Thursday, May 31, 2012

General Bikram Singh Takes Over As India's New Army Chief Today

By Group Captain Tarun Kumar Singha VSM

General Bikram Singh PVSM UYSM AVSM SM VSM ADC assumes charge as the Chief of Army Staff today. It is no coincidence that the 25th Indian General to lead the world's second largest army is indeed one of the most decorated serving soldiers today. Commissioned on March 31, 1972, into the Sikh Light Infantry (SIKHLI) Regiment, his four-decades career in the uniform so far has been a continuing saga of 'aspiring for excellence'. His colleagues remember him as one of the bright cadets at the Indian Military Academy (IMA), where he held the appointment of Battalion Cadet Adjutant (BCA).

An astute military tactician and an ardent student of military strategy and operational art till date, he was awarded the J&K Rifles Gold Medal for 'Tactics and Leadership' and the 'Shriganesh Trophy' at IMA. The affable General Bikram - better known as 'Bikki' to his friends, began displaying his steely resolve and grit very early in his army carer. At the Infantry School during his Young Officer's course, he topped the course and was adjudged the 'Best Young Officer' and also awarded the prestigious 'Commando Dagger' for being the best commando along with 'Best in Tactics' trophy. These awards, remain the most coveted dream of every aspiring young officer.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

HAL Signs Tripartite Agreement On Multirole Transport Aircraft

HAL Statement: Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd has signed a tripartite General Contract with United Aircraft Corporation -Transport Aircraft (UAC-TA), their Russian partner and their JV, Multirole Transport Aircraft Ltd (MTAL) for the Multirole Transport Aircraft (MTA) project.

HAL will carry out the design & development of its workshare of MTA at Aircraft R&D (ARDC) Centre at Bangalore while its Transport Aircraft Division (TAD) at Kanpur will manufacture the prototypes. Serial production will take place at Kanpur where dedicated  facilities are being set up. HAL's other R&D Centres and manufacturing divisions will share development of systems & LRUs and manufacture of components, sub assemblies and composite structure. HAL will showcase its expertise in design of aircraft as well as systems, manufacturing & flight testing while jointly working with the Russian team in Moscow as well as in India.

The Indian and Russian governments had earlier signed an Inter Governmental Agreement for joint design, development & production of MTA on 50:50 sharing basis and had decided to form a JV between HAL, UAC-TA & Rosoboronexport to execute the project. The primary objective is to achieve self-reliance in design & development and production of aircraft of this size and also to manage the programme with international collaboration and a large number of global suppliers.

The aircraft will be designed for the roles of cargo/troop transportation; para-drop /air drop of supplies including Low Altitude Parachute Extraction System (LAPES). The joint effort seeks to meet a requirement of 100 aircraft for the Russian Air Force, 45 aircraft to the IAF and 60 for export. Total requirement for the present is 205.

The MTA project preliminary design will start immediately after signing the follow-up contract on preliminary design on which tripartite discussions have been concluded.

Monday, May 28, 2012

PHOTOS: IAF C-130J Lands At Car Nicobar Base

IAF Statement: In yet another accomplishment, the C-130J super Hercules aircraft touched down at Air Force Station, Car Nicobar on 28 May 2012 on its maiden flight to the island airbase.  After almost 6 hours flight from AF Stn Hindan, Group Captain Tejbir Singh, Commanding Officer of the Hercules Squadron accomplished the task of landing at Car Nicobar Air base.  The crew was received by the Chief Operations Officer Wing Commander Sanjay M Nijai. The staff from HQ Andaman & Nicobar Command, Air Commodore TK Sinha were also present on the occasion. For some, it was just yet another landing, infact it marked a big leap for the Indian Air Force in projecting its strategic reach even at this remote and far-flung island base of the Indian Air Force. C – 130 J is one of the latest warbird with state of art avionics and defensive suites. This aircraft has the ability to execute special operations which shall involve not only the Air Force elements but also Army and Naval forces to achieve the assigned task by displaying a great synergy between them. This also show cases our ability and operational infrastructure to induct variety of forces & technology. This endorses the vision of our planners to induct this magnificent machine into tech – savvy Indian Air Force. It is indeed a proud and historic moment which will go down the annals of Indian Air Force's only island base rightfully known as 'Commendable Carnic'.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Week Before Retirement, Indian Army Chief Endorses Controversial Book

This evening at a government-owned luxury hotel in the heart of Delhi, Indian Chief of Army Staff General V.K. Singh was chief guest at an event to release a book Assault on Merit: Civil Military Relations by former criminal lawyer R.K. Anand, a man of reportedly questionable credentials, whose legal career is perceived to have thinned down after he ran foul of the Supreme Court following a TV sting that exposed him influencing witnesses. There has been debate over whether it was appropriate for a serving Army chief to endorse a book of this kind, as his presence at the release no doubt does. His endorsement of the book comes on the back of the high-profile age row that peaked with the Army chief suing the government (and losing) earlier this year.

There is a sense that even if the Chief chose to endorse the book only to send out a message to the government before he retires on May 31 -- and this is, without a doubt, the principal reason for his association with the book and his interview to one of the co-authors -- it is peculiar that he would choose to tango with someone of R.K. Anand's reported credentials, which seem to go completely against precisely the sort of thing that the Army chief speaks out about.

There's a great debate on Headlines Today tonight. I'll post the video later.

Indian Deal Biggest Ever For Pilatus

©Photo / Martin Ombrelle
At $523-million, the Indian contract for 75 PC-7 Mk.2 propeller trainers signed yesterday is Swiss firm Pilatus Aircraft's largest ever. The deal is understood to have been pushed through with some effort by the Swiss government, which actually came in for criticism in 2011 by pacifist groups in that country, which claimed India could arm the trainer aircraft for use in "conflict zones" like Kashmir and the North East. The country's export control agencies considered suggestions to that effect before setting them aside and approving the export of the PC-7 to India. The aircraft also dogfought an aggressive Korean protest (when the facts get clearer, you'll know just how close they got to way-laying the entire process).

The IAF stipulates that first Indian PC-7s need to begin arriving by August next year, but there's reason to expect the first aircraft as early as early next year. The contract, which includes an integrated ground-based training package, contains options for 30 more aircraft within three years of contract signature.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

India Signs Deal With Pilatus For 75 PC-7 Trainers

Photo / Pilatus Aircraft
Statement from Pilatus: Pilatus Aircraft Ltd is proud to announce that the Indian Air Force has entered today into a contract in excess of 500 Million Swiss Francs to procure a fleet of 75 PC-7 MkII turboprop aircraft, together with an integrated ground based training system and a comprehensive logistics support package. The contract also contains an option clause for extending the scope of this contract within three years from initial signature and we are optimistic that this will indeed be executed.

The Indian Air Force joins more than 30 other countries to modernise its training pipeline with the most modern, capable and cost effective system for Basic Flying Training on the market today. The Indian Air Force is the fourth largest air force in the world with approximately 170,000 personnel and 1,500 aircraft operating from more than 60 air bases. This contract will extend the fleet of Pilatus turboprop trainers to more than 900 aircraft operating worldwide.

Delivery of the aircraft and the complete training system is scheduled to commence in Q4 2012. The decision to select the PC-7 MkII training system was made after a thorough evaluation by the Indian Air Force, which looked at all available options. Pilatus Aircraft Ltd views this contract for the Indian Air Force as a major success and believes it will encourage other forces to take a close look at our pilot training solution.

Coupled to this award will be the establishment of in-country depot level maintenance capabilities, which includes the required transfer of technology to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), enabling in-country maintenance of the platform throughout its service life of over 30 years. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) was established in 1940 with the Government of India as primary shareholder, having approximately 35,000 employees based at eight sites across India.

Pilatus has also entered into a separate off-set contract with the Government of India for 30% of the value of this contract and we view this as a major opportunity. Pilatus has significant confidence in the Indian Defence market with its highly skilled workforce and it is our intention to leverage the offset opportunity to establish manufacturing capability for the region in support of our business plans for India.

Pilatus Aircraft Ltd is committed to serving the Indian Air Force with its world renowned dedication to Swiss precision and quality, through delivering and supporting the most advanced Basic Flight Training turboprop trainer aircraft in the world – the Pilatus PC-7 MkII.

Indian Air Force Chief Flies Rafale In France

Photo 1 Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne, Chief of the Air Staff after a one hour sortie in the Rafale Aircraft at St. Dizier  Airbase. Also seen in the picture are commandant (Squadron Leader) Kubiak Thierry, Commander of the Rafale Squadron and  General Jean-Paul Paloméros, Chief of Staff of the French Air Force and Colonel Jean-Pierre Montégu, commanding officer St Dizier air station.

Photo 2 Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne, Chief of the Air Staff after a one hour sortie in the Rafale Aircraft at St. Dizier  Airbase. Also seen in the picture are commandant (Squadron Leader) Kubiak Thierry, Commander of the Rafale Squadron and  General Jean-Paul Paloméros, Chief of Staff of the French Air Force.

Gaffes-a-Plenty On LCA Tejas

Strange how the establishment belts out embarrassing gaffes on the LCA Tejas at a time when it is seriously floundering. First, DRDO chief VK Saraswat went and embarrassed himself by stating recently that the LCA Tejas was to be inducted into the Indian Air Force this year. Now, the UPA government's report to the people on its achievements says that the "induction of the Light Combat Aircraft Tejas in the Indian Air Force" was a "major milestone during the year" (see Times of India report, left). Better still, the report mentions this phantom milestone alongside such actual ones as the testing of Agni-V and Agni-IV. Now, here's the thing: data for these reports is invited from each government department, and you can be sure that this is a paragraph provided to the Prime Minister's Office by the DRDO itself. I'm just wondering what they think they're doing, and whether they still believe we're all a bunch of idiots. If the LCA Tejas programme is having trouble and is still on course, why muddy it further by patent falsehoods? I'm sorry,  this is plain embarrassing, and it's a lesson the DRDO never learns.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

In 3 Days, Vikramaditya Ups Hook For Sea Trials

Photo / Sevmash
The Vikramaditya aircraft carrier will finally set sail for sea trials on May 25. Over the last month, the vessel was unmoored from its quay wall. A team of workers has spent recent days measuring the ship's magnetic field and  a heeling test to check the ship's centre of gravity for stability. Loaded 24 hours a day with over 1,000 workers, the ship has embarked 30 days of supplies for its all Russian crew who will conduct the sea trials along with the Indian observation team based at Severodvinsk. The ship is to be handed over to the Indian Navy on December 4 this year, Navy Day.

Monday, May 21, 2012

IAF To Go With Honeywell Engine For Jaguar?

On April 11, India's Parliamentary consultative committee on defence visited HAL's Engine Division hangars in Bangalore as part of an introduction to the company's facilities, current work and future plans. On display for the visiting group, which includes members of India's Parliament, was a mock-up Honeywell F125 IN turbofan, under the section "Future Engine Programmes". The F125 IN, as you know, is on offer as a replacement engine for the IAF's Jaguar deep penetration strike aircraft fleet.

Last year, the Indian government scrapped the Jaguar re-engine effort after Rolls-Royce pulled out, leaving a single-vendor situation -- an unviable position in competitive contracting. While HAL has been known to jump the gun before, it is possible that the government is negotiating a foreign military sales (FMS) contract for the new Honeywell engines, and sidestepping another competition. Last year, the IAF had ruled out the proposition of an engine upgrade (which is what Rolls-Royce's offer effectively was), leaving only Honeywell in the reckoning. I'll get more details on this.

Six Tejas Squadrons By 2022

Photo / ADA

The Ministry of Defence informed Parliament today that six squadrons of the LCA would be inducted by 2022 -- the end of the 13th plan period. Full text of what was said:

"There has been delay in the manufacturing of indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas. This is a design and development project and the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) is the nodal organization for the development of Light Combat Aircraft, Tejas. The Initial Operational Clearance-1 (IOC-1) for the Tejas has been achieved on the 10th January, 2011. Presently, LCA development activities leading to final operational clearance are in progress. The deliveries of aircraft are scheduled in the 12th plan period. It is planned to induct six LCA squadrons by the end of 13th Plan."

The Indo-Russian multirole transport aircraft (MTA) also came up in Parliament today. The Defence Minister said, "The review of the Multi-role Transport Aircraft (MTA) programme by the Government is an ongoing process. After signing of the Inter-Governmental Agreement in November, 2007 for Design, Development and Production of MTA, Government's approval was conveyed for signing the Share Holders Agreement between HAL and Russian partners on 30th August, 2010. The same was signed on 9th September, 2010. The Memorandum of Association and Articles of Association was signed on 25th November, 2010. For implementing the "" 'programme a Joint Venture company has been incorporated between Indian and Russian partners on 50:50 funding basis in December, 2010. The investment for the programme has been worked out to be $771-million at 2012 Price Level. The CEO of the joint venture has also since been appointed for implementation of the programme."

IAF Chief Scopes Out Rafale Facilities In France

Shiv Aroor before Rafale flight | Photo / Arpit Agarwal
Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne, currently on a four-day official visit to France, will be spending time with the Rafale squadron at St Dizier "to get a first hand impression of the MMRCA selected by the IAF, as also to see Rafale’s production facilities at Mérignac", the air force said in a statement today.

The first high level visit from India after a new government came to power in France, Air Chief Marshal Browne is scheduled to meet France's new defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, Chief of Defence Staff Admiral Édouard Guillaud,  Director-General of the French Defence Technology and Procurement Agency (DGA) Laurent Collet-Billon and Chief of Staff of the French Air Force General Jean-Paul Paloméros. He will also visit the air bases at Istres and Cognac. While in France, he will also meet members of the Mirage 2000 upgrade project management team.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Reloaded Arjun Killed At Birth?

This is one powerful déjà vu. A repeat of what happened with the original Arjun main battle tank.

As the Arjun Mk.2 rumbles at the Pokhran field firing range (the prototype is understood to have arrived there on May 10), warming up for user trials from the first week of June, a combination of factors may have killed the tank at birth.

First, the trials in June will test the following performance parameters of the tank: acceleration, turning radius, stab performance, ergonomics, static fuel consumption, cruising fuel consumption, tilt driving. The trials will also involve firing of primary and secondary ammunition, consistency and rate of fire, firing at night using thermal imagers, and of all new equipment. The prototype does not have the mine plough as depicted in the CAD image above.

Consider the following facts:

* The Army has already begun to speak unofficially about the Arjun Mk.2 (in the coming days, you'll see reports about this in newspapers), talking of how trials may take as long as the protracted trials on the Arjun Mk.1, including comparative trials. This only means one thing -- the Army already has its mind made up, and we saw what that meant with the Mk.1. The changes the Army has asked for on the Mk.2 include several major modifications and offensive capabilities and extensive additions. This doesn't augur well for timely delivery. According to information supplied to Parliament, the Arjun Mk.2 is to begin deliveries in 2015, costing Rs 37-crore per tank. The blacklisting of IMI, a technology partner in the programme, has only made the Army more nervous.

* The Army wants the DRDO to get on with the FMBT programme. Legacy opposition to Project Arjun has boiled down to abject disregard for anything pertaining to the programme -- and perceptions that transacting on a programme that was commissioned just after the 1971 war is plainly foolish.

* As I'd indicated earlier, I can now confirm that a Russian delegation, which included officials from Uralvagonzavod and Rosoboronexport met with the a team from the Army's Mechanised Forces at Sena Bhawan in the second week of March this year. The  scheduled meeting was to present information about the T-90MS that was to be unveiled at the Defexpo show a fortnight later. The meeting was a casual one -- the inviduals involved have met many times before on the expansive T-90 transactions. My sources tell me that it was conveyed at the meeting that if India chose to license-build more T-90s, the cost of transferring any additional technology would be waivered. The offer is a direct hit at the Arjun Mk.2. The upcoming trials also came up at the meeting. The Russians are understood to have offered to assist in the Indian FMBT project (and is in talks separately with DRDO about this) and that it was time to let the Arjun go.

* It is a fact that the Army has already told the Department of Defence Production that it will not expand its existing indent for 124 Arjun Mk.2s, as it does not need more heavy tanks. The Arjun Mk.2 is over 60 tons. This has been taken up even at a personal level by the Army's DG Mechanised Forces with Minister of State for Defence, MM Pallam Raju. The DRDO has said that any order below 500 tanks (in a mix of Mk.1 and Mk.2) makes Project Arjun a dead loss. This is precisely what it is likely to be, which is why products based on the Arjun chassis (bridge-layer tank, self-propelled artillery) or Arjun turret (Tank-X) are being pushed too. A total of 248 Arjun Mk.1/2 tanks in Army service is the maximum the programme can hope for.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Nirbhay Angst!

The overwhelming interest in the Nirbhay was expected. :) The calls/texts/comments I got expressing everything from outrage to ridicule to befuddlement and dismay were very entertaining. I'd just like to reassure everyone -- Like I said in the post, I'm one of the people who hopes the Nirbhay looks nothing like the artistic impressions that I had made. If it does, it'll be one of the clunkiest, quaintest weapons we've ever built. It was only a bit of guesswork based on what we know so far. I truly hope what we dont know about the Nirbhay dictates all its philosophies. And that's why the post title is question.  We know literally nothing meaningful about how the weapon looks. But hopefully we'll know more soon. I do know for a fact that the post did its rounds in DRDO labs -- now either the folks there laughed, or they scratched their chins and said hmmm. Thanks to a lot of ADE people who chose to keep their comments obscure -- I appreciate your inputs :D

More fundamentally, is the Nirbhay one system or many? Is the Nirbhay primarily a cruise vehicle or a high-speed target system -- with a solid-fuelled rocket stage and a turbofan. Information on the latter suggests a system that will be deployed from ships and heavy transport aircraft using an Israeli sensor/seeker. Remember there are two other stand-off cruise weapons that don't have a name -- the Indo-Israeli air-delivered munition (ADM) for nuclear strike and the long range supersonic cruise missile, revealed first here on Livefist. Could the Nirbhay pertain to more than one weapon system? A series of cruise missiles? We don't know that yet either.

Oh, and the Arjun Mk.2 piece goes up tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

India's Hansa Trainer To Go Unmanned

Photo / NAL
If you thought India had way too many unmanned air vehicle programmes, here's reason for you to sigh again: The makers of the Hansa are looking to spin off an unmanned version of the trainer/general purpose aircraft. The state-owned National Aerospace Laboratory (NAL), which developed the Hansa, has entered into an agreement with private firm Kadet Defence Systems to convert the aircraft into an optionally unmanned platform. The agreement also includes joint development of a new tactical UAV (yes, another!).

Do remember that the Indian Air Force looked abroad and will now spend close to a billion dollars to buy new propeller trainers, even when the Hansa has proven that such an aircraft can be built in the country. Therefore, apart from a smattering of flying clubs around the country, the Hansa remains just  that -- a swan.

There's an appalling lack of resource and research synergy between HAL, NAL, the DRDO and the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), all of which appear to be either developing (or, in HAL's case, marketing) UAVs with areas of obvious technological overlap. Weirdly, beyond the meaningless paper seminars and lofty presentations, none of these laboratories or agencies actually cooperate to deliver even a single, capable unmanned system to the armed forces. All we ever get to hear about is new UAVs, or old UAVs with new names. Someone needs to do something about this.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Coming Up: More On The Nirbhay Cruise Missile & Arjun Mk.2

IAF Flays HAL Delays

The Indian Air Force has provided a laundry list of delays by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) in the delivery of flagship products. IAF disenchantment with HAL has been well known for years, but now specifics have been listed by the Defence Minister in Parliament. Today, he said:

"The government has taken cognizance of the complaints of Indian Air Force regarding the delayed delivery of equipment by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).  IAF has expressed concerns over the deliveries of some of the products of HAL. There have been delays in some projects in current range of production by HAL due to rework of Jigs supplied by the OEM in respect of Hawk; delay in establishing the facilities for complex engine components and radar software in respect of Su-30 MKI aircraft; delay in certification of Shakti engine by the OEM in respect of ALH; changes in Standard of Preparation (SOP) in respect of LCA and delay in engine development by the OEM in respect of IJT. The government continuously monitors the performance of the company and takes steps to address the issues. In respect of Hawk, Su-30 MKI aircraft and ALH, the issues have been addressed. In respect of LCA and IJT development efforts have been intensified."

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Brawl Could Wind Up Indian Army Artillery Unit

The Indian Army's 226 Field Regiment, which operates 105mm field guns in the high altitudes of Eastern Ladakh could be disbanded in the wake of a violent clash between officers and men during a field firing exercise at the Mahe range near Nyoma in the Himalayas on May 10. Commanding Officer of the unit, Colonel Prasad Kadam is understood to have suffered multiple fractures in the brawl that involved soldiers and unit officers while deployed at the Mahe field firing range outside Nyoma. As the Army fast-tracks its court of inquiry into the incident, Colonel Yatinder Nandal now officiates as CO, while Kadam's predecessor, Colonel Yogi Sheoran is reported to have been rushed in leverage the good relations he had with unit men to assuage tensions. Word is that the unit is likely to be disbanded, with several personnel almost certain to face courts martial.

The soldier who was assaulted is Sepoy Suman Ghosh. The Major-rank officers who are understood to have been involved in the brawl are Majors A.K. Sharma, Ameya D. Kanade, Kapil Malik, Thomas Varghese and Ankur Tewari. Maj Sharma is being treated for injuries, though it is not clear if the others required treatment as well.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

INS Viraat Turns 25 In Indian Service

Photo / Shiv Aroor
Navy release: On 12 May 1987, HMS Hermes became INS Viraat under the command of Capt (later Vice Admiral) Vinod Pasricha. Born in Nov 1959 as HMS Hermes, INS Viraat took its avatar after completing 28 years under the union jack and after having earned glory in the Falklands Campaign of the Royal Navy.

The commissioning signal from the Naval Headquarters said: “Your commissioning today marks an important milestone in the development of our Navy’s blue water capability. May your operational prowess match your gigantic name and good fortune attend on you wherever you may sail. I wish all officers and men a happy, challenging and rewarding commission.

The message from the crew of the Hermes read: “Bringing forward HMS Hermes for hand over to the Indian Navy and commissioning as INS VIraat… It is with a mixture of sadness, pride and confidence that we today handover this magnificent ship to the Indian Navy; sadness in that we with our happy memories witness her passing from the Royal Navy, pride in the capabilities noting that she will be in good hands and confident that she will prove equal and worthy of all the aspirations the Indian Navy have for her as Viraat. The Captain, officers and ships company of HMS Hermes congratulate the Captain, officers and ships company on the majesty of INS Viraat and may good fortune attend all who sail in her quest to control the sea and be all powerful."

The words proved prophetic as INS Viraat has been maintained and run successfully by the professional men of the Indian Navy for a full 25 years, making Hermes-Viraat one of the longest serving aircraft carrier in the history of naval operations anywhere in the world. This speaks volumes of the Indian Navy’s capability in maintaining and operating ships so as to extract the utmost from them.

On the occasion of Hermes-Viraat completing 50 years in service in 2009, The Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Nirmal Verma, who commanded Viraat from 08 Nov 1996 to 13 Dec 1997 said: “The fact that a warship designed in 1940s and built in the 1950s could evolve and adjust to the technological and strategic imperatives of the post war years, the Cold War and continues to have utility in the 21st century is testimony to the men and women who built her and also those who have contributed to transforming her over the years."

The ship has over the years truly stood up to its slogan “Any Mission, Any Time Anywhere”. When commissioned in 1987, her envisaged life was 10 years. INS Viraat’s last major modernisation and life enhancement refit was undertaken in 2008-09 enabling a life extension of a few more years ie till the arrival of Vikramaditya ie definitely till 2013. INS Viraat was the flag ship of the western fleet during Op Parakram. With its full strength of Sea Harriers embarked, Viraat was central to the Western Fleet deployment for over six months. She was at sea with Capt (now VAdm) DK Joshi as the Commanding Officer and RAdm (later VAdm) JS Bedi as the Fleet Commander. Currently commanded by Capt Ajendra Bahadur Singh, the 19th CO of the ship. The ship has seen 18 Commanding Officers of which three went onto become Chief of Naval Staff viz Adm Madhvendra Singh, Adm Arun Prakash and Adm Nirmal Verma.

The ship has done over 40,000 hours of steaming and traversed over 5,00,000 nautical miles across the proverbial seven seas. The ship has undertaken over 20,000 hrs of flying from its deck.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Indian Govt Pushes BAE M777 Gun Deal

M777 at Defexpo 2012 | Photo / Shiv Aroor
The Indian government's Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) today approved the acquisition of 145 BAE Systems M777 ultra-light howitzers for the Indian Army. The deal will still have to be cleared by the Finance Ministry and the apex Cabinet Committee on Security before a foreign military sales (FMS) contract is signed between the Indian and U.S. governments.

The approval means the establishment has been able to step over a controversy that bubbled up a little over a year ago where excerpts of a the classified trial report were clipped to an anonymous complaint letter that landed on the Defence Minister's desk. Wonder how they got through that one.

If this deal goes through, it'll be the first howitzers India has bought since the Bofors scam. Sweet irony that BAE owns Bofors now.

Big Fist-Fight At Border Unit Shocks Army (Updated)

In news that broke early this morning on Headlines Today, there was a violent fist-fight involving Indian Army officers and soldiers of the 226 Field Regiment deployed at Nyoma, Ladakh very close to the border with China-administered Tibet.

Now the events are still unofficial, so there may be corrections, but as I understand it, here's what happened:

The incident took place late last evening during a field firing exercise by the regiment at the Mahe Field Firing Range just west of Nyoma. It is understood that a Major-rank officer had his wife with him at the range or base. Sources say a jawan or orderly "misbehaved" with either the Major or his wife (as I said, the details are sketchy), and the Major responded by beating up the jawan so severely that he needed medical attention. When the Major, in a furious temper at this time, physically stopped soldiers from transferring the injured jawan to the infirmary back at the barracks, they responded by attacking the officers.

The  unit's Commanding Officer, Colonel P. Kadam, who wasn't at the spot, rushed in when he heard about the brawl. Sources say he entered the scene, and was quickly briefed on the sidelines about what had happened. The CO then proceeded to berate the Major or Majors for trying to stop the jawans from getting their injured colleague treated for his injuries. It was at this moment that the Major or Majors allegedly snapped again, and turned their attention on their Commanding Officer, beating him up. Colonel Kadam, who is understood to have sustained injuries to his face and neck, is at the base hospital in Nyoma along with a certain number of jawans and other officers. But things didn't end there. The jawans are understood to have destroyed certain amounts of property -- allegedly setting fire to some parts of the buildings on the base.

3 Division commander Maj Gen A.L. Chavan arrived at the spot early this morning along with two Brigadiers. The Army has released a statement saying there was a "minor scuffle between officers and troops of a unit on 10/11 May 2012 in Ladakh region. The situation is under control."

Sources say Commanding Officer Colonel P. Kadam, currently recuperating from his injuries, is a Silver Gunner from the 1st Gunnery Course, "intelligent and sharp". Originally from Belapur, Thane in Maharashtra, Col Kadam served in 21 Rashtriya Rifles in Sopore during the Kargil War, after which he returned to his parent unit, the 226 Medium Regiment, a unit with an apparently chequered history as far as jawan-officer relations are concerned. A former officer with the regiment said he wasn't in the least surprised about the incident. "Something like this was just waiting to happen, considering how officers in this unit treat jawans. Col Kadam and his predecessor were meritorious officers, but not good man managers," says one former officer who worked with him.

What happened last night at Nyoma is perhaps the most troubling incident in the Indian Army in a very long time -- and we all know what a year it's been. I'll be updating this post.


Further to Army’s statement issued yesterday on the incident at the Mahe Field Ranges in Ladakh Region during the field firing exercise of  Field Regiment.

The Brigade Commander of the Artillery Brigade and General Officer Commanding of the Division interacted with the troops on 11 May 2012.  The situation was brought well under control and the Regiment is being moved back from ranges to its location with effect from 12 May 2012.  A Court of Inquiry to investigate into the circumstances under which the incident took place has commenced.

Misinterpretation and mischievous reporting to sensationalise the incident by some sections of print and electronic media need to be dispelled.  Main issues are as under:

(a) The entire episode can at worst be seen as an isolated act of indiscipline.  It can in no way be termed as mutiny.

(b) No arms and ammunition have been used by anybody. The armoury has not been captured by the troops as is being wrongly reported.

(c) The Court of Inquiry will identify the complicity of the officers and men. However, nobody has been removed, dismissed or suspended.

(d) Col P Kadam, the Commanding Officer was not assaulted by other officers, as has been wrongly reported.  The CO as well as Maj AK Sharma and Sepoy Suman Ghosh who suffered superficial injuries, have been given medical treatment.

(e) The situation is well under control.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

BREAKING: Indian Govt Clears Deal For 75 Pilatus PC-7 Trainers

Pilatus PC-7 Mk.2 | Photo / Pilatus Aircraft
The Indian Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) has just approved a deal for 75 basic trainer aircraft for the Indian Air Force. The deal with Swiss firm Pilatus will be signed soon for the PC-7 Mk.2, deliveries of which are to begin 15 months after contract signature, with 24 aircraft to be delivered within 25 months.

Livefist had reported first on the probability that the deal would be cleared this week.

Pilatus is unlikely to put word out until contract signature, so I'm not expecting anything official from them yet. Lots of tough questions on the deal, the grounded HPT-32s, HAL and the IAF. Will get deeper into them over the next few days.

PLA Navy Ship Visits Indian Port

Zheng He at Kochi
PLA Navy Deputy Chief Liao with Indian Navy's RAdm S Shrikhande
Peoples Liberation Army Navy training ship Zheng He called at Kochi yesterday with Rear Admiral Liao Shining Deputy Chief of Naval Staff PLAN on board as the Task Commander. Zhang Yan, Ambassador of China to India was also in Kochi along with the Defence Attache of China in India Major General Cai Ping to receive the Chinese warship. The Chinese Ambassador accompanied by Task Force Commander, Senior Captain Jiang Guoping, Superintendent of Dalian Naval Academy and Captain Fan Kuizu met Rear Admiral Sudarshan Shrikhande, Chief of Staff of Southern Naval Command and Officiating Flag Officer Commanding in Chief. The ship ups anchor on May 13.

Photos / DPR Defence & Indian Navy

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

India's Rustom-1 Drone Makes 14th Flight

Photo / DRDO
DRDO Statement: The indigenously designed and developed RUSTOM-1 made its 14th successful flight this morning at Kolar flying at about 11,500 ft AGL and speed of above 140-km/h during 2 hrs 10 minutes of cruise. The highlights of the flight include: a) Use of lean mixture control system in the engine for flights at high altitudes, b) Take-off weight heaviest so far, c) Achieved max altitude of 3.5 kms, about 11500 ft and d) Extended range of about 50 kms tried out for the first time. The waypoint track was perfect and so were takeoff and landing. The Rustom-1 is built for a maximum altitude of 22,000 ft and endurance of 12-15 Hours with an operating range of 250 Kms when fully developed.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Army To Test Improved Nag Missile Carrier In July

NAMICA at Defexpo 2010 | Photo / Shiv Aroor
A significantly improved tracked Nag Missile Carrier (NAMICA) is up for user trials in July. The Army had asked for the following changes to be made to the NAMICA platform:

1. Reduction of all-up weight to 15 tons.
2. Improved reliability of missile launcher platform drive mechanisms.
3. Provision of higher-resolution target acquisition sight for the gunner.
4. Enhanced user-friendliness in acquisition of target through reduced offset between sight and missile seeker-acquired target scene image.
5. Improved amphibious performance.
6. Provision of a Target Surveillance and Acquisition Sight for the crew commander.

After Basic, Intermediate Trainer Crisis Looms For IAF

HAL HJT-36 Sitara | Photo Courtesy Vayu Aerospace
Just about the time the Indian Air Force has begun to feel a little reassured that it will be able to conclude a contract for desperately needed basic propeller trainers, another equally daunting challenge has popped up. By early 2014, the IAF's 81 HJT-16 Kiran Mk.1 & Mk.2 intermediate jet trainers will stop flying, reaching the end of their total technical life. Now the Kiran's replacement, the HJT-36 Sitara, was supposed to have begun deliveries in June this year. The programme hasn't even achieved initial operational clearance (IOC), originally scheduled for July 2011, a milestone indefinitely put off after a prototype crash three months before it.

Now here's the thing: the IAF had hoped the induction of the HJT-36 and the phase out of the Kiran would overlap, allowing for a small period of time when both aircraft would be operational together. This, now, almost certainly won't be the case, say sources, considering the substantial proving work the HJT-36 still has ahead of it before it is ready for final operational clearance. And under no circumstances can the Kirans be pushed beyond early 2014. Therefore, the prospect (hopefully) of having a small number of new propeller trainers, a full fleet of advanced jet trainers and no Stage-2 aircraft is becoming increasingly real. In fact, the IAF is already accounting for such a scenario. The IAF has no plans to buy intermediate trainers from abroad. But remember, that's precisely what they once said about basic trainers as well.

The IAF signed a contract with HAL for 12 Limited Series Production (LSP) HJT-36 aircraft in March 2006 and 73 fully certified aircraft in March 2010 with deliveries scheduled from June 2012. As the IAF said to a recent Parliamentary committee, "The project is running behind schedule."

Friday, May 04, 2012

Blood Politics On Siachen

The cover story of the latest issue of INDIA TODAY magazine, by Headlines Today deputy editor Gaurav C. Sawant and me is on the Army's latest assessment of Siachen and its nervousness with new euphoria within the establishment over Siachen as a "deliverable" in the short-term Indo-Pak context. The full text of the piece will be online only next week, but the magazine hits the stands today in case you can't wait :)

Thursday, May 03, 2012

PHOTOS: IAF Air Power At Exercise Shoorveer

IAF C-130J Super Hercules
Mi-35 over tank column
View from Mi-35 during offensive action
Troops in Mi-17
Photos / DPR Defence & IAF

Korean Protest Dismissed, Indian Trainer Deal With Pilatus On Track

A deal with Pilatus for 75 PC-7 Mk.2 basic trainer aircraft is expected to be approved shortly, most likely next week, with India's apex Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) scrutinizing the final contract. A formal protest by Korea Aerospace, whose KT-1 trainer was runner-up in the final toss-up, was dismissed by the MoD. In Parliament yesterday, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said, "The proposal for procurement of Basic Trainer Aircraft for the Indian Air Force (IAF) is awaiting consideration of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). The proposal regarding the selection procedure of the Pilatus Trainer Aircraft has been progressed in accordance with the Defence Procurement Procedure. A representation submitted by M/s Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), one of the bidders, has been found to be devoid of merit."

The IAF currently has 114 HAL HPT-32 Deepak basic trainers, all grounded since July 2009 owing to critical technical problems and flight safety issues. In a Parliamentary Standing Committee report released this week, the MoD gave testimony saying, "The Air Force is procuring 75 Basic Trainer Aircraft (BTA) for its Stage-I (ab-initio) flying training requirement. PC-7 Mk-II Turbo Prop aircraft of M/s Pilatus, Switzerland has been short-listed and contract negotiations have been completed. The case is being processed for CCS approval.  The delivery of the aircraft is  scheduled to commence 15 months after signing of the contract. 24 aircraft are expected to be delivered within 25 months, which will enable basic training to commence on these new aircraft.  Two simulators for BTA are planned to be procured. 106 BTA are planned to be designed and developed by HAL along with 3 simulators. Induction is planned to commence from 2016."

Speaking of the HPT-32 grounding and the genesis of the basic trainer procurement programme, the IAF told the Committee. "In July, 2009, we had a very unfortunate accident on the HPT-32, which was our basic trainer. This involved two very senior qualified Flying Instructors.About the HPT-32, because of no satisfactory response from the original equipment manufacturer of the engines, we found that we had no option but to ground those aircraft till such time we did get a very satisfactory answer. This aircraft has got a very adverse gliding characteristic. In case, the aircraft is not able to restart the engine in the air, then it is very dangerous for pilot. Here, we had two senior qualified Flying Instructors not able to pull off a safe landing. So, the Air Force had no option but to ground these aircraft. The process of getting this basic trainer aircraft started immediately thereafter."

Speaking of the Korean protest and certain "anonymous" complaints, the IAF's testimony continues: "Finally, there were only three aircrafts, which were short-listed. This entire process finished in January 2011 on approval of the Staff Evaluation Report by the Ministry. What happened after that was this. There were a couple of letters. There were some anonymous letters, some actual representations from one of the losing vendors. Therefore, it was felt appropriate in this case to have it thoroughly examined and the Ministry did that. It took some time. So, if you look at it, the time lost was, actually after submission of the report in 2011. If this had not interfered with the procurement process, I believe by end of 2011, by the last quarter, we would have certainly signed the contract. The intervening delay was only because of this reason."

The Standing Committee, in its comments, has noted: "[The Air Force] has reached to a critical stage with regard to trainer aircraft and simulators. The grounding of HPT-32 and the ageing of Kiran aircraft has further worsened the situation thereby compromising the training requirement of our pilots. The Committee are of the firm view that there is an urgent need to address the aforesaid issue immediately. The option of having aircraft on lease from the countries where we have signed the contract as well as sending our pilots to the manufacturer country from which we are buying trainer aircraft emerged as option during the course of deliberations by the Committee. The Committee emphasize that all these options need to be explored by the Air Force as well as the Ministry of Defence. Moreover, all the support by way of outlay should be provided by the Government. Not only that it should be ensured that the procurement procedures are put on fast track by addressing the various hurdles encountered at various stages so as to ensure that the Air Force at any cost get the Pilatus PC-7 Mark-II aircraft by the December next year as stated by the representative of Air Force during the course of deliberations so as to address the urgent and immediate need of Basic Trainer Aircraft for Air Force."

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Army Celebrates 74th Armour Day

An Indian Army T-90S | Photo / Army
Army Statement: Armour Day is celebrated on May 1 every year to commemorate the commencement of mechanisation of the Indian avalry regiments. On this date in 1938, the Scinde Horse became the first regiment to shed their horses and to be equipped with tanks. The first such equipment comprised Vickers light tanks and Chevrolet armoured cars.

The Indian Armoured Corps was equipped with comparatively modern Sherman tanks (M4) of American origin in 1943. Regiments so equipped formed the spearhead of the 14th Army during its pursuit of the defeated Japanese in the liberation of Burma. Post-independence, Indian armour lost one third of its units and training establishments to Pakistan with the Indian share being only twelve regiments. It was these regiments which nurtured the Corps and helped expand to the force that it has evolved into today.

Expansion and modernisation of the Armoured Corps was initiated post independence with Centurions Mark VII and AMX-13 light tanks. Since then, the Armoured Corps has operated the indigenous Vijayanta tanks, the Russian T-54 and T-55, T-72 and T-90 tanks and indigenous MBT Arjun.

An ideal man-machine interface led to a sterling performance in the Indo-Pakistan war of 1965 when the sophisticated Pakistani Patton tanks were decimated by own Centurian tanks to form the famous 'Patton Graveyard, near Khemkaran in Punjab. Lt Col AB Tarapore of 'The Poona Horse' was posthumously honoured with the Param Vir Chakra for his gallant action in the Shakargarh Bulge. The Corps proved its mettle yet again gloriously in the 1971 war with Pakistan wherein tanks were at the forefront of action in the plains sector on the Western and Eastern fronts. 2nd Lt Arun Khetrapal fought gallantly and made the supreme sacrifice in the Battle of Basantar River earning for his regiment 'The Poona Horse', yet another Param Vir Chakra. The core ethos of displaying exemplary courage in the face of fearful odds is amply demonstrated by the award of two Param Vir Chakras, 15 Maha Vir Chakras and 60 Vir Chakras amongst a large number of gallantry and distinguished service awards bestowed upon officers and men of the Armoured Corps.

The Corps contributes substantially to the counter insurgency operations at all times.  This includes service with the Rashtriya Rifles, Assam Rifles and other PMF.  The Corps is also making its contribution in its share for world peace by deploying a contingent to the UN peace keeping mission in Lebanon, apart from individual representations.