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Wednesday, 20 May 2015

From Today's Papers - 20 May 2015

Another Sukhoi down amid rising safety fears
Tribune News Service

Guwahati/New Delhi, May 19
Another Indian Air Force (IAF) frontline Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jet today crashed in Assam due to a ‘technical snag’.

This is the sixth crash of the 200-strong Sukhoi fleet inducted in phases over the past 15 years. Both pilots ejected safely. The twin-seat Sukhoi had taken off from the Tezpur airbase at 12.17 pm on a routine sortie when a ‘technical problem’ forced the two pilots to abandon the plane.

The IAF has ordered a Court of Inquiry to establish the exact reason behind the jet crashing into a thick forest, around 36 km south of Tezpur IAF spokesperson Wing Commander Rochelle D’Silva said the aircraft had taken off from Air Force station Tezpur on a routine mission.

The last time a Sukhoi crashed was on October 14 which led to a war of words between India and Russia.

Though a Court of Inquiry has been completed, 'the issue remains unresolved', said sources. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) had attributed the crash to 'auto-ejecting' pilot seats.

At the February Aero India show in Bangalore, India’s oldest military ally Russia attributed the Sukhoi-30 MKI crash to 'human factor' and rejected the theory of 'auto-ejecting' pilot seats. The IAF had denied the charge.

Vitaly Borodich, senior vice president, Military Projects, Irkut Corporation, told mediapersons at the Aero India: "We have discussed the matter (Sukhoi crash) with India. Our stand is human factor and there is no evidence to suggest that seat ejection caused the crash".

Irkut is the subsidiary of Russia's state-run United Aircraft Corporation which is an umbrella organisation of that country's aerospace industry.
IAF to spend Rs 400 cr to upgrade repair depots
Vijay Mohan

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 19
As the Indian Air Force (IAF) looks at inducting new aerial platforms to boost its depleting squadron strength, it has set in motion the process to upgrade and modernise its existing base repair depots (BRDs) to provide requisite technical and maintenance support to the flying establishments.

“It is a large project involving a budget of about Rs 400 crore,” Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Maintenance Command, Air Marshal Jagjeet Singh told The Tribune during his visit to No. 3 Base Repair Depot here today. “We issued requests for proposals in February. The received technical bids will be opened next month,” he said.

The technical evaluation committee is expected to take about four months thereafter to scrutinise all documents and forward the shortlisted proposals to the government for approval. The project will be executed in collaboration with the industry.

The IAF’s Nagpur-based Maintenance Command has 13 BRDs located across the country that provide engineering and maintenance support for its aircraft, weapon systems, radars and other equipment. Besides overhaul and repair, these are also responsible for undertaking suitable modifications and retrofitting aircraft and equipment to meet specific operational requirements. Air Marshal Jagjeet Singh said the IAF was debating whether to set up a new BRD to met future requirements.
Kargil gave Musharraf a bloody nose: Rao Inderjit
Kolkata, May 19
Minister of State for Defence Rao Inderjit Singh today rejected former Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf’s comment that Pakistani Army had “caught India by throat” in the Kargil war, saying on the contrary the 1999 war had given him a “bloody nose”.

“Musharraf has no position (in Pakistan) as of today. He has been a maverick politician or a maverick leader. What he says does not have to be responded to. I think in the Kargil war we have given him a bloody nose,” Singh said.

He was addressing the media on the sidelines of the launch of the fourth anti-submarine warfare corvette “Kavaratti” today.

On Sunday, while addressing a convention of the youth wing of his party All Pakistan Muslim League (APML), Musharraf had said: “I don’t think India would ever be able to forget the three-month battle (Kargil war) when our gallant armed forces caught them by the throat.”

Referring to PM Narendra Modi’s visit to China, Singh said: “The Prime Minister had gone to strike an economic talk with the Chinese ... China is responding because it wants to have good relations with India, especially economic relations.”

On whether India is well-protected from the foreign threats in its coastal belt, Singh, who was a Minister of State for Defence Production from 2006-09 in the UPA government, said: “We have a large coastal area and our geographical location is prone to security violation. Over the years we have been exposed for inadequate infrastructure.”

“Over the last few years, the government of India has taken steps to ensure that by 2018 the security infrastructure is laid. The Border Roads Organisation has been brought solely under the Defence Ministry and has been given strict deadlines,” he said.

Singh had visited forward areas of Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim last week after Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar visited the area earlier this month.

About implementation of the “One Rank One Pension” for the Armed forces, Singh said a decision on it had been reached after the Centre had over the past one year consulted political parties and all stake holders.

“The announcement in this regard is most likely to be made by the Prime Minister this month,” Singh added. — PTI
Indian Army Finally Gets A Gun After 30 Years
The move to purchase the ultra-light M777 Howitzer is a welcome move. However, further cheering can wait till the armed forces actually acquire the weapon.

The Defence Acquisition Council on (DAC) headed by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on May 11th cleared the purchase of 145 BAE M777 Ultra Light Howitzer. With it it’s hoped that it finally closes the deal which was proposed back in 2008 for what is seen as a principal weapon for India’s new Mountain Strike Corps, which is being raised to deter China. It will give teeth to this strike formation and form the backbone of its firepower.

The M777 is an ultra light weight 155 mm 39 calibre towed howitzer with a range of 30 kms. At under 4000 kgs per unit, it is lighter than any other 155 mm howitzer. The Bofors guns of India weigh in at about 11,000 kgs. The light weight of the M777 is due to the use of titanium and allows the M777 to be transported by CH-47 Chinook helicopters, C-17 Globemaster & C-130 Hercules aircrafts, the V-22 Ospreys or on trucks with ease to provide increased mobility. This will allow India to deploy lethal firepower in the mountain regions on the border with China. India already has the C-17 and C130J aircrafts. The government has cleared the purchase of 15 CH47 Chinook helicopters in a meeting of the DAC under Mr Arun Jaitley in August last year.

It has been a bumpy road for the M777 acquisition by India. It was first cleared in the year 2010 by the UPA government for outright purchase in a government to government deal via Foreign Military Sale (FMS) in which the buyer gets weapons at the same price as the US armed forces. The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notified the US Congress about the possible sale of 145 M777 howitzers to India for $647 million on January 22, 2010. The notification asserted that the M777 sale to India will “improve interoperability with US soldiers and marines”.

The M777 was cleared after the front runner, The Pegasus lightweight howitzer developed jointly by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) and Singapore Technology Kinetics was knocked out of the race following reports of bribery that necessitated a CBI investigation.

There was optimism that finally India will buy a howitzer after 3 decades. But the government of India under Defence Minister AK Antony didn’t move on buying the howitzer until May 2012 when under pressure from the Army under Gen V.K Singh who warned of serious gaps in the preparedness, the DAC under Mr Anthony cleared the purchase of the M777. This clearance had to be approved by the Finance Ministry and the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) for purchase. As with many other defence acquisition in India during the UPA rule, the process didn’t move forward.

In August 2013, The DSCA issued another note to US Congress about the possible sale of 145 M-777 howitzers to India for $885 million. This represented a hike of 37% in dollar terms but since the Rupee had depreciated since the initial announcement in 2010, what would have been a 2960 crore deal, increased to 5610 crores, an increase of 90%. The hike was due to the long delay in taking a decision to buy while the US held the price constant for 3 years and also because India asked for 30% offset in keeping with the defence procurement policy.

This put a spanner in the works. The hike and the offset proposal made the government of India to rethink on the deal. In October 2013, BAE announced that given the lack of progress from India, it will initiate the process to shut down the production line of M777. It had already spent $50 million on keeping the lines open waiting for Indian order.
In February 2014, the ministry of defence once again cleared the proposal to buy the M777 but left the final purchase to the following financial year as there was little left with the defence ministry that year. This effectively meant that the UPA II government would not go ahead with the purchase of the gun and leave it to the next government with the impending general elections.

In May 2014, the BJP led by Mr Narendra Modi came to power. In July, the then Defence Minister Mr Arun Jaitley in reply to a question from Asaduddin Owaisi, MP from the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen said in Parliament “The case for procurement of ultra-light howitzer guns through the US government has not progressed due to cost issues and because the vendor has not been able to come up with a proposal fully compliant to the offset requirements”.  It looked likely that India will scrap the plan to acquire the M777.

Just prior to US President Obama’s visit to India in January this year, the M777 deal got a new lease of life when BAE offered to shift its production line to India and make the howitzers in India under the “Make in India” mantra. BAE which is expecting orders from other governments envisioned that an Indian plant could become its single global assembly centre for the weapon. “We’ve offered to bring the gun’s assembly, integration and testing to India,” John Kelly, vice president, British Aerospace (BAE), told The Sunday Guardian. “We have identified over 40 Indian partners to substantially indigenise the components. At the heart of the proposal is to shift the assembly line (from the Hattiesburg, Mississippi facility in the US) to India, and make the gun here under transfer of technology,” said Kelly.

Under Mr Manohar Parrikar as Defence Minister, India’s artillery procurement looks to have got a boost. In his first meeting as chair in November last year, DAC sanctioned the procurement of 814 Mounted Gun System (MGS) for an estimated Rs 15,750 crore ($3 billion) under “Make in India” policy where private Indian entities will tie up with foreign gun makers. There are already many tie ups in place by leading names in the defence sector.

In June last year, Indian version of the Bofors which was upgraded to 45 Calibre from the original 39 Calibre by the Ordinance Factory Board (OFB) passed trials. Ministry of Defence ordered 114 of these guns named Dhanush to be made by OFB.

India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is also developing the Advanced Towed Artillery Gun (ATAG), to build a more powerful 155 mm/52-calibre gun, with a range of 60 kilometres. This is an all-Indian project which includes private sector players.

While the latest clearance of M777 by the DAC under Mr Parrikar is a reason to cheer, given the fact that a similar clearance was granted in 2012 and nothing came of it will mean that all eyes will be on how quickly this moves to the CCS and gets clearance from the finance ministry. If all goes well, under Mr Parrikar, Indian Army will get the various types of howitzers it needs in its effort to be prepared for conflict with China and Pakistan. Artillery will play a crucial role in the shock and awe campaign that the Indian Army envisions against Pakistan in a rapid thrust across the border and in deterring China from undertaking any aggression against India.
Defence ties and Make in India key focus of Narendra Modi's Seoul visit
Seven out of ten points in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's media statement after his meeting with South Korean President Park Geun-hye at Seoul on Monday focus on the two countries' defence and security cooperation. PM's statements also heavily underline the push to the high-octane 'Make in India' drive in defence sector.

Even as the two countries agreed to upgrade their bilateral relationship to a "Special Strategic Partnership", Modi announced the decisions to have regular cooperation between "our national security councils" and "expand cooperation between our armed forces".

Further underlying cooperation in defence technology and manufacture of defence equipment in India, the PM asked President Park to support the participation of Korean companies in the defence sector in India.

This overwhelming focus on defence and security gets formalised with Modi's visit to the East Asian nation exactly a month after India's defence minister Manohar Parrikar visited Korea. Accompanying Parrikar in that visit was a powerhouse of 11 Indian business leaders representing eight domestic defence firms – both private and state-owned.

PM himself is meeting Korea's business leaders on Tuesday.

Besides defence equipment, Korean investments have also been sought by India in areas like ship building.

Indian defence manufacturing firms like Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), Goa Shipyard Limited (GSL), Larsen and Toubro, Tata Power SED, among others, have prospective business interests there into aerospace and military electronics. India is also keen on collaborating with South Korea on Indian navy's requirement of minesweepers, army's needs for new artillery guns and training aircraft.

Upbeat about PM's Korea visit's focus on defence, Dr A Didar Singh, secretary general of the industry body, FICCI, told dna that it will pave way for creating a feeling of mutual trust and cooperation in the area of defence and aerospace (D&A) business between India and South Korea.

"The joint exercises between the Indian and Korean armed forces would increase the understanding and acceptance of Korean D&A products by the Indian armed forces. This would create a wider opportunity for Indo-Korean co-developed and co-produced products getting not only inducted in Indian and Korean Armed forces but also jointly addressing the global markets," Singh said.

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