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Sunday, 27 December 2015

From Today's Papers - 26 Dec 2015

Along Border With China, An Army Battalion Tackles Peaks At Minus 30 Degrees
Maratha Ground, Tawang:  It is minus 15 degrees Celsius and snowing steadily and heavily. A section of the 14 Punjab, now the Tawang Battalion, is climbing a cliff that rises almost 90 degrees from the ground.

"Every soldier here needs these skills," says Colonel Rajesh Singh, commanding officer of the 14 Punjab as he also shouts out instructions to his boys who have by now climbed 70 or 80 feet. From where we stand, they are small dots steadily moving up the cliff.

"Bare handed is the best, it gives a better grip and feel," Colonel Singh says pointing to the lead climber, who is nearing the top.

Every team that patrols, on foot, the ridges that divide India and China, has to climb cliffs routinely. It is not easy. Some of these cliffs along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) - the de-facto border with China - are over 1500 ft high. Temperatures go down below minus 30 degree Celsius. And, unlike the Chinese People's Liberation Army which is positioned deep inside, the Indian Army physically dominates every hill top, ridge and watershed along the 3488 km long border.

"They (the Chinese) can afford to stay behind because they know India won't be the aggressor and also they have better infrastructure and can move faster than we can," said a top military commander who did not want to be named.

Surviving and manning the heights requires a different kind of training.

Each solider goes through a staged induction and training process. It begins at 9000 ft in Tenga, Arunahcal Pradesh, and from there the the soldiers in training shift to Tawang at heights of 12000 and 14000 to 15000 ft.

The second stage begins at Maratha Ground, high up in the hills. Temperatures here below zero and thin air, this is where second stage of acclimatization begins. Besides the regular training - which includes the daily run in full battle gear every soldier also learns Wushu - a Chinese form of unarmed combat. 

At these heights it is a fight with yourself. "It is all in the mind," says Colonel Singh, adding, "Here and in the ridges which are above 15000 ft, physical fitness is just one part. It is mental toughness that sees us through."

The Army tries to make the rest comfortable. Most living quarters of soldiers are now centrally heated. Air couriers fly back soldiers going on leave and those returning to their stations.

"We cant control the terrain, the weather but we can help make the lives of soldiers slightly better," the Colonel says.
Lockheed Martin bags $108-m Indian Army contract
 Mumbai, December 23: 

Global defence major Lockheed Martin has been awarded a $107.8 million US Army foreign military sale contract to provide pilot night vision sensor (PNVS) systems to the Indian Army for Apache helicopters, making India the 15th international customer for the system.

Under the contract, $107.8 million is obligated to Lockheed Martin with a total value not to exceed $215.7 million, said the company, the largest US defence contractor, in a statement.

The contract includes 23 Modernised Target Acquisition Designation Sight (M-TADS) and PNVS spares for India.

Work on the contract will be performed in Orlando, Florida, with an estimated completion date of December 31, 2021.

Mike Taylor, director of M-TADS/PNVS international and sustainment programmes at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, noted in the statement: “Our high performing reliable sensor system for the Apache helicopter will give Indian Army aviators the ability to acquire, engage and destroy adversary threats from extended ranges.

“The capability that our sensor provides results in enhanced aircraft survivability, pilot safety and mission success.”
Global customers

Lockheed Martin has delivered more than 1,300 similar systems and spares to the US Army and international customers.

Fielded in 2005, M-TADS/PNVS provides Apache pilots with long range, precision engagement and pilotage capabilities for safe flight during day, night and adverse weather missions.

The infrared sensors’ enhanced image resolution enables Apache aircrews to accurately identify targets and provide situational awareness to ground troops outside of detection ranges.
Defence initiative is sinking Challakere Kambli, the IndianArmy’s fav woollen blanket
Villagers of Challakere have just one thing to depend on for their livelihood, the famous 'Challakere Kambli', the favourite woollen blankets of the Indian Army, which is its biggest customer. But a secret defence project coming up in the surroundings of Challakere, just 200-odd kilometres north of Bengaluru, is posing a big threat to this industry, which was once thriving.

With 10,000 acres of land being usurped by the Centre, which has handed over the land to Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Indian Institute of Science (IISc), waterbodies have been either destroyed or their access to villagers' cattle restricted. Land for sheep to graze has also been reduced. The result is that sheep, the source of the famous wool, are being rendered weak and the quality of their wool severely affected.
The industry that once thrived alongside farming in this region is now on the decline. The secret defence project has anyway steadily destroyed this region's farming activities. The lakes here have dried up with huge boundary walls obstructing various streams that fed them, besides denying the Golla folk (the shepherd community) access to grazing lands, which have been swallowed by the secret project that many believe to be a huge facility to generate nuclear fuel for India's nuke submarines and to manufacture thermonuclear weapons (hydrogen bombs).
The villagers are doing their best with the few sheep left, which continue to provide them with a source of income.
"It takes three to four days of continuous weaving to prepare one blanket. And that is after getting the sheep sheared and the wool refined for the weaving. It is a lot of work and our hands ache at the end of the day," said Maranna, a member of the Golla community, who demonstrated to Bangalore Mirror how the blankets are prepared. "Sometime soon, we will have to sell whatever sheep we are left with. As it is, when we try selling some of our sheep, only those in the best of health get bought, leaving us with the weaker ones. That only adds to our woes," said Hanumakka, who works on the wheel to draw woollen fibres and ready them for weaving.

Each blanket costs Rs 2,000-3,000, and they are sent to Kambli Bhavan in Bengaluru. But the ones supplied to Indian Army are given special attention as they serve soldiers in sub-zero environments like Siachen.
But now, the Army may soon have to look elsewhere, just as the fit-to-work villagers in the Challakere region are forced to, just to sustain themselves.
Are India’s defence eggs still in the Russian basket?
PM Narendra Modi is scheduled to visit Russia on December 23-24 to hold an annual summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In addition to inking agreements on furthering the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant beyond stage 1 & 2, they are likely to push forward a plan to assemble Russian Kamov-226T helicopters in India. It is a light multipurpose helicopter and is meant to replace Chetak and Cheetah. The helicopters will be built primarily for the Indian armed forces and also for exports. Russia has reportedly offered full manufacture in India. India’s Ministry of Defence is currently scouting to choose a public or private sector partner company from within India.
Ahead of the visit, Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) also approved purchase of the very potent Russian S-400 air defence missile system with a range of 400 km. Five units would cost Rs 40,000 crores. Only preliminary discussions may take place at this stage.

Since the early 1960s, Soviet Union/Russia has been India’s largest defence weapons supplier. At the height of the Cold War, 85% of Indian Navy, 75% of Indian Air Force and over 50% of Indian Army equipment were of Russian origin. Purchase of Jaguar and Mirage-2000 aircraft in 1970-80s was a major departure. There was always a strong desire to move to alternative sources.
The rise of China and desire of USA and the West to move closer to India resulted in offers of modern weapons that were hitherto not available.

In fact, Russia was somewhat upset when its MiG-35 lost to the French Dassault Rafale in the MMRCA contest; and also when IAF chose to buy the Boeing Chinook CH-47 heavy-lift helicopter over the only competitor Russian Mi-26; and the Boeing Apache-64 D won the attack helicopter competition against the Russian Mi-28 N Night Hunter. Six Airbus A330 tanker aircraft are being inducted in preference to Russian IL-78. Earlier, the India Navy chose the Boeing P-8I Poseidon to replace the ageing Russian TU-142. On the other hand, India was upset with Russia for reportedly agreeing to sell four Mi-35M – very modern attack helicopters – to Pakistan to strengthen their counter terror capability.

The Indian Army’s armour has been dominated by Russian T-72 and T-90 tanks. The mechanised infantry uses Russian infantry combat vehicles. Indian Navy’s aircraft carrier Vikramaditya, the latest fighter aircraft MiG-29K, many of the frigates and most of its submarine fleet are of Russian origin.

For years, our Navy has flown variants of Russian Kamov helicopters. BrahMos supersonic cruise missile is an Indo-Russian joint venture for the three services. Indian Air Force (IAF) will soon have all 272 Sukhoi Su-30 MKI already committed. More orders are likely. IAF recently upgraded MiG-29s. IL-76 and An-32 transport aircraft, the AEW&C and Air-refuelling aircraft are all Russian origin. Nearly 200 Russian Mi-17 helicopter variants will dominate IAF’s medium lift helicopter fleet for next two decades. It will also act as the VVIP helicopter till a new one is decided.

Nearly 400 Kamov-226T will join the three armed forces. The surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles are mostly Russian. IAF is already committed to many future projects with Russians. A sum of Rs 40,000 crore is committed for just the design and development of the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA). 214 aircrafts are planned to be inducted into IAF at a cost of Rs 670 crores a piece. There are already delays and cost escalation. A joint venture 20-tonne Medium-lift Transport Aircraft (MTA) will finally take-off early next year with both sides agreeing to commit funds. Is the balance still tilted heavily towards the Russians?

India’s experience of the last five decades is that the Russian weapon systems are rugged and fairly good operationally. While they are initially relatively inexpensive, over the years, life-cycle costs work-out much higher than Western counterparts. Poor maintenance support often resulted in lower service abilities and sometimes, accidents. With so many defence projects already unfolding, it is an umbilical cord that will stay connected in the 21st century.

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