Friday, 30 September 2011

After Shourya and Prithvi II, successful launch of Agni-II from Wheeler Island

An action sequence from Wheeler's Island of this morning's test launch of the Agni-II missile by the army's Strategic Forces Command. The DRDO's press release is pasted below (verbatim! the english is not mine)

Agni II Launched

DRDO Develop Agni II, the pride of India strategic arsenal was once again launched successfully today i.e 30.09.11 at 9:30 hrs from the wheeler Island off the coast of ORISSA. The launch was a hat trick after successful launches of SHOURYA & PRITHIVI-II, on 24th & 26th September 2011 respectively. The successful launch once again proved reliability of the medium range surface to surface missile.

The 2000 km range surface to surface missile, already inducted and part of countries arsenal for strategic deterrence, was launched as a training exercise by the armed forces. The two stage missile equipped with advanced high accuracy navigation system, guided by a novel scheme of state of the earth command & control system was propelled by solid rocket propellant system. The missile reached an apogee (peak altitude) of 220 km and hit the target. All the radar, telemetry systems, ectopic system tracked & monitored all parameters throughout the trajectory. Two ships located near the target point have tracked the missile in the final stage.

Dr V.K. Saraswat, SA to RM, Secretary Defence R&D & Director General DRDO, Dr. Avinash Chander, Programme Director, Distinguished Scientist & Chief Controller R&D (MSS) and Air Marshal K.J. Mathews, AVSM, YSM, congratulated all the scientists, other DRDO personnel and members of armed forces. Shri D. Lakshminarayana, PD and his team monitored all the launch operation. The event was witness by Shri S.K. Ray, Distingiushed Scientist &Director. RCI, Shri P. Venugopalan, OS & Director, DRDL, Dr. V.G. Sekaran, OS & Director ASL, Shri S.P. Dash, Dir. ITR & other senior officials from DRDO & the Armed Forces.

India’s P8I Poseidon maritime aircraft flies

The P8I Poseidon's first flight at the Boeing facility near Seattle. The Indian Navy team that attended, below

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 30th Sept 11

The Indian Navy, which aims to be the premier blue water navy in the Indian Ocean region, needs to keep a year-round watch over some two million square kilometres of open sea, its Exclusive Economic Zone. In war, the area becomes even larger. The aircraft that will perform this function in the decades to come, the P8I Poseidon multi-mission maritime aircraft (MMA), made its first ever flight at a Boeing facility in Seattle, USA. The state-of-the-art Poseidon will start being delivered to the navy from 2013, replacing its vintage fleet of Russian Tupolev-142M and Ilyushin-38 long-range maritime patrol (LRMP) aircraft.

Boeing has developed the Poseidon as a replacement for the US Navy’s current maritime patrol aircraft, the P3C Orion. Early last decade, Washington tried hard to persuade New Delhi to buy the Orion. The Pakistan Navy flies this aircraft; two of them were destroyed in May during the militant raid on a Pakistani naval base, PNS Mehran. But, in 2006, the MoD replied that the Orion was old technology; it would buy only the Poseidon, which the US had not sold to any other country. Washington, looking for a way to jump-start the defence relationship, acquiesced.

On 1st Jan 09, the navy signed a contract for buying 8 Poseidon MMA, with an option for four more. This will make the Indian Navy the first non-US operator of the Poseidon. The Poseidon built for the US Navy is designated the P8A; the Indian variant is the P8I (I for India).

The utility of a maritime patrol aircraft like the Poseidon, which must dominate the ocean beyond the reach of shore-based radars, hinges upon how much time it can remain on patrol, and on its ability to detect and destroy enemy ships and submarines. The old Indian Navy Tu-142Ms and IL-38s, dating back to the 1950s, had neither the reliability to remain on station beyond a few hours, nor the gadgetry and weaponry to intimidate the enemy.

In contrast the Poseidon is internationally acknowledged as the benchmark in maritime patrol. It marries a tried and tested sensor and weapons suite with a specially developed Boeing 737 aircraft. Since reliability and endurance are crucial, it was logical to base the Poseidon on the world’s most widely flown airliner (a 737 lands or takes off somewhere in the world every three seconds). The Poseidon is a 737-800, specially modified with a 737-900 wing.

The CFM-56 engines that are standard fitment on recent 737s also power the Poseidon. These are modified with larger generators that churn out the power needed for the MMA’s sensors and control systems. In addition, there is an auxiliary power unit that provides electricity even when the main engines are switched off.

If the flying platform is brand new, the comprehensive suite of sensors and weapons that it carries provides the Poseidon with tested strike power. The Indian Navy has also instructed Boeing to install certain capabilities that were not provided for the P8A. This includes “aft-looking radar” custom designed by US company Telefonic, which functions like an electronic rear view mirror, scanning the water behind the aircraft. There is also the high-power Raytheon forward-looking radar. The Poseidon has the capability of dropping sonobuoys, which pick up sonar signal from enemy submarines and transmit them to the aircraft.

Unlike a civilian 737 the Poseidon is armed to the teeth. It has 11 “hard points”, or weapons stations: two under each wing for depth bombs or Harpoon anti-ship missiles; five stations inside the weapons bay for torpedoes that cannot be slung outside since they must be kept warm; and two hard points up front for combat seach and rescue (SAR) equipment or for additional depth bombs.

A team of Indian Navy officers, including the navy’s chief aviator, Rear Admiral DM Sudan, witnessed the two and a half hour flight in Seattle. Boeing test pilots, who actually flew the aircraft, took the aircraft up to 41,000 feet. Boeing says that the coming weeks will see “mission systems installation and checkout work” on the P8I Poseidon.

“The P-8I program is progressing well and we are looking forward to this potent platform joining the Indian Navy as part of its fleet,” said Sudan.

Boeing says it will comprehensively test the first P8I before handing it over to the Indian Navy, which will do acceptance tests before taking delivery of the aircraft. The P-8I is built by a Boeing-led industry team that includes CFM International, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Spirit AeroSystems, BAE Systems and GE Aviation.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Pipavav warship joint venture put on hold

The dry dock in Pipavav Shipyard. Nikhil Gandhi, Pipavav chief, regrets that the MoD has cancelled MDL's JV with Pipavav. Says Gandhi: "We have invested a billion dollars in building the required infrastructure and not waited for orders first to build capacity.”

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 27th Sept 11

The ministry of defence (MoD) on Monday sent a clear signal that private Indian defence shipyards are to be treated as serious partners in building warships for the Indian Navy.

Responding to written complaints from three private shipbuilders about the allegedly improper selection by government-owned Mazagon Dock Ltd (MDL), Mumbai, of Gujarat-based Pipavav Shipyard as its joint venture (JV) partner, the defence minister has struck down MDL’s decision.

The MoD announced that “the ministry had decided to put on hold the JV of MDL till a policy on JVs is put in place by the government... Antony (defence minister) said the ministry would study the complaints received from some private shipyards regarding the JV. The issue needs to be fully examined and settled before any forward movement takes place on this front. He also said that JVs must compete for contracts and not get them on nomination basis. Shri Antony said we are treading on a new path and we would like to ensure that transparency is maintained at all levels.”

In an apparently stinging reproof to MDL, the public sector shipyard was not informed of this decision till the time of going to press. Antony’s comments were made while addressing the parliamentary consultative committee for defence here on Monday.

Asked for his comments, vice-admiral (retired) H S Malhi, the chairman of MDL, told Business Standard, “The MoD has not yet informed us of this decision. I am hearing of it through this press release. We have no comments to offer.”

Pipavav Shipyard chairman Nikhil Gandhi, in Paris at present, said: “It’s a very sad and disturbing day. But I am sure I will stand vindicated, as we were selected after a transparent process which went on for eight months. We have invested a billion dollars in building the required infrastructure and not waited for orders first to build capacity.”

In contrast, there was jubilation amongst the three private sector shipyards — Larsen & Toubro, ABG Shipyards and Bharati Shipyard — that had protested about MDL’s “hasty” decision to form a JV with Pipavav. L&T chairman A M Naik told Business Standard, “The MoD has taken an appropriate decision. The entire process (of selecting a JV partner) had been rushed through without a transparent evaluation process. Now, we hope there will be a proper evaluation, based on a points system, awarded for each shipyard’s infrastructure, capability, board structure and ownership structure.”

Naik says with 32 per cent of his company held by financial institutions, and the government being his largest shareholder, L&T is as much a government-owned company as a private sector one.

The controversy began when the MDL board, on September 9, decided that Pipavav was the private company with which MDL would form a JV for warship building. Even before the MoD could approve the decision, Pipavav made a public announcement, triggering a fierce counter-attack by L&T, ABG and Bharati.

At the root of this controversy is the question of which shipyards will get the lucrative contracts to build the navy’s requirement of tens of major capital warships in the coming years. The navy’s requirements, which remain classified, are spelt out in the Maritime Capability Perspective Plan 2012-2027. MDL enjoys a premium position as the only shipyard with the capability, capacity and experience of building even the destroyer class of heavy warships (over 7,500 tonnes). However, located as it is in congested Mumbai, MDL has a space constraint that places limits on the number it can build.

Therefore, earlier this year, it set out to identify a private sector shipyard as a JV partner. That aim was to marry MDL’s expertise and experience with the private shipyard’s capacity.

After MDL issued an Expression of Interest (EoI) on March 11 to several private shipyards, four were shortlisted: L&T, ABG, Pipavav; and Bharati. According to executives from these shipyards, they made presentations to the MDL board on August 23, outlining their respective visions of the proposed collaboration. Based on those presentations, MDL sent a letter on August 25 for details of the business plan for the JV. Before any shipyard could reply, the MDL board chose Pipavav as their partner, on September 9.

Sources within the MoD say the process of selection would now be started afresh, with clearly defined parameters once the JV policy was in place.

(With additional reporting by Arijit Burman)

Monday, 26 September 2011

On the heels of Saturday's Shourya missile test, India tests the Prithvi P-II missile

As the DRDO works on a new generation of solid-fuel short-range ballistic missiles, the liquid-fuel Prithvi P-II seems slated to remain in service for a longish while, serving as the backbone of India's tactical missile arsenal.

The DRDO press release, describing Monday's Prithvi missile test, is pasted below:


DRDO developed surface to surface strategic PRITHVI (P-II) Missile was successfully flight tested at 9 A.M today i.e. 26th September 2011, from Launch Complex-III, ITR, Chandipur, Balasore District in Orissa. The launch was carried out by the Armed Forces as a part of regular training exercises.

PRITHVI-II, the first indigenous surface to surface strategic Missile, capable of attacking targets at ranges of 350 kms, reached the predefined target in the Bay of Bengal with a very high accuracy of better than 10 meters. All the Radars, Electro optical systems located along the coast have tracked and monitored all the parameters of the Missile throughout the flight path. An Indian Naval ship located near the target witnessed the final event.

The entire launch operations were carried out by the Armed Forces and monitored by the Scientists of DRDO. The flight test of the PRITHVI-II Missile met all the Mission objectives and was perfect like text book launch. PRITHVI-II Missile has been successfully flight tested number of times as part of the training exercise. Today’s launch again proves the reliable flight testing of PRITHVI. Scientific Adviser to Raksha Mantri Dr. V.K Saraswat congratulated all the scientists and other employees of DRDO and the Armed Forces for the successful flight test of PRITHVI (P-II).

US-Pak crisis follows Rabbani killing

Pakistani army chief, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, in the days when Washington still believed that Pakistan could be salvaged. That is changing rapidly. Over the last week, the US has bluntly warned Kayani: clean up your act, or we will do it for you.

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard
26th Sept 11

An emergency meeting of Pakistan's top military commanders on Sunday highlights the gathering storm in US-Pak relations. It remains to be seen whether this grim-faced clique will submit to Washington's diktat to crack down on the Haqqani network. Going by Islamabad's public bluster after Washington's flat accusation last Thursday of ISI-Haqqani complicity, it might seem that Pakistan's military will choose defiance over compliance. In recent spats, however, both sides have always chosen to step back from the brink.

The winds of this latest crisis have blown in from Afghanistan. Going by the timing, the trigger was apparently the assassination last Tuesday of Burhanuddin Rabbani, a former president who headed Afghanistan's High Peace Council, which pursued reconciliation with the Taliban.

Two days after Rabbani's murder, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, bluntly accused the Pakistani army of using terror as a weapon when he told the Senate Armed Services Committee, "the Haqqani network acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency."

Without mentioning the Rabbani killing, Mullen held the ISI-backed Haqqani network responsible for the truck bomb attack on a NATO base near Kabul on September 10, which killed five civilians and injured 77 coalition soldiers. Mullen also accused the Haqqanis of masterminding the suicide attack on September 13 on the US embassy in Kabul, in which 16 Afghans were killed. And, of the suicide attack on Kabul's Intercontinental Hotel on June 28, which killed 11 civilians.

Also on Thursday, the US passed the Senate Appropriations Bill, which blocked at least $800 million worth of security assistance to Pakistan unless it took action against the Haqqani network. On Saturday, the US Central Command chief, General James N Mattis, met the Pak army chief, General Pervez Kayani, reportedly warning him that America would respond to further Haqqani provocations with retaliatory attacks into Pakistan.

Rawalpindi now faces a three-front squeeze — political, financial and military — on its relationship with the Haqqanis. The jury is still out on whether the Haqqanis were behind the Rabbani assassination, which, in its multiplicity of suspects, has the makings of a classic whodunit. Was it the Taliban scuttling the dialogue or a faction controlled by the ISI? Could it have been Al Qaeda? Or was this fallout from Rabbani's past? As a Tajik leader in the early 1990s, he had presided over waves of bloodletting in brutal ethnic feuding.

Which Taliban?

The Taliban — a catchall scapegoat for violence in Afghanistan — comprises several factions that increasingly work at cross-purposes. The confused Taliban statements that followed Rabbani's killing suggest serious internal disagreements. Zabiullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesperson, began by confirming that the Taliban killed Rabbani. Soon thereafter, Taliban websites denied any role in the attack.

This confusion could reflect a vertical split within the Taliban. Mullah Omar, the so-called Amir-ul-Momineen (Commander of the Faithful), who heads the Quetta Shoora, is the Taliban's supreme authority.

But, his old-school Afghan mujahideen, while ruthless on the battlefield, scorns suicide attacks of the kind that despatched Rabbani. Omar's agenda is nationalist Afghan: evicting foreign forces from his country. He would hardly murder Rabbani, a countryman working for Afghan unity.

Afghans recall that Mullah Omar kept dialogue open with the Northern Alliance even at the peak of their fighting in the late 1990s. Former Taliban minister Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef describes in his autobiography a midnight meeting at Omar's behest with his Tajik opponent, Ahmed Shah Masood, both leaders negotiating peace terms while sitting cross-legged on the ground between the Taliban-Northern Alliance frontlines. It was an abortive attempt, but it suggests that Mullah Omar is not averse to dialogue.

But, the Haqqani network, the Taliban's other main branch and the Quetta Shoora's brutal alter ego, has a far more radical approach. Armed, funded and directed by the ISI to split the Taliban, the Haqqani network is expert in suicide attacks. Closely linked to Arab ideologues, the Haqqanis embrace a pan-Islamic ideology, rather than an Afghan nationalist one. If the ISI feared that Rabbani's dialogue with the Quetta Shoora could marginalise Rawalpindi, the Haqqani network would be employed to deliver a reminder of Pakistan's influence. For that reason, it is the prime suspect.

Another suspect is Al Qaeda but, surprisingly, that possibility has been little discussed. Rabbani's killing mirrors in method the assassination of Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Masood in September 2001. Al Qaeda executed that attack, two days before 9/11, expecting that a grateful Taliban would shelter Al Qaeda from inevitable US retaliation after the New York attacks.

Masood's two assassins posed as Arab tele-journalists, biding their time for weeks before being granted an interview with their target. Finally face-to-face with Masood, they detonated an explosive-packed camera. In Rabbani's murder, the assassin also waited patiently after dangling the bait: an important message from senior Taliban. Instead of an exploding camera, there was an exploding turban, but the effect was just as lethal.

Despite the predictions of a "deathblow to the Taliban dialogue&", the outreach to the Taliban seems set to continue. Much of the anti-Taliban emanates comes from the still-influential Tajik lobbies, which have always firmly opposed any reconciliation with the Taliban.

But, Rabbani will be missed; he played an important symbolic role as the High Peace Council chief, his presence indicating the concurrence of the minorities to reconciliation with the Pashtuns, a 40 per cent majority in Afghanistan. However the dialogue continues on multiple tracks, most of these insulated from Rabbani.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

DRDO announces successful test of Shourya missile in canister mode

Earlier Broadsword reporting on the Shourya/Shaurya:

DRDO chief, Dr VK Saraswat, to Broadsword: “We have designed the Shaurya so that it can be launched from under water as easily as from land. The gas-filled canister that houses the missile fits easily into a submarine."

Former DRDO chief controller, Dr Prahlada, to Broadsword: “The Shaurya was developed from ground up as a submarine-capable missile. Every piece of technology for fitting it in a submarine is already in place."

Dr Saraswat to Broadsword: “I would say the Shaurya a hybrid propulsion missile. Like a ballistic missile, it is powered by solid fuel. And, like a cruise missile, it can guide itself right up to the target.”

On Saturday, the DRDO announced a second successful flight test for its Shourya missile. With a range of 700-750 km, the Shourya is designed as an subsurface-to-land missile, for Indian submarines. Read a more detailed analysis in Broadsword: "Shaurya surfaces as India's underwater nuclear missile", published on 17th Feb 2010. The article is in the Broadsword archives, accessible by all visitors.

The latest DRDO press release is pasted below:

Shourya Missile Successfully Flight Tested

New Delhi: Asvina 02, 1933

Saturday, Sep 24, 2011

The 700- km range Shourya Missile was successfully flight tested from Launch Complex III of Interim Test Range (ITR), Balasore today. Developed by the DRDO, the Missile was launched from a canister in a ground launch mode at 1430 Hrs. The launch of the missile was perfect and it followed the pre-defined path exactly to reach the target in Bay of Bengal. All Radar, Telemetry and Electro-Optical Stations along the East Coast tracked and monitored all the mission parameters. Ships located near the target also tracked and witnessed the final event. Accuracy level of the missile was high and it was within a few metres. Shourya is equipped with multiple advanced computing systems, very high accuracy navigation and guidance systems.

DRDO Chief Controller Shri Avinash Chander congratulated all the scientists and employees of DRDO and other establishments. Director DRDL Shri P Venugoplalan, Director ITR Shri SP Dash, Director SPIC Shri Satish Kumar and Programme Director AK Chakravarti monitored all the preparatory operations. Shri A Joseph Project Director and team prepared the missile and conducted the launch flawlessly.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Business Standard debate: Age row: Is the army chief right?

The argument against:

Maj Gen Nilendra Kumar (Retd)
Former Judge Advocate General of the Indian Army

The last few months have seen Army Chief V K Singh’s name in the media in a controversy relating to his age. The general is an outstanding soldier who is a renowned strategist and a brilliant practitioner of military craft. I have known him well for over four decades. I, however, differ with him and his well-wishers on a few counts.

The general has submitted a statutory complaint on the matter of his birth date. Army Act Section 27 affords a right to any military person who feels wronged by the decision of any superior to seek remedy from the central government. The remedy is available to all, from the junior-most soldiers to the senior-most commanders. There are a number of reasons that make the case of the army chief different.

General V K Singh joined the National Defence Academy in June 1966. Three years later he entered the Indian Military Academy and, after completing his training, was commissioned in the Infantry in June, 1970. The year 1950 was recorded as his year of birth when he filled out the UPSC admission form for the National Defence Academy. Sometime in 2006, an entry of 1951 in the matriculation certificate came to be reported. There are discrepancies in the documents held by the Adjutant General and Military Secretary Branches of the army headquarters.

The regulations enjoin that any discrepancy in the date of birth is to be reported within the first couple of years after entry into service. The claim is then examined and settled. In this case, the officer could have taken timely recourse to those provisions to get the actual date entered in his dossier.

While he was a major general and waiting to be cleared for elevation to a three-star general he gave a written assurance that he would abide by the 1950 year and not to stake any claim for the year to be reckoned as 1951. Having once forwarded such an undertaking and gained promotion to a higher rank, would it be open for him to demand that 1951 be accepted as the year of his birth?

There are numerous allegations and counter allegations. It has been asserted that V K Singh was pressured to submit an undertaking to avoid withholding the process of the entire selection board.

Some believe that the case was put on the fast track by engineering a query under the Right to Information Act enquiring about the dates of birth of all army commanders and above. Certain members of political parties are reported to have met the prime minister to plead the army chief’s case. The outcome is not known.

Army headquarters took the unusual course of seeking the opinion of three former Chief Justices. They ruled in favour of the army chief. Perhaps they were approached without the government’s concurrence. If so, such a precedent may have dangerous consequences. Any soldier, say, a person convicted by a court martial, may obtain and forward comments and recommendations of former judges or law officers to demand a reversal of valid and bonafide decisions.

The matter is being projected by a few as a civil-military conflict. This view appears to overlook the fact that the matter was handled by three successive military secretaries starting with General Richard Khare. If the army did not agree to accept 1951 as year of birth, would the fault lie with the ministry of defence?

A plea to treat 1950 as the army chief’s year of birth will be a setback for the army’s cleansing drive. Can a senior commander be allowed to use his headquarters to pursue his personal case against the higher authorities? Should a general be retained to serve as a chief if he has any complaint against the government?

The army chief has risen to the very top position in the army, which is administered by well-regulated orders and rules. It is ironic that having attained the senior-most position he has now chosen to project his grievances against the system.

A statutory complaint in the shape of an alternate remedy has to be first submitted before approaching a court of law seeking judicial remedy. Any delay in disposing of the complaint or an unfavourable decision may lead to the matter being taken to Armed Forces Tribunal and further acrimony.


The argument for:

Ajai Shukla
Military Analyst and Former Army Officer

It would be naïve to believe that the controversy about when the Army Chief, General V K Singh, was born (and, therefore, when he should retire) is simply about a date of birth. Singh has provided his boss, Defence Minister A K Antony, cast-iron evidence to prove that he was born on May 10, 1951. This includes 15 categories of documents including his birth certificate from an army hospital; his matriculation certificate; four decades of service documents; promotion and medical records; and a range of civilian documents including his passport, PAN card; and driving and gun licences.

Nor is the argument sustainable that Singh should have changed his date of birth within two years of being commissioned, which is all that ministry of defence rules permit. The Army List of 1974-75, which is the key army document that records his date of birth as 1950, was only published four or five years after Singh became an officer. Besides, he insists he is not seeking to “correct” his date of birth. The Adjutant General’s Branch, the prime authority that maintains officers’ personal records, has always recorded the correct birth year of 1951. Singh demands only that his birth year be “reconciled” with this lawful authority.

Since the documentary record is so clear that Singh was born in 1951, why is this controversy snowballing into a corrosive civil-military face-off? The answer is that Antony has taken a position on this case and fears that withdrawal would result in a serious loss of political face. A weakened UPA wants to look decisive after a series of political mistakes: Telangana and the Jagan Mohan Reddy crisis in Andhra; the 2G scam; and the Anna Hazare anti-corruption agitation. Dizzy from opposition pummelling, the UPA fervently hopes (the same mistake that it made with Reddy and Hazare) that a resolute rebuff will cause Singh to back off. But, typically, the government misjudges the doggedness of its army chief.

Singh’s determination to defend his honour (he is indignant at being painted a liar) is fortified by the manipulative argument that the MoD has put out through media leaks. This insinuates that Singh has already been elevated to the pinnacle; by clinging on longer he is tarnishing the army’s image. But this is chicanery. Singh reached the top through merit, not government endowment; and the vast majority of his officers back him as he faces up to a capricious MoD that seeks to humiliate their chief.

India’s soldier community, both serving and retired, overwhelmingly believes that the military is ill used by the babus and dhoti-wallas, their mocking reference to the political-bureaucratic establishment. They believe that the government has misused the unexceptionable principle of civilian control to encroach on turf that is acknowledged worldwide, even in the most liberal democracies, as the preserve of the military. Many ask why their generals meekly accept even improper instructions from the civilian government (as in 1962). There is a wellspring of resentment at the way generations of generals have bartered away service interests in exchange for post-retirement office. In contrast there is admiration for V K Singh. He could have arranged a happy sinecure, perhaps in some Raj Bhavan, in exchange for a quiet exit. Instead, by insisting on his rights, he has embodied popular disenchantment against the MoD.

Most people would have preferred the chief to make his stand on something relating to equipment procurement or strategic planning, where the MoD has demonstrably failed its soldiers, sailors and airmen. That would have spared him barbs about self-interest. Nevertheless, it is in our democracy’s long-term interest to question the assumption that – just as Nehru tamed General Thimayya; and Vajpayee sacked Admiral Bhagwat – the government can ram any decision, howsoever perverse, down any military chief’s throat.

Legal advisors on both sides – the MoD’s as well as the army chief’s – insist (as lawyers are prone to doing!) that their client has an unshakable legal case. But both sides must realise that there will be no winners in a fight to the finish. The ball is in the MoD’s court; if Antony is as wise as is rumoured he will cut a deal with General V K Singh, salvaging the government’s long-term relationship with its widely-respected military.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

North-east India - an emerging gateway

If India is to capitalise on improved Indo-Bangla relationship and the potential to physically connect with mainland Asean, New Delhi must reshape relations with its north-east

Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 20th Sept 11

Since Independence, India has treated its north-eastern states as unproductive black holes into which New Delhi pours vast amounts of treasure and obtains resentful ingratitude in return. But this backwater is in focus after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s successful visit to Dhaka earlier this month, which has not just built bridges with Bangladesh but it also holds out the promise of creating a new relationship with south-east Asia. If India is to capitalise on the improved Indo-Bangla relationship and benefit from its potential to physically connect this country with mainland Asean or the the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, New Delhi has no choice but to reshape its relations with its north-east.

The potential for our eastern provinces to disrupt this opportunity has already been highlighted by Mamata Banerjee, West Bengal’s chief minister, who pulled out of the delegation to Dhaka in annoyance at the plan to give Bangladesh more water from the Teesta River. While Ms Banerjee’s absence somewhat dampened the euphoria in Dhaka, the blame for her embarrassing boycott lies in New Delhi, not Kolkata. Aware of the political sensitivity of water sharing anywhere, but especially between agricultural West Bengal and the erstwhile East Bengal, New Delhi failed to obtain Ms Banerjee’s unequivocal agreement on a water deal with Dhaka.

It is telling that Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh’s prime minister, seemed more aware than New Delhi of the importance of West Bengal’s leader. Ms Banerjee was slated to receive an especially warm welcome in Dhaka and a meeting of the Bangladesh cabinet discussed at some length whether a Dhakai jamdani sari would be a befitting gift for her. Ms Banerjee might well – after some political grandstanding for the voters in North Bengal who rely on Teesta water – climb down and climb aboard a flight to Dhaka for her own little summit with Ms Hasina. But the fact remains that New Delhi’s insensitivity towards its peripheries created this muddle. Unless this approach changes, there is the risk of greater, and possibly irretrievable, debacles.

Beyond the Mamata fiasco, the PM’s visit to Bangladesh was an unalloyed strategic success. The agreement on demarcating the land boundary between the two countries eliminated a long-standing irritant. But the real triumph, both for bilateral ties and for regionalism, was the opening up of land, sea and riverine communications (“multi-modal links” is the term in vogue). These will provide a physical backbone to the “Look East” policy, so far just a strategic slogan. As Dr Singh and Ms Hasina noted, “road, rail and waterways [are] building blocks to an inter-dependent and mutually beneficial relationship among the countries of the region. The establishment of physical infrastructure would promote exchange of goods and traffic, and lead to the connectivity of services, information, ideas, culture and people.”

For now, there are only modest steps. New land ports and immigration stations are being established to facilitate trade and the movement of people. Trial runs have begun for moving cargo on the Brahmaputra between Ashuganj (in Bangladesh) and Silghat (in Assam). A rail line will link Agartala (in Tripura) with Bangladesh. Additional rail connections (Chilahati-Haldibari and Kulaura-Mahishashan) will be reactivated “in the spirit of encouraging revival of old linkages and transport routes between the two countries”. And goods could soon move between India’s north-east and Chittagong and Mongla seaports.

This is part of a far more expansive project: the linking of India’s Indo-Gangetic plain with its north-eastern states; and then expanding those linkages to the mainland Asean states of Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam; and through them to China. Currently the Seven Sisters – the north-eastern states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura – are connected to India only through a 21-km-wide sliver of land, the so-called Siliguri corridor. Through this chicken’s neck runs all infrastructure to the north-east, including roads, railway lines and power transmission lines. Transit through Bangladesh, with its 4,000-km border with four Indian states (our longest land border with any neighbour) would magically open up the north-east.

Within striking distance of the north-east, major transport links are being built. China is building roads, a railway and pipelines from Yunnan to Myanmar’s Kyauk Phyu port on the Bay of Bengal. While China is connecting with the Bay of Bengal to bypass its “Malacca problem”, saving a week in transit time through that strait, New Delhi tends to see this infrastructure as a direct threat to India. But infrastructure is seldom a zero-sum game; it has the potential to simultaneously benefit multiple players.

Further inside Myanmar, but within easy reach from the north-east, is the Dawei Development Project, a deep-water port on Myanmar’s Arakan coast, which is being connected to Thailand through a multi-modal transport corridor. From Thailand this will link up with the three economic corridors of the Greater Mekong Sub-Region. The railway from Dawei would also link up with a railway that China is building from Kunming, which will connect through Laos, to the Thai railway network.

Then there are the direct linkages between the north-eastern states and China: the existing border trade post at Nathu La, Sikkim; potential border crossings through Tawang and Walong in Arunachal Pradesh; and the much-discussed Stilwell Road that used to connect Dibrugarh (in upper Assam), through Myanmar, with Kunming.

India has traditionally shrunk from operationalising these connections even while espousing a “Look East” policy. But the people of the north-east understand how crucial these cross-border linkages are for their future. That is why the chief ministers of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura accompanied the PM to Dhaka. Despite New Delhi’s fears, this is an idea whose time has come. The Seven Sisters are poised to be India’s gateways to a strategically and economically vital neighbourhood. New Delhi has to quickly learn the political nuances of the north-east. The lessons of Mamata must be quickly absorbed.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Army chief readies for legal battle with MoD

Indian army chief, Gen VK Singh, taking over from his predecessor, Gen Deepak Kapoor. The controversy over Singh's birth date was further vexed by Kapoor, who put overt pressure on Singh to accept a birth date of 1950

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 19th Sept 11

The growing tension between the army and the defence ministry (MoD) over when the army chief, General VK Singh, will retire could be heading for a sensational climax. Business Standard has learned from sources close to the army chief that he will definitely go to court if defence minister AK Antony turns down his official petition requesting that his birth date be recognised as 10th May 1951.

Driving Gen Singh’s decision to escalate the face-off is his annoyance at the defence minister’s statement to parliament on Sept 7th, in which Antony said that the army chief was “left with 8 months and 23 days of service as on date.” Given that Antony is still considering Gen Singh’s petition, the army chief sees this unvarnished answer as an indication that Antony will reject his appeal and humiliate him in the process.

“The chief feels he has been pushed into a corner; he has no choice but to fight for his military reputation. And he knows that his legal case is watertight,” says a close personal associate of the army chief, who is assisting him in this matter.

Antony’s statement to parliament has already proven nettlesome with a Rajya Sabha MP, Mohan Singh, challenging the defence minister for allegedly falsely stating in parliament that Gen Singh was promoted on the basis of a date of birth of 10th May 1950. The MoD acknowledges this challenge and says it is examining the matter.

This controversy stems from the army’s inability to detect or reconcile, for 35 years, that two key branches in army headquarters maintained conflicting dates of birth for Gen VK Singh. The Military Secretary’s Branch (MS Branch), which deals with postings and promotions, has 10th May 1950. The Adjutant General’s Branch (AG’s Branch), which is the record-keeping authority, has 10th May 1951. The MoD has ruled that the general was born in 1950; hence he will retire on 31st May 2012 after reaching the age of 62 that month. But the army chief has officially petitioned Antony that his birth year be considered 1951 on the basis of multiple documents that he submitted four decades ago (including his matriculation and birth certificates). If his plea is accepted Gen Singh would serve till 31st Mar 2013 when he completes three years as the chief.

In concluding that 1950 should be regarded as Gen Singh’s birth year, the MoD has argued that the army chief had himself accepted that date. Now Business Standard has accessed confidential documents that show that this acceptance was under pressure. The documents illustrate that Gen Singh was explicitly threatened by MS Branch to accept that he was born in 1950; and that the MoD had serious concerns over the MS Branch’s handling of this issue.

When Gen Singh was being evaluated for appointment as the commander of the eastern army in Kolkata, the MS Branch sent his documents to the MoD in 2007. On 14th Dec 07, the key MoD official dealing with promotions and postings of senior officers, Joint Secretary (G) Bimal Julka, wrote a secret letter --- number MoD ID No. 11(9)/2007-D(MS) --- to the Military Secretary, Lt Gen PR Gangadharan. Julka asked how the MS Branch had changed Gen VK Singh’s date of birth from 1951 to 1950. Echoing what Gen Singh says today, Julka demands to know, “It is seen… that the officer has all along indicated his date of birth as 10.5.1951. Hence, the basis for officer’s date of birth as 10.5.1950 may please be indicated.”

Julka’s question triggered a flurry of letters from the MS Branch to Gen Singh (then a lieutenant general commanding the prestigious 2 Corps), demanding an unequivocal written commitment that he was born in 1950. When Gen Singh demurred, the MS Branch issued a bald threat. In wireless signal number 388025/2008/MS(X) dated 24th Jan 08, MS Branch demanded an unconditional and immediate commitment to a 1950 birth year, adding, “If reply not recd (received) by 1000 hrs (hours) on 25 Jan 08 action deemed appropriate will be taken.”

Gen Singh believed that “action deemed appropriate” was an MS Branch threat to scuttle his candidature as eastern army commander. The same day he sent off his acceptance to MS Branch, but continued a testy correspondence, protesting this demand.

The MS Branch lost no time in triumphantly telling the MoD’s Julka that Singh had accepted 1950 as his birth year. But it was hardly possible for the MS Branch to hide its own faults. In letter number A/45751/Army Cdr/MS(X) dated 25 Jan 08, addressed to the MoD’s Bimal Julka, Lt Gen Gangadharan admitted that two birth dates existed “because of lack of coordination between the two branches (MS and AG’s) at that point in time…. The officer had also been mentioning 10 May 1951 in all his ACRs (Annual Confidential Records) but the MS Branch did not seek clarification/reconcile his date of birth.”

The MoD could see that Gen Singh’s acceptance of 1950 was half-hearted. In a confidential letter --- MoD ID No. 11(9)/2007-D(MS) dated 25 Jan 08 --- Bimal Julka wrote to the MS, “On perusal of the letter of Lt Gen VK Singh to MS dated 24 Jan 2008, it is evident that the doubts regarding his date of birth remain unanswered.” Julka demanded “a detailed enquiry into the matter to find out the correct date of birth of the officer immediately in consultation with AG’s Branch.”

The AG’s Branch responded on 30th Jan 08, stating that “the date of birth of IC-24173 Lt Gen VK Singh has always remained 10 May 1951. This has been corroborated in all of the documents on file of the officer in MP Directorate (which maintains officers’ records). Copies of the same have already been endorsed to MS Branch.”

But the enquiry demanded by the MoD was never completed, say sources close to Gen Singh. The army chief, Gen Deepak Kapoor, was not on good terms with Gen VK Singh, a relationship that practically broke down when Gen Singh, then in Kolkata, went after generals allegedly close to Gen Kapoor in the Sukhna land scam. And so the matter remains to be resolved to this day.

Friday, 16 September 2011

India signs defence R&D agreement with UK

Dr VK Saraswat, the head of DRDO, exchanging a letter of arrangement (LoA) with Sir Mark Welland, who heads the UK's Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL)

The MoD's press release is as follows:-


New Delhi: Bhadrapada 25, 1933
Friday, Sep 16, 2011

India and United Kingdom entered into a letter of arrangement today to pursue collaborative Defence R&D Cooperation with UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) and facilitate making best use of respective research and technology development capability through joint projects, collaborative research and industry and academia participation. The LOA was signed in London by Dr VK Saraswat, Scientific Adviser to the Raksha Mantri, Secretary Defence R&D and Director General Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), India and Professor Sir Mark Welland, Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA), Ministry of Defence, United Kingdom. Dr VK Saraswat is currently on a visit to UK on the invitation of UK Ministry of Defence.

The signing of LOA marks an important milestone in the technical collaboration between the two countries and a number of projects are being planned to commence in coming months.

On the occasion, Sir Mark Welland thanked Dr Saraswat for his efforts towards strengthening the relationship with India. He said, “I have seen the exceptional dedication, expertise and skill in DRDO personnel and know that UK can look forward to a productive and valuable cooperation with our great allies in India for many years to come”. He added, “India and UK have a strong history of mutual cooperation and have thriving science and engineering communities. India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and is a powerhouse of technology”. He said that “Indian and British Defence scientists will be working together on technologies to face their country’s Defence and Security challenges, thanks to the new agreement”. Dr Saraswat thanked CSA and UK MOD on behalf of the Government of India and expressed hope that LOA will further strengthen the technical collaboration and mutual relations.

Antony faces trouble for statement on army chief's age

A copy of the Military Secretary's Branch letter that confirms that all General VK Singh's senior promotions (from brigadier to major general to lieutenant general) were on the basis of a date of birth of 10th May 1951. The army chief has been told by the defence ministry that his official date of birth is 10th May 1950, and that he must retire in May 2012 on reaching the age of 62

Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 16th Sept 11

Defence Minister A K Antony faces a possible breach of privilege motion for misleading the Rajya Sabha in the increasingly bitter battle between the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the army chief, General V K Singh, over the latter’s date of birth, which will determine when he hangs up his uniform.

The controversy stems from the army’s four-decade error in maintaining two conflicting dates of birth for Gen Singh in two separate record-holding branches: May 10, 1950 and May 10, 1951. The MoD has ruled that the general was born in 1950; hence he will retire on May 31, 2012, after reaching the age of 62 that month. The army chief, asserting a point of honour, has officially petitioned Antony that his birth year be considered 1951 on the basis of multiple documents that he submitted four decades ago (including his matriculation and birth certificates). That would make Gen Singh eligible to serve till May 31, 2013.

Now Antony faces potential trouble in Parliament. Samajwadi Party MP Mohan Singh has demanded a clarification on Antony’s apparently false reply to a parliamentary question that the MP raised on the army chief’s date of birth. In his written reply to the Rajya Sabha on September 7, Antony declared, “The date of birth of General V K Singh, Chief of Army Staff, has been maintained as May 10,1950 at the time of his selection as Corps Commander in 2006, as well as his subsequent promotions as Army Commander in 2008 and Chief of the Army Staff in 2010.”

This, it is learnt, is untrue. The army’s Military Secretary’s Branch (MS Branch), which directly handles promotions, clearly informed the defence secretary in writing, on July 1 that all senior-level promotions of the army chief had been approved with his birth date reflected as May 10, 1951.

Business Standard has viewed MS Branch letter No A/4501/01/GEN/MS(X), signed by the Military Secretary, Lieutenant General G M Nair. This letter informs the defence secretary that Gen V K Singh’s promotion to brigadier in 1996; to major general in 2003; and to lieutenant general in 2005; all had May 10, 1951 as the date of birth.

The MS Branch is the department that has maintained all along that Gen Singh was born in 1950. The Adjutant General’s Branch (AG’s Branch), which is the ultimate authority for personnel records, has the army chief’s birth year as 1951 since he was commissioned as an officer in 1970.

“The MoD has hidden material facts in their reply. I have now asked for details… and I expect the defence minister to reply within 10-15 days. If the defence minister does not provide full details this time, I will be well within my rights to move a breach of privilege motion,” Mohan Singh asserted.

In response to a query from this newspaper, the MoD said, “We have received the MP’s letter and the honourable Raksha Mantri (defence minister) has asked the ministry to examine the issue raised by the honourable MP.”

It is learnt that a band of committed supporters, many of them dating back to the army chief’s childhood, have joined hands behind him. They appear driven by a powerful sense of grievance, Anna Hazare-style, centred on the belief that a crooked system is trying to prematurely rid itself of an inconveniently honest army chief.

This sense of victimisation is reinforced by what they see as a media campaign to malign the army chief. They cite as an example, a news report, ‘Lies of the General’ in the latest issue of India Today, in which Attorney General Goolam Vahanvati is quoted as saying police verification at the time Gen Singh joined the army showed his year of birth as 1950. To refute that, Business Standard was shown copies of the police verification (from DIG CID (IB), Rajasthan and DIG CID, Punjab; Haryana, the army chief’s home state, did not exist at that time) indicating his birth year as 1951.

At the heart of the dispute is the MoD’s contention that any amendment to a date of birth must take place within two years of an officer’s commissioning. Gen Singh argues in his petition that he is not asking for an amendment. His demand is that the MS Branch reconcile its flawed records with the correct record that has always been available with the army’s authentic authority, the AG’s Branch.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

US declares Indian Mujahideen a Foreign Terrorist Organisation

A US State Department press release, designating the Indian Mujahideen as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation, is pasted below

Terrorist Designations of the Indian Mujahideen

Today, the Secretary of State designated the Indian Mujahideen (IM) as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act and as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under section 1(b) of Executive Order 13224. An India-based terrorist group with significant links to Pakistan, IM is responsible for dozens of bomb attacks throughout India since 2005, and has caused the deaths of hundreds of innocent civilians. IM maintains close ties to other U.S.- designated terrorist entities including Pakistan-based Lashkar e-Tayyiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM) and Harakat-ul-Jihad-i-Islami (HUJI). IM’s stated goal is to carry out terrorist actions against non-Muslims in furtherance of its ultimate objective – an Islamic Caliphate across South Asia.

IM’s primary method of attack is multiple coordinated bombings in crowded areas against economic and civilian targets to maximize terror and casualties. In 2010, IM carried out the bombing of a popular German bakery in Pune, India frequented by tourists, killing 17 and
injuring over 60 people. In 2008, an IM attack in Delhi killed 30 people. Also in 2008, IM was responsible for 16 synchronized bomb blasts in crowded urban centers and a local hospital that killed 38 and injured more than 100 in Ahmedabad. IM also played a facilitative role in the 2008 Mumbai attack carried out by LeT that killed 163 people, including six Americans.

“These designations highlight the threat posed by IM not only to Western interests, but to India, a close U.S. partner. The Indian populace has borne the brunt of IM’s wanton violence and today’s actions illustrate our solidarity with the Indian Government,” stated Ambassador Daniel Benjamin, the Department of State’s Coordinator for Counterterrorism.

These designations play a critical role in our fight against terrorism and are an effective means of curtailing support for terrorist activities and pressuring groups to abandon terrorism.

The consequences of these designations include a prohibition against knowingly providing material support or resources to, or engaging in other transactions with, the Indian Mujahideen, and the freezing of all property and interests in property of the organization that are in the United States, or come within the United States, or the control of U.S. persons. The Department of State took these actions in consultation with the Department of Justice and the Department of Treasury.

Thanks to Shiv Aroor for the new look Broadsword!

All you folks who like the new look on this blog... join me in thanking my friend and colleague, Shiv Aroor, who has generously given of his time in working at this new look. And, of course, in providing the Twitter and Facebook links that he believes will be useful.

I, of course, am too much of a techno-cretin to even understand what all of this means. But, hey, thanks a million Shiv! We're all grateful.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Defence ministry flouts norms for BEL

The Samyukta electronic warfare (EW) system, built by DRDO, with important contributions from the Indian private sector. The MoD is now trying to shut out the latter on grounds of security

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 12th Sept 11

Tomorrow, Defence Minister AK Antony is poised to violate the MoD’s own procurement rules by awarding Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) a Rs 1800-2000 crore contract for an electronic warfare (EW) system for the army. Bypassing the army’s written reservations, the MoD is citing security considerations to hand BEL this single-source purchase.

An EW system electronically scans the enemy’s radio, radar and data emissions to gather intelligence. At key moments in battle it broadcasts powerful electromagnetic surges to cripple the enemy’s electronics and communications.

The MoD’s apex Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) meeting tomorrow will rule on the procurement of “Track and Wheel Based EW Systems”, mounted on armoured vehicles for India’s mechanised strike corps. The MoD plans to categorise this acquisition as “Buy Indian – BEL”. The Defence Procurement Policy, or DPP, has no provision for such a category.

The categorisation process is crucial, as it decides whether the MoD will buy the concerned equipment off-the-shelf from the global arms bazaar; or buy technology and build it in India; or develop the equipment in India. Accordingly the procurement is categorised as “Buy Global”; “Buy & Make”; “Buy & Make (Indian); or “Make”. When the MoD wants Indian companies to compete for a particular contract, it is categorised as “Buy Indian”.

BEL has campaigned hard to get this massive contract without competition. Backing it is the MoD, which owns BEL. They argue that EW systems are so secret that Indian companies like Tata Power and L&T cannot be trusted with them. Backstopping that argument is a letter from then Deputy National Security Advisor Shekhar Dutt (who, as defence secretary, enjoyed a close association with BEL) reserving such systems for the public sector.

This viewpoint is hotly contested. Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, as DRDO chief gave a private company --- Tata Power (Strategic Electronics Division), or Tata Power SED --- a key development role in the Samyukta, India’s first homegrown EW system.

Also opposing this viewpoint is the army’s top acquisitions manager and deputy chief, Lieutenant General JP Singh. He has consistently told the MoD that competitive bidding will get the army better EW technology at cheaper prices than a contract gifted to BEL. Business Standard has learned that the army has sent a strong letter to the NSA’s office arguing that security is not an issue and asking for an appointment to make a presentation to the NSA.

But before that appointment could materialise, say senior MoD sources, freshly appointed defence secretary Shashi Kant Sharma hurriedly convened a meeting in early August to recommend that the DAC clears the single-source award of the tender to BEL on 13th September. Lt Gen JP Singh, who was not in town, could not attend that meeting. In his place was the army’s vice chief, Lt Gen AS Lamba, who rubber-stamped his okay, ignoring the army’s long-held position.

Three serving lieutenant generals have told Business Standard that Lt Gen AS Lamba, always known for a non-confrontationist attitude, is treading particularly carefully at the moment. He would be the senior-most candidate for army chief if General VK Singh were to resign over the snowballing date of birth issue.

Lt Gen Prakash Chand Katoch, who headed the army’s information systems branch, points out that the army buys EW systems from abroad. “So why can’t private Indian companies be trusted to build them? Sheltering behind security to hand the order to MoD enterprises is unfair. The army insists on getting source codes from the vendors and, therefore, can easily superimpose the security algorithms on them. Get the algorithms from the DRDO, and ask the cheapest bidder to build the system. But BEL keeps trying to get a sweetheart deal for building the entire system,” says Katoch.

The MoD, approached for a comment, has remained silent. In 2010, when the MoD first tried to hand BEL the contract for a “Track and Wheel Based EW system”, Antony’s deputy, MM Pallam Raju declared, “I think that we have a responsibility to the DPSUs since [their] ownership rests with the Government of India.”

The decision that the DAC takes tomorrow will resonate through the forthcoming award of Rs 20,000 crore worth of EW development contracts in the next 5-7 years. In the balance are orders for new EW systems for mountains, each worth Rs 1000 crore. Seven to eight EW systems will be bought for deserts/plains, each worth about Rs 1000 crore. The army will buy an unspecified number of heliborne EW systems, each worth about Rs 500 crore. The precedence set tomorrow could apply to all of these. In any case, say private Indian vendors that want to offer their own EW systems, being nominated for this first tender will allow BEL to cross-subsidise its bid for all the others.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Broadsword compliments: best 2011 amateur photo of a Eurofighter Typhoon

Note: a photo from Aero India 2011 won the third prize... but this one is a deserving winner

This is the amateur photo of the year of a Eurofighter Typhoon, selected by a panel of judges. The press release from Eurofighter says:

"The eventual winner was Ian Ramsbottom, whose stunning shot of a 17 Sqn Typhoon in the Mach Loop in Wales, UK, left the judges with little to disagree on. In second place was Alvaro Muñoz-Aycuens who took an image of Typhoon in the stormy skies at Duxford Air Show worthy of a renaissance era painting, and in third place was the iconic photo of Typhoon taken at Aero India 2011 in Bangalore by Rajesh Kumar Elumalai, who captured the stark contrast between the white display smoke and the clear blue Indian sky."

Thursday, 8 September 2011

India's fifth C-130J delivered. Might this aircraft be used someday for taking out Pakistan's nukes?

Lockheed Martin's press release is pasted below for those interested...

India - Just One More to go

MARIETTA, Ga. , Sept. 08, 2011 – The fifth of six C-130J Super Hercules on order for the Indian Air Force has departed the Lockheed Martin facility in Marietta. This aircraft, like its predecessors, was delivered well ahead of schedule and is now en route to Air Force Station Hindan in India. India’s sixth C-130J will be delivered in October.

With HAL overloaded, IAF turns to private sector

IAF procurement head to Business Standard: "$50 billion could be spent on new aircraft between 2007-2011."

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 8th Sept 11

The new IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne, has reached out to India’s fledgling private aerospace industry. Worried by the growing inability of public sector Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to keep the IAF fleet flying, Browne has promised to back a private sector production line that will manufacture a replacement for the vintage HS-748 Avro transport aircraft. The private sector is needed, says the IAF chief, to back the air force’s major expansion.

Browne told a gathering of aerospace CEOs in New Delhi on Thursday that the IAF had signed 271 capital acquisition contracts between 2006-11, paying out Rs 1,12,000 crore ($25 billion). Questioned by Business Standard on the sidelines, the IAF’s top acquisitions manager forecast that an additional Rs 2,24,000 crore ($50 billion) could be spent on new aircraft from 2012-2017. This figure is significantly higher than various estimations made in the past.

According to the IAF chief, the new platforms being inducted during the 11th and 12th Defence Plans (from 2007-2017) included the Su-30MKI; the new Light Combat Aircraft (LCA); the medium multi-role combat aircraft (“If we can sign that contract it will be a big relief for us”); the Indo-Russian Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft; the very heavy transport aircraft (Boeing’s C-17 Globemaster III); the medium transport aircraft; and a range of helicopters that are being developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. Browne also included new surface-to-air missile systems; air defence systems; and the modernisation of 29 airfields that will conclude by 2014.

But keeping this multi-billion dollar fleet flying, said the IAF chief, meant a big role for the private sector. Browne appealed for support “in terms of spares, in terms of life-cycle support, and the other systems for which we cannot keep relying on the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) or the foreign partners… We must have a robust aerospace industry that grows with the IAF to support us. That is what we look forward to from our (industry) partners.”

Appealing to private industry for support through the entire 40-year service lives of these high-tech aircraft (“the cradle-to-grave concept”, he called it), Browne urged, “We need to imbibe the culture of supporting the equipment through its lifetime. This also includes the mid-life upgrades and also in case of licensed production, the OEM (who may be a foreign partner) and the local aerospace industry here would have to transfer R&D and move to building spare parts from there.

Pledging his support to the private sector, Browne promised to back the Indian aerospace industry in building a replacement for the HS-748 Avro transport aircraft, which has already been in service for half a century. “We have proposed to the MoD that we could buy a certain amount (of Avro replacement aircraft) from the OEM outside, and then have local industry here manufacture the rest in terms of licensed production.”

Such an order would have, in the past, automatically gone to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). But the IAF, deeply worried about HAL’s growing delays in delivering aircraft that it is already building (e.g. the Su-30MKI), has apparently decided to back a private sector alternative to HAL.

Browne said, “We have suggested this model (of private sector participation) to the government. Otherwise it will go to a defence PSU, who as you are quite aware, their capacities are also limited, and they have too much on their hands at this point in time. So this kind of process would certainly help the aerospace industry in the long term.”

The IAF is concerned, however, at the low R&D spend within the private sector; and also at the lack of track record. It believes, therefore, that the best way to bring the private sector into aerospace manufacture is through promoting licensed manufacture in partnership with a foreign OEM. According to Browne the Avro replacement offers an ideal opportunity because the aircraft would be suitable not just for the IAF, but for civilian users as well.

“This is a suggestion given by the IAF and I’m happy to tell you that the ministry has a very positive take on this point. In due course of time, when the issue comes up before the Defence Acquisition Council, you have my assurance that this will have my support, and we’ll try and push that through,” promised Browne.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Nobody’s baby: the offset orphan

Target India!

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 6th Sept 11

As this newspaper reported last week, the ministry of defence (MoD) is backtracking from its defence offsets programme. Its resolve to jumpstart indigenous defence production through offsets has been broken by a cartel of foreign arms merchants. The vendors’ specious argument, which the MoD has inexplicably swallowed, is that Indian defence companies cannot absorb the billions in offsets that will arise from our weapons purchases over the coming decade, the biggest overseas arms buying spree in history. Indian defence companies have protested otherwise, but the MoD is not convinced. The inevitable speculation that the MoD has been bought over is too charitable. The reality is even more damning: rather than seizing the opportunity that offsets provide --- which would require clear thinking and the setting up of functional structures --- the ministry would rather neuter offsets to the point of irrelevance.

Defence offsets, for latecomers to this debate, are a form of counter-trade in which global vendors who win Indian defence contracts worth Rs 300 crore or more must invest 30% of the contract value into India’s defence industry. From 2011 onwards offsets can also be discharged in civil aerospace and internal security.

Offsets are almost universal, with over 130 countries demanding offsets in overseas defence purchases. Most of these, notably Israel, Turkey, Malaysia and South Africa, have well-established offset authorities that articulate exactly what they expect from an offset programme. But India’s MoD is unique in leaving it all to the vendor. The Defence Procurement Policy of 2006 (DPP-2006), and its subsequent amendments, does not enjoin the MoD to specify the offsets it wants; or to nominate an Indian company as an offset partner. The foreign vendor decides whether to buy cast iron pipes from India (passing them off as battleship components) or high-end software engineering. South Block’s only demand is: please tell us how you will discharge your offset liability.

This appalling disinterest stems from a fundamental flaw in our approach to offsets. The first is the view, rooted in years of technology sanctions, that anyone who sells India high-tech weaponry is actually doing us a kindness. Flowing from this deeply subservient perspective is the notion: don’t make specific demands; whatever those kind people give us is good enough. Consequently, nobody has ever enunciated the aim of India’s offset programme. Is it to boost defence manufacture; or to get access to high technology; or to ensure life-cycle support for the weaponry that we buy? Your guess is as good as mine.

This fatal flaw can be redeemed in the forthcoming amendment to the offset policy, which the MoD has almost finalised. Introducing a one-sentence objective --- “The aim of India’s offset policy is to….” --- would introduce a clarity that is sorely needed.

Without an articulated aim, it is unsurprising that no MoD department takes ownership of offsets. The Defence Offsets Facilitation Agency (DOFA) is a man-and-a-dog backwater that denies responsibility for anything more than “facilitation”. Justifiably so, for it does not have the staff, the wherewithal, or the mandate to examine offset proposals, scrutinise their financial viability, audit their discharge or endorse their successful completion. That leaves to the Acquisition Wing the key decision about whether an offset proposal is acceptable or not. As this newspaper’s recent reporting on offsets has highlighted, the Acquisition Wing takes the approach: don’t let offsets derail procurement; accept whatever offset proposal the vendor offers.

Take a look at the opportunities that are being lost. It is projected that India will spend $45-50 billion (Rs 2,07,000 - 2,30,000 crore) on overseas weaponry this decade, with offset requirements of 40% (the MMRCA contract is actually 50%). That means $20 billion (Rs 92,000 crore) worth of offsets must be discharged over the next 15 years or so, which is the period in which these contracts will be discharged. Indian industry must, therefore, absorb $1.33 billion (Rs 6,100 crore) in offsets each year. To place that figure in context, Peugot will invest Rs 4,000 crore in its automobile factory in Sanand, Gujarat. Over the next decade, the IAF’s 10-year modernisation programme will see the production in India of the MMRCA; the Indo-Russian fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) and multi-role transport aircraft (MRTA); the medium transport aircraft (MTA) that will replace the Avro; Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd’s intermediate jet trainer (IJT), the Sitara; National Aerospace Laboratory’s Saras light transport aircraft; the Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) and Medium Combat Aircraft (MCA); and a range of new helicopters being developed by HAL, such as the light combat helicopter (LCH). Setting up each of these production lines will take tens of thousands of crore, including the R&D base, the testing facilities, and the ancillary suppliers that come up. And this is just in aerospace. Indian CEOs wonder: where is the difficulty in absorbing 6,100 crore a year?

The MoD also seems to have forgotten that Indian companies exported over $60 billion (Rs 2,76,000 crore) worth of engineered goods last year to the US alone (Commerce Ministry figures).

The MoD has much to learn from developing countries with far less clout than India, who have translated offsets into huge strategic leverage. Turkey used technology obtained from offsets to develop a component for the American F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, eventually becoming the sole source for that component. When the US cut back Turkey’s role as a supplier, Ankara --- in a riveting David-and-Goliath struggle that caused a 17-month delay to the F-35 programme --- halted supplies until Washington came into line. Ankara demonstrated how offsets could translate into a critical role in a global supply chain.

Malaysia is another country from which India could learn. After obtaining know-how on composite structures through offsets, Malaysia is today a crucial supplier of aerospace composites (more than half of all composites used on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner are Malaysian). Kuala Lumpur has a simple game plan for obtaining technology through offsets. It specifies the technology that it wants; asks the foreign vendor to choose a Malaysian partner company; transfer the technology and develop Malaysian expertise; and then buy back the high-technology products that emerge. A simple, yet beautiful, plan.