Monday, 28 March 2011

The coast is clear! Securing India’s seaboard

Coast Guard interceptor boat, C-150, commissioned today at Kochi. The 28-metre ship displaces 90 tonnes, has an endurance of 500 NM and can touch 45 knots. It is armed with a Prahari 12.7 mm HMG

by Ajai Shukla
An updated article originally written for the magazine, Defence & Security of India

Two years after an ISI-coordinated terrorist plot in which ten Lashkar-e-Toiba fidayeen sailed out from Karachi, hijacked an Indian fishing boat, and sailed into the heart of Mumbai, undetected, New Delhi has done a great deal to boost the security of its coast line. After having long regarded its northern land borders as the key security challenge, New Delhi has made a significant mind shift in devising and implementing a new, robust Coastal Security Network (CSN).

With the CSN eventually imposing a physical and digital presence across the length of India’s 7600 kilometers coastline, these will be amongst the most carefully watched waters in the world. Physical monitoring will be done by a brand new network of coastal police stations, funded by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA). Supplementing this will be an electronic network, based on a chain of electro-optic sensors --- i.e. radars, and day and night cameras --- housed on the lighthouses and towers that stare out at the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal.

Physical security

Defence and Security of India visited the new coastal police station at Fort Kochi, one of the 73 new outposts that will come up in a 5-year timeframe as the new frontline against seaborne terror. Carrying a distinctive blue-and-white maritime motif to differentiate it from the traditional police thana, the chairs inside still bear their original plastic protective covering. Parked on the waterfront outside are three Fast Interceptor Boats (FIBs), part of a fleet of 204 boats, specially built for the coastal police by defence shipyards: by Goa Shipyard Limited for the Arabian Seaboard and by Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers, Kolkata, for states and union territories on the Bay of Bengal.

Capable of cleaving through the water at 70 kilometres per hour, these boats are manned and operated by coastal policemen. The inspector in charge of the Kochi police station says a police patrol spends three hours each day sailing out to the seaward approaches to Kochi and checking fishing boats for registration papers and identity documents. For this, the policemen draw a sea-going allowance of 50% of basic pay.

Besides regular patrolling, security consciousness is being drilled into the coastal populace through a citizens’ watch, a “Kadalora Jagratha Samithi” (Coastal Awareness Committee) in Kerala. Created by the state police, navy and the coast guard in each coastal district, this uses the dynamic fisherfolk networks to keep an eye on activities across the country’s sprawling fishing grounds.

Even though policing is a state subject, all this is paid for by New Delhi. A lump sum of Rs 400 crores was allocated for setting up the coastal police network, and Rs 150 crores are remitted each year for running expenses, including fuel and maintenance for the boats.

India’s maritime border runs through 9 states --- Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and West Bengal --- and 4 union territories: Daman & Diu; Lakshadweep; Puducheri; and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. After the Mumbai terror attack of 26/11, New Delhi decided that coastal security could not be held hostage to the precarious financial situation of many states.

Besides funding, New Delhi has also allocated clear responsibilities for coastal security. At a seminal meeting held in the wake of 26/11, the Cabinet Committee for Security (CCS) issued detailed orders and allocated the funding needed to ensure a 24x7x365 vigilance. The Indian Navy was charged with overall responsibility for maritime security and for coordinating with the multiplicity of agencies --- including the coastal state and union territory governments; the fisheries department; the department of lighthouses and lightships; and port authorities, amongst others --- that hold various forms of authority along the coastline.

Operating under the navy, the coast guard was made responsible for security within India’s territorial waters, which extend 12 nautical miles (about 22 kilometres) from the shore. The third line of security, the coastal police station network, monitors up to 5 nautical miles (about 9 kilometres) from the coast, and also maintains order on the shore.

Although the navy is overall in charge, the coast guard --- which also safeguards India’s two million square kilometre Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and responds to emergencies in the four million square kilometres Indian Search and Rescue Region (ISRR) --- is being rapidly expanded into a maritime force that will be larger than many countries’ navies. The coast guard’s current fleet of 93 surface ships and 46 aircraft is being more than doubled. Growing as fast as shipyards can build and deliver, the current fleet includes 10 offshore patrol vessels (OPVs); 6 Advanced OPVs; 15 fast patrol vessels (FPVs); 13 inshore patrol vessels (IPVs); 19 interceptor boats, and other craft. The aircraft include 18 Chetak helicopters; 4 Dhruv helicopters and 24 Dornier coastal surveillance aircraft. Another 6 twin-engine, multi-role maritime surveillance aircraft (MRSA) are under fast-track procurement.

“We are implementing a five-year Coast Guard Development Plan”, says a top coast guard official. “Eventually the coast guard will have a fleet strength of around 200 ships and small craft, and around 90 aircraft.”

To man this expanded fleet, the coast guard is recruiting fast. On 25th Oct 2010, Defence Minister Antony announced that the coast guard had been sanctioned an additional 4026 personnel, an increase of more than 30%. This will bring the strength of the “fourth service” up to 12,043 persons, including 1659 officers.

As significant is the expansion of shore establishments, a leisurely process before 26/11. After the 1993 Mumbai blasts, the coast guard had set up 4 stations along the coastline. Immediately after 26/11, the MoHA provided Rs 380 crores for boosting the Coastal Security Network. Seven new coast guard stations --- Ratnagiri; Minicoy; Karwar; Gandhinagar; Veraval; Hutbay and Murud-Janjira --- have already been set up. Another three are planned for 2011 at Mundra, Kolkata and Dahanu. Next on the agenda are 9 more stations at Pipavav; Androth; Karaikkal; Krishnapatnam; Nizampatnam; Gopalpur; Frazergunj; Kamorta and Mayabunder. According to the defence minister, 42 coast guard stations will function along the coast by the end of the current 11th Plan.

Despite this new urgency, the difficulties in implementing the Coastal Security Scheme are staggering. It involves monitoring 3331 designated coastal villages, tens of thousands of fishing boats, and securing dozens of major and non-major ports and harbours. Then there are the peculiar problems of the two major island territories --- the Andaman & Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal and the Lakshadweep chain in the Arabian Sea, both potential staging posts or havens for trouble-makers.

All this will be achieved, senior MoHA officials tell Business Standard, with the help of three ongoing initiatives:

(a) The issue of biometric identity cards to all fishermen, a project that is being handled by state governments, with the Department of Fisheries in New Delhi as the nodal agency. A consortium of PSUs led by Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL), has been asked to capture biometric details, take photographs, digitize the data and design and manufacture biometric ID cards for fisherfolk. In Kerala, for example, ITT Palakkad has already begun collecting biometric data from the fisherfolk community. The MoHA is funding this initiative with Rs 25-30 crores as start-up money.

(b) The Registrar General of India (RGI), which functions under the MoHA, is implementing a project to issue Multipurpose National Identity Cards (MNICs) to the coastal population ahead of Census 2011. The National Population Register, being compiled by the RGI for the census, has been fast tracked for coastal regions. This process will be linked with the smart card initiative mentioned above.

(c) The third initiative, for which the Department of Fisheries is responsible, involves the registration of all sailing vessels under a uniform system under the Merchant Shipping Act, 1958. Earlier, vessels above 300 tonnes had to have an Automatic Identification System (AIS), which identified them as friendly vessels. After 26/11, a new electronic tracking device was identified for all fishing boats larger than 20 feet. And now the Ministry of Shipping is studying a Ministry of Defence request to make this compulsory even for boats below 20 feet length.

New Delhi keeps a sharp eye on the implementation of all these measures. The “National Committee for Strengthening Maritime and Coastal Security (NCSMCS) against threats from the sea”, chaired by the cabinet secretary, is the apex committee for monitoring progress. The NCSMCS includes representatives from all the concerned ministries/ departments/organisations in the government as well as the Chief Secretaries/Administrators of the coastal States/UTs. In addition, Defence Minister AK Antony, keenly aware that the buck stops with the navy, holds regular meetings to personally monitor coastal security.

The digital network

The physical policing of the coastline and territorial waters is just one, albeit crucial, dimension of the CSN. Those human eyes and ears are now being supplemented by a high-tech digital surveillance network, called the Coastal Surveillance Scheme of 2005 (CSS-2005), which will keep a 24x7 watch over the approaches to India’s coastline.

Physically installing visual, infrared and radar sensors all along the coastline is just one challenge. Equally important is the transmission of sensor data to surveillance centres located in the interior, where that information must be integrated into a coherent operational picture.

That challenge has been met says defence PSU, Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), which led a Rs 700 crore project to develop the software for the CSS. On a visit to BEL Bangalore, Defence & Security of India was demonstrated how the system would function in a Remote Operating Station (ROS), the name for the forward layer of coast guard surveillance centres, which receives data from the chain of lighthouses and towers along the coastline.

“Data fusion was a key design challenge”, affirms BEL’s R&D chief, I V Sarma. “If two adjoining radars pick up a single boat, which often happens, the software must recognised that and combine those two images into that of a single boat. Fortunately, BEL had built up enormous experience in data fusion while developing the navy’s Combat Management Systems, which also integrates the inputs from multiple radars on board a warship; and also while building an Integrated Air Command and Control System for the IAF.”

Besides creating a clear operational picture, BEL’s software allows the ROS to remotely manipulate its coastal radars and cameras --- through a Camera Management System --- to observe suspicious objects in greater detail. In a demonstration staged for Defence & Security of India, an oil tanker, which a thermal-imaging night vision camera had detected when it was 36 kilometres from the coast, was declared a suspicious vessel. A click by the operator on the oil tanker’s screen image automatically fed its coordinates to the camera on a lighthouse, which zoomed in quickly, allowing the operator in the ROS a detailed look.

The software also performs other tasks that include monitoring the health of the remote systems; and an alarm system that alerts the operators when a vessel enters a designated “sensitive zone”;

“The hardware for the surveillance systems is still imported”, admits BEL, “but we are working on developing that indigenously.” The IR camera is Israeli and the day-cum-low-light camera is Canadian. The coastal surveillance radar that scans the coastline is from Danish company, Terma.

In Phase 1 of the CSS, the coast guard will set up 46 electro-optic sensor stations in high-threat areas, and 12 ROSs. Phase 2 will see this expanded to the entire coastline over three years. The most recent installations are radar stations in Dwarka and Navodra, which feed into a ROS at Porbandar, about 100 km away. Distance is irrelevant, with data being transmitted through two dedicated lines of 2 MBPS each.

The 12 ROSs feed into one of four Regional Operating Centres (ROCs) at Mumbai, Kochi, Chennai and Visakhapatanam. Finally, all this information is fed in real time to the apex Control Centre at New Delhi, where it is integrated into a single national-level picture.

Just the start

The structure of the Coastal Security Network is regularly tweaked, based on Vulnerability Gap Analyses carried out by coastal states and UTs. Phase II of the Coastal Security Scheme has already been drawn up. This will see the number of coastal police stations boosted, even doubled, along with the resources allocated to each. Home ministry officials emphasise that all this is just the start of a truly comprehensive coastal security network that will provide the Maritime Domain Awareness needed to deter potential intruders.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Answer to Quiz: How does one differentiate between a Dhruv Mk III and a Dhruv Mk I

(Photos: courtesy Ajai Shukla)

The Dhruv Mark III has been improved over the earlier Dhruv models with the fitment of 21 improved systems. The differences that are visually apparent include:

1. The Turbomeca Shakti engine, which has a sleeker air intake, which is slanted backwards and set more flush with the engine cowling than the intakes of the 2B2 engine in the Dhruv Mk I.

2. The Dhruv Mk III has an glass cockpit with an Integrated Standby Instrument System (ISIS), built by Datasol, Bangalore.

3. A Standby Engine Instrument (SEI), built by Astronautics, Israel, which provides emergency engine information when all the multi-function displays (MFDs) go blank, or the computer fails totally. The SEI system consists of the basic instruments required to fly and to land the helicopter, including a gyro horizon, an airspeed indicator, a barometric altimeter, current heading through a magnetic compass, and engine parameters, including torque, rpm, and power. All these parameters are fed from separate stand-alone sensors --- not from the main systems --- in order to provide true redundancy.

4. An Active Vibration Control System (AVCS), a 3-D vibration control system in which 6 circular actuators nullify the natural vibrations of the main and tail rotors, as well as the many gearboxes on the Dhruv. This is done by detecting the vibrations and generating an opposite set of forces. You can see two of the actuators fitted on the rear wall of the Dhruv.

5. A noise reduction blanket that coats the inside of the helicopter cabin.

6. A state-of-the-art pilot’s seat, built by Fisher, Germany

Thursday, 24 March 2011

DRDO looks beyond HAL for Tejas production

The first LCA Navy, undergoing final fitment at the ARDC in HAL. The DRDO believes that HAL is overloaded and needs to outsource more of its production to private production agencies

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 24th Mar 11

Over the last two decades, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) and the DRDO’s Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) have cooperated closely in developing the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) to replace the ageing MiG-21s of the Indian Air Force. Now, with 40 fighters on order for the IAF’s first two Tejas squadrons, ADA is pushing HAL to outsource more of the Tejas’ production, including to the private sector, to boost production to the levels needed by the Indian Air Force (IAF).

A high-level HAL team is touring the production facilities of the world’s three biggest fighter manufacturers — Boeing and Lockheed Martin in the US; and Eurofighter in Europe — to examine how Tejas’ production can be raised from the eight fighters per year that HAL’s Tejas production line in Bangalore will start building next year. The IAF will eventually need 120-140 Tejas, while the Navy will require another 20-40 fighters.

The DRDO aeronautics chief, Prahlada, who also oversees ADA, told Business Standard, “We have asked HAL to find a way to step up Tejas production. They should look for alternatives, like more outsourcing, or setting up joint ventures [to build sub-systems of the Tejas]. This will also help HAL to grow. But each agency knows its own problems best… only they know where the shoe pinches! So, HAL knows best how to fix their problem.”
HAL, however, blames the slow production of Tejas fighters on the IAF’s placement of piecemeal orders. “We are also responsible to our shareholders. With an initial order for just 20 Tejas fighters, how much money could we have realistically invested in a production line?” asks P Soundara Rajan, HAL’s director, corporate planning and marketing. “So far, future Tejas orders of 100-120 more fighters are only plans. When an order is actually placed, we will be justified in upgrading our production line to produce more aircraft. Outsourcing to industry is something that we are already doing.”

Currently, HAL is building 40 Tejas fighters for the IAF, the initial IAF order of 20 fighters doubled recently with a second order. While HAL builds these 40 Tejas Mark I fighters, ADA will develop the Tejas Mark II, replacing the existing GE-404 engine with the more powerful GE-414 engine that powers the Swedish Gripen and the F-18 Super Hornet aircraft. ADA plans to develop the Tejas Mark II by 2014 and begin production the next year.

Behind the Tejas’ slow production rate is the fact that HAL simply has too much on its plate. The Aircraft R&D Centre (ARDC), the HAL department that has built the first 15 Tejas prototypes, is simultaneously developing the Tejas Mark II; the Sitara Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT); the Indo-Russian Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA); the Indo-Russian Multi-Role Transport Aircraft (MRTA).

“Each Tejas is built individually, with the ARDC tweaking the design to incorporate multiple improvements and changes. Once the Tejas goes into serial production, like the MiG or Sukhoi-30 fighters, ARDC will have less work. But, presently, ARDC is highly loaded… and there is competition for attention and priority,” say HAL sources.

Despite that, there is no proposal for a second Tejas production line. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has nominated HAL as the DRDO’s only production agency for aircraft. But the DRDO believes the growing number of projects will leave no choice but to locate a private sector partner for building aircraft, a field monopolised since independence by HAL.

“The earlier (the MoD finds an alternative) the better it will be because, in a country as big as India, with so many ongoing aircraft development programmes, we need at least two integration agencies. Preferably one government one private… this will lead to competition, better productivity, and the spreading of risk,” says Prahlada.

While ARDC builds the last two Tejas prototypes, HAL has already begun work on the first of the 40 Mark I production fighters. Meanwhile, ARDC is completing the first naval LCA, which is designed to operate off aircraft carriers. The navy is likely to ask for a limited series of eight LCAs, which will also be built by ARDC.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Broadsword quiz... How does one visually differentiate between this Dhruv Mk III and the earlier models?

A Dhruv Mark III, painted in army camouflage colours, ready for delivery at HAL, Bangalore.

Brownie points for those who can fully list out the improvements in the Mk III over the earlier Dhruv

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Antony, pull the plug on the MMRCA

The five-Tejas flypast at the inauguration of the Aero India 2011 show at Bangalore on 9th February. The IAF has already placed orders on HAL for the first 40 Tejas Mk 1 fighters

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 22nd Mar 11

Indian Air Force chief, Air Chief Marshall PV Naik, has surprised everyone by declaring more than once that the ministry of defence was just days away from deciding the winner of the keenly-watched global tender to sell the IAF 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) for an estimated Rs 42,000 crore. Naik was evidently hustling his boss, Defence Minister AK Antony, into an early decision, illustrating how narrow service considerations often trump the national interest. For Antony, who has indicated that the contract would be finalised before March 2012, these are the last few months to reconsider what will be a giant white elephant.

Antony cannot be swept away by the fighter pilot community’s simplistic argument that credible defence against China and Pakistan depends upon building up 42 fighter squadrons, up from the 32 squadrons that currently exist today. Instead, he must take a broader view, considering three key questions. Firstly, is victory in the air in modern warfare about mere aircraft numbers or about capabilities? Increasingly, digital networking and command and surveillance systems are significant force multipliers, allowing one squadron to do the job of three. But those networks involve top-secret source codes that no developer parts with, not even for Rs 42,000 crores. If the IAF has to be, as it often insists, a fully integrated and networked force, it must develop its own fighters, complete with network systems.

Given that truth, and India’s evolving ability to build its own fighters, Antony’s second question should be: given our limits on defence spending, would it not make better long-term sense to invest the MMRCA billions in enhancing our flimsy infrastructure for aeronautical development? Would wisdom not lie in accepting a 32-squadron air force for some years in order to develop ourselves as a comprehensive aeronautical engineering powerhouse? Beyond the lip service paid to indigenisation, the 2011-12 defence budget allocates a mere Rs 4628 crore for the military’s capital expenditure on R&D; while allocating Rs 27,322 crore for the capital purchase of aircraft and aero engines. The project to develop an Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA), with custom-designed plug-ins to the IAF’s command networks, has so far been allocated a paltry Rs 90 crores.

A ten billion dollar infusion would fund a world-class infrastructure base of academic and training institutions; facilities for fundamental research; the upgrading of our ancillary aerospace industrial base; the building of test ranges; and adequately-funded programmes to plug our capability gaps, especially in aircraft engines, radars and missiles. A decade down the line, with the AMCA reaching completion, India would never again look abroad for a medium fighter. With the evident success of the indigenous Tejas programme reinforced by the forthcoming experience of co-developing the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) with Russia, India’s aircraft designers and manufacturers need to be supported with all the financial muscle that the MoD can muster.

Thirdly, Antony must consider the question of insurance. And he should ensure with his US counterpart that, if our security environment suddenly deteriorates 3-5 years down the road, the IAF would have access to a better combat aircraft than any of the MMRCA candidates. By then the 5th-generation US-built F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will be entering operational service. Unlike the 4th-generation MMRCA contenders, the F-35 will remain a cutting-edge fighter for another four decades.

Like children running heedlessly towards a cliff, the MoD and the IAF seem deaf to all warnings, even to the multiple tales of woe emerging about the MMRCA contenders. In a report commissioned by the UK MoD (“Management of the Typhoon Project”, released on 28th Feb 2011) the British CAG points out that the Eurofighter Typhoon, which was conceived as an air-to-air fighter, will have full ground attack capability only by 2018. “Problems with spares availability” has meant that the Typhoon “has had to take parts from some of its Typhoon aircraft to make other aircraft available to fly”. Despite that, the Typhoon has fallen 13% short of its target in annual flying hours, permitting only limited training by RAF pilots. Between Nov 09 and Aug 10, just “15% of pilots had sufficient training hours to perform tasks beyond air defence”. The report says that it will take another 5 years for the situation to be remedied.

It says something about the IAF’s attitude towards indigenisation that it takes careful cognizance of Indian CAG reports critical of homegrown systems like the Dhruv and the Tejas. But when it comes to a foreign aircraft, the criticism is not taken seriously.

It is this tolerance for foreign folly that has made India the world's largest arms importer, having bought a staggering 9% of all weaponry sold internationally between 2006–10 (figures: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute). Unwilling to back our own defence industry, the MoD seems comfortable with the idea of bailing out others. Earlier this month, Sweden’s defence minister announced that, without an Indian or Brazilian order, his air force would not develop the new Gripen fighter till at least 2018. But, trailing his coattails before New Delhi, he declared that it could be done by 2013-14 if a foreign order came in.

It is not too late for Antony to pull the plug on the MMRCA. The cancellation of that tender will be infused with a hugely positive buzz if it is accompanied by a public declaration to invest significant funds into fast-tracking the AMCA project. This single step would galvanize India’s aerospace sector, including the industrial eco-system that must underpin fighter development. For Antony, it would be a personal triumph, burnishing his nationalistic credentials and highlighting his emergence as a defence minister with the vision to end India’s dependence on foreign arms purchases.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Happy Holi!

Broadsword wishes all its visitors a very happy Holi... that great Indian festival of colours. May you all have a wonderful time and be able to wash off the colours in time for the inevitable arrival of... MONDAY!

Friday, 18 March 2011

India’s pirate catch, a drop in the ocean

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 18th Mar 11

In 17th century London, shipping merchants gathered at Edward Lloyd’s Coffee House to pool money for underwriting the risks faced by trading galleons that sailed into pirate-infested waters like the Caribbean Sea. Today, some 300 years later, Lloyds --- now housed in an ultra-modern building in the same area --- is witnessing a dramatic resurgence of the marine insurance business through which it has become one of the world’s biggest insurers. Over the last three years modern-day pirates, operating largely from war-torn Somalia and island hideouts around the Strait of Malacca, have hijacked 174 ships, most of them cargo vessels, earning an estimated US $60 million in ransom annually. The International Maritime Organization says that 30 vessels and 685 crewmen are currently held along the Somali coast.

The pirates follow a simple modus operandi. Operating from a “mother ship”, usually a captured cargo vessel that can remain at sea for extended periods and sail as far as India’s western coast, they are alerted to vulnerable vessels by watchers on the Somali coastline who talk to them over satellite phones. Having identified their target, a boarding party of young Somalis, armed with AK-47s and rocket launchers and equipped with grappling hooks, approaches the unarmed cargo vessel in a small, fast-moving skiff that is powered by outboard motors. The pirates, usually high from chewing the popular Somali intoxicant, khat, compete to board the target vessel. The first man to scale the side of the vessel with his grappling hook is rewarded, usually with a car.

The captured vessel, its crew hostage, is sailed to the Somali coast, where the pirates are in cahoots with the radical, Al Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab militia that controls much of Somalia. The ransom paid by insurance companies for the release of vessel and crewmen is shared between the pirates, Al-Shabaab and local officials. There is concern that this ransom money indirectly bankrolls Al Qaeda.

Little has been achieved by patrolling the waters around the Horn of Africa by warships from the European Union Naval Force (EUNF), the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), a US-led coalition, and by several navies that operate independently, including those of Russia, China and India. Indian naval warships have carried out anti piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden since October 2008, escorting some 1500 ships. But with cargo vessels reluctant to adhere to the irksome rules of convoying, in which naval warships escort groups of freighters through the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC) --- a piracy prone, 500-nautical mile stretch at the mouth of the Gulf of Aden ---- pirates are hardly short of prey.

Now, according to The Times newspaper, Lloyd’s is leading an initiative in which insurance companies will bankroll a private fleet of 18 armed patrol boats to protect shipping around the Gulf of Aden. Called the Convoy Escort Programme (CEP), this is reportedly being supported by the shipping industry, including the Baltic and International Maritime Council (Bimco), as well as by the governments of UK and the USA.

India has been more successful in patrolling its coastal waters, particularly around the Lakshadweep Islands, where the Indian Navy launched Operation Island Watch last November. After capturing a pirate ship in January and another in February, the navy achieved its most significant success on 12th March, when a naval task force captured a pirate mother vessel, along with 61 pirates.

But there remains concern, as Defence Minister AK Antony told parliament on 14th March, that piracy is moving from the Somalian coast towards the Indian coastline. The reason for this is the bottleneck between India’s Lakshadweep Islands and the Maldives, into which all vessels transiting between West Asia and South East Asia are funnelled. For the pirates, the predictable flow of oil tankers and cargo vessels through this maritime superhighway provides attractive pickings.

The MoD’s annual report, which was tabled in parliament on Wednesday, notes, “The presence of Somali pirates in the waters around our western island territories has been an unwelcome development which requires heightened vigil… The linkages between terrorists based in Somalia and transnational organized crime is also a cause of major concern globally.”

While the MoD focuses on security, the Ministry of Shipping is concerned at the adverse impact on India’s sea trade. Insurance rates to and from India’s west coast were hiked 300% in mid-December after “war risk premium” was extended from the mid-Arabian Sea (longitude 65 degrees East) to the entire Indian west coast. The government hopes to ease insurance rates by delivering greater security around its own patch of the Arabian Sea, but has concluded that it will take a United Nations-led operation to tackle piracy holistically, especially the instability in Somalia that breeds piracy and provides safe havens to the pirate groups.

The MoD’s annual report states, “India is in favour of strengthening multilateral cooperation under a UN framework to meet the complex challenges of maritime security.”

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

US Marine Corps reaffirms the faith with the F-35. The Marines will buy the carrier as well as the STOVL variants

Photo: the first two production F-35 fighters undergoing final assembly at Lockheed Martin

The Pentagon is hardly backing off --- contrary to what opponents of the F-35 JSF love to believe --- from the large-scale induction of this fifth generation strike fighter into the US military.

Make no mistake all ye sceptics! The Joint Strike Fighter will sport the IAF roundel by 2020. I'm not so sure about the MMRCA.

A press release from the American Forces Press Service is pasted below.

Navy and Marine Corps leaders sign agreement on purchase of fighter aircraft

09:40 GMT, March 15, 2011 WASHINGTON | U.S. Navy and Marine Corps leaders yesterday signed an agreement by which the Corps will join the Navy in buying the F-35 joint strike fighter variant designed for aircraft carriers, service leaders announced on Monday, March 14. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead, and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James F. Amos signed a memorandum of agreement on Monday on the purchase of F/A-18E/F and F-35B/C fighter jets they say will improve air capabilities for both services.

Under the agreement, the two services will buy 680 F-35s. The Navy will buy 260 of the F-35C carrier variant, and the Marine Corps will buy 80 of the F-35Cs, along with 340 of the F-35Bs, a short-take off, vertical-landing variant. The Corps will assign five of its air squadrons to flying the F-35Cs in the Navy’s carrier air wing, the agreement says.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced in January that he was placing the F-35B on the equivalent of two years probation due to testing problems with the STOVL aircraft.

Monday’s agreement demonstrates the commitment of Gates, Mabus and Roughead to the purchase of the F-35B, Thomas E. Laux, the Navy’s deputy assistant secretary for air programs, said during a press briefing. “These quantities match the fiscal 2012 budget request,” he said.

The F-35Cs will be assigned to the Navy’s aircraft carriers, while the “B” variants are assigned to L-class ships, Laux said. “Our priority is to do testing of the F-35Cs on the carrier,” he said. “We will learn a lot about the F-35Bs on the L ships” to determine if the STOVLs may be used on carriers.

The agreement reflects the “enduring partnership” of Navy and Marine Corps aviation, Laux said. Training for the aircraft will be “completely integrated,” and there will be only one pipeline, he said.

The combination of F-35B and C variants, along with the F-18s, will improve the services’ advance air capabilities, service officials said.

“Together, the Navy and Marine Corps are stronger than they are alone,” Laux said. “Together, we are more formidable than we are apart.”

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Broadsword quiz... level "challenging". What ship is this and what does it do?

Here is something to cheer you all up after your unsuccessful tries in the last couple of quizzes! Don't just give me the name of the ship. I expect MORE....

Monday, 14 March 2011

FBI trains Indian police on crime scene management and forensics

An example of the more useful cooperation that is growing between Washington and New Delhi. Pasted below is a press release from the US Embassy in Delhi.


NEW DELHI -- The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), in partnership with the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs, on Friday March 11 concluded a five-day law enforcement exchange focusing on crime scene management and evidence collection techniques. The exchange took place at the Central Detective Training School of the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD) in Chandigarh, Punjab.

Following the conclusion of the training, U.S. Ambassador to India Timothy J. Roemer remarked: “the evolving nature of terrorist and criminal acts requires an array of sophisticated tools, specialized examination, and scientific methods to ensure that culprits are successfully brought to justice. All Indians and Americans alike – from police officers to the average citizen – benefit when our law enforcement officials have the proper training and expertise to effectively analyze a crime scene and accurately determine the perpetrators of heinous crimes that target innocent civilians.

“After the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, the U.S. and India cooperated closely to provide the forensic work and testimony that convicted terrorist mastermind Ajmal Kasab. Collaboration between the U.S. and India helped bring him to justice. Transnational criminals and terrorist organizations know no borders, and exchanges such as this one are an excellent method for the U.S. and India to partner together to enhance our shared capabilities and fight a threat that is faced by every country.”

Sixteen Indian officers, selected by the Ministry of Home Affairs and BPRD from state agencies across India, participated in the exchange. FBI subject matter experts came to India to discuss best practices on a variety of crime scene issues with participants. Topics covered include crime scene administration and management, body fluid and blood collection, crime scene photography, DNA evidence collection, hair and fiber collection, latent fingerprints, and human remains recovery.

The INS Kalpeni, which intercepted a pirate mother ship in the Arabian Sea yesterday

The INS Kalpeni being handed over to the Indian Navy last October in Kochi. Today, 61 pirates sit on its deck! The official account of the incident is pasted below


On the night of 12th Mar 11, at about 2100 hrs INS Kalpeni intercepted a pirate mother vessel called Vega 5 in the Arabian sea about 600 nautical miles west of India. 13 crew members were resuced and 61 pirates have been nabbed.

On 11th Mar 11, a Naval Dornier while responding to a call from MV Vancouver Bridge under pirate attack, located Vega 5 a pirate mother vessel in the area. Seeing the naval aircraft, the pirates immediately aborted their piracy attempt and the mother vessel attempted to escape from the area. Whilst IN Maritime Patrol Aircraft continuously tracked the pirate mother vessel Vega 5, Indian Naval Ships Khukri ( a missile corvette) and Kalpeni (a Water Jet Fast Attack Craft) already deployed for anti piracy patrol, were diverted to intercept and investigate Vega 5.

On the night of 12 Mar 11 INS Kalpeni closed Vega 5. In the darkness, the pirate mother vessel launched two skiffs which fired at Kalpeni. INS Kalpeni responded with limited firing. Thereafter it was observed that a fire had broken out on Vega 5 (mother vessels are known to carry additional fuel drums to fuel the skiffs). Personnel were also seen jumping overboard. INS Kalpeni in conunction with INS Khukri recovered 74 personnel comprising 61 pirates and 13 members of the original crew of the fishing vessel. Preliminary investigations revealed that the pirates were carrying about 80 to 90 small arms/rifles and a few heavier weapons (likely to be RPGs).

Vega 5, a Mozambique flagged fishing vessel was hijacked on 28 Dec 10 and has thereafter been used as ‘mother vessel’ for piracy operations. This vessel had been a risk to international shipping for last four months and has carried out several attacks.

Naval ships and aircraft are presently in the area searching for any other fishermen/pirates.
South Eastern Arabian sea is a focal point of international traffic and the security of these sea lanes in the Arabian Sea is critical to the flow of global trade. In addition to the anti-piracy patrols being sustained in the Gulf of Aden since Oct 2008, in view of the dangers from vessels such as Vega 5, the Indian Navy and the Coast Guard have been maintaining vigil West of the Lakshadweep Islands in the last four months. This has proved effective and piracy incidents in this area have seen a 60% decline since December 2010.

It may be recalled that Indian Navy has already apprehended two pirate mother ships on 28 Jan and 05 Feb 11 in the Arabian Sea. A total of 43 pirates had been apprehended in these incidents. The present apprehension of 61 pirates in one incident is the most significant success against the pirates so far. The manner in which the firm and resolute actions have been taken by the Indian Navy demonstrates the nation's determination to strengthen safety of merchant shipping in the international sea lanes in the Arabian Sea with due regard to international humanitarian law, even when dealing with a group of hardened pirates.

Innovation Track: Detecting explosives at the click... er, sniff... of a mouse

How it works: People being scanned pass through a Bioexplorers system and a fan passes air into a sensor receptor which has four to eight mice. If the mice sniff explosives or drugs, they move into another chamber, setting off an alarm

Israeli startup Bioexplorers has developed a new and unique way to sniff out terrorists - literally. After years of research, company CEO Eran Lumbroso says Bioexplorers has hit upon a foolproof, non-invasive and easy method to detect contraband in purses, luggage and even cargo - using mice.

It's no joke. "Mice have an excellent sense of smell, they're relatively easy to train and they're easier to use for odor detection than other animals traditionally used for their olfactory capabilities."

Dogs are most often used by security forces to detect drugs and explosives, says Lumbroso, but they generally respond to the directions of their trainer, making their work more of an art than a science. "I was looking for a way to automate and mechanize the training process, so it could be duplicated easily and installed in a variety of settings. And we have been able to achieve that goal using mice."

Mice get it right every time

Here's how it works: A person passes through a passageway in which a Bioexplorers system is installed. A fan passes air into a sensor receptor, and delivers it into a chamber with several mice. The mice, having gone through intensive behavioral training, sniff the air. If the odor is one associated with items the mice have been trained to recognize, like drugs or bombs, they move into another chamber - setting off an alarm. Security officers can then move in and stop the appropriate suspect.

"The mice rarely make an error, and the entire procedure is far less invasive or intimidating than the alternatives, like using dogs or X-ray machines," says Lumbroso. "There's no radiation, and no concern about being seen naked," he adds.

The system is appropriate for use in any setting - airports, government buildings, shopping malls. In fact, the company has conducted several tests at sites in Israel to ensure that the sensors work in real situations, including at Tel Aviv's Azrieli Mall. More than 1,000 people passed through a Bioexplorers sensor - some having been given "suspicious" objects and substances to hold - and the mice made the right call every time, says Lumbroso.

The rodents employed on this security detail are specially raised lab mice, "which are very clean, and there is no chance that they will transfer diseases to humans, since there is no contact between the mice and the people passing through the sensor," says Lumbroso.

The mice are trained over a period of about two weeks using a patented computerized program based on Skinner-style behavior theory and methods, "which we have tweaked using our own special technology and methodology," Lumbroso says.

Rodents train easier than canines

He stresses that the mice are treated well; they "work" for four hours, and then rest for eight, to ensure they don't experience sensory overload.

Each mouse's "career" can be expected to last for about two years, and each sensor installation is staffed by four to eight mice. In order to prevent "false positives," more than one mouse has to respond to the odor and move into the second chamber.

Lumbroso, who has a background in biology, has been working on the Bioexplorers system since 2004. "Most animals have senses of smell that can detect the items we search for, but it's easier to train mice than many other animals," especially dogs, the four-legged mainstay of the smell-detection industry.

"The main advantage of mice is that they can be integrated in a standardized training program, easily duplicable and deployable in numerous settings," Lumbroso says.

With the product ready for market, the four-man Herzliya-based company has seen a great deal of interest, says Lumbroso, who is also looking for investors. Until now, funding has come from several angel investors, and Lumbroso hopes to secure new funding "to bring the project to the next level."

The first systems will most likely be deployed in airports and public buildings, and a version for cargo examination has been developed as well. The system, which has not yet been priced, will be turnkey for buyers, and the company will carry out the necessary staff training. "We are also looking at developing systems for medical use, in which the mice can detect growths or other problems by smell, without the need for invasive procedures," Lumbroso says.

Meanwhile, the company is close to closing some deals for deployment of the system. "Chances are good that in another year or so, you'll be passing through a Biosensor system when you travel somewhere," predicts Lumbroso.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Strategic Forces Command test Prithvi and Dhanush missiles

Above and right: Photographs of the two short-range ballistic missile tests that were conducted today by the Strategic Forces Command.

The official DRDO press release after today's tests is reproduced below:


Ship launched Dhanush Missile was successfully test fired from the Indian Naval Ship “INS SUVARNA” off the coast of Orissa. The event took place at 10.03 A.M on 11th March 2011. Dhanush is a ship launched Missile against surface and sea targets. All the Radars and Electro optical systems located along the coast have tracked the vehicle and monitored all the parameters. Ship located near the impact point has witnessed the final event. The flight test was perfect like a text book trajectory with the missile reaching the target point with a very high accuracy of less than few meters.

The surface to surface Prithvi (P-II) Missile was successfully flight tested at 11 A.M from LC-III, ITR, Chandipur within one hour of Dhanush Missile test. The trajectory of the Missile was also monitored by all the Telemetry, Radars and Electro Optical Systems all through the flight. Prithvi(P-II) reached the designated target with accuracy of few meters, which can be achieved by very few Missiles in the World. The down range Ship at the impact location witnessed the final event.

Both Dhanush and Prithvi Missiles were launched by the Strategic Force Command as part of the regular user training exercise. The Missiles were taken from the Depot and launched from both the locations within one hour duration by two independent teams.

The two Missiles were test fired within five days of the successful demonstration of Ballistic Air Defence Missile System on 6th March 2011, by DRDO. The series of successful launches boosted the morale of the Scientists and Armed Forces. The Missiles have been integrated with a very high level of quality under the supervision of Missile Systems Quality Assurance Agency MSQAA.

All the launch operations of both the Missiles were monitored by Director, DRDL, Shri P. Venugopalan, Director, ITR, Shri SP Dash, Programme Director, Shri VLN Rao and number of Scientists of DRDO. Scientific Advisior to Raksha Mantri and DRDO chief Dr. VK Saraswat witnessed both the launches from ITR, Balasore. Raksha Mantri Shri AK Antony congratulated all the DRDO Scientists, Technicians, Quality Agency and Armed Forces for the successful launch of the two Missiles.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Broadsword quiz... level "easy". What's that in the photo?

After the two last difficult quizes, here is something to make you feel good about yourselves! What is it that you see in this photograph. Easy one....

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Engage Pakistan’s army

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 8th Mar 11

The going-nowhere dialogue with Pakistan will restart later this month when foreign secretary, Nirupama Rao, meets with her counterpart, Salman Bashir. As our foreign ministry well understands, a fresh start does not guarantee fresh results. The dialogue is doomed to failure for the simple reason that New Delhi will again be talking to proxies, with the military --- the real power centre in Pakistan --- exercising its veto from the shadows.

Few would dispute that New Delhi must engage Pakistan’s democratic leadership, providing them credibility and building a constituency for peace. But Indian decision-makers have blundered in leaving all interaction with the Pakistan Army to the US and the UK, both of which are being manipulated with consummate ease by a Rawalpindi club that has perfected this art since the Cold War days of Ayub Khan. It is time for New Delhi to buttress its political dialogue with a direct engagement of the men in khaki. The best way to begin that is through military-to-military ties.

For two reasons, this is a controversial suggestion. The first is democratic India’s penchant for playing by the rules: political and diplomatic engagement, New Delhi reasonably believes, is the preserve of politicians and diplomats, not soldiers. The second reason is the outdated apprehension that allowing India’s military a role in engaging Pakistan might encourage praetorian pretensions of the kind that have politically eviscerated our western neighbour.

Ask a New Delhi bureaucrat about the possibility of the two army chiefs talking to each other and you will get the acid retort: “There is absolutely no question of General VK Singh discussing the Kashmir issue with General Kayani.”

But Kashmir is hardly about to head the agenda in any military-to-military engagement. Many Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) already exist, including a 1998 prohibition on attacking each other’s nuclear facilities; a 2005 agreement to notify each other before testing ballistic missiles; a 1991 agreement to notify each other about military exercises near the border; a 1991 agreement on preventing airspace violations; and agreements for border meetings and communications links, including a hotline between the two Director Generals of Military Operations, or DGMOs. What is needed now is an institutionalised system of visits and exchanges that will turn faceless, nameless, dehumanised enemies into rivals that one knows and meets.

Any form of interaction --- even a game of golf at a hypothetical Annual India-Pakistan Military Commanders’ Conference, held alternately in New Delhi and Islamabad --- would gradually erode the bitterness and mistrust that is the legacy of Kashmir, Bangladesh, Kargil and Siachen: names that symbolise perfidy and ill-intent on both sides of the border. To illustrate the extent to which distrust prevails: very few responsible Indians would consider invading Pakistan at short notice today; but the Pakistan Army’s General Headquarters (GHQ) at Rawalpindi has, despite assurances from India, decided against thinning out its defences against India to reinforce the troops operating against militants in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (the erstwhile North West Frontier Province).

This complete absence of personal knowledge was not always the case. Until the mid-1970s, senior generals on both sides had served together before independence. General (later Field Marshall) Cariappa could actually consider an impromptu road trip to Lahore at the height of the 1947-48 war to discuss an issue with a Pakistani general. Today, however, Pakistani and Indian soldiers known each other only as targets in the cross hairs of weapons. But when they meet and work together, for example on UN missions, wariness turns quickly into respect and camaraderie. Capitalising on this soldierly affinity, New Delhi must renew its offer to Islamabad --- made earlier in 2004-05, but turned down then by Pakistan --- of direct military-to-military CBMs.

The value of such contacts was evident during the 1999 Kargil conflict when, even as the two armies battled each other, the two DGMOs spoke to each other regularly. As Lieutenant General SS Chahal recounts, his conversations with his Pakistani counterpart, Major General Tauqir Zia, were always courteous and resulted in the defusing of several thorny issues, especially when the Pakistani Army was withdrawing across the Line of Control (LoC). Today, New Delhi must have more answers to that classic diplomatic question: “if there’s a crisis relating to Pakistan, who can I call?”

The need for engaging the Pakistan Army is especially important as “Zia’s children” rise to its highest echelons. The devout Muslims that Zia attracted in large numbers by making religiosity a criterion for promotion are now major generals and would soon become corps commanders, the arbiters of Pakistan’s destiny. General Kayani is not known for any love of radicalized officers. His predecessor, General Musharraf, who faced serious personal threat from radicalized officers, tried hard to weed them out from the promotion chain. Inevitably, though, fundamentalist generals will slip through the cracks and contribute to the radicalization of that army.

Institutionalised military-to-military interaction would allow Pakistani officers to travel to India, countering the widespread belief in Pakistan that Indian Muslims face severe religious persecution. While our Muslims lag deplorably in indices relating to economic and social development, they are far from the tyrannised community of Pakistani demagoguery. Pakistani officers would also get a chance to see India for what it is rather than what it is regarded as in Pakistani army messes.

Indian hardliners, who would oppose any engagement of the Pakistan Army, would do well to remember that the resumption of dialogue this month would not be possible without Rawalpindi’s concurrence. The only time the two countries have come near a compromise on Kashmir was when Musharraf, an army chief, spearheaded the dialogue. Like then, India may end up being surprised by the Pakistani Army’s willingness to talk and compromise.

Monday, 7 March 2011

In Siachen, Dhruv proves a world-beater

Photo credits: No use without ascribing to "Ajai Shukla at"

A Dhruv lands at the Indian Army's Sonam post during "hot and high" trials in Siachen

By Ajai Shukla
HAL, Bangalore
Business Standard, 7th Mar 11

It was a brutal test of helicopter and pilot. As the Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) shuddered towards the icy helipad on a 21,000-foot ledge overlooking the Siachen Glacier, the pilots could see wreckage from earlier helicopter crashes dotting the base of the vertical ice walls on either side. Ahead lay the Indian army’s infamous Sonam Post, the highest inhabited spot on earth, and an extreme example of why the military so urgently wants the Dhruv, which has been customised by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for high altitude operations.

Very quickly, the Dhruv demonstrated its superiority over the military’s tiny, single-engine Cheetah helicopters, which can barely lift 20 kilos of payload to Sonam. Touching down on a tiny H-shape formed on the snow with perforated iron sheets, the Dhruv’s pilots signalled to one of the soldiers on Sonam to climb aboard. Effortlessly, the Dhruv took off, circled the post and landed again. Another soldier clambered onto the helicopter and the process was repeated, then with a third, and then a fourth soldier. Even with all Sonam’s defenders on board, the twin-engine Dhruv --- painted incongruously in the peacock regalia of the IAF’s aerobatics team, Sarang --- lifted off and landed back safely.

“This helicopter is simply unmatched at high altitudes”, says Group Captain Unni Nair, HAL’s chief helicopter test pilot, who flew the Dhruv that August morning during “hot-and-high” trials at Sonam. That term means flying at extreme altitudes in summer, when the heat-swollen oxygen is even thinner than usual. “The army wanted the Dhruv to lift 200 kilos to Sonam; we managed to carry 600 kilos.”

Powering that world-beating performance is a new helicopter engine, called the Shakti, which HAL commissioned French engine-maker, Turbomeca, to design for operations along India’s high-altitude borders. It is this engine that makes the new Dhruv Mark III --- the first five of which were delivered to the army this month --- far superior to the Mark I and Mark II Dhruvs, which were built with a less versatile engine. The Shakti, which will start being built under licence at HAL soon, will now power an entire family of HAL-built helicopters: an armed version of the Dhruv; the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH); and the single-engine Light Utility Helicopter that is still on the drawing board.

The Shakti-powered Dhruv Mark III is changing the operational dynamics on India’s high-altitude Himalayan defences. The capability to airlift soldiers will allow far-flung posts to be manned with fewer soldiers. In a crisis, jawans can be airlifted quickly from lower altitudes to threatened areas, and casualties can be evacuated. And when they see a Dhruv flying in, the soldiers on isolated piquets like Sonam know that there is space on board for essential stores, and even occasional goodies from families and comrades.

HAL Bangalore has already begun handing over Dhruv Mark IIIs to the Leh-based 205 Aviation Squadron for operations in Siachen. With the military demanding 159 Dhruvs in quick time, HAL can hardly build these helicopters fast enough. This year’s production rate of 25 Dhruvs will be accelerated from 2012 to 36 helicopters annually. The current order includes 54 weaponised Dhruvs --- termed Advanced Light Helicopter --- Weapons Systems Integrated, or ALH-WSI --- armed with anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles, rockets and a 20-millimetre turret gun. The ALH-WSI is scheduled to begin weapons trials in Orissa in April.

The success of the ALH programme, heralded by the Dhruv Mark III, comes after years of struggle and criticism. Last August, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) noted, “90% of the value of material used in each ALH is still imported from foreign suppliers.”

But HAL chief, Ashok Nayak, and his helicopter chief, Soundara Rajan, point out that indigenisation does not mean building every component of an aircraft. Citing the example of the Dhruv’s HAL-built mission computer, Soundara Rajan asks whether the imported microchips inside make the mission computer any less indigenous. He sums up HAL’s helicopter strategy as follows: “We will design our helicopters; develop the critical technologies of helicopter transmissions; manufacture composites; and integrate and assemble the helicopter. We will outsource the manufacture of sub-assemblies and components and structures to any vendor on the globe that offers us cost-effective solutions.”

Despite meeting important performance objectives, the ALH has one major hurdle to cross. Its Integrated Dynamic System (IDS), which carries power from the Shakti engine to the helicopter’s rotors, was found to suffer from excessive wear and tear, requiring replacement at frequent intervals. Although HAL claims to have fixed that by making 6 modifications, reputed Italian aerospace designer, Avio, has been hired to audit the Dhruv’s IDS, a painstaking process that could take a couple of years. With the same IDS slated for the LCH and the ALH-WSI, HAL is taking no chances.

This careful approach underpins HAL’s ambitious foray into the helicopter business, which Nayak says will generate 25% of HAL’s revenue in 12-15 years.

“In the last 40 years, we have built 700 helicopters”, says Soundara Rajan. “The next 700 will be built in 20 years. The ones built so far were second generation machines; now we are working in fourth generation technology.”

Sunday, 6 March 2011

DRDO successfully tests anti-ballistic missile (ABM) interceptor

The DRDO today announced a successful interception at 16 km altitude by an ABM interceptor. The official press release is pasted below


Phalguna 15, 1932
March 06, 2011

The country’s prestigious Ballistic Missile Defence System was successfully flight tested at 9.37 AM off the coast of Orissa.

A Target Missile mimicking the enemy’s Ballistic Missile was launched from Launch Complex –III, ITR, Chandipur at 9.32 AM. The missile tracking network consisting of long range and multi function Radars and other Range sensors positioned at different locations detected and identified the incoming Missile threat. The interceptor missile at Wheeler Island with a directional warhead was fully ready to take off. The radars tracking the Ballistic Missile constructed the trajectory of the missile and continuous complex computations were done in real time by ground guidance computer to launch the interceptor at an exact time. The fully automatic launch computer launched the interceptor at 9.37 AM and the onboard INS (Inertial Navigation System) and ground based Radars guided the interceptor to the target (incoming Ballistic Missile). The Interceptor intercepted the Ballistic Missile at an altitude of 16 km and blasted the missile into pieces.

It was a copy book launch and all the events and mission sequence took place as expected.
In the post-launch debrief, the Program Director Sri VLN Rao mentioned about perfection of all the activities. Sri Avinash Chander, Director ASL, Sri S.K. Ray, Director RCI, Sri P. Venugopalan, Director DRDL, Dr Sekhar, Chief Controller, Sri Satish Kumar,Director TBRL and Sri S. P. Dash, Director ITR monitored all the operations and guided the teams during the launch.

The flight test was witnessed by many senior scientists and the IDS (Integrated Defence Staff) team. The success of this test is a major achievement leading towards deployment.

The Scientific Advisor to Raksha Mantri Dr V. K. Saraswat, who was present during launch operations, congratulated all the DRDO scientists and staff. ‘It was a major milestone in the history of Ballistic Missile Defence Programme of the country,’ he said.

The Defence Minister Shri AK Antony has congratulated the defence scientists involved in the project for today’s success.