Monday, 10 December 2012

Looking back on IPKF, a quarter century on

Half a century ago, the 7th Infantry Brigade of the Indian Army earned the dubious distinction of disintegrating in less than a week against a better-prepared and numerically superior Chinese forces in the Kameng sector of NEFA, now Arunachal Pradesh. 

Brig. John Dalvi's landmark book Himalayan Blunder has recorded in detail the humiliation that the Brigade suffered under him for no fault of its own. That book, a must read for those who want to study and understand the causes of India's military defeat in 1962, now adorns the bookshelves of almost all military libraries.

Now, by sheer coincidence, there is another must read book on the 7th Infantry Brigade. Ours not to reason why, written by Brigadier Ravi Palsokar, who commenced the command of the Brigade exactly 25 years ago (on 21st December 1987) when it was deployed in North Sri Lanka as part of the IPKF (Indian Peace Keeping Force), is a detailed account of what and how the Indian Army fought in an alien environment.

Written as a simple, first hand account of the brigade's involvement first in 'peace keeping' and later in counter-insurgency operations, Brig. Palsokar's narrative is brutally honest to the point of being harsh on himself and of course the senior politico-military-diplomatic leadership of the country in that period. 

The scope of the book is limited to the 7 Brigade's AOR which was, ironically, the Mullaitivu area of Northern Sri Lanka where LTTE's ruthless guerilla leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran met his brutal end in May 2009 (see my book: Sri Lanka: From War to Peace; Haranand, 2009).

The Brigade was given twin tasks of keeping the main arterial road between Vavuniya and Jaffna open and dominate its area of operation which also happened to be the stronghold of the LTTE. While the first task, Brig. Palsokar says, was easy, the second was not. "Domination was the trickier task as it was not clear as to what this exactly meant," he writes.

He could be talking about the entire IPKF deployment!
A quarter century later, that ambiguity about IPKF's main objective for that three-year foray continues to haunt those who participated in the tour of duty. Brig Palsokar writes: "All strategy is driven by political aims. This in Sri Lanka was a question mark. We tended to confuse between genuine political aims and political expediency. Hindsight tells us that we treated political expediency as strategy and consequently suffered for it."

While many observers and analysts have blamed the diplomatic and political leadership (Rajiv Gandhi in particular) for the haste with which India sent its armed forces into Sri Lanka, Brig. Palsokar digs out a remark made by Gen. K. Sundarji in 1991, a year after IPKF was officially withdrawn from the island, to throw light on the follies of the Indian military leadership.

Sundarji reportedly made the remark at the Third DR Mankekar lecture on 13 Feb 1991. There he said: "India's intervention into Sri Lanka had no national strategy, which placed commanders and troops in an unacceptable and impossible position. When the government in power (Rajiv Gandhi's) took a decision to adopt a hard option against the LTTE, it turned out to be nasty move. The problem could have been avoided if the decisions taken had formed part of a well developed National Security Strategy which the Parliament and the people were aware of."

An astonishing admission from the Chief who appears to have accepted a task for his army that he did not believe in himself!

Yet, Brig. Palsokar, a second generation Guards officer (his son too serves in the Army), who suffered in his latter career for having stood by his troops, writes a moving account of small, tactical but important battles in what was the most difficult theatre of war among the four sectors where IPKF was involved. He is generous to a fault in praising his subordinates, analysing the effectiveness of the extraordinarily courageous paratroopers and very frank in admitting his and his brigade's  shortcomings.  

The book actually fills a void. While diplomats like JN Dixit and Generals like SC Sardeshpande have written books on the IPKF and/or India's Sri Lanka policy in those turbulent years, it is the first time that we get to read real stories of real battles and heroism of ordinary jawans. 

Most senior officers who led the IPKF operations have long retired but Brig. Palsokar's book does find a mention of at least three officers who later went on to become Lt. Generals--Hardev Lidder and Prakash Katoch, both of the Paras and Ata Hasnain, of the Garhwal Rifles.

 Lt. Gen Syed Ata Hasnain is in fact the current Military Secretary at Army HQ!

Through this book Brig. Palsokar  has paid tribute to the most positive aspects of human spirit that he witnessed among his men and officers in the most trying circumstances. "Officers and men were brave, not because they were expected to be so, but they were naturally brave. Their display of loyalty, generosity, team spirit and sacrifices were was spontaneous and did not need prompting. None of them acted with an eye towards personal glory or recognition...Even after quarter of a century, I remain filled with  admiration and wonder at the professionalism and dedication of the ordinary Indian soldier, both officer and jawan."

It is to the author's credit that, despite the ill-treatment to the IPKF in officialdom (there was not a single official or citizen to receive or welcome the disembarking men at Madras when they returned home), he has not shown any rancour in his writing. He begins by quoting Shakespeare, Henry V:

"We are but warrior for the working day;
our gayness and our gilt are all besmirch'd
with rainy marching in the painful field;

Obviously a well read man, Brig. Palsokar's choice for the title of the book Ours not to reason why... (ours but to do and die), taken from a poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson, truly sums up the attitude of the Indian soldier.

To South China Sea, boldly

In July, days before he retired, the then Navy Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma commissioned a Naval Air Station at Campbell Bay on Great Nicobar Island, christening it INS ‘Baaz’ thereby signalling India's intentions to keep a close watch on the new developments unfolding in east and south east Asia
Today, 24 hours before celebrating Navy Day, Adm Verma's successor, Adm DK Joshi took everyone by surprise by announcing that the Indian Navy is practicing to operate in the South China Sea to protect its economic assets. 
Speaking to reporters in New Delhi Admiral Joshi told reporters that "Where our country's interests are involved, we will protect them and we will intervene."

The Eastern Naval Command - which looks at India's eastern sea board and likely to play a key role when the Navy is deployed in South China Sea- is also being strengthened.

That the Indian Navy was strengthening its Eastern Fleet and was looking to expand its cooperation with key countries in East and South East Asia like Vietnam, Japan, South Korea, Philippines and Indonesia, is well known but no Navy chief or for that matter any senior government official in recent memory had spelt out India's plans to counter China in the South China Sea, in such a clear manner.

The declaration that  Indian Naval ships could be deployed in  the South China Sea if need be comes days after Chinese state media announced that the southern Hainan province, which administers the South China Sea, approved laws giving its police the right to search vessels that pass through the waters. Also Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan and India protested a map on a new Chinese passport that depicts disputed areas as belonging to China.  The Philippines also issued a statement saying it wants Beijing to "clarify its reported plans to interdict ships that enter what it considers its territory in the South China Sea." 
Admiral D K Joshi said India's Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) has 4 oil exploration blocks off the coast of Vietnam.  "If required we will intervene to protect (them)," he said and added that it is the navy's duty to protect India's sovereign assets. India, the Admiral said, had two basic concerns- "freedom of navigation in international waters and protection of our internal assets."
It is in this context that INS Baaz, the southernmost air station of the Indian armed forces, becomes an important springboard for India's forays further east.  
  In July, Admiral Nirmal Verma had said: "The archipelago, separated as it is by more than 650 nm from our mainland, offers a vital geostrategic advantage to India. Not only do they provide the Nation with a commanding presence in the Bay of Bengal, the Islands also serve as our window into East and South East Asia”. He had added: They also sit astride some of the busiest shipping lanes of the Indian Ocean, most carrying strategic cargo for East Asian economies”.
Emphasizing upon the strategic location of INS Baaz Admiral Verma had reminded those gathered that INS Baaz, overlooks the Strait of Malacca, while also dominating the 6 degree channel”.
Since July this year India has clearly signalled its intention to its increased involvement East of Mallaca Straits by deploying frontline warships as part of India's 'Look East' Policy. The four Indian Navy ships, Rana, Shivalik, Karmukh and Shakti, under the command of Rear Admiral P Ajit Kumar, Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Fleet were on an operational deployment to the South China Sea and North West Pacific. Earlier in the deployment, the first bi-lateral maritime exercise between India and Japan 'JIMEX 12' (Japan India Maritime Exercise) was conducted, coinciding with the commemoration of 60 years of diplomatic relations between India and Japan.

The Navy's long-term Maritime Capabilities Perspective Plan in fact has identified a mix of two major roles for the force: One, the traditional blue water operational capability and two, a plan to effectively counter threats closer to the coast.

According to the report of the Standing Committee on Defence, tabled in Parliament in the last week of April, the Navy's short-term plan has the following objectives:
  • Augment airborne maritime surveillance, strike, Anti-Submarine Warfare and air defence capability through induction of shore-based aircraft, integral helos, carrier based aircraft, space based AIS and UAVs, along with suitable weapons and sensors.
  • Develop ASW (anti-submarine warfare) capability through induction of suitable platforms, weapons and sensors.
  • Build adequate standoff capability for sea lift and Expeditionary Operations to achieve desired power projection force levels, influence events ashore and undertake Military Operations Other Than War.
  • Induct assets and develop suitable infrastructure to augment forces available for Low Intensity Maritime Operations (LIMO), protection of off- shore assets and Coastal Security framework.
  • Induct force multipliers like satellite based global communications, reconnaissance and network enabled platforms to achieve Battle-Space dominance capability and perform network centric operations. 
  • Induct state-of-the-art equipment and specialised platforms for Special Forces to enhance niche capabilities to conduct Maritime Intervention Operations and other envisaged roles.
  • Develop support infrastructure in island territories to support the planned force levels as well as support infrastructure for ships/submarines/aircrafts at ports and airbases.

Given the extensive plans presented to the Parliament, it is evident now that the Indian Navy is in the middle of its most ambitious expansion plan in the past three decades. Senior officers point out that the Indian Navy's perspective-planning in terms of 'force-levels' is now driven by a conceptual shift from 'numbers' of platforms - that is, from the old 'bean-counting' philosophy - to one that concentrates on 'capabilities'. 

According to its near-term plans, the Indian Navy has ambitions to become a three Battle Carrier Groups force by 2020. But given the delay and cost overruns in both the aircraft carrier building programmes, the Navy may find itself operating the 1960s vintage INS Viraat.

While it's most prestigious acquisition-Russian Aircraft Carrier Admiral Gorshkov, to be renamed INS Vikramaditya - is unlikely to be inducted into the fleet until late 2013, one more carrier being built indigenously is way behind its original schedule.

Currently India operates a lone Aircraft Carrier, INS Viraat, a British-built 1960s vintage ship that is on an extended lease of life thanks to the Navy's innovative engineers and planners.

Vikramaditya, once--when-- inducted, will give India the much needed edge in its maritime capabilities since it will come with the latest MiG-29 K series of aircraft. Indian Naval Aviators are already hard at work training themselves on the planes but away from the ship.

Defence Minister AK Antony in fact told the Naval Commanders conference earlier this year: "India's strategic location in the Indian Ocean and the professional capability of our Navy bestows upon us a natural ability to play a leading role in ensuring peace and stability in the Indian Ocean Region."

Little wonder than the US wants India and especially the Indian Navy to play a major role in its quest to form new and lasting regional alliances in Asia. By clearly signalling India's intention to boldly deploy in South China Sea, India may have added a new dimension to the emerging maritime rivalry in Asia. How will Beijing react?

Re-arming the Indian Infantry

The Indian Infantry, that hard working, non-complaining arm of the Army is at last likely to get the attention it deserves, if plans envisaged by Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh and the Directorate of Infantry fructify in the next couple of years.

Starting 2014, several basic weapons used by the 350-odd infantry battalions are likely to be replaced by a new and more lethal ones. So the assault rifle, the carbine, the light machine gun (LMG), the sniper rifle and even the anti-tank guided missile (ATGM), essentials in an infantry battalion, all are set to be replaced over the next five years. Many of these weapons, currently used by the troops are of 1960s vintage. The Dragunov sniper rifle, for instance. Or the ATGMs which are on 2nd generation variety.

To begin with the current mix of 7.62 self-loading rifle and the 5.56 INSAS rifle used by some battalions is likely to be replaced by a new double barrel rifle complete with a conversion kit which will enable the troops to make dual use.

When an infantry battalion is deployed in counter-insurgency, counter-terrorism (CI-CT) role , it will have the option to use the 7.62 mm barrel but when it gets posted to a peace station, the 7.62 mm barrel can be mothballed in field stores and the same rifle can then be converted to 5.56 mm bore.

Each infantry battalion in the Indian Army normally holds about 494 pieces of the basic rifles. In the first phase, 120-odd battalions deployed in CI-CT role under Northern and Eastern Command will get these rifles by mid-2014. In phase II, transfer of technology will be ensured and the production will then be taken up by India's Ordnance Factory Board (OFB).

Well-known gun brands like Colt and Beretta are among five or six companies competing for the big tender of 60,000 assault rifles estimated to cost Rs 5,000 crore at current prices. According to Army Headquarters, field trials are currently on and are expected to go on till mid-2013 before a winner emerges.

The current version of the LMGs--45 in each battalion--are of 5.56 mm bore and are bulky at 6.23 kg. The Army plans to replace them with much lighter and more lethal ones with longer range and 7.62x51 mm bore. The general staff qualitative requirements (GSQR) for the new LMGs are being worked out currently, according to informed sources in the Army HQ.

Procurement of 3rd generation ATGMs worth about Rs 2,000 crore is being given priority since the current lot of 8 launchers to each battalion is of much older vintage. The Army wants to graduate from the Milan ATGMs (which has a semi-automatic command line of sight) to a 3rd generation ATGM which will be an 'automatic command line of sight' ability. In other words, it will have the "fire and forget" mechanism. Trials are currently on for this version of ATGMs in the western sector where they would be initially deployed given that tank warfare will dominate any conflict in this area.

The other big procurement on the anvil is the induction of the new generation carbine. India has plans to procure over 43,000 carbines at a cost of over Rs 3,200 crore. Each infantry battalion currently holds an inventory of about 230 carbines. While trials are on, the first induction of the newer generation of carbines is likely to take place in 2014.

Sources in the Army HQ say Army Chief General Bikram Singh, an infantry officer himself, is keen that the foot soldiers in the forefront of CI-CT and conventional operations, get the best of weaponry to match their undoubted courage and commitment.
МиГ-29UPG by Chindits

JSC Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG (part of the United Aircraft Corporation) began to supply upgraded MiG-29 fighters to the Indian Air Force. The first three aircraft are delivered to India by An-124 transport aircraft.
Modernization significantly extends the range of tasks performed by MiG-29. The upgraded aircraft, along with increased capability to fight air targets, acquire the ability to strike ground (surface) moving and stationary targets with precision weapons by day and night and in any weather conditions. 
The maiden flight of the upgraded MiG-29UPG took place on February 4, 2011 at the airdrome of the Flight Research Institute named after M.M. Gromov.
The contract provides repair and modification of aircraft for the purpose of extending the life up to 3,500 flight hours and service life - up to 40 years.
Developments of the RAC MiG can significantly extend the life cycle of MiG-29, which was proven by the experience of modernization in a number of countries.

Kaveri Successfully Completes Official Altitude Testing, Demonstrates First Block Of Flight In Flying Test Bed (FTB) : Indian Defence Minister In Parliament

Pix : Suman Sharma/MAKS airshow 2011-Zhukhovsky,Russia
In Lok Sabha today Defence Minister A K Antony gave an update on the progress made by the Kaveri Engine Development Project as follows:

(i) So far, 9 prototypes of Kaveri Engine and 4 prototypes of Kabani (Core) Engine have been developed.
(ii) 2200 hours of test (ground and altitude conditions) has been conducted.
(iii) The following two major milestones have been achieved:-

---Successful completion of Official Altitude Testing (OAT) ; and
---Demonstration of First Block of flight of Kaveri Engine in Flying Test Bed (FTB).

Kaveri Engine was integrated with IL-76 Aircraft at Gromov Flight Research Institute (GFRI), Russia and flight test was successfully carried out upto 12 km maximum altitude and maximum forward speed of 0.7 Mach No. Twenty Seven flights for 57 hours duration have been completed.

DRDO demonstrated its technological capability in aero-engine technology. This has been a great achievement in the aerospace community of the country, when the first ever indigenously developed fighter aircraft engine was subjected to flight testing. Tacit knowledge acquired by the DRDO scientists during this project will also be applied for further aerospace technology.  Kaveri spin-off engine can be used as propulsion system for Indian Unmanned Strike Air Vehicle (USAV).

The project was sanctioned in March 1989 at an estimated cost of Rs.382.81 Crore and Probable Date of Completion (PDC) of December 1996. The PDC was extended to December 2009 and cost was revised and enhanced to Rs.2839 Crore.  So far, Rs.1996 Crore has been utilized in this project
This information was given by Defence Minister Shri AK Antony in a written reply to Shri Uday Singh in Lok Sabha today.

IAF getting helicopters from Boeing?

Boeing has come up with the lowest tender to supply 15 heavy lift helicopters and 22 attack helicopters to the Indian Air Force (IAF), parliament was informed Monday.

These follow two separate proposals initiated by IAF, Defence Minister A.K. Antony told the Lok Sabha in a written statement.

He said the Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) cost for the 15 heavy lift and 22 attack helicopters was Rs.2,468 crore and Rs.3,094 crore respectively.

“However, the final cost of the contracts would depend upon the outcome of the contract negotiation (with Boeing),” he said.

Members J.M. Aaron Rashid and Avtar Singh Bhadana wanted to know if proper procedures of tendering had been followed.

The minister replied that all capital procurements were carried out as per procedure laid down in the Defence Procurement Procedure, which ensures conformity to the highest standards of transparency and probity.

Statement On Apache For IAF In Indian Parliament, Future Attack Copters For Army

 After formally announcing the CH-47F Chinook's victory in the Indian Air Force's heavy copter competition last week in Parliament, the Indian defence minister has now officially confirmed Boeing's AH-64D Apache Block III win as well. Here's the full statement in Parliament today:

Indian Air Force (IAF) is procuring Chinook Ch-47F heavy-lift helicopters and AH-64D Block-III Apache helicopters from Boeing Company of USA. In the two separate proposals initiated by Indian Air Force (IAF) for procurement of 15 Heavy Lift Helicopters and 22 Attack Helicopters, M/s Boeing of United States of America (USA) with Chinook CH-47F(I) and 'Apache' AH-64D respectively, has emerged as the L1 Vendor. The Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) cost for 15 Heavy Lift Helicopters and 22 Attack Helicopters is Rs.2468.41 Crores and Rs.3094.98 Crores respectively. However, final cost of the Contracts would depend upon outcome of the Contract negotiation with the L1 Vendor.

Importantly, the government also reiterated its recent decision on future attack copter purchases going straight to the Army:

Government has decided to let the Army to have its own heavy duty attack helicopter. The decision to vest the future inductions of attack helicopters with the Army has been taken keeping in view the operational requirements in the field.

The Minister also made the following statement in response to a question on media reports of faulty Chinese-built spares in US aircraft for India:
While Government is aware of certain media reports regarding possible usage of Chinese counterfeit electronic parts in military aircraft manufactured in the US, no P8I aircraft has so far been delivered to India. Moreover, during the last four years of operation of the US defence equipment including C-130J transport aircraft, IAF have not encountered any faulty spare parts and equipment. It has been confirmed from M/s. Boeing, the vendor of P-8I, that no counterfeit parts have been installed on the aircraft to be supplied to India. Besides this, the Indian Air Force (IAF) have acquired a list of supplier from the US Government with respect to aircraft procured from the USA and none of the suppliers are found to be Chinese manufacturers.

BEL signs MoU with Israel Aerospace Industries

Public sector defence major Bharat Electronics Limited India ( BEL) on Monday said the company has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. (IAI).
According to the MoU, both the partners will work together on the future of Long Range Surface to Air Missile (LR-SAM) ship defence system projects.The LR-SAM is an over $500 million joint venture with Israel. This will help the Indian Navy to protect its warships from incoming enemy cruise missiles and fighter aircrafts.

For many years IAI has been engaged in joint development programmes with the DRDO and Indian defence industries for the Indian Navy and Indian Air Force, including joint manufacturing of sub-systems.

The MoU lays out framework for BEL-IAI cooperation, under which BEL will function as the lead integrator and produce major sub-systems. IAI will continue to act as design authority and to produce sub-systems as a main sub-contractor of BEL.

“We see IAI as a strategic partner with a wide range of potential joint activities. This MoU demonstrates that BEL and IAI can work closely together on the most sophisticated and advanced programs, for the mutual benefit of both companies. We will continue to operate under the active support and guidance of the DRDO,” Ramakrishna, Director, Marketing of BEL, said.

‘It is time to end the drift in Ukraine’s ties with India’

Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych, who arrived in India on Sunday evening for a four-day state visit, is prepared to challenge Russia’s dominance of the Indian weapons market and sees “enormous potential” for bilateral trade with India. Before leaving for New Delhi he spoke to Vladimir Radyuhin at his official residence in Kyiv. Excerpts:

India and Ukraine marked 20 years of diplomatic relations this year. What place does India take in Ukraine’s foreign policy and what are your hopes for the coming visit?

Over the past 20 years, our two countries have built a relationship of partnership, friendship and constructive cooperation in many spheres. My current visit to India, the first by a Ukrainian head of state in 10 years, is designed to give a new impetus to our relations after a period of drift under the previous Ukrainian administration. I hope for significant intensification of our economic ties and political contacts at the highest level.

Was the drift you mentioned due to former President Viktor Yushchenko prioritising the western vector of Ukraine’s foreign policy?

It was not a question of priorities. In 2005-2010, Ukraine went through difficult political processes. President Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko were at loggerheads with each other and with Parliament which made it hard to conduct an effective foreign policy. Today, all branches of power in Ukraine work in concert and this has enabled us to launch the first comprehensive programme of economic, social and political reforms in 20 years since independence.

Ukraine is India’s second largest trade partner after Russia in the former Soviet Union. What are the most promising areas for bilateral cooperation?

Our trade, which currently stands at a fairly high level of $3 billion, has enormous potential for growth because our economies are mutually complementary. We are offering India cooperation in fields where Ukraine is very strong — aviation, space, energy, metallurgy, shipbuilding, engineering, chemistry and infrastructure building. Agriculture and tourism are also attractive areas for cooperation. There are many opportunities for Indian business in Ukraine. We have enacted legislation to promote public-private partnership and created favourable conditions for foreign investment.

Ukraine is eager to expand defence cooperation with India. However, many in India are concerned that Ukraine also supplies arms to Pakistan, which engages in terror against India. How do you see the situation?

This is a very sensitive issue and we try not to politicise it. We strictly comply with United Nations’ bans and restrictions and honour all our international obligations. We take account of all factors and act with restraint to avoid provoking enmity or — God forbid — war between nations, but on the contrary, to promote peace and security.

As two biggest defence manufacturers in the former Soviet Union, Russia and Ukraine inevitably compete for Indian contracts. Do you think Ukraine can grab a bigger piece of the pie?

It’s a buyer’s market. We have a very potent defence industry which turns out a wide range of quality systems that are competitive in international markets. We are ready to let our Indian partners closely study our products and decide what is the best for them.

You have said that while integration into Europe is a “strategic priority” for Ukraine, you also aspire to have closer ties with Russia. However, European leaders say Ukraine must choose between the European Union and the Russia-led integration projects. How can you resolve the dilemma?

It’s wrong to force an either/or choice on us. It is in the national interest of Ukraine to look both East and West. Our trade with the EU amounts to $45 billion.
We’re looking to Europe in reforming our legislative and judicial system and in trying to attain high standards of democracy and human rights. But then, our trade with Russia and other former Soviet states exceeds $60 billion, and we can’t ignore the interests of our manufacturers. Geopolitically, we’re destined to be a bridge between Europe and Russia.

Will Ukraine join the Customs Union set up by Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan?

We’re currently harmonising our laws, rules and regulations with those of the Customs Union. It’s a long road but if we don’t do it, our producers will face discrimination and lose the market. Time will show how far we will go in integrating with the Customs Union.

Ukraine seeks to slash imports of expensive natural gas from Russia, but Russia’s Gazprom says this would be a breach of your long-term contract which has a take-or-pay provision. Do you think the two countries are heading for another gas war?

We will certainly reach an amicable settlement. We just don’t have the money to pay for Russian gas almost $200 more [for 1,000 cubic metres] than Europeans pay. We’re looking for alternative supplies, replacing gas with coal and planning to produce synthetic gas from coal. By keeping gas prices for Ukraine high, Russia is losing Europe’s biggest gas market of 70 billion cubic metres a year.

The Opposition threatened mass protests against alleged violations in the recent parliamentary elections, which brought victory to your party. Do you think another “orange revolution” may be possible in Ukraine?

Public mood has changed. Some protest sentiments are there, but radicals do not have much support. People understand that belt-tightening in crisis is a necessary and temporary measure. The government continues to honour its social obligations despite the crisis — salaries and pensions are rising, even if slower than one would like to. The reforms we have launched will soon begin to bear fruit.

Have you been to India before?
I have only transited India on the way to other destinations. I’m very keen to get first-hand experience of India and hope we’ll be able to open a new chapter in our relations.

54 Indian soldiers may be in Pakistan jails: Defence Minister AK Antony

Fifty-four Indian military personnel missing since the 1965 and 1971 wars are believed to be in Pakistani custody, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said on Monday.
These include a member of the Border Security Force (BSF), the minister told the Lok Sabha in a written statement.

He said the government had repeatedly taken up the matter with the Pakistani government but “Pakistan does not acknowledge the presence of any such personnel in its custody”.
Antony recalled that a delegation of 14 relatives of missing Indian defence personnel visited 10 jails in Pakistan June 1-14, 2007.

“The delegation, however, could not conclusively confirm the physical presence of any missing defence personnel.”

He said that in the wake of media reports that some 1971 prisoners of war (POWs) were in a jail in Oman, the Indian embassy in Muscat formally took up the issue with the Omani foreign office.
The mission wanted to know the “factual status and consular access and release of Indian POWs, if any, in Omani jails.

“However, there has been no official and formal response from the Omani side,” the minister said.

66 die in Indian military air crashes

 A total of 66 Indian military personnel were killed in 54 accidents involving Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopters and jets from 2009, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said Monday.
Antony told the Lok Sabha that the government had taken several remedial measures to check the accidents that had taken place almost all over India.

According to a statement laid in the house, the crashed planes include Sukhoi SU 30, MiG 27, MiG 21, Sea Harrier, Kiran and Jaguar jets as well as Dhruv, Cheetah, MI-8 and Chetak helicopters.
Among the places where most crashes took place included Hashimara (West Bengal), Pune, Barmer, Jodhpur, Goa, Guwahati, Gwalior, Jamnagar and Kalaikunda.

Antony said the IAF had taken steps to improve aviation safety by streamlining accident reporting procedures, quality audits of aircraft fleets, and ways to prevent bird hits.
Senior aviation safety functionaries from IAF have visited all flying bases to apprise and caution the operating units about the causes of the accidents, the minister said.
“Accident prevention programmes by the services have been given an added thrust to identify risk prone/hazardous areas specific to the aircraft fleets.”

TATA 155mm/52-cal Motorised Howitzer Detailed

Since none of the “desi” journalists have so far bothered to showcase the first fully-functional prototype of the 155mm/52-calibre truck-mounted howitzer unveilled last week by TATA Power’s Strategic Electronics Division (SED), I might as well as be the one to provide certain insights!
Dubbed as being 55% indigenous by content, this motorised howitzer was jointly developed by TATA Power SED and South Africa’s DENEL Land Systems. Essentially a re-engineered version of DENEL’s T5-52 motorised howitzer (which was showcased during DEFEXPO 2002 along with SOLTAM Systems’ ATMOS, with both of them at that time making use of a TATRA-built truck, the latest ‘avatar’ of this weapon system has unveiled last March/April at the DEFEXPO 2012 expo at Pragati Maidan, New Delhi. At that time, TATA Power SED officials seemed confident of exporting this motorised howitzer to Indonesia. If this deal does fructify, then Indonesia’s Army (TNI-AD) would become the third ASEAN army to procure such howitzers, the other two being the Royal Thai Army with six Nexter Systems-built Caesars in service, and Myanmar’s army with 12 Yugoimport SDPR-built Noras in service.
DENEL Land Systems has supplied the monoblock gun barrel fitted with a double-baffle muzzle brake, gun cradle with an integrated buffer system, swing-and-slide breech mechanism, electrically-activated firing mechanism, autoloader/rammer, ballistics charts, muzzle velocity radar, an automatic laying and land navigation system using a RLG-INS, a panoramic optical-mechanical sight mounted directly to the trunnion, incorporating a compensation system for trunnion cant, which forms a backup for indirect fire, and a telescopic sight for direct fire that is mounted to the compensation system. TATA Power SED, on the other hand, developed the digital ballistics computer, telecommunications system, the hydraulic system that supplies hydraulic power for deployment of the outriggers and the top-carriage hydraulics, all on-board electrical systems, the gun management computer, and the ‘Rajak’ driver’s vision enhancement system. The customised 8 x 8 truck comes from TATA Motors.
Overall, TATA Power SED’s solution is being touted as being the cheapest option, a claim that will undoubtedly be contested by the likes of other contenders like the Larsen & Toubro/Nexter Systems partnership that is offering the Caesar, the Kalyani Group/ELBIT Systems partnership that is likely to offer the ATMOS, and the Punj Lloyd/Yugoimport SDPR partnership that is likely to propose the Nora. However, a simple visual comparison between TATA Power SED’s solution and the Caesar reveals the fact that the latter’s overall design is superior as it can be airlifted by transporters like the C-130J-30. In addition, the Caesar has also been combat proven in both Afghanistan and along the Thai-Cambodian border.
However, one thing is certain: the Indian Army’s demand for such motorised howitzers (labelled by the Indian Army as Mounted Gun Systems), which first arose immediately after OP Vijay in 1999, will be for at least 1,800 units (and not 814 as is being erroneously claimed in some quarters) in the years to come, since it is now virtually certain that the Indian Army will no longer procure the 1,580 towed 155mm/52-cal howitzers that it had earlier planned to, given the fact that the DRDO has succeeded (only God knows how!) in convincing the Ministry of Defence that it, along with India’s private-sector firms and public-sector undertakings, will be able to deliver a futuristic 155mm/52-cal advanced towed artillery gun system (ATAGS) by 2022.
DRDO Brainstorms With Private Industry On 155mm Towed Gun

 A month before the Tata Power Strategic Electronic Division unveiled what was heralded as India's first 'indigenous' artillery gun, the company was among 14 Indian firms that sat across the table with DRDO officials at a three-day brainstorming session in Pune between October 29-31 on the latter's proposed 155mm/52cal advanced towed artillery gun system (ATAGS, since they love their long acronyms).
The four Indian private sector companies that held 'system level interactions' were Tata Power SED, Larsen & Toubro, Bharat Forge Ltd and Mahindra Defence Systems, BHEL along with state-owned BHEL and BEL. Eight private firms that held 'sub-system level interactions' were Dantal Hydraulics, Starwine India Ltd, PSPL, Avasarala Technologies, Accurate Engineering, HBL Power Systems Ltd., Moog Inc and System Controls Ltd.

According to DRDO, the 155mm gun it plans to develop at the Armament Research & Development Establishment (ARDE) in Pune, "Improved firepower to achieve first salvo effectiveness at longer ranges, higher accuracy and enhanced survivability are the primary requirements for this gun system. Efforts are being made to develop new technologies for weapon platforms, automation and control systems, recoil management, materials, etc., to achieve improved weapon performance."

The DRDO labs that propose to be part of the gun development include the Instruments Research and Development Establishment (IRDE), Vehicle Research and Development Establishment (VRDE), Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (CAIR) and DRDO HQ in Delhi.

Fifth Regional Coast Guard Headquarter Commissioned In Kolkata

DSC_0670 by Chindits
Coast Guard Regional Headquarters (North-East) and co-located Station at Kolkata were formally commissioned today by His Excellency, MK Narayanan, Governor of West Bengal at an impressive ceremony attended by Vice Admiral MP Muralidharan, AVSM, NM Director General Indian Coast Guard and a large number of civilian and military dignitaries.

The fifth Regional Headquarters of the Coast Guard at Kolkata has been established in pursuance of the directives of the Cabinet Committee on Security. The region itself was carved out from the Coast Guard Region (East) to strengthen coastal security and augment Coast Guard operations along the northern Bay of Bengal. The Region will exercise operational and administrative control over all Coast Guard assets in West Bengal and Odisha and will have jurisdiction over 1.5 lakh sq kms of the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone, extending upto the Indo-Bangladesh International Maritime Boundary Line. The region will be further strengthened by basing additional ships and aircraft and commissioning of two CG stations one each at Frazerganj and Gopalpur and one CG Air Enclave at Bhubaneswar in near future.

In his address, His Excellency, Shri MK Narayanan the Governor of West Bengal highlighted the need for a pro-active approach by all stakeholders involved in coastal and maritime security to achieve the common goal of national security. He stated that post 26/11, numerous measures have been initiated by the Government of India for enhancing coastal and maritime security and specific responsibilities have been assigned to the Indian Navy and Coast Guard towards this. He further stated that with the setting up of Coast Guard Regional Headquarters (North-East), coordination among all stakeholders involved in Coastal Security in West Bengal and Odisha will get further streamlined and enable them to work in a synergised manner for the protection of the sea areas off the coast of West Bengal and Odisha.

The Coast Guard Region (North-East) is headed by Inspector General KC Pande, TM and the Coast Guard Station (Kolkata) is commanded by Commandant GS Ralhi

Kill Probability Of AAD Poor Compared To 90% Kill Probability Of Iron Dome, India Ready With Own Missile Shield, While Eyeing Israel's David's Sling !!

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Helicopter Pilots Passing Out Parade At INS Rajali Arakkonam

007 by Chindits
An impressive passing out parade was held today to mark the graduation of the 79th Helicopter conversion course at Naval Air station, INS Rajali Arakkonam wherein Seven Navy and three Coast Guard pilots were awarded wings by Vice Admiral Anil Chopra, Flag officer Commanding in Chief, Eastern Naval Command. The pilots underwent rigorous training for 21 weeks in flying and aviation subjects at the Helicopter Training School INAS 561 (HTS). The school has graduated 568 pilots for the Indian Navy and Coast Guard till date and is commanded by Commander Ashish Bhargava. Very recently the unit was also awarded ISO 9001-2008 certification. The base is commanded by Commodore Puneet Kumar Bahl.

Speaking on the occasion Vice Admiral Anil Chopra Reviewing Officer of the prestigious passing out parade has said that with new acquisitions that are underway, the Indian Navy is building a modern and potent air arm to add to the punch at sea. Besides the long range maritime reconnaissance aircraft like the TU and forthcoming P8-I they extend our reach and fighter aircraft like the MIG 29K that provide integral air defence and maritime strike capability, it is the ships integral helicopter which act as force multipliers for the fleet by augmenting the Anti Submarine Warfare, Anti Ship warfare, Electronic Warfare and surveillance capabilities.

The Governor of Kerala Rolling Trophy for the best all round trainee pilot was awarded to Lieutenant Mithun Rajith. The Flag officer Commanding in Chief Eastern Naval Command Rolling Trophy for the trainee pilot standing first in order of merit in flying was awarded to Assistant Commandant Nikhil Hebbale. A book prize for standing first in ground subjects was awarded to Lieutenant Mithun Rajith.

The graduated pilots would be joining operational flights at Mumbai, Port Blair Goa, Kochi, Vizag and Daman.

Dassault Aviation seeks clarity on role of HAL in supply of Rafale fighters to Air Force

After bagging the multi-billion dollar deal for supplying 126 Rafale fighter aircraft to the IAF, French firm Dassault Aviation has asked the defence ministry to define the role of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited in the project.

If the contract is finalised, the first 18 aircraft would be supplied by Dassault directly to the Indian Air Force and the remaining 108 would be licence-produced at HAL facilities in Bangalore.
The French Dassault has asked the ministry to define the role of the premier Indian aerospace company in the final delivery of the 108 aircraft to be produced in India, industry sources told here.
As per the IAF tender issue for the project, the primary role for integration and supply of these aircraft would be of the HAL, which is successfully working on several important fighter aircraft projects such as the Su-30MKI project.

The French company has told the ministry that if it is given the overall responsibility for the project, it should be given the freedom to decide on the proportion of work to be done by the HAL and private companies in the programme, they said.

In that case, the firm would determine the role of the defence and security wing of a new Indian defence company in the project and a major share of work would be given to it, they said.
Soon after Dassault was declared as the lowest bidder for the MMRCA (Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft) deal pipping EAD’s Eurofighter, it signed an MoU with a Reliance Industries Limited company for working together in the security sector. It is currently negotiating the deal with the defence ministry and the IAF.

For completing the Indian project, Dassault has also opened an Indian subsidiary company here. The company named Dassault Aircraft Services India Private Limited (DASIPL) was set up recently and it is 100 per cent owned by its French parent company, they said.

ndian Army ready to deal with any insurgency, says chief

After admitting that rate of infiltration has increased this year in comparison to last year, Chief of Army Staff General Bikram Singh said that Indian defence forces are completely prepared and ready to take on any external aggression, if it happens in the near future.
He said that Army’s commitment to protecting the nation against external aggression, stating that the Army is still alive in the fight against terrorism and other internal security challenges. He said that what we have watched now is a bigger thing, because, in spite of our involvement in fighting internal security threat, we are not losing sight of the fact that our primary responsibility is the defence of external aggression.
“What we have just demonstrated here is that we are ever ready to defend the country. The zeal and high morale of the young passed out officers is enough to send message across that Indian Army is fully capable and prepared to deal with any insurgency,” he reiterated, adding that modernisation and up-gradation of the arms and ammunition including communication equipments is a regular feature in the Indian Army.
He however, reassured towards encouraging research and innovations by the various formations of the Army, towards improving the efforts of the Indian Army. While giving highlighting about the high standards of IMA, Gen Singh said that officers have been fortunate in having been groomed at the academy which has produced some of the world’s finest military leaders, including the legendary field Marshal Sam Manekshaw.
“As young Army Officers, your basic role will be that of a warrior and protector. You will also have to act as an apostle of peace and hope for the citizens of this great country. Wherever and in whatever capacity you are, always remember that you belong to the last bastion of the country and you cannot afford to fail and ever let your country down,” he said, adding that the Indian Army has a formidable image, both at home and abroad. It is an Army known for its long martial traditions with the time-tested ethos of nationalism, patriotism and discipline as its bedrock.
According to him, Indian Army has set benchmarks for valour, courage under fire and selfless sacrifice in four major wars on our borders after independence and in the ongoing internal security commitments and the Army is admired for its prompt and effective response to conduct disaster relief and humanitarian assistance operations in the aftermath of natural calamities. In the global environment, the Army is renowned for its contributions in UN peace keeping operations.  Gen Singh also conveyed appreciation the passing out cadets from Afghanistan, Maldives, Tajikistan, Mauritius and Bhutan.

Indian Navy needs a wider berth

The new Chief of Naval Staff Admiral D. K. Joshi takes command at a time of extraordinary expansion for the Indian Navy.
He has also gone on to say that the Indian Navy — the fifth largest in the world — is ready to protect the country’s economic interests in the South China Sea, particularly the oil blocks off the coast of Vietnam being explored by ONGC.
The Indian Army and the Indian Air force are accustomed to fast growth, but the Navy, after a brief spurt in the mid-80s, suddenly came to a halt. It, however, appears to be back in full steam mode.
However, the Navy’s place within strategic thinking in India, a country with a predominantly landlocked mindset, is uncertain.


According to the Defence Ministry, the Navy has added as many as fifteen ships over the last three years. This includes a leased nuclear submarine from Russia, the Akulla II class.
It will soon take delivery of the much-delayed Russian aircraft carrier retrofitted for Indian use, the INS Vikramaditya. Other ships include three “stealth” frigates of the Shivalik class, resupply tankers and fast attack boats.
The plan is to add five more ships every year for the next five years. The Navy has received a major boost in its surveillance capability with the acquisition of the US-made P8i aircraft, armed with Harpoon missiles. These aircraft will replace an aging fleet of Tu142 and IL38 aircraft of the 80s.
The aircraft carrier group and the nuclear submarine are capabilities, that could, over time, restore Indian maritime primacy in the Indian Ocean waters. The imperial Navy that India inherited from the British controlled seas from Aden to Singapore.
That sea control included an outreach capability over the three critical “chokepoints”— Bandar Abbas in the Persian Gulf, the straits south of Sri Lanka and the Malacca straits in the Singapore littoral.


Besides these impressive strides in hardware, the Indian Navy has also developed two critical bases, at an estimated cost of $3 billion. On the Western Seaboard, the INS Dweeprakshak on the Lakshadweep Island will handle surveillance and base larger war ships. With this base, India has will acquire a robust sea control capability.
On the Eastern Sea Board similarly, India has opened a new base, the naval air station, Baaz. This base will be under the tri-command in the Campbell bay, Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Significantly, it is nearer to the Malacca strait than to India.
The two bases are complemented by India’s longest runway at the INS Rajali in Tamil Nadu that will base the P81 spy aircraft. The Navy has also gone digital with all ships in the process of being linked to a command and control apparatus.


With its ability to remain underwater without refuelling for long periods, the nuclear submarine is the ‘Alpha’ asset. It is virtually impossible to detect and can have several nuclear weapons aboard depending on the configuration. What is more, the nuclear submarine can be far, really far, out at sea.
The Navy is unique in its ability to project power beyond the constraints of national boundaries. After twelve nautical miles, the world is your oyster. Neither the Army nor the Air Force enjoy a similar advantage. For India, the submarine combined with the aircraft carrier battle group provides a critical edge. It is a pity that the Indian mindset is landlocked. The strategic planners need a complete reorientation from brown and white lands of Rajasthan and the Himalayas to the endless oceans. The Navy, to be truly a strategic force, will require two critical changes in India’s way of war.
First, India will have to move away from prioritising the million-plus army and allocate bandwidth and funds for the Navy in strategy.


Second, the Defence Ministry and the Navy with the myriad defence public sector undertakings that they control, need to get their act together. Although Indian-made warships cost a quarter of similar class ships in the West and Japan, the time overruns are very high. The Navy has a staggering delayed delivery schedule. This constrains the force with only about six submarines at any given point at sea. The Indian Navy needs robust oversight and a bold decision — allowing private players in warship building. Some of this is already happening. The hull of Arihant, India’s own nuclear submarine due for sea trials this year, was built by L&T, a private firm.
Such participation can accelerate if India allows majority investment by foreign players in shipbuilding and taps the potential of defence offsets.

Partnership is the way forward. India’s state-owned shipyards are in a growth dilemma — choked with orders they cannot fulfil for lack of technology and funds.
The ocean is too large to be anybody’s playground. Technology, with cruise missiles and potential anti-aircraft carrier missile defence, has shrunk geography.

India shares with democratic countries the maritime advantage — all of them have robust navies. Working with the democracies of the US, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore and Australia will be to its advantage.

This will need diplomatic innovation and a strategic re-jig. Without it, floating assets, even hefty ones, will count for little.
Lastly, the Defence Ministry will need to control leaks on its mother ship. With a nuclear submarine, potentially armed with nuclear weapons out at sea, another such leak could lead to an unthinkable catastrophe. Securing ships is the vital challenge for the Indian Navy in the years ahead.

IAF to now have midair refueling capacity in all Air assets

In a major step to increase its range and operational capabilities, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has decided tbat all its aircraft and helicopters will have the capability for midair refueling.
Disclosing this, the IAF vice chief, Air Marshal D.C. Kumaria, said at the Fifth National Seminar on Aerospace Technologies (N-SAT) recently that the decision applies to all its current and future acquisitions – whether combat jets, transport aircraft, helicopters or other assets.

Only aircraft with this capability will be considered for acquisition in future, he observed adding that technology and strategic requirements have evolved over time and that the IAF decision is in line with the current thinking in military aviation worldwide.

The N-SAT series on military aviation is held by India Strategic defence magazine ( annually. It lays emphasis on a building technological edge for the Indian armed forces, and significantly, most participants agreed that if an air force was not thinking of 20 years hence, they it is already behind the times.

In the late 1970s for instance, Air Marshal Kumaria pointed out, the IAF actually sought removal of aerial refueling plumbing from the Anglo-French Jaguar aircraft even though they were meant for a deep penetration strike role. Today, whether it is the long-range aircraft or helicopters, aerial refueling capability is a key requirement.

It may be noted that IAF’s current acquisition line includes Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules, Boeing C-17 Globemaster, Embraer 145 for electronic radars, Agusta Westland’s VIP role AW 101 helicopters, new AWACS and midair refuelers (Airbus Military MRTT or Russian IL 78) , Rafale fighter jets, and Boeing’s Chinook and Apache helicopters.
The last four items are under various stages of procurement.

The existing Mirage 2000s, Sukhoi Su-30 MKIs and Jaguars already have this capability while on the Mig 29s, its plumbing will be activated during upgrades for midair refueling.
According to defence analyst Air Marshal (retd) Ashok Goel, the inflight refueling capability is standard worldwide now and it would, in fact. cost more to remove it than to have it while acquiring and inducting new aircraft.

All NATO and US aerial assets, for instance, are equipped with midair or in-flight refueling capability and in the Gulf and Afghanistan operations, aircraft were able to conduct multi-mission strikes during single flights.

“This in-flight refueling capability,” Air Marshal Goel told India Strategic, “literally has far-reaching implications, enabling modern aircraft to cover long distances 360 degrees.”
Thanks to the IAF’s Il-78 midair refuelers, its Su-30 combat aircraft have gone up to the US in 2008 to take part in the multi-national Red Flag exercise, and will again do so in 2013, he said.
It may be noted that midair refueling capability will also be on board army and navy combat assets as the Chief of Staff Committee already has a tri-Service agreement on common parameters for same and similar systems needed by them.

The committee is currently headed by the IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne, and he is on record as having said that there are no differences between the three Services on acquiring common systems with same or similar requirements.
Army sources also told India Strategic that it will follow IAF’s Air Staff Qualitative Requirements (ASQRs) while going in for the Apache combat helicopters.