Sunday, August 31, 2008

Navy divers head to Bihar

The Navy has activated the diving teams of all the three Commands, the Headquarters Western Naval Command at Mumbai, Headquarters Eastern Naval Command at Visakhapatnam and Headquarters Southern Naval Command at Kochi. A total of 141 divers including 5 officers have been mobilised to provide relief and succor to those affected by the devastation caused due to the floods. 45 geminies (inflatable rubber boats) along with out board motors and other diving equipment have been dispatched with the diving team. On arrival at Purnea further relief operations would be co-ordinated by the state authorities.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Photos: Radars, old and new

From top: The first ever MiG-21 R2L radar which HAL manufactured four decades ago under licensed technology from Russia. 2. The Su-30 MKI Avionics Complex in Hyderabad where the RLSU phased array radar -- the fighter's primary sensor -- is assembled. 3. An Rs 15 crore anechoic chamber in Hyderabad where HAL tests the Su-30MKI's RLSU radar to measure the antenna pattern of the radar control system.

Photos Copyright HAL

New Photos: MMRCA flight evaluations from November!

All Photos Copyright respective holder: Eurofighter Typhoon (EADS) / Rafale (USAF) / MiG-35 (UAC) / Gripen (Saab) / F-16 (USAF) / F/A-18 (Shiv Aroor)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

DRDO competition for students - Build us a micro-UAV

As part of its Golden Jubilee celebrations, DRDO has invited engineering students across the country to participate in a competition to build a micro-unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). Calling it a competition to identify the best "deployable low cost outdoor surveillance system with remote access to sensor imagery", the sweepstakes looks to dig deeper into a science that student communities across the IITs and other technical institutions have taken to with great relish in the last few years, some spawning real products in their post-degree incubation companies. Hopefully DRDO will truly use the results to further its own research in the field.

"This product will be a working model for providing situational awareness by obtaining real-time information in outdoor applications," says the DRDO's invitation for applicants who'd like to participate. It further adds, "This competition envisages development of a suitable lightweight system in which a sensor is airborne for carrying out surveillance. The sensor should remain airborne for a minimum of 2 minutes at a minimum height of 30m and above to do imaging of a proportionate area below. Sensor should be able to detect man-sized objects in above-mentioned conditions. Recognizable real time video information should be transmitted to the ground receiver point suitably located in the observation area. Proposed solution should take up design of configuration and identification of suitable options for sensor, data link, ground observation & control points and other support system(s)."

A committee of DRDO and external (thankfully) experts will evaluate the proposals "from the point of view of approach to the problem, innovation, originality, technical feasibility. The ten best designs solutions will be awarded Rs. 50,000 each, the DRDO has announced. "Suitable prototype based on the stage 1 approach paper, along with detailed design document will have to be submitted for design evaluation and demonstration trials. The best team will be awarded first prize of Rs 3 lakh and second best team will be awarded Rs 2 lakh."

Photo Copyright and of Micro-UAV by Seiko Epson Corporation

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

EXCLUSIVE: IAF's Red Flag team to report airborne ELINT on Sukhois

The Indian Air Force's Red Flag 08-4 team will include, as part of its routine report to Air Force HQ, notings on two "extra-exercise incidents" by what were possibly US Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) aircraft -- one at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho, where the IAF warmed up, and the second over the Nevada range airspace off Nellis where the Red Flag exercise was held. An official with the contingent that attended the exercise at Nellis confirmed that team leader Group Captain Diptendu Chaudhary's official debrief to Vayu Bhawan would contain descriptions of two incidents that will be categorized formally as "suspicious" and "unscheduled".

According to this official's account, the first incident took place on July 21 at Mountain Home AFB in Idaho, during the training phase. The second took place on August 17 during Red Flag itself. The nature of both incidents is, so far, unknown. In separate incidents, one unconfirmed account suggests that IAF Sukhois were spooked by a USAF RC-135 rigged with an ELINT payload twice in July -- once when a fleet of Sukois were near flying near the Southern Coast of England (they were there for the Farnborough Air Show), and the second, in the same month when the Red Flag squad was flying into the United States.

As has been reported in the American press, the Sukhois flew during their exercise with their Tikhomirov Instrument Bureau (NIIP) radars "trimmed" to training mode, and with pre-set instructions not to use electronic or active countermeasures, because of which they were repeatedly slammed by ground-based enemy air defences.

I spoke to former AOC-in-C Western Air Command, Air Marshal AK Singh yesterday as part of the story I did on Headlines Today last evening. He was one of the pilots who ferried Jaguars to Ambala from the UK in 1981. He described repeated incidents where US intelligence aircraft based in Saudi Arabia would spook the Jaguars, and, on one memorable occasion, when one even formated with the Jaguars over the Arabian Sea.

The question of course is, how much does the US already know about the Su-30MKI. Does it know everything it already needs to? In which case, are any spooking attempts simply efforts to confirm already held information?

IAF Sukhois snooped by US ELINT jets!

Coming up on LiveFist later: IAF to include details of two incidents of "extra-exercise activity" by US ELINT aircraft over US airspace in its formal Red Flag debrief to Air Headquarters.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Photos: IAF Technicians keep Flankers in top shape

Despite scorching heat and average tarmac temperatures above 50 degrees Celsius during flying hours, IAF technicians ensured a very high availability of aircraft for all exercise related requirements, during exercise Red Flag at Air Force base, Nevada, USA. The exercise concluded its operations on 23 Aug 08. During extreme heat conditions there is a tendency of the flying machines to develop snags such as leaks in hydraulic systems, engine oil, gear box etc. The performance of avionics system also becomes erratic as integrated circuits develop problems in extreme heat conditions. However due to proper planning and hard work of IAF technicians, aircraft serviceability was kept high at all times.

Admiral Arun Prakash's letter to the PM on the 6th Pay Commission

I'm sure a lot of you have already read this. If you haven't (like me), here's former Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Arun Prakash's letter to PM Manmohan Singh over the Sixth Pay Commission, a letter he wrote in May this year:

Honourable Prime Minister,

Even in the relative isolation of Dehra Dun, I have come to know from heavy traffic on the Internet about the extreme discontent amongst our ex-Servicemen (ESM) vis-a-vis the recommendations of the 6th Central Pay Commission.

I am also aware that one or two former Service Chiefs have written to you on this subject, reiterating the complete disregard shown by the Commission for the special conditions of service of Armed Forces personnel, which has manifested itself in the form of glaring anomalies and aberrations. This was inevitable, given the fact that the Commission did not have an Armed Forces member who could render specialist advice and guidance so essential for fair and balanced decision-making. The ESM are also greatly agitated that many of their long-standing demands have been ignored by this Pay Commission too. Not according representation to the Services, even in the recently convened Review Committee has only aggravated the prevailing sense of grievance.

As Chairman COSC, I had taken up the issue of the nomination of a Service representative on the 6th Pay Commission with Shri Pranab Mukherjee, the then Raksha Mantri, on a number of occasions. Since he expressed his agreement in principle, I had followed with a proposal in writing on 12th April 2006 (copy of the letter enclosed). After some further discussion whether the Services should have a full-time or co-opted member, I had written again to the RM on 16th June 2006, forwarding names of suitable nominees. A copy of this letter is also enclosed.

During subsequent discussions, the RM gave me to understand that he was facing opposition from his cabinet colleagues regarding the nomination of a full-time Service member on the Commission. Nevertheless he expressed optimism about finding an equitable solution to the problem. Regrettably he was given a change of portfolio in September 2006, and no response had been received from the MoD till my own retirement a few weeks later, regarding the requests of the Chairman COSC.

Without labouring the minutiae of issues involved, I just wish to bring to the notice of the Hon'ble Prime Minister that:

• Holding of public demonstrations, dharnas and hunger strikes by ESM goes against the ethos of the Armed Forces. Any such displays will not only erode their own self-respect, but what is infinitely more damaging, have a deleterious impact on the discipline of our serving personnel.

• The Armed Forces have consistently upheld the nation's secular democratic traditions and have remained the stoutest pillar of security and stability of the Indian State. Under no circumstances must the GoI allow this invaluable national institution to be devalued or demoralized .

• That the disciplined ESM have been driven to such steps in extremis is a most disturbing development, which should be recognized by the GoI as such.

I would strongly urge the Hon'ble Prime Minister that even at this late stage, a clear signal of reassurance be sent out to the ESM that their grievances will receive the urgent attention of the GoI, and that inputs from the Service HQ will be taken fully into account before a final decision is taken on the 6th CPC.

In conclusion, may I convey to the PM, the prevailing sentiment amongst the ESM (especially PBOR) that in the matter of the 6th Pay Commission, they have been let down by their own Senior Officers. This evokes a very real danger that the tradition of faith, trust and mutual respect between the Officer and Jawan of the Indian Armed Forces, going back 250 years, may suffer a break down.

This is a tradition which will be very, very difficult to re-build.

With the highest regards,
Yours sincerely,

Admiral Arun Prakash

Photo: IAF keeps its Flankers in ship-shape in Nevada's scorching ambients

Despite scorching heat and average tarmac temperatures above 50 degrees Celsius during flying hours, IAF technicians ensured a very high availability of aircraft for all exercise related requirements, during exercise Red Flag at Air Force base, Nevada, USA. The exercise concluded its operations on 23 Aug 08. During extreme heat conditions there is a tendency of the flying machines to develop snags such as leaks in hydraulic systems, engine oil, gear box etc. The performance of avionics system also becomes erratic as integrated circuits develop problems in extreme heat conditions. However due to proper planning and hard work of IAF technicians, aircraft serviceability was kept high at all times.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Photo: IAF Sukhois on the Red Flag "run"

Red Flag 2008 enters "run" phase

From the IAF: The multinational air exercise ‘Exercise Red Flag’ presently underway at Air Force base Nellis, Nevada, USA has today entered its final ‘RUN’ phase following the crawl, walk and run pattern of exercising. The team IAF is participating with eight Su-30s, two IL-78s, an IL-76 and 247 air warriors.

During this phase of the exercise, a present day air campaign is replicated, in which opposition forces or the ‘Aggressors’ F16 and F15s, are the air to air and air to ground threats to the Blue Land and its forces. Surface to Air Missiles (SAMs) such as SA2, SA3, SA6 and SA8 along with long and short range quick reaction missiles are always present to neutralize the friendly Blue forces. The Red land always keeps shifting their SAM sites making it difficult for the Blue Forces.

Owing to these facts, the Blue Forces have to typically carry out certain missions, in which they sanities the air space first by removing or eliminating the enemy airfields, destroying the aircraft and SAM sites. These tasks are carried out by ‘Strike Packages’ comprising the Su30s flying along with the US Air Force F15s and F16s, ‘Prowlers’ of US Navy, Rafales of the French Air Force and F15s of the Korean Air Force. Once the Red Air is sanitized the Blue Force strike package goes about its task in which they are assisted by KC-135 and IL-178 tankers, AWACS of USAF and the Compass Call ( a USAF Boeing aircraft used for Electronic Warfare).

An interesting aspect of the Air War between the Red and the Blue forces is that the aggressors use all possible means to gather intelligence from the Blue forces. This they use against the Blue forces in air. Thus it is imperative on part of all the Blue force personnel not to give away any information to unauthorized person as he or she could be a Red Land ‘Spy’.

The success of the missions in these air campaigns is dependent on the situational awareness of all persons involved. Hence the network centric operations are the pivots on which the difference of life and death rests. The main challenge during the exercise for the team IAF has been to adapt to the USAF network and also carry out ‘Stand Alone’ tasks simultaneously. The young IAF pilots (average age late 20s) have done this with amazing dexterity.

Captain Marcus ‘Spike’ Wilson of the USAF Aggressors in his appreciation of the team IAF said “IAF is a world class Air Force with great aircraft and great leadership. It’s a great training opportunity for USAF and IAF to integrate our assets in training environment. We would like to have IAF here as a regular participant”.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

India, Russia pretend to get along

The 8th meeting of the Indo-Russian Working Group on Shipbuilding, Aviation and Land Systems was held on 18-19 August, 2008 in New Delhi within the framework of the Indo-Russian Inter-Governmental Commission on Military Technical Co-operation. A Protocol was signed by both sides at the end of the Working Group meeting.

The talks were held in highly professional manner in an atmosphere of friendship and mutual understanding. The sides exchanged views on implementation of current projects like T-90 Tanks, Missile Systems, various Shipbuilding activities and Aviation Sector projects like the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft and Multi-role transport aircraft. They also agreed to take steps for ensuring their successful implementation.

Ajoy Acharya, Additional Secretary, Department of Defence Production of the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of India and Mr. Karavaev Igor Evgeniyevich, Director of Department for Defence Industry Complex Development of the Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation presided over the meeting.

Photos: IAF Garuds at Red Flag 08

Press Release from the IAF: IAF special force commandos, the Garuds, successfully demonstrated their mission capability during the Exercise Red Flag, when they neutralized an enemy Radar site capturing an Air Field and carrying out combat search and rescue operations, in the Nevada desert.

The enemy airfield (Red Forces) was simulated at about 60 Kms from the border and was considered strategically important for the friendly forces. The intelligence report made available identified the location of airfield in desert terrain suggesting medium threat environment and adequate defensive measures. The Garuds were assigned the task of neutralizing the enemy radar site and capture the airfield in a stipulated time frame of two hours.

After acquiring all the necessary intelligence inputs, including those from satellite and Unmanned Ariel Vehicle (UAV), the Garud Force mission commander Flt LT Jagvinder Singh carried out a detailed analysis of terrain and topography, worked out an operational plan. The plan included heliborne insertion and exfilteration of the force. The Garud during this exercise mission used assault riles as primary weapons, pistols and combat knives as secondary weapons, LMGs, Navigation and communication equipment and All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs).

It may be recalled that the IAF formed its first Garud Flight in year 2005 with 60 commandos initially and the force has been progressively growing since then. The need for forming such a force was felt after the Kargil Operations and terrorist attacks on IAF airfields in insurgency affected areas. The Garuds are trained to protect airfields from enemy and terrorist attacks, carry out hostage rescue operations, 'Radar Busting' etc. The Garuds also carry out the combat search and rescue missions (CSAR) for securing back Pilots from hostile territory.

"Capt Burry of USAF CSAR said "The Garuds have well executed all the assigned missions overcoming all the exercise limitations. The Garuds are a highly trained, motivated and mission oriented force. They never lose their focus and can achieve the near impossible task given to them."

Photos Courtesy Indian Air Force

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Unknown Soldier remains Unseen and Unthanked

"We remember our soldiers - who defend our borders in snowy mountains, in deserts, in jungles, on the shores and in the oceans."

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had this ridiculously ironic statement to make as part of the preamble to his astonishingly tiresome August 15 speech from the ramparts of Red Fort. His 40-minute address was wall-to-wall election rhetoric, but that's a different matter. Because, the matter at hand -- the matter that should be at hand -- is far more embarrassing, far more a shame and ignominy than the tediously predictable compulsions of electoral politics that compel even an honourable man like Dr Singh to hijack and defile a sacred day for petty party PR.

There is something unique about the way the Indian system treats its armed forces jawans. Even though they form a good part of the sociological and cultural core that defines India (Jai Jawan! etc), they simultaneously are looked upon the the most dispensable. While the Indian Army reels under an officer shortage -- which, while serious, is more notional than popularly projected -- it has never posted a dearth of jawans, never needed to take extraordinary measures to ensure that its soldier ranks are adequately supplied. And this alone may be why it has never had to made any major effort whatsoever to even bother making the profession of a jawan an attractive one.

And while you'll certainly see throngs of ex-servicemen on hugerstrike and officers of all ranks who'll pick through the pay commission papers to find the detail's devils, you'll never see jawans complain in public. Their sense of outrage is a quiet one -- more infused with the dignity of their task than any other part of the armed forces. The jawan lives and works in the toughest conditions. His opportunities are far more limited. And therein lies his silence.

By increasing the military service pay of jawans from Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,000 instead of the recommended Rs 3,000, the government has made a grave transgression of propriety. Not only has it failed to meet what the Army itself feels should a minimum benchmark for its real fighters. But it has psychologically injured all jawans, and infused in them a simmering sense of having been betrayed by their masters -- both the Army leadership, and the government. While mid-level and senior officers will celebrate what hectic lobbying has managed to pull off in the 6PC, jawans have once again been left in the cold, thrown crumbs and ordered to be satisfied, even smile.

Which is why it struck me that it was sheer audacity that had Manmohan Singh open his ridiculous speech with that terribly true line.

Photo by Shiv Aroor/LiveFist (Army Jawans at Leimakhong, Manipur)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Photos: IAF chief-in-waiting Air Marshal PV Naik visits Red Flag

Air Marshal PV Naik, Vice Chief of Air Staff, Indian Air Force visited the team IAF along with Lt. Gen Loyd Utterback, Commander 13th Air Force, USAF, Hawaii, participating in Exercise Red Flag at Air Force Base Nellis, Nevada, USA, today.

Photos Courtesy Indian Air Force

Friday, August 15, 2008

IAF gets its first Indian-built Hawk AJT

The IAF received its first Indian-built Hawk MK132 advanced jet trainer yesterday. It also conducted its first "official" (read public) flight in Bangalore. The flight, piloted by Sqn Ldr (Retd) Baldev Singh, Executive Director and Chief Test Pilot (Fixed Wing) at HAL, lasted for 15 minutes.

Photos: Indo-US Cooperation at Nellis

Will post on the 6th Pay Commission decisions later in the day.