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Friday, 13 May 2016

From Today's Papers - 13 May 2016

Indian Army Likely To Cut Non-Combat Jobs
In an attempt to become leaner, the 1.2-million strong Indian Army plans to cut non-combat jobs in near future.

Indian Army Chief General Dalbir Singh recently asked the top brass of the armed forces to conduct a study in order to find out how the forces, currently battling a fund squeeze, could be right-sized. General Singh also asked one of his senior-most generals to start reducing the strength from August without disturbing the force’s tooth-to-tail ratio. The ratio is the number of personnel (tail) needed to support a combat soldier (tooth).

Talking to the media in New Delhi on Wednesday, a senior Army officer said: “Spending cuts have squeezed the budget. Strengthening the tooth-to-tail ratio will improve combat efficiency and result in savings. The roadmap to reform should be ready in three months.”

Meanwhile, former Vice Chief of the Indian Army Lieutenant General (Retired) Philip Campose believes that it will be difficult to determine the ratio, as the figure could differ with the model used for calculation. He explained: “But at a very basic level, if we talk about an Army division… it has a fighting complement of around 14,000 soldiers. They are supported by around 3,000 soldiers in a logistics role. The size of this tail can be reduced to improve the ratio.” Currently, the Army, which has a sanctioned strength of 49,631 officers, is short of around 9,106 officers. So, according to Lieutenant General (Retired) Campose, it becomes crucial for the Army to reorient roles of officers in order to improve the ratio.

Interestingly, the Indian Army chief made the move just five months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement that his government would modernise and expand forces. With this announcement, the PM made a clear indication that India would spend more money to sharpen the Army’s combat potential through technology rather than support elements.

From 2005 to 2013, the Indian Army had cut more than 14,000 jobs. The Modi government is well aware of the fact that right-sizing the world’s second biggest force will help control ballooning expenditure. So, it asked General Singh to review the Army’s “logistics philosophy and concepts” and arrive at the “most advantageous model of sustenance”.

While tabling a report in the Parliament on May 3, Defence Secretary G Mohan Kumar said that the South Asian country’s defence spending for 2016-17 was not in keeping with the requirements of the armed forces. In February, the government announced that it would spend INR 2.58 trillion (USD 1 = INR 66.48) or 1.74% of India’s GDP on defence, a marginal increase of 9.7% over last year’s revised estimates.
Has DRDO taken Defence Minister Parrikar and India for a ride?
On 30 March, 2016, media headlines stated: ‘Enough of Akash, says Army as it opts for Israeli missiles’.

The report quoting MoD sources went on to say that the Army has made it clear that it does not want any more Akash regiments after it gets the first two ordered earlier for Rs 14,180 crore, with six firing batteries and hundreds of missiles each. This marks a major blow to the 'Make in India' policy, especially since the Navy is turning to France for similar requirements after dumping the Akash missiles for its warships due to "stabilisation problems".

The message was unmistakable

First, military prefers imported systems, especially the Army — why else would they stop after “ordering” two regiments worth of Akash?

Second, the military was shattering the ‘Make in India’ dream kickstarted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

On 27 April 2016, a Press Information Bureau (PIB) release gave details of products/systems developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) that have either been inducted in the defence forces or are in the process of trials/production/induction, as listed by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar in a written reply to KC Tyagi in the Rajya Sabha. This list included the Akash Weapon System. On 4 May, 2016, another PIB release carried a written reply by Parrikar to Sanjay Raut in the Rajya Sabha with respect to the Akash Weapon System, which can be summarised as the following:
Proper trials of Akash missile were conducted prior to induction into Armed Forces
-Development user trials were completed ‘successfully’ in 2007
-Orders were placed for two squadrons by IAF in 2008 and six squadrons in 2010
-User trial of production equipment was done successfully in 2012
-Post-induction user trials for Akash Air Force equipment was conducted successfully in 2014
-An order was placed for two regiments by the Indian Army and First Off Production Model (FOPM) trials were successfully conducted in 2014
-Post-induction trials by the Army were conducted successfully in 2016
-Akash Missile System is successfully inducted and is performing as per the expectations of the armed forces.

The production of Akash is being handled by Bharat Electronics Ltd and Bharat Dynamics Ltd with the help of a number of major and MSME industries spread all across the country. So, Akash is a successful example of the 'Make in India' policy and proves that the government’s initiatives are successful in defence manufacturing.

What are we missing here?

Does the military deserve to be kicked for its penchant for imports and the way it undermined ‘Make in India’? To start with, the Akash Weapon System has nothing to do with Modi’s call for ‘Make in India’ given in 2014. Akash was one of the five core missile systems of the integrated guided missile development program launched by the DRDO in 1984; Akash was to replace the Russian Kvadrat System with the Army for providing air defence cover for mechanised forces during manoeuvre battles. Some 23 years later, when the trials were done in 2007, these were a complete fiasco. The Army found that while on the move, Akash could not negotiate undulating ground appropriately and had difficulty in acquiring even slow-moving helicopters, leave alone fast-moving aircraft.

The Army therefore rejected Akash outright because it did not meet the requirement of providing air defence for mechanised forces during manoeuvre battles. So Akash was ‘given’ to the IAF. The IAF did not mind because IAF deploys air defence weapons for protection of vulnerable points and vulnerable areas in layers. So, Akash became one of the air defence weapon in this multi-layered air defence.

In early 2015, the media exploded with the news that the Army will finally get some desperately-needed supersonic firepower to take on enemy fighters, helicopters, drones and sub-sonic cruise missiles after years of grappling with obsolete air defence weapons with the “Improved Akash Weapon System”, and what made this even more significant was that the improved Akash Weapon System is 96 percent indigenous.

Quoting ministry of defence sources, the report said that Parrikar was slated to symbolically hand over the first Akash to the Army in early April, adding the first full Akash Regiment should be ready by June-July 2015 with second one following by end-2016. But what the Army found to its horror is that this so called ‘Improved Akash’ is still incapable of providing air defence for mechanised forces during manoeuvre battle like the vintage Kvadrat.

So, the Army perforce has to use the ‘Improved Kvadrat’ in static role. It is for the same reason, that the Navy rejected Akash; for problem of stabilization. What should a matter of grave concern that this while we already have the technology of guns firing on the move past several years; – naval guns aboard ships and tanks in Army - the T-90 Russian tank being by far the best for accuracy on the move. Why could this technology not be incorporated in the Akash Weapon System despite three decades of development – to acquire and engage targets on the move.

The question that the civilian friends would ask is why did the Army accept the two Akash Regiments in the first place? The fiasco of the 2007 Development User trials compared to what the Defence Minister recently apprised the Rajya Sabha has been mentioned above. The system puts tremendous pressure on the Services on the plea that when so much money and time has been spent on developing a product / system, at least buy “some” to compensate the development / part development costs.

Such pressure is invariably at the level of the Defence Secretary or Secretary Defence Production. The Army would have likely agreed for two regiments worth because Army’s air defence equipment anyway is 90% obsolete. Perhaps then there was a move to make Army buy more of these Akash regiments, and that is where the Army said enough is enough. Since Akash does not meet the operational requirements of the Army, quite naturally, Army has gone in for procurement of four QR-SAM regiments through the global tender route. Missile systems from Israel, Russia and Sweden have undergone extensive field trials conducted by the Army.

The results have not been officially declared but Israeli Spyder QR-SAMs have reportedly topped in the trials. For reasons discussed above, the IAF sure is inducting more Akash squadrons but if Akash was so versatile (despite three decades of development), why would IAF be looking for imports. It may be noted that IAF is inducting four Spyder QR-SAM squadrons February 2017 onwards.

One does not expect Defence Minister Parrikar to know the above and his written replies perforce are drafts prepared by the MoD bureaucrats. But the question is when the Defence Minister says in his written reply, “Akash Missile System is successfully inducted and is performing as per the expectations of the Services … Thus, Akash, is a successful example of ‘Make in India’ and proves government’s initiatives are successful in defence manufacturing”, how much of it is true?

Hasn’t Parrikar and the nation been taken for a ride?

Akash incidentally is just one example of inadequate and unaccountable functioning of the DRDO. Scores of articles have highlighted multiple products and inadequacies in a long list of products and systems, leave aside numerous CAG reports indicating rampant corruption and sub-standard products. As per recent reports, Government is contemplating setting up not-for-profit firm to foster innovation and create R&D ecosystem.

Hopefully, this firm would also focus on military and dual-use R&D too, because the DRDO has hardly been able to meet military’s requirements. Much thought is needed on the issue.

The author is a retired Lieutenant-General of the Indian Army
Kavita Kaushik impressed with spirit of Indian Army
Kavita Kaushik will be seen essaying the role of an Army doctor in upcoming TV show
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Actress Kavita Kaushik, who will be seen essaying the role of an Army doctor in upcoming TV show “Dr. Bhanumati on Duty”, says she was amazed when two Army officers dived into a river to retrieve her sunglasses while she was vacationing in Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh.

“I come from police and army background with my father being an ex-encounter specialist and my uncles and cousins army officers. So whenever I want to visit places where civilians can’t go I visit places where my relatives are posted. Thanks to one of my uncles I visited Tawang, the land of numerous lakes, thick forests and snow glazed mountains,” Kavita said in a statement.
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Kavita, best known for her roles in TV shows like “Tumhari Disha”, “F.I.R.” and “Tota Weds Maina”, added: “I walked and played in the snow and dived into rivers where I dropped my sunglasses and to my shock saw two army jawans jump in after me to retrieve them. That’s how amazing army is they put their lives in danger for the smallest of your needs.”

The actress also used the vacation to prepare for her role in the upcoming show, which will be aired on SAB TV channel.

She said: “I stayed at lovely mountain towns and army camps and watched the army behaviour, style and functioning closely which really helped me research for my character of Dr Bhanumati. So now when you hear me speak intense army words and anecdotes on the show you know I’ve done my homework well.”
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Indian army training girls along LoC
Udhampur, Ihk—To teach girls self defence tactics, Army has started training martial arts to girl students in remote areas, particularly border area in Jammu and Kashmir.
“The Army has initiated a four week martial arts course for girl students in remote areas,” PRO Defence Northern Command, Col S D Goswami said Wednesday.
A total of 40 girl students in different age group from six schools of Nowshera border tehsil are participating in the course which aims at developing self confidence apart from making them physically robust and psychologically empowered, Col Goswami said.
The course under Operation Sadbhavna is being conducted at Government High School, Seri will focus on physical training and mechanics of self defence for girls.
The training is being conducted by an Army soldier, a qualified Black belt in Judo, he said.
During the course, the students will master the art of hand-to-hand combat besides various techniques of martial arts, PRO said.

Col Goswami said advanced course of the martial arts training is planned by the Army for selected students who gain proficiency in it.—RK

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