash.

Sharif was travelling to the area on a separate aircraft when the accident happened. Norwegian Ambassador Leif H Larsen, Philippine Ambassador Domingo D Lucenario Jr and the wives of the ambassadors of Malaysia and Indonesia were killed, along with two pilots and a crew member, said a spokesman. — Agencies
CAG: Tejas has limited operational capability
Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 8
Criticising the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft Tejas, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) said the under-development plane has ‘shortfalls’ with limited ‘operational capabilities’ and is ‘overweight’ with issues of its survivability.

The CAG report, in a way, also raises questions on the readiness of the Indian Air Force (IAF) as it says the planes fail to fulfil many parameters. The Tejas is touted as a replacement for the now obsolete MiG-21 fleet and was to be originally inducted by 1994.

The CAG in its report titled “Design, development, manufacture and induction of LCA” submitted to both houses of Parliament today said: “The LCA Mark-I currently under development has shortfalls in meeting the engine thrust and other parameters such as weight of the aircraft, fuel capacity, pilot protection from front against 7.62 mm bullets”. The weight had exceeded the laid down specifications by one tonne.

The CAG said the self-protection jammer, which was originally to be fitted on LCA Mark-I, is now planned to be fitted on LCA Mark-II. “The first 40 LCA Mark-I planes would be provided only with ‘RWR Tarang-1B’ and deficient in self-protection jammer, thus limiting its electronic warfare capabilities”.

“The IAF would be constrained to use 40 LCA aircraft with limited operational capabilities”, the report said while adding “The initial operational clearance (IOC) for LCA Mark-I was achieved in December 2013 with 53 concessions or permanent waivers, which limits the operational efficiency and survivability of the aircraft”.

Listing out the concessions, the report says waivers were given for increased weight, reduced internal fuel capacity, non-compliance of all-weather operations, non-achievement of single point defueling, fuel system protection and pilot protection.

The present CAG of India is Sashikant Sharma, who has served in the Ministry of Defence in various capacities, including as Defence Secretary from July 2011 to May 2013.
Widow to get back George Cross
UK official to return medal at a ceremony in Bhapral on May 11
Tribune News Service

Shimla, May 8
Brahmi Devi, wife of Naik Kirpa Ram, will finally get back the George Cross awarded posthumously to her husband in 1946. The British High Commission will present the medal to her in her native Bhapral village in Bilaspur

Brigadier Brian McCall, Defence Adviser at the British High Commission, New Delhi, will present the George Cross to Brahmi Devi at a small public ceremony to be held at Bhapral on May 11.

The George Cross, the highest British military honour for gallantry in peace time, was awarded posthumously to the widow of Naik Kirpa Ram in 1946. However, the medal was stolen from her house almost 13 years ago in 2002 and re-surfaced at an auction in London on December 2, 2009.

The medal was to go under the hammer on December 2, 2009, but after the intervention of the Himachal Police with the help of British High Commission, the auction was suspended and efforts were initiated to get back the George Cross.

UK barrister Ian Mayes, who fought Brahmi Devi’s case “pro bono” (without fee) will speak at the ceremony, on the conclusion of which Brigadier McCall will hand over the medal to Brahmi Devi, said the British High Commission spokesperson.

British Deputy High Commissioner, Chandigarh, David Lelliott, Lok Sabha MP Anurag Thakur and village sarpanch Anita Thakur and residents of the local area will also attend the ceremony.

Born in 1916, Kirpa Ram volunteered to join the Indian Army and during the World War-II, he became a member of the 8th Battalion, 13th Frontier Force Rifles. He was deployed for the Burma campaign and on his return to India, during a field firing exercise, a rifle grenade misfired and fell only a few yards away from his unit.

The 28-year-old Kirpa Ram rushed forward shouting at his colleagues to take cover and attempted to throw it to a safe distance but it exploded in his hand leading to his death. However, his sacrifice saved the lives of his unit members. The posthumous award of the George Cross was announced on March 15, 1946.
Pak militant killed as Army foils intrusion bid in Poonch
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria

Tribune News Service

Jammu, May 8
Army troops foiled an intrusion bid by a group of five or six armed ultras and gunned down one of them in the Sonagali area along the Line of Control in the Mendhar sector of Poonch.

The 224.5-km-long LoC that runs from the Chicken Neck area of Akhnoor in Jammu to Poonch had been quiet since October last year when Pakistan had shifted its focus on the 198-km-long international border.

Troops of the 15 Mahar Regiment today shot dead a militant, who was in Army fatigues, in the Sonagali area, said an Intelligence source.

The incident happened around 8.50 am. The brief firefight between the troops and the five or six ultras happened in Nadheri Nullah in Sonagali, he added.

“The group was ‘active’ on the other side of the LoC in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir opposite the Sonagali area. This group, for the past few days, had been trying to infiltrate into the Indian territory,” he said.

In the firefight, one militant was killed while others escaped back to PoK under cover fire provided by Pakistani troops. “They had intruded into the Indian territory before one of them was gunned down by our troops,” the Intelligence source said.

Later, two Army helicopters from the Rajouri-based 25 Infantry Division carrying senior Army officers flew to the site and took stock of the situation.

Northern Command chief Lt Gen DS Hooda had told The Tribune on May 2 that there were nearly 1,500 ultras in various training camps in PoK while 250 to 300 of them were stationed in various launch pads on the other side of the LoC opposite the Jammu region.

“Things are quiet as of now on the other side of the LoC but once the snow melts, their (ultras) number and activities will go up,” he had said.

Defence spokesperson Lt Col Manish Mehta said, “A foot patrol led by an officer came under fire 300 metres from our side of the LoC today. The troops immediately retaliated and eliminated the infiltrator.”

Searches of the area led to recovery of one AK-47 assault rifle, four AK magazines, two hand grenades, 78 rounds of AK- 47 ammunition, one GPS and sustenance items such as almonds, toffees and dates. The infiltrator was wearing combat dress and good quality trekking shoes, he added.
3 years on, Army’s plan to fill ammo stock yet to take off: CAG
If India were to go to war now, 90 per cent of its available ammunition would not last even for 10 days, inferred the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in a report tabled in Parliament on Friday. It said the ammunition roadmap drawn by the Army in 2012 for building up the stock to 50 per cent by March 2015 and 100 per cent by 2019 has remained far from realisation.

Coming down heavily on the Defence Ministry, the Army, ordnance factories and quality assurance agencies, the report highlighted that while the Army blamed the Ordnance Factories Board (OFB) for delays and slippage, the OFB asked for lesser money from the government than what was required to meet the Army’s projections. Seventeen of the import projects initiated in 2013 have not been concluded so far, the national auditor said.

As reported earlier, the Army had told a Parliamentary panel that the mountain strike corps was being raised by using ammunition from War Wastage Reserve (WWR).
According to the report, however, only 10 per cent of the ammunition is available to meet a 40-day WWR.

Further, 84 per cent of the high caliber ammunition of the country was “critical” — meaning of quantity that could last for just about 10 days.

The report has blamed the shortage on the inability of the Ordnance Factories Board to meet the demand of the Army as well as the delays in imports. It has highlighted that the minimum acceptable risk level (MARL) — which benchmarks a minimum availability of ammunition for 20 days and was set by the Army HQ in 1999 after the Kargil war — has not been achieved even 15 years later.

For the reviewed period of 2009-2013, the types of critical ammunition increased from 15 per cent in March 2009 to 50 per cent in March 2013.

The comprehensive report that examined 69 types of ammunition, the inability of the ordnance factories to meet the projected requirements by the Army was one of the reasons for the depleting ammunition ratios.

For instance, the OFB has been consistently meeting only between 63-72 per cent of the Army’s annual projected ammunition requirements.

The report has blamed the OFB for projecting lesser budgetary requirement from the government than what was needed to meet the targets given by the Army. It also said that close to Rs 94 crore worth of ammunition/components manufactured by the ordnance factories were rejected by the quality testing agencies, thus adding to the shortage.

According to the report, nine cases initiated to procure the ammunition from import/trade were delayed due to single vendor situation, complexities in transfer of technology, finalisation
 of requirements by the Army HQ and delays in receiving bids.

Interestingly, ammunition worth Rs 3,578 crore was lying in segregated condition even as ammunition worth Rs 2,109 crore was awaiting repairs.
Government bars use of private servers for hosting Army websites
The government has barred use of private servers for hosting Army websites following a cyber attack recently on an Army website where personal details of many Army personnel are believed to have been compromised, government said in Lok Sabha on Friday.

In March, the official website of Office of the Principal Controller of Defence Accounts (Officers) was believed to have been hacked compromising personal details of many Army personnel. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar told the House that action has been taken in the matter, with the website being secured and hosted on the NIC network. "It was a case of a private server which was used on outsourcing... We have issued instructions not to take private servers for hosting Army websites," he said during Question Hour.

The Minister was responding to a query by AIADMK member K Parasuraman, who wanted to know the status of the inquiry into the incident where, he said, personal details of over 50,000 Army officers including the Chief of Army Staff are believed to have been compromised following the hacking of the website of the Office of the Principal Controller of Defence Accounts. Meanwhile, Parrikar noted that no operational matter of the Army, Air Force or Navy is on the Internet.

"It is all on intranet... It is within the force-specific network for Army, Air Force and Navy," he added. In reply to another question, Parrikar said the government has taken a number of steps to protect confidential information pertaining to the defence sector from cyber attack. "There are no reports of defence sector networks being attacked by cyber hackers and foreign intelligence agencies. "However, cyber attacks are faced by Internet connected personal computers and these relate to unauthorised data access, denial of service, compromise of logic credentials," he said.

Parrikar was replying to a query on whether reports of defence networks being continuously attacked by cyber hackers and foreign intelligence agencies have come to the notice of the government. "To protect important and confidential data from cyber attack, the operational networks of the Armed Forces are air gapped from Internet.

"Further, Defence Services have established Cyber Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) to prevent and react to cyber attacks," the Defence Minister said. He said safeguards have been instituted in the form of audits and physical checks. "Policies, guidelines and procedures are laid down and cyber security advisories are issued from time to time," he noted.

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