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Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Artillery gun purchase first ‘baby step’ towards meeting Army’s needs
Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 27
The recent decision of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to acquire a new set of artillery guns is literally the first “baby step” towards meeting the Army’s artillery modernisation plans drawn up in 1999.

The MoD okayed the letter of acceptance that would be delivered to the US supplier, BAE Systems, for 145 ultra light howitzers (ULH) of the 155 mm variety. This was the first formal okay for a 155 mm gun since March 1986 when the Bofors guns were purchased.

The Army’s artillery modernisation has ambitious needs. Called the Field Artillery Rationalization Plan, and drawn up in 1999, it talks about acquiring 2,800 guns by 2027. The first step in that direction was taken on Saturday, but the follow-up steps are expected to be rapid.

The plan talks about 155 mm guns of all types—that is 1,580 towed guns, 814 truck-mounted guns, 100 tracked self-propelled guns,180 wheeled self-propelled guns and 145 ultra light howitzers.

The bulk will come through when mounted guns and towed guns are procured. International companies have been invited for this to join the “Make in India” initiative.

To apply for the contract of the 1,580 towed guns, French company Nexter has teamed up with local partner Larsen & Toubro. Israel’s Elbit Systems has partnered with Bharat Forge.

In case of the 814 truck-mounted guns, Nexter and L&T have bid, along with Ashok Leyland. TATA has South African gun-maker “The Denel” as its partner.

The immediate addition to the artillery gun numbers could come from two separate tenders. First is a “tracked self-propelled” gun mounted on a tank-track type chassis. India plans to buy 100 pieces of this. The MoD is negotiating with the L&T-Samsung combine. The evaluation process is over and the price bids were opened in December 2015.

The second will be the indigenous Dhanush gun, based on Bofors design and transfer of technology. The MoD yesterday laid down a stiff time line for the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), its maker, to be ready with six “production-level prototypes” for trials and bulk orders will follow. The Army want to acquire 114 pieces of this.
India now part of elite missile club
Likely to boost ‘Make in India’ project
Simran Sodhi

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 27
India today formally joined the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) as the 35th member of the international grouping. This may come as a relief to the Modi government, reeling under the rejection of its membership to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) at the Seoul conclave.

In 2015, India’s membership to the MTCR was blocked by Italy, which was upset with India over the detention of its two marines. The path was cleared when the second marine, Salvatore Girone, was allowed to return to Italy in May this year.

During a brief ceremony this morning, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar signed the instrument of accession to the MTCR in the presence of France’s Ambassador-designate Alexandre Ziegler, the Netherlands Ambassador Alphonsus Stoelinga and Luxembourg’s ChargĂ© d’Affaires Laure Huberty.

India had recently joined The Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (HCoC) which brought it closer to the MTRC membership.

(Follow The Tribune on Facebook and Twitter @thetribunechd)

Since 2008, when India signed the historic Indo-US civil nuclear deal, it has been trying to get a berth in international groupings such as the NSG, MTCR and Wassenaar Arrangement.

The MTCR membership is especially sweet to India since China is not yet a member of this group. India, pointing an accusing finger at China, has said that “one country raised procedural issues and blocked India’s membership of the NSG”.  

The MTCR membership is expected to give a boost to the NDA government’s  ‘Make in India’ project. It will enable India to buy high-end missile technology.

France welcomed India into the MTCR, saying, “France welcomes India’s commitment to combating the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems. As of June 27, India is participating in the Missile Technology Control Regime.”

It went on to state that India’s adherence would contribute to “better regulating the proliferation of equipment that could be used in missiles or drones capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction”. France has been very supportive of India’s bid to join the NSG.
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 27
Ending a 32-year wait for an indigenous fighter jet, the first squadron of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), Tejas, is scheduled to be inducted into the Air Force on July 1.

This will be the first version of the jets. Two successive improved versions, having better radars, missiles and greater war-fighting abilities, are slated to be inducted by 2019. A report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in its report in May 2015 said Rs 10,397.11 crore had been spent on the development of the plane that was originally scheduled to be inducted around 15 years ago.

The final operation clearance (FOC) of the jet is expected by December this year. The plane, powered by US engines GE 404, will carry air-to-air missiles, precision guided ammunition, but will not carry a beyond visual range (BVR) missile for at least one year.

A BVR missile (a key weapon on modern-day fighter jets) and the mid-air refuelling facility are still being tested and will be incorporated later, IAF sources said today. Having a BVR was one of the requirements for the FOC, but it would be added soon after tests were over.

The first squadron will be raised at Bangalore with two planes, six more will be added by December this year while another six will come by the end of 2017. IAF officials explained the raising of the squadron with only two planes saying “we have to start with some number”. Technically, only a squadron can “own” planes and no squadron can be raised with a full complement (of around 18 planes) or else we will have to wait till all 18 planes are produced.

It will be squadron number 45 called the “flying daggers” which earlier flew the MiG-21 jets. For the next 18 months, it will be based at Bangalore to sort out initial issues with plane-maker Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) following which it will be stationed at Sulur, near Coimbatore, in Tamil Nadu.

“Very soon a small unit of Tejas will be based in an operational area to test its abilities,” IAF officials said, adding that the plane had undertaken 3,000 sorties without an accident. It is a very capable flying machine and any comparison with contemporary jets can be made only after the IAF flies it over the next few months.

The first batch of 20 Tejas jets will be produced by 2018. It will be followed by 20 jets of an improved version. The second improvement will have 80 jets with production to start in 2019. This will be equipped with better radars (AESA), greater ranger of BVR missiles and advanced short-range missiles.

Off the 43 improvements suggested to HAL, all those related to flight safety have already been sorted out, an IAF official said.
Army says it killed Pampore militants, deletes tweet after CRPF objects
Hardly had the guns fallen silent after Saturday’s ambush of a CRPF contingent by militants in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pampore when a row erupted between the paramilitary force and the Indian Army over who killed the attackers.

While the army said it killed two militants believed to be from Pakistan in retaliatory fire, the CRPF lodged a protest against it for “wrongly claiming credit”.

The CRPF, which has been involved in counter-militancy operations in the Kashmir valley, alleged some army troopers arrived at the scene after the encounter was over and started clicking selfies with the bodies of the slain militants.
Within no time, the army’s Northern Command tweeted: “Army kills two terrorists who fired upon CRPF convoy at Pampore, Kashmir Ops in prog. Injured CRPF personnel being attended to.”

Fuming, the CRPF men and officers took up the matter with the army’s top brass.

Soon thereafter, the official Twitter account of Northern Command posted a revised message, saying “Update on Pampore ops. Injured CRPF personnel evacuated to hospital. Two terrorists killed in joint op by security forces.”

Officers of the CRPF informed their seniors and the army that there was no joint operation. They said the army personnel arrived on the scene after the encounter was over and walked away with weapons carried by the militants, besides clicking selfies with their bodies.

“They were wrongly claiming credit for an operation of which they had no clue,” said an officer who was associated with the developments on Saturday when two militants attacked a CRPF bus at Pampore, on the outskirts of Srinagar, killing eight security personnel and wounding 21 before being felled in the counteroffensive by the paramilitary force.
An official said the army was shown videos of its men busy clicking selfies after which the Northern Command tweeted: “Update on Pampore Ops. Two terrorists killed by CRPF in retaliatory action. Earlier tweet stands corrected.”

Director general of CRPF K Durga Prasad, who was on Monday asked at a press conference whether the army had played any role in the encounter, said: “Army’s 51 RR (Rashtriya Rifles) unit reached the spot after the incident got over.”

When contacted, a spokesperson for the Srinagar-based 15 Corps Col NN Joshi refused to comment.

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