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Sunday, 25 October 2015

From Today's Papers - 25 Oct 2015

With govt nod, women fighter pilots set to fly
IAF breaks barriers, first among 3 Services to offer combat role
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 24
The Ministry of Defence today allowed the Indian Air Force to induct women as fighter pilots, making it first of the three services to have women in combat role.

The decision by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar came following a proposal put forward recently by Air Chief Arup Raha. The Army and the Navy too have women officers, but in roles that are not designed for direct combat.

The first women fighter pilots would be selected from the batch that is undergoing training at the Air Force Academy in Dundigal, Telangana. After successful completion of ab-initio training, they would be commissioned in the fighter stream in June 2016. They would then undergo one-year advanced training and by June 2017, the first of the women pilots could be entering the fighter cockpit.

Air Force women officers have been flying helicopters and transport planes for two decades but fighter jets were considered dangerous for them as these ran the risk of being shot down over enemy territory in case of war.

“The Ministry of Defence has approved the induction of women into the fighter stream of the IAF... Since their induction into the transport and helicopter streams, their performance has been praiseworthy and on a par with their male counterparts,” said ministry spokesperson Sitanshu Kar.

The IAF Chief had first spoken about women entering combat role at the passing-out parade of the Army’s Officer Training Academy at Gaya in December last. He took up the matter again on October 8 while speaking at the Air Force Parade at Hindon base on the IAF’s 83rd anniversary. “We have women pilots flying transport aircraft and helicopters. We are now planning to induct them into the fighter stream to meet the aspirations of the young women of India,” the Air Chief had said.

Last week, Parrikar had convened a meeting of the three service chiefs to discuss having women in combat roles to make the forces gender-neutral.  The IAF has around 35 squadrons of fighter jets (with 18 planes each) and plans to increase the fleet to 42 over the next 10 years.  Several other countries, including Pakistan, have already engaged women to fly fighter jets.
3 civilians hurt as Pak pounds Jammu villages
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria

Tribune News Service

Jammu, October 24
Three civilians were injured and nearly 20 houses damaged as Pakistan rained mortars through Friday night on nine Indian posts and forward villages along the Indo-Pak International Border in Samba and Hiranagar sub-sectors today.

The Border Security Force said they responded in equal measure to the shelling. The exchange of fire continued till 5 am before guns fell silent on both sides.

The injured have been identified as Surinder Kumar, Rohit Kumar and Suraj Singh of Mawa Village.

“On Friday evening, Pakistan Rangers, in violation of the agreement reached between us at the DG-level meeting, opened sniper fire on labourers engaged in maintenance work,” said RK Sharma, BSF Inspector General (Jammu frontier).

They deliberately targeted civilians to cause casualties and interrupt maintenance work, he added. Five cattle head were killed in the firing.

“On Friday, Pakistan resorted to unprovoked firing on nine of our posts in the Samba sector from 10.25 pm, to which we retaliated effectively,” he said.

On Friday evening, the BSF headquarters in Delhi lodged a protest via hotline with the Rangers telling them that they had violated the mandate of the DG-level meeting, said Sharma.

“We will lodge a protest at the sector commander-level on Sunday,” he said.

The fresh round of ceasefire violations by Pakistan since Friday evening to Saturday morning has so far left one labourer dead and five civilians injured.

A labourer, Raj Kumar of Chhattisgarh, was killed and two others injured on Friday at Manguchak border outpost.

“Rangers fired at nine posts in areas between Basantar and Tarnah rivers in the Samba sector. They also fired 82, 81 and 51 mm mortar shells,” said Sharma.

A mortar exploded inside a Modern Higher Secondary School in Mawa where it damaged a school bus.

“In early hours today, a minibus and a tractor were damaged and three cows died in the village in Pakistan shelling while two cattle head died in Patti village,” said a police officer.

Manguchak, Mawa, Chachwal, Chalyari, Khora, Regal, Bobbiya, Londi, Sujanpur and Patti villages in Samba and Hiranagar sub-sectors were targeted by Pak Rangers through Friday night, he added.

The ceasefire violations by Pakistan, which were almost a routine affair for several weeks, had ceased following DG-level talks between the BSF and Pakistan Rangers in Delhi on September 12.

People in Chann Arorian in Kathua district later staged a protest and burnt a Pakistan flag.

State Industries and Commerce Minister Chander Prakesh Ganga visited Mawa — the epicentre of Pak shelling — and to compensate a villager who lost cattle in the firing.

BSF to lodge protest
The BSF will lodge a protest with Pakistan Rangers at a sector commander-level meeting on Sunday, said RK Sharma, Inspector General (Jammu frontier). On Friday, the BSF headquarters in Delhi lodged a protest via hotline with the Rangers telling them that they had violated the mandate of the DG-level meeting
Pak NSA opens civil-army channel
KV Prasad

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 24
The appointment of Lt Gen Nasser Khan Januja (retd) as new National Security Adviser of Pakistan brings about a major shift in the complex civil-military leadership in Islamabad as the political leadership was forced to divest the charge from a seasoned diplomat Sartaj Aziz.

India has already declared that the appointment of General Januja is an internal matter and that New Delhi is willing to hold NSA-level talks flowing out of the Ufa pact, clearly suggesting it is perfectly at ease in dealing with a former General in a new role.

Reports from Islamabad interpreted it as a Pakistan army’s move to consolidate its grip on security affairs of the country, especially its dealing with India. Yet, does the appointment open a window for a small section of strategic analysts to test and validate the argument that India should consider talking to Pakistani army that calls the shots?

General Janjua is certainly not the first high-ranking military official to hold the post. Major General Mahmud Durrani (retd) was appointed by the previous Pakistan Peoples’ Party Government as the NSA. South Block policy makers always argued that New Delhi deals only with the political leadership of Pakistan, be it in the form of a military general in Zia-ul-Haq, dictator-turned-President Pervez Musharraf or elected leadership of Benazir Bhutto, Yusuf Raza Gilani or Nawaz Sharif. The appointment of General Janjua should take care of this.

One, he is supposed to have the trust of current Army Chief General Raheel Sharif who has been acquiring a larger say in security affairs, especially with India, and two, the new NSA has been appointed by PM Sharif. That Indian NSA Ajit Doval could have direct dialogue with his counterpart and a former military general in formal settings opens a different scenario.

Strategic experts have a divided opinion but only to an extent with one viewing the development favourably. “The appointment of a retired military general as NSA could be potentially positive for the deeply troubled bilateral relationship. As is well-known, the GHQ in Rawalpindi controls the three areas of primary concern to India’s security and strategic interests viz: Kashmir, terrorism and nuclear weapons and missiles (WMD). Being able to engage with a member of the Pakistan military at the NSA level could provide certain leverages and traction, as and when the stalled dialogue is resumed,” Commodore Uday Bhaskar, Director, Society for Policy Studies told The Tribune.

On the other hand, there was the more conventional stand that nothing would change. “Even if he is a retired general, he would still have to consult the Army Chief... Gen Janjua will put a military point of view and having served in Balochistan he could come out with a strong view on the issue”, said Smriti Patnaik, research fellow at Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses.
Secret tunnels of back-channel diplomacy
Can the Lambah-Aziz formula on Kashmir be resurrected? Was the accord akin to those precious words of peace that could have replaced “a thousand hollow ones?” Over a billion of us will never know.
IF it takes the armies of India and Pakistan as long to cross the border at Attari/Wagah as it does unarmed civilians, neither country need fear an invasion overland. The immigration formalities will keep the two forces so preoccupied with technicalities that exhausted, they will concede defeat and sue for peace.

Peace has been often defined as a state of no war. By that scale, Pakistan and India have been at peace for the past 44 years. Applying the narrower definition contained in Section III of the Hague Convention of 1907, they have lived in a state of “no-war peace” since 1947, for, despite a number of quasi-Mahabharatas — over Jammu and Kashmir in 1948, the Rann of Kutch in 1965, Bangladesh in 1971, and over the heights of Kargil in 1999 — neither country has ever formally declared war on the other.

Despite the pious expectations of the Hague Convention — that hostilities should be preceded by “a reasoned declaration of war or by an ultimatum with a conditional declaration of war” — Indo-Pak hostilities have begun without so much as the fig-leaf of an ultimatum. Each started with jingoistic bravado. Each ended in a hurried, petulant peace, brokered by third parties — the UN in 1948, the USSR in 1965, and the US in 1971 and 1999.

Just as the Indus Waters Treaty has survived every conflict since its execution in 1960, both India and Pakistan despite conflagrations above ground have maintained safer, subterranean levels of furtive contact. Responsible representatives from both sides have been tasked to tunnel beneath the Indian Ministry of External Affairs and Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to search for warrens of understanding.

Most notably, Satinder K. Lambah (once India's High Commissioner to Pakistan and later special envoy of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, 2005-14) and Tariq Aziz (Gen Pervez Musharraf's trusted Secretary of the National Security Council) burrowed unobtrusively for two years beneath a compacted overlay of misunderstandings, misadventures and suspicions to achieve a resolution of the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir. Each spoke with singular authority, because each enjoyed the absolute confidence of his principal.

Such furtive negotiations, akin to the Kissinger-Zhou Enlai contacts in 1970-1971 that led to US-China rapprochement, involved unsigned, unmarked proposals passing back and forth. Non-papers became parentless emissaries: fathered if they succeeded, orphaned if they didn't.

In 2007, after two years of negotiations, Lambah and Aziz reached a solution deemed acceptable to all parties — India, Pakistan and the Gemini-twin Kashmiris. The final document would have been signed by Manmohan Singh and Musharraf, had the Pakistani lawyers’ movement not weakened and then emasculated Musharraf. He asked the Indians for time, then an extension. The Indians waited, and finally gave up hope. Lambah and Aziz were recalled, nursing their chagrin in private. Imagine an equivalent — British and French engineers working on the Chunnel, reaching the point of breakthrough that would connect both countries permanently, and then suddenly being forced to withdraw. In May 2014, Ambassador Lambah, speaking guardedly in his “personal capacity” at the University of Kashmir in Srinagar, provided tantalising details of how close Pakistan and India came to declaring peace. A “possible outline” provided that the Line of Control would be "like a border between normal states". There would be "no redrawal of borders".  The people of J and Kashmir “would move freely from one side to another”. Tariffs on locally produced goods would be removed progressively. Self-governance on both sides of the LoC would be ensured. “The essential prerequisite”, however, “was an end to hostility, violence and terrorism”, after which “military forces on both sides of the LoC would be kept to the minimum, particularly in populated areas”. The ‘D’ word — demilitarisation — found no mention anywhere in the final text. It would have been as inflammatory to the two armies as the 'B' word — beef — is to the BJP and the Shiv Sena. “Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to cope with conflict by peaceful means,” that unlikely pacifist president Ronald Reagan once advised.

The Lambah-Aziz understanding could well have ended 68 years of “conflict by peaceful means”. Can the Lambah-Aziz formula be resurrected? Unlikely. Had Atal Behari Vajpayee still been Prime Minister, perhaps. However, today's BJP government and its Shiv Sena claque boo Pakistan with undisguised abhorrence. The only ink they prefer to apply is not to any India-Pakistan agreement but to smear on the face of Sudheendra Kulkarni, and more recently to daub on Jammu and Kashmir MLA, Engineer Rashid who eats beef.
Ejection Seat Becomes Latest Issue With F-35 Fighter
Washington:  Four years before the Pentagon discovered potentially life-threatening problems with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter's ejection seat, a top official warned in an urgent memo that the escape system should be more thoroughly vetted before pilots were trained on the plane.

In an unsolicited dispatch to the top defense officials overseeing the $400 billion F-35 program, J. Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon's chief weapons tester, said he was concerned that training flights would proceed even though the ejection-seat system had not been fully tested.

His warnings were rejected by Pentagon brass, who pressed on with the controversial program, according to internal documents obtained by The Washington Post. But a series of recent tests revealed serious problems with the jet fighter's escape system, the Pentagon acknowledged this month, creating potentially hazardous circumstances, especially for lighter-weight pilots.

Lighter-weight pilots face a "high" risk of danger, and the risk is deemed "serious" for mid-weight pilots, according to an internal risk assessment.

Lighter-weight pilots, those weighing less than 136 pounds, are now prohibited from flying the aircraft, officials said, until the problem is fixed.

The latest setback for the most expensive weapons program in Pentagon history has concerned some members of Congress, who wondered why testers are still finding significant flaws in a fighter jet that has been in development for 14 years.

"They pushed this system through recklessly, and now we're seeing the costs," said Rep. Jackie Speier (D-California). "We are just lucky that the testing was done with dummies and not real Air Force pilots."
Appearing before a congressional panel this week, Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher C. Bogdan, the program's executive officer, said, "We take this deficiency with the ejection seat and the safe escape very, very seriously."

The problem occurs because the force of ejection can be so great that a pilot's head could suddenly snap forward or back, causing neck or other injuries. But Bogdan said officials have already identified solutions: reducing the helmet weight, creating a switch on the ejection seat for lower-weight pilots and installing a head-support panel in the parachute. Some of those fixes have been in the works for six months, but it could be another year until the problems are resolved, Bogdan said.

"I'm confident the current risks will be resolved and we will be able to overcome the current and future problems," he said.

The issue, another in a long list of problems with the F-35, is in part the result of how the program was structured. Instead of developing a new plane and then buying it, the Pentagon committed to the plane while it was still in the development phase, meaning that problems would still be discovered and there would be costs to fixing them. For years, critics have lambasted defense officials for adopting this approach, saying that doing so violated a central tenet of weapons procurement: "Fly before you buy."

In 2011, Gilmore, the director of the Pentagon's Operational Test and Evaluation office, said he had "serious concerns" about beginning training flights before several safety issues had been addressed. He urged officials to upgrade the "ejection seat with a system that has completed qualification testing."

In response, program officials said at the time that they did "not agree with the characterization" and would proceed with the flights.

In his testimony this week, Bogdan said that testing of the ejection seat has been taking place "for many, many years" and has been methodical. It is also a complicated process, he said, because the seat is designed to handle pilots that range in weight from 103 to 245 pounds, a broader spectrum than for ejection systems in other fighter jets.

The testing has pushed the edge of the envelope, he said, where conditions "become more severe and are harder to achieve in terms of safety."

In August, when officials realized that pilots who weighed less than 136 pounds could risk "potentially fatal whiplash," the program restricted those pilots from flying. Problems with the ejection seat were previously reported by Congressional Quarterly and Defense News.

Out of the more than 200 pilots trained to fly the F-35, only one was affected by the weight restriction, said Joe DellaVedova, the program's spokesman. And that pilot has since been transferred to another aircraft.

The troubles with the ejection system are just the latest to plague the F-35 program. Last year, for example, the entire fleet was temporarily grounded after an engine caught fire as a pilot was about to take off.

In addition to the plane, officials have had problems with the high-tech helmet worn by pilots. The helmet, which costs $400,000, can help the pilot see through the plane, giving those flying unprecedented views of 360 degrees.

The system uses six cameras embedded in the skin of the aircraft, so when pilots look in a particular direction, they can see through the corresponding camera. Twin projectors located inside the helmet then beam those images onto the pilot's visor, which acts like a screen.

For years, though, designers struggled with the new technology. Images streaming onto the visor were jittery in turbulence, and the night-vision technology created a green glow that obscured the pilot's view.

Now, the testing of the ejection seat has led to another troubling discovery: The helmet is about six ounces too heavy.
The fixes should be fairly straightforward, Bogdan said this week. But, he warned, it could be a lengthy process.

"I never want to say anything's easy in the F-35 program, because nothing is ever easy," he said.
Students’ date with Army
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, October 23
Students of Shaheed Flight Lieutenant Manu Akhoura, Higher Secondary School and Air Force School, Bhisiyana were educated about the Indian Army through a presentation at the Bathinda Military Station here today.

Children visited the cantonment as a part of the special outreach programme ‘A Day with the Army’, to attract children towards seeking recruitment in defence of the country. School girls, too, showed deep interest in the presentation.

During the event the children were educated about the Indian Army by means of a presentation which provided information on the role and origin of the Indian Army, brief insight into the career and various entry schemes.

Subsequently, the children were given a first hand experience of the life in the Army by means of an ‘Equipment Display’, tank ride and visit to various military institutes in a unit. Children were provided luncheon and refreshments as available to army personnel.

Children showed interest in different aspects of the country’s defence including training, deployment and preparedness for emergency situations.

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