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Thursday, 12 May 2016

From Today's Papers - 12 May 2016

Sea Harrier’s final flight
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 11
Thirty-three years after their induction, the ageing Sea Harriers, once the mainstay of Navy's air warfare capability, today gave way to the modern supersonic Russian MiG 29K fighter aircraft.

"We have great pride in inducting supersonic multi-role MiG 29K aircraft with cutting-edge technology into the 300 squadron," Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral RK Dhowan told reporters on the sidelines of an event organised in Goa to "de-induct" Sea Harriers.

Built by British Aerospace, Sea Harriers joined the Navy in 1983 and today was their last flight at the ceremonial function. The jets have stunning ability to take off and land vertically, like a helicopter, and fly like a jet and bomb targets. These were based to fly off from the deck off the seaborne aircraft carrier, the INS Viraat, which is being decommissioned at the end of the year.

The jets were part of the India Navy Air Squadron (INAS) 300, which has now been equipped with the Russian-built twin-engine MiG 29K that can fly off from the carrier INS Vikramaditya. This INAS 300 has gallantry awards, including one Maha Vir Chakra, four Vir Chakras and one Nau Sena Medal.

The first three Sea Harriers, flying via Malta, Luxor and Dubai, led by Lt Cdr Arun Prakash, landed at Dabolim on December 16, 1983. This was followed by the first deck landing on the carrier, INS Vikrant, on December 20, 1983. "The Indian Navy has emerged as a multi-dimensional network force which is ready to take on any challenge in the maritime domain of the Indian Ocean region in the 21st century," Dhowan said.

Dhowan lauded the stellar role played by the squadron in the defence of the country and acknowledged the professionalism of the pilots. "Today is also the day to salute the pilots who flew Sea Harrier aircraft, which made a mark for itself by protecting our seas," he added. On completion of the Air display, "washing down of the Sea Harriers" was carried out and a first-day cover was also released by Dhowan to mark the occasion. Sea Harriers were inducted in the Indian Navy following phasing out of then obsolete Seahawks.
India, Russia to finalise 5th Gen fighter jet deal
Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 11
Away from the much discussed issue of how French and US companies are in the race to provide fighter jets for the Indian Air Force, India and Russia have quietly set about to conclude a pending agreement to co-develop the fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA).

Sources confirmed to The Tribune that a deal for signing a research and development (R&D) contract for the FGFA would be inked in the coming months. The differences are being ironed out. The R&D contract signing has been pending since June 2013 when the preliminary design contract (PDC), which detailed out the fighter’’s configuration, was completed. The PDC cost $295 million (Rs 1,483 crore).

New Delhi has told Russia that it wants a new engine and the plane must have super cruise ability, a 360-degree radar ability, added stealth features among 40-odd other modifications over the existing prototype. A plane called the ‘T-50’ built by the Russians under the PAK-FA (Prospective Airborne Complex of Frontline Aviation) programme as FGFA is already being tested as prototype in Russia.

The IAF said AL-41F1 engines being used on the existing T-50 were just upgraded versions of the Sukhoi-30MKI’’s AL-31FP engines and it would need a new engine. Also, the Ministry of Defence wants that the R&D contract should have an adequate share of work done in India, thus allowing Indian engineers to learn the art of designing and making a plane. The R&D contract is estimated to be for US $4 billion (around Rs 26,000 crore) and a ‘prototype fighter jet’ could be flying in India within three years. The R&D process and final development of the plane is expected to be spread across seven years.

If the India-Russia deal goes through, the Ministry of Defence-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) will be the Indian partner. New Delhi is looking at huge numbers in case of its transfer of technology deal. It could be in excess of 200 jets over the next two decades, said sources.

In a war scenario with China, an aircraft such as the FGFA would be ideal for missions deep into Tibet. Beijing has good border infrastructure that poses threat to India. With a dwindling fleet of fighter jets, the IAF is now operating at its lowest combat strength in more than a decade. It is down to 33 squadrons (some 16-18 planes in each) as against a mandated 42 squadrons needed for simultaneous and collusive two-front war scenario with Pakistan and China.
After long wait, US to unveil European missile shield
Proposed in 2007, meant to shoot down Iranian missiles | System will soon be handed over to NATO command
Bucharest, May 11
The United States' European missile defence shield goes live on Thursday almost a decade after Washington proposed protecting NATO from Iranian rockets and despite Russian warnings that the West is threatening the peace in central Europe.

Amid high Russia-West tension, US and NATO officials will declare operational the shield at a remote air base in Deveselu, Romania, after years of planning, billions of dollars in investment and failed attempts to assuage Russian concerns that the shield could be used against Moscow.

"We now have the capability to protect NATO in Europe," said Robert Bell, a NATO-based envoy of US Defence Secretary Ash Carter. "The Iranians are increasing their capabilities and we have to be ahead of that. The system is not aimed against Russia," he told reporters, adding that the system will soon be handed over to NATO command.

The United States will also start construction on a second site in Poland on Friday that is due to be ready in 2018, giving NATO a permanent, round-the-clock shield in addition to radars and ships already in the Mediterranean.

The readying of the shield also comes as NATO prepares a new deterrent in Poland and the Baltics, following Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea. In response, Russia is reinforcing its western and southern flanks with three new divisions.

The shield relies on radars to detect a ballistic missile launch into space. Tracking sensors then measure the rocket's trajectory and intercept and destroy it in space, before it re-enters the earth's atmosphere. The interceptors can be fired from ships or ground sites.

The Russian ambassador to Denmark warned a year ago that Danish warships would become targets for Russian nuclear missiles if Denmark joined the shield project by installing radars on its vessels. Denmark is upgrading at least one frigate to house a ballistic missile sensor.

Turkey is already hosting a US radar and the Netherlands has equipped ships with radars. The United States also has four ships in Spain as part of the defences, while all NATO nations are contributing funding.

US officials dismiss the Russian view as "strategic paranoia" and blame Moscow for breaking off talks with NATO in 2013 that were aimed at explaining how the shield would operate. The US says Russia was seeking a treaty limiting the capability and range of ballistic missile interceptors.  "No government could agree to that," US adviser Bell said. — Reuters

Sole aim: Protection from rogue states

    First agreed by the US 2007 and then cancelled and re-launched by the Barack Obama in 2009, the missile defence shield's stated aim is to protect North America and Europe from so-called rogue states such as Iran and North Korea
    The United States completed construction of its missile defence ground site in Deveselu, Romania, last year and in 2018 Polish missile defence site is due to be operational
    Despite a historic deal between world powers and Tehran to limit Iran's nuclear programme, the West believes Iran's Revolutionary Guards continue to develop ballistic missile technology, carrying out two tests late last year

Russia feels the heat

    Russia is incensed at such of show of force by its Cold War rival in formerly communist-ruled Eastern Europe where it once held sway
    Moscow says the US-led alliance is trying to encircle it close to the strategically important Black Sea, home to a Russian naval fleet and where NATO is also considering increasing patrols
    Despite US assurances, the Kremlin says the missile shield's real aim is to neutralise Moscow's nuclear arsenal long enough for the United States to make a first strike on Russia in the event of war
Indian Army orders study for 'right-sizing' the force
India's Army chief, General Dalbir Singh Suhag, has ordered an internal study to 'right-size' the 1.2 million-strong force by reducing numbers in order to improve its inordinately low 'teeth-to-tail ratio', or T3R, of combat soldiers to support personnel.

Official sources said the study, headed by a three-star officer, would be submitted to Indian Army headquarters by the end of August, and its recommendations considered for implementation thereafter by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to curtail skyrocketing personnel and operating costs.

The Indian Army's budget for fiscal year (FY) 2016-17 was an astronomical INR1.02 trillion (USD15.5 billion), of which INR47.28 billion is for salaries alone.
A Lean, Mean and Nimble Army
The 1.2-million strong Indian Army is on the course of becoming leaner by cutting flab in non-combat areas. Army chief General Dalbir Singh has asked one of his senior most generals to study and determine by August how the force can be “right sized”, it is said.

The Army Chief's decision is not surprising, given the fact that in 2015 in an interview to the Times of India, Defence minister Manohar Parrikar had said that there was “an urgent need for some downsizing in areas which are not of operational importance" due to budgetary constraints.

"The flab will be reviewed and removed... there is a requirement to re-think all aspects for a drawdown. The money saved can go towards the new mountain strike corps (MSC)," said Parrikar while explaining why the government had temporarily frozen the raising of 17 Mountain Striking Corps with 90,274 soldiers at the cost of Rs 64,678 crore over 7 years. “Manpower costs are also eating into the capital allocation of the armed forces to cover revenue demand," he had lamented.

Parrikkar has been advocating for a leaner Indian military. But he wants that the exercise of trimming should begin with the Army, the largest of our three forces. “Flab in the military has to be cut, it could start with the Army. I have asked the Army to identify the areas, it will take time and cannot be done overnight," Parrikar had said.

Budget Constraints

Budgetary constraints happen to be a major factor for this decision. With Indian GDP growing at about 7% in 2015 and given the global recession, no government, let alone the one led by Narendra Modi, will find it easy for a substantial hike in military expenditure. No wonder India’s proposed military spending in this year’s budget has not been in keeping with the requirements of the armed forces. The budget allocated only Rs 2.58 lakh crore on defence, a marginal hike of 9.7% over last year’s revised estimates.

In fact, the amount has been quite short of the expectations of the armed forces, particularly when the inflation for military equipment in the global market every year is 12 to 15% and there is a sharp fall in the value of the rupee against dollar.

Lesser allocations for the defence mean that there is fewer money available for modernisation including badly needed new platforms and weapon systems. Because, most of the budgetary resources will go towards what is called “the revenue side” for meeting the salaries, perks and establishment charges. For instance, revenue head for the Army in this year’s budget stands at Rs 1,02,788.84 crore, out of which as much as Rs 67,721.78 crore (about 75%) will be spent on pay and allowances only.

Then there are the ever increasing pensions. Expenditures on all these headings are about to sharply shoot up with the implementation of the Seventh Pay Commission.

In other words, with the bulk of the budget being spent on the manpower, the military in general and the Army in particular simply does not have enough resources to purchase or build sophisticated but vital arms and ammunitions to win wars. What then is the solution?

India will continue to have the resource crunch to procure sophisticated weapons, unless the government hikes the defence budget considerably, an unlikely scenario. However, there are long term remedial measures. One of these measures is to reduce the manpower.

May be this will sound unpopular, but the bitter truth is that the Indian military just cannot afford to have such a huge manpower; it must be trimmed.

Worldwide Phenomena

In the last 20 years, all major armed forces of the world have made deep cuts in manpower. Way back in 2003, China decided to trim down its then 2.5 million-strong force. In fact, President Xi Jinping has recently announced a key reorganisation of China's military to create a leaner army by 2020.

"A new structure will be established, in which the Central Military Commission (CMC) takes charge of the overall administration of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), the Chinese People's Armed Police and the militia and reserve forces," Xi was quoted by Xinhua as saying at the end of a three-day meeting attended by about 200 top military officials in November 2015.

With an annual budget of more than $200 billion, China is the world’s second largest military spender after the United States. But then, hit by the global recession, the Chinese economy finds now its ever increasing military budget unsustainable.

In 2012, Great Britain announced a 20% cut, reducing its strength of the Army to 82,000 combatants by the end of the decade. Under President Vladimir Putin, a once-moribund Russian military has been turning into a lean and quick-strike force.

Now-a-days, Russian soldiers fight out of brigades, not large divisions.

Similarly, the United States has decided to have smaller and leaner armed forces, given the financial constraints that the country is facing right now. The Pentagon has been asked to massively cut its budget running into several hundred billion dollars, and this, in turn, has forced the Department of Defence to come out with a new strategic review document that would shape its defence policy with smaller and leaner forces for the years to come.

The Americans are talking of reducing the US forces to just 440,000 and equipping them to fight just one conventional war rather than two simultaneously.

Significantly, the countries that I have mentioned above happen to be the world’s four foremost military powers, though not in the same order. Should India, another elite military power avoid the trend of having a leaner and meaner force? No.

It may be mentioned here that military trimming is mostly being done in the Armies in China, the US, Russia and Britain. In my considered view, the same should be done in case of the Indian Army, as the Navy and the Air Force do have optimal manpower.

Lean and Mean

As it is, Indian Army is the second largest in the World with over 38000 officers (sanctioned strength is 49,631 officers) and 11.38 lakh soldiers. A detailed review, both in terms of manpower as well as infrastructure, to ensure a cost-effective and leaner Army is therefore overdue.

It must be mentioned that a leaner Army does not mean a weaker Army. The reduced manpower will leave more resources for the capital expenditure so as to have new technologies and smarter systems such as ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) and unmanned systems, in space and, in particular, in cyberspace capabilities.

With better hardware, the Army can be more agile, flexible, lethal, innovative and creative. Its extended technological edge can be more lethal for the enemies than the numerical strength.

Similarly, restructuring the Army does not mean weakening it. Fine-tuning the ratio between the fighting units and those playing the logistics role will not put the army at a disadvantage. There are no reasons why nonessential functions such as military farms and Army postal service cannot be outsourced.

There are no reasons why medical, intelligence, pay & accounts and supplies personnel in our three Services should not be merged. There are no reasons why we should not induct more short service recruits (say 5 years), thus reducing the pension bill. All this will make our armed forces stronger, not otherwise.

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