Tuesday, 28 August 2012

846 Indian soldiers have died so far on Siachen

Defence minister AK Antony, on a visit to Siachen, presents sweets to Indian soldiers

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 28th Aug 2012

For the first time ever, the government has announced the number of Indian soldiers who have laid down their lives in the Siachen sector, ever since the Indian Army made its first headlong rush to secure that strategic area in the summer of 1984.

Defence Minister AK Antony, in a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha today stated, “A total number of 846 Armed forces personnel have made supreme sacrifices on the Siachen glaciers since 1984.”

This includes deaths due to the extreme climate and terrain conditions, which causes more casualties in that sector than battle does. Hypoxia, high altitude pulmonary edema (or “altitude sickness” in mountaineering lexicon), avalanches and crevasses have taken a heavy toll of Indian lives. Early in this high-altitude war, New Delhi decided not to differentiate between those who died in combat and those who were, say, swept to their deaths in an avalanche.

“(Environment-related) death during the course of duties on Siachen glaciers is treated as 'battle casualties' and enhanced compensation is paid to the next of the kin,” Antony told the Lok Sabha today.

 “Operation Meghdoot”, the military nickname for operations in Siachen, began on 13th April 1984, when Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopters airlifted a platoon of hardy hillmen from the Kumaon Regiment onto the Saltoro Ridge, which overlooks the Siachen Glacier from the west. Building up quickly, more Indian troops moved onto the three main passes on the Saltoro Ridge --- Bilafond La; Sia La; and Gyong La.

According to Lt Gen (Retd) VR Raghavan, a respected Indian authority on Siachen, the Pakistan Army had planned a similar operation to occupy the Saltoro Ridge that summer. But they arrived on the Saltoro a month after the Indians, only to find most of the key heights on the ridge already occupied.

For years, Pakistan has mounted bloody, but eventually fruitless, attacks to get atop the Saltoro Ridge. But the Indian army still controls all of Siachen, all its tributary glaciers, and all the key passes and heights of the Saltoro Ridge. Shut out even from a view of the Siachen Glacier, Pakistani troops suffer a severe tactical disadvantage all along the 109-kilometer-long Actual Ground Position Line, as the frontline in that sector is called.

Forced to fight uphill, Pakistan is believed to have suffered the lion’s share of battle casualties on the Saltoro. Indian troops, who hold higher positions with more difficult access, were estimated to have initially suffered more environment-related deaths, before better equipment, procedures and training brought casualties down to a trickle since the mid-1990s. But on 7th April, an avalanche that slammed into a Pakistani headquarters at Gyari swept away more than 130 soldiers. The next day, Pakistan’s President Zardari asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to cooperate in demilitarising Siachen.

New Delhi, however, is sticking to its demand for authentication of ground positions on the Saltoro Ridge before any demilitarisation could be conducted. The Indian Army says that, without authentication on signed map sheets, its hard-won high ground on the Saltoro Ridge could be occupied by Pakistan with impunity. As a result, the 13th Round of Siachen Talks between the two countries’ defence secretaries in June this year adjourned without making any headway towards settling the Siachen dispute. No dates have yet been fixed for the next round of discussions.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Prithvi II launched successfully by the Strategic Forces Command

The DRDO press release on the Prithvi II launch is pasted below:


DRDO developed surface to surface PRITHVI ( P-II ) Missile was successfully flight tested at 11.04 AM from Launch Complex III, Integrated Test Range (ITR), Chandipur, Balasore District in Orissa. The launch was carried out by the Strategic Force Command ( SFC ) as part of regular training exercise.

PRITHVI II, capable of attacking targets at ranges of 350 Kms, is India’s earliest developed and inducted, among the indigenous surface to surface strategic Missiles. Guided all through by an accurate Inertial Navigation System (INS) and controlled by the  Thrust vector control and Aero-dynamic control systems the missile reached the predefined target in the Bay of Bengal with a very high accuracy of better than 10 meters. The single stage Liquid Propelled Vehicle developed by DRDO, was inducted into the Armed Forces and one of the Missiles drawn from the inventory of Armed Forces, was test fired by the SFC.

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 in Bay-of –Bengal, 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 development, induction and training exercises. Today’s launch again proves the reliability of PRITHVI and confirms successful induction in services.

The team of Armed Forces and Scientists were lead by the Project Director Shri Siva Subramanyam and Shri Adalat Ali, Programme Director; Shri A.K. Chakraborti, Director  DRDL; Shri G. Satheesh Reddy, Associate Director RCI, Shri MVKV Prasad, Director, ITR and Dr Manjit Singh, Director TBRL, were present during the flight test.

Dr. Vijay Kumar Saraswat, Scientific Adviser to Raksha Mantri, Secretary, Deptt of Defence R&D, and DG DRDO, was present during the flight test, congratulated the Armed Forces and all the Scientists and other employees of DRDO for the successful flight test of PRITHVI (P-II ).

Friday, 24 August 2012

Towards maritime power

The modular shipyard being constructed at Mazagon Dock, during the process of installing the Goliath crane (compare with installed crane in the photo a couple of posts earlier)

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 24th Aug 12

India’s warship building capability is ramping up with our most experienced shipyards, Mazagon Dock Ltd, Mumbai (MDL) and Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers, Kolkata (GRSE), soon to deploy vastly improved infrastructure. Their new integrated yards, which are geared for “modular” shipbuilding, are expected to reduce the time needed to build a warship while also improving construction quality. This will help create the 160-ship armada that South Block requires for the Indo-Pacific region, which is looming ever larger as the world’s most vital geo-strategic patch.

Defence shipyards like MDL and GRSE have been building for decades, hamstrung by global technology denial regimes and Indian industry’s technological limitations. Over time, these shipyards have gained invaluable experience in the many complex facets of building warships. Their prime customer, the Indian Navy, is pleased with the battle-worthiness of the vessels that it gets. Speed of construction, however, has remained well below international benchmarks.

It would be tempting to conclude that the inauguration of MDL’s and GRSE’s new shipyards would ensure that warships are now delivered in short order. But for that, the ability to build quickly is not enough. As important as new shipyards is the need for a new mindset amongst navy and defence ministry (MoD) planners, which could better balance between two conflicting requirements: firstly, the imperative to build and deliver warships without delay; and secondly, the desire to incorporate the most modern weapons, sensors and systems in the warships under construction. As we have seen in the new Project 15A destroyers being built by MDL, construction has been held up because some of the weaponry that was developed alongside the warship is not yet ready to enter service.

This is the textbook dilemma of warship designing. On the one hand, developmental delays can be minimised by designing the warship around only tried and tested systems. On the other hand, building a vessel that will remain in frontline service for three to four decades demands that it be absolutely state-of-the-art at the time that it is built. The temptation for every user --- the Indian Navy is not alone in this --- is to adopt “concurrent development”. This involves designing many of the key systems even as the warship is being built, delivering these just in time to be fitted in the new warship. The risks of this strategy are evident in Project 15A, where developmental delays in its new air defence missile, the Long Range Surface to Air Missile (LR-SAM), have stalled the construction of three warships. Fortunately war is not imminent, but such a delay would be ruinous if it came.

It must be noted that MDL and GRSE are not India’s first integrated shipyards that are capable of “modular” construction. In the private sector, Pipavav Shipyard already has such capabilities, as will L&T’s shipyard at Kathupalli, when it is commissioned later this year. What these private shipyards do not have is the experience of building complex warships, a task that is to commercial shipbuilding as tight-wire walking is to a stroll in the park. The MoD must build up their experience with progressively complex warships, rather than bestowing its warship building projects to the defence shipyards, which are already loaded far beyond their capacities. This will multiply India’s capacity and help the navy reach and maintain the force levels that it needs.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

The "indigenous" Airborne Warning & Control System (AEW&C) lands on Indian soil

The DRDO press release is as follows:

New Delhi: Bhadrapada 02, 1934
August 24, 2012
First fully modified aircraft for indigenous Airborne Early Warning and Control Systems landed on Indian soil at Centre for Airborne Systems (CABS), Bangalore, (a DRDO laboratory) at HAL airport yesterday.  Aircraft was received by enthusiastic crowd from CABS, its work centers, Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification (CEMILAC) and IAF members. The aircraft and the flight crew was received by Dr Christopher, Program Director and Dr K Tamil Mani, Chief Executive, CEMILAC.  The aircraft and its crew from Indian Air Force and M/s Embraer were given a hearty welcome with water cannon.
The acceptance of the Aircraft was completed over a period of 15 days at Embraer Facilities in Brazil, by a team from CABS, its work centres, CEMILAC, DGAQA & IAF.
The Aircraft was flagged off from M/s Embraer, Brazil on 17 Aug 2012 by Shri G Elangovan, Chief Controller R&D, Dr S Christopher, Programme Director, Mr K Tamil Mani, Chief Executive, CEMILAC and team members and was flown across multiple continents to arrive in India. The Aircraft ferried with several mission system external components of DRDO including the Active Electronically scanned Array Antenna with passive electronics fitted on the Aircraft.
The arrival of this Aircraft marks the beginning of another phase of journey leading to the next major milestone of integration of the DRDO developed mission system, which will be followed by development flight trials in India beginning of 2013.
It may be noted that this is the first Aircraft delivered by M/s Embraer for which the contract was signed in 2008. The next Aircraft is expected to arrive in December 2012.

General Kayani's dilemma

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 21st Aug 12

A reluctant Pakistan Army is poised to crack down in the North Waziristan agency, the most jihad-poisoned corner of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) on Pakistan’s northwestern frontier. Army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, will be thanking the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the so-called Pakistani Taliban, which --- with its ill-judged fidayeen attack last week on the Pakistan Air Force’s vital Kamra base --- has given Kayani a pretext to move into North Waziristan in “the national interest” rather than in submission to Washington’s arm-twisting, which has now become irresistible.

But there remain serious concerns about further two-timing by Rawalpindi. The US wants the crackdown to focus on the Haqqani faction, which fights US forces in Afghanistan from its bases around the town of Miranshah. But will Kayani confront the Haqqanis, his most valuable proxies in Afghanistan? Or will the Pakistan Army merely feint against Miranshah, while reserving its firepower for Mir Ali, the nearby town that is headquarters for the TTP?

Kayani’s likely foray into North Waziristan will impact directly on the security situation in Afghanistan, and thence on Indian interests. We must understand, therefore, the game that the Pakistan Army will play. Decoding the intentions of that opaque institution is seldom easy, but General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi has done us a favour by briefing a columnist, the well-respected Cyril Almeida, whose recent column in Dawn newspaper bears all the telltale signs of a recent briefing from army decision-makers.

The column makes three points. Firstly it argues, using boilerplate Pakistan Army logic, that America is losing in Afghanistan because of the “dysfunctionality” with which it is prosecuting the war, not because of the safe refuges in North Waziristan from which the Haqqani faction operates.

This is pretty much standard Pakistani logic --- it’s not our fault, it’s yours! But the next point is an interesting one. The Pakistan Army, says Almeida, insists that the Haqqanis are not really dangerous; they only seem that way because of their high-profile attacks. In fact, the Haqqanis have no national ambitions in Afghanistan; they seek only to control the three border provinces of Khost, Paktia and Paktika. The US can easily wall them off inside these provinces, keeping the rest of Afghanistan a No Haqqani Zone.

With the Haqqanis ensconced in Khost, Paktia and Paktika, the Pakistan Army argues disingenuously that the US could deter attacks by the group on Kabul by threatening retaliation. Rawalpindi’s apparent objective is a tacit trade-off, in which the Haqqanis are handed over three Afghan provinces in exchange for a promise to leave Kabul alone. For GHQ, this is a win-win: it would be spared the embarrassment of having a soon-to-be-designated terrorist organisation operating from North Waziristan. More importantly, Haqqani control of those crucial border provinces would shift Pakistani leverage well into Afghanistan. That is exactly what strategic depth implies.

Almeida’s third point is that the Pakistan Army has never doubted that it would have to take on the jehadis in North Waziristan, especially pan-Islamic groups like the TTP that view Islamabad and the Pakistan Army as hurdles on the road to an ummah. GHQ knows that it must seal off the neighbouring tribal agencies and bring in more troops to ensure that FATA is brought into the Pakistani mainstream (such as it is). But what continues to hold Kayani back is the fear of “blowback” caused by a Pakistan Army offensive in North Waziristan. Successful retaliation by jehadis against “Pakistan proper” (the proper Pakistani way to refer to Punjab!) might make the generals look bumbling and inept. The Aam Pakistani might even begin to question the military’s special status.

Unsurprisingly, considering the mortality rate of Pakistani journalists who peer too deeply into the radicalization within that country’s army, Almeida cloaks that crucial question in silence. Blowback in “Pakistan proper” is far less troubling to the army brass than blowback within the army itself. The issue that must give Kayani persistent sleepless nights is: will his increasingly conservative, and in many cases radicalized, soldiers fight the Waziri militants who have long been lauded as a sword arm of Pakistan. After all, the jihad-intoxicated gunslingers who fight for the TTP are from the same stock as the tribal lashkars that were sent into Kashmir in 1947, a celebrated chapter in Pakistan’s history.

And the pan-Islamic ummah that the TTP seeks to impose on the world, including on Pakistan, would seem to many of Pakistan’s simple soldiers as only a logical extension of Pakistan’s founding belief that religion was the most important marker of identity. With Pakistan’s soldiery today drawn from exactly the same stock as Punjabi jehadis, it is inevitable that the Pakistan Army’s rank and file would share an ideological affinity with the militants they will now be asked to fight. The growing associations between the Pakistan military and the jehadis are increasingly apparent. Pakistani air force commanders have complained to US diplomats that airmen would sabotage F-16s before missions against militant targets. And the jehadi attacks on the Mehran naval base in 2011, and against Kamra last week, could never have been pulled off without insider help.

The question, therefore, is: will the Pakistan Army begin to crack? If massive firepower and US drone strikes quickly win the day and bring the TTP to the table, Pakistani face might yet be saved. But if, as I apprehend, North Waziristan turns into a bloody grind, the generals will face increasingly strident questions from the ranks to which they have no answers.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

New yards, techniques, to speed up warship building

Mazagon Dock's new "modular" shipyard, which will begin functioning 
next month. The Goliath crane, which can lift 300 tonnes, looms over the workshop that is still under construction. 
(Photos: copyright Ajai Shukla)

By Ajai Shukla
Mazagon Dock, Mumbai
Business Standard, 21st Aug 12

A humming construction site in Mumbai’s Mazagon Dock Ltd (MDL) holds the promise of a new era in warship building in India. Everything about this emerging new shipyard is enormous: the 200-metre-long workshop; a Goliath crane that dwarfs everything around; and an expansive “wet basin”, which is an enclosed harbour that will comfortably house two large warships.

This is MDL’s new Rs 826 crore “modular” shipyard that is expected to slash down the time taken to build warships for the Indian Navy. Defence shipyards currently take over ten years to build major warships like destroyers, frigates and corvettes. When the new yard is commissioned in June 2013, frigates will be built in 60 months; destroyers will take 72 months.

Building warships faster is crucial for the navy. Its Maritime Capability Perspective Plan (MCPP) of 2005 envisions a 160-ship navy, with 90 capital warships like aircraft carriers, destroyers, frigates and corvettes. Today, however, the navy has just 134 ships, with less than half the destroyers and frigates it needs. Bridging this gap of 26 ships, while also replacing warships that are being decommissioned after completing their 30-40 year service lives, requires a major boost in indigenous build capability.

To achieve this, MDL --- along with the other big defence shipyard, Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers, Kolkata (GRSE) --- is abandoning traditional shipbuilding. That involves welding a hull together and launching it into water, after which swarms of craftsmen painstakingly work in the warship’s cramped compartments, installing propulsion gear, electrically equipment, weapons, sensors and hundreds of kilometres of pipes and wiring. This is a slow process.

Instead, construction will now be like a giant Lego game: convenient 300-ton blocks will be built separately, and then assembled together into a complete warship. Each block will be fabricated in a well-lit, ventilated workshop with multi-level access, and will be complete with all the piping, electrical wiring and fitments that run through a ship. Each block must dovetail precisely with its neighbouring block, every wire, pipe and compartment coming together in perfect alignment.

PK Bhattacharjee, General Manager of the Mazagon Modernisation Project (MMP), who is conducting Business Standard through an exclusive, pre-inauguration tour of the shipyard, explains what happens next. After a block is completed in the worker-friendly environment of the modular workshop, the workshop’s roof is retracted and the rail-mounted Goliath crane reaches in and lifts out the 300-tonne block. It then transports it to the slipway where it takes its place in the warship that is taking shape. After about 20 blocks come together, the 3000-tonne semi-built warship is launched into the water and towed to the “wet basin”, where the superstructure, and weapons and sensors are put in.

“The capability to lift 300 tonnes is what makes modular shipbuilding possible. For decades, we have worked with 40-tonne cranes,” explains Battacharjee.

The first warships that will emerge from this process are 7 frigates of Project 17A. MDL will build four frigates, while GRSE will build three. The Project 17A frigates will be outwardly similar to their predecessors, the three Shivalik-class frigates of Project 17, which MDL has just completed. But modular shipbuilding is expected to ensure that Project 17A is completed must faster.

Back in MDL’s corporate office the new chairman, Rear Admiral (Retired) Rahul Kumar Shrawat, explains that the technological challenge of modular shipbuilding lies in designing each 300-tonne block so that it is fully kitted and fits exactly into the next. Since this process is new to India, Fincantieri, an Italian shipbuilder, will provide consultancy for the new design process.

“MDL’s board, in coordination with our partner shipyard, GRSE, will decide on the design consultancy for Project 17A. It will be a shipyard’s decision. The navy has specified only that integrated (modular) construction must take place,” says Shrawat.

Dutch company, Royal Haskoning, has functioned as prime consultant for the MMP, which has taken five years. Haskoning has prepared the design, organised site surveys and geotechnical investigations and is now supervising construction. Hyderabad-based Nagarjuna Construction has done the civil works, including the 8000 square metre workshop with a retractable roof.

A key construction challenge has been the Goliath crane, a Rs 89 crore, 2200-tonne structure that traverses on rails and extends 138 metres across the yard. Designed by Konecrane of Finland, the Goliath crane was physically erected by Fagioli of Italy. Kolkata-based company, McNally Bharat, was the Indian contractor.

Most pleasing to MDL officials is the third element of the MMP: a new wet basin that offers 25,000 square metres of berthing space for under-construction warships. MDL has long functioned with just the 14,000 square metre Kasara Wet Basin, which was built in 1774 to service warships of the East India Company. But, with three projects simultaneously ongoing, MDL had to berth under-construction warships at the Naval Dockyard, several kilometres away, transporting labour, stores and machinery to the naval facility everyday.

From next month, the wet basin and the Goliath crane will start functioning. The rest of the workshop is scheduled to be inaugurated in June 2013.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Navy’s wavering delaying warships by years

The first two project 15A destroyers at MDL (top) today, and (below) a year ago. Little hope of delivery before next year
(Photos: copyright Ajai Shukla)

By Ajai Shukla
Mazagon Dock, Mumbai
Business Standard, 20th Aug 12

The Indian Navy’s insistence that warships built in India must have cutting-edge weapons systems is having potentially dangerous consequences: half-built warships rusting in the dockyard, waiting for fancy weaponry that gets more and more delayed.

Such is the story of Project 15A, the construction of three 6,800-tonne destroyers by the public sector Mazagon Dock Ltd, Mumbai (MDL), India’s premier warship builder. Project 15A was sanctioned in June 2001, and construction began in 2003, with delivery of the first ship, INS Kolkata, promised in June 2008. The second (INS Kochi) and third (INS Chennai) vessels of the Kolkata Class (a warship class is traditionally named after the lead ship) would follow at one-year intervals.

Instead, as Business Standard saw on a visit to MDL, the three hulks float aimlessly, seawater corroding their steel as they wait for key systems that are not yet ready. INS Kolkata was launched in March 2006; it has already spent 7 years in the water. But the navy will be lucky to get it next year, five years late. INS Kochi and INS Chennai will follow in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

Meanwhile, the navy’s Maritime Capability Perspective Plan (MCPP) exists only on paper. Formulated in 2005, the MCPP projects a 160 ship-strong navy, including 90 front-line combat platforms (major warships like aircraft carriers, destroyers, frigates and corvettes). Actual numbers are far more modest. The INS Sahyadri, the navy’s latest warship that was commissioned last month, is its 134th ship.

According to a 2010 CAG report on warship building, this year the navy will have just 44% of the destroyers it needs; 61% of the frigates; and 20% of its requirement of corvettes (destroyers are heavy warships, above 6,000 tonnes; frigates usually weigh under 5,500-6,000 tonnes; while corvettes are usually below 2,500 tonnes).

The navy has only itself to blame for delays in Project 15A. With MDL having successfully built three destroyers under Project 15 (INS Delhi, INS Mysore and INS Mumbai), Project 15A was to be a follow-on class, three more destroyers built quickly using basically the same design and technologies. Instead, the navy demanded 2,363 modifications, including major changes in weaponry, sensors and helicopter systems.

According to the CAG’s audit report, the Kashtan surface-to-air missile was replaced with the Long Range Surface to Air Missile (LR-SAM), which the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) is still co-developing with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). To strengthen the destroyer’s anti-submarine capabilities, it was decided to include a bow-mounted sonar, the DRDO’s Humsa sonar. And the entire helicopter hangar was redesigned to accommodate a bigger helicopter.

To make matters worse, many of these decisions were taken late, necessitating major reconstruction. The CAG points out that the decision on the Humsa sonar was taken “after MDL had completed the detailed design, production, assembly and erection of the bow structure without sonar”, which called for major redesign. Similarly, the navy decided to change the gun mount in March 2008, after the first ship was launched. This “necessitated redesign of the entire structure around the gun mount…” says the CAG.

Naturally, the delays have been enormous. While Project 15 vessels were built in 108 months, Project 15A vessels will take 140 months to delivery. This is twice as long as Korean shipyards like Hyundai and Daewoo, which take 66-72 months (including the pre-build period) for a comparable warship. Western shipyards like DCNS (France), Fincantieri (Italy), or Northrop Grumman (USA) typically take 78-80 months.

MDL’s new chairman, Rear Admiral (Retired) Rahul Kumar Shrawat, plays down the delay, pointing out that the vessels are now close to completion. “It is the navy’s endeavour to put the latest equipment on a new warship. That is a legitimate user aspiration,” he says.

But Shrawat would not like the same mistakes to be made in Project 15B, another follow on project, under which MDL will build four destroyers similar to the Kolkata Class. Shrawat hopes that Project 15B destroyers, which will start being constructed this year, will incorporate the same LR-SAM, Brahmos cruise missile and helicopter hangar that is being installed in Project 15A.

“The lesson learnt is that the systems that are proven on one platform, unless they genuinely require upgrading, should perhaps be used for the follow-on platform as well. But, as a shipyard, we do not control that. We can only recommend to the navy,” says Shrawat.

The Rs 29,325 crores contract for Project 15B was concluded in Jan 2011. Production will start by year-end, with the first destroyer being delivered in 2018 and the other three at one-year intervals.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

China's air force, or PLA (AF), in live fire exercises over the Tibetan plateau

And here is the caption from the PLA Daily, courtesy of whom these photos are posted: "The air force of the Chengdu Military Area Command (MAC) of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) organized its fighters to carry out actual combat training on the Tibetan Plateau on August 10, 2012, in a bid to explore and perfect the new methods of operation for the aviation force in high attitude areas. The photo features the formation of J-11 fighters."

Friday, 17 August 2012

Reader Poll: Should this Olympic silver medal winner be granted officer rank immediately?

Facebook has witnessed heated debate about silver medalist Vijay Kumar's alleged comment (which the flustered soldier denied much later) that he would quit the army if he were not promoted to officer rank.

It is quite apparent from the tone and tenor of those posts that Indian Army officers regard him as a selfish ungrateful loner who is forgetting how much the army has done for him (which is to train him, first in basic army weapons training and then in the Army Marksmanship Unit in Mhow). This group of posters believes that the status of officer is too high for Vijay Kumar.

Another less vocal group feels that Vijay Kumar should be immediately promoted to officer rank. Their logic, as I understand it, is that he has done so much more than anyone else with the facilities that are available to everyone in the army. Merit and achievement must be rewarded. And what's so special about officer rank that Vijay Kumar can't have it? Is it just that he can't speak English very well?

Post your comments. And mention whether you're a serving officer, a retired officer, or have never been an officer of the Indian Army.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Defence Minister Antony's top 5 issues concerning the Indian military. What would be yours?

Going by the sequence in which Defence Minister AK Antony raised issues in his Independence Day address to the armed forces today, corruption within the military is its biggest threat… followed by the need to protect human rights during counter-terrorism operations. Equipment modernization came in fifth place.

Here is the order in which Antony raised issues in his speech:

No.1 :  Corruption

No.2 :  Protecting human rights during counter-terrorism ops

No.3 :  Border and coastal security

No.4 :  Welfare of serving and retired soldiers

No.5 :  Equipment modernization

For those who are interested in his exact words, here they are:

No.1 :  Corruption

Corruption is today a serious challenge facing our nation - and our Armed Forces are no exception to the rule. Corruption not only badly affects the morale of the personnel, but also has many other implications. I appeal to each one of you to renew the pledge to work with all the honesty, fairness and transparency at your command in your day-to-day work. Our Armed Forces have been renowned for their hard work, determination, efficiency and discipline. It is our individual duty and collective responsibility to ensure that the excellent work done by our Armed Forces in general, is not undone at any cost.

No.2 :  Terrorism and human rights

Terrorism still continues to be one of the major challenges our nation faces. You are faced with challenges on this front day in and day out. However, while being vigilant on the one hand, you must exercise utmost restraint and discipline, on the other hand. There must not be even a single case of human rights violations anywhere. Such violations undo at one stroke, all the good work and tarnish the image of our Armed Forces.

No.3 :  Border and coastal security

Our focus is on strengthening our land, air borders, as well as the sea-lanes so that our Armed Forces are always well prepared to meet any kind of eventuality, or challenge. We have laid maximum emphasis on strengthening coastal security. We have taken steps to expedite the Coastal Radar Network on both, the eastern and the western coast.

No.4 :  Welfare of serving and retired soldiers

Dear jawans, your all-round welfare is always uppermost in our minds. Our Government has been making all-out efforts to improve your living and working conditions. We have taken several steps to further improve the quality of rations, accommodation and clothing. Our scientists have developed a nutritious, ready-to-eat diet called "AAHAR". This will go a long way in meeting requirements of fresh food of all you jawans.

In our ongoing efforts to improve the well-being of jawans, our Government has further widened the scope of ECHS and established more polyclinics and regional health centres. We have also taken up special measures to accelerate the Married Accommodation Project (MAP). Under the project, a total of nearly two lakh dwelling units are being constructed in four phases at an estimated cost of over Rs. 17, 000 crores. Presently, 54, 000 dwelling units have been constructed out of a total of 58, 000 dwelling units under Phase-I of the project. Phase-I I of the project involving the construction of 70, 000 dwelling units has also begun. Phase-Ill and Phase-IV of MAP have been merged so that the work on the remaining 71, 000 dwelling units of MAP Phase III and Phase IV can be expedited. We are sure that MAP will go a long way in boosting the morale of our Armed Forces. Today, I wish to reassure you that when it comes to the welfare of jawans, we will never make any compromises.

Ex-servicemen have always been one of our topmost priorities. We are making our best efforts to ensure that there are no procedural delays in pension-related cases of ex-servicemen. Our Government is aware that ex-servicemen have some grievances with the amount of pension they get. A high-level committee has been set up under the chairmanship of Cabinet Secretary to look after such cases, as well as other problems.

No.5 :  Equipment modernization

Modernisation and indigenisation remain at the centre of all our efforts to help our Armed Forces. The recent, successful test of Agni-V is an achievement for our scientific community and it has proved that when it comes to indigenisation, it is only a question of willpower. The commissioning of INS Baaz, the Naval Air Station at Campbell Bay, will not only help maritime domain awareness, but will also impart blue water capability to our Navy. Similarly, the commissioning of INS Chakra and indigenously developed stealth frigate INS Sahyadri and naval version of indigenously built Light Combat Aircraft will definitely sharpen our attack capabilities.

No.6 :  Natural disasters

My sympathies are with the survivors of the Nature's fury in Jammu & Kashmir, north-eastern states, Assam, Uttarkashi and other parts of the country, which have seen the worst type of floods in recent times. My heartfelt condolences go out to those, who lost their near and dear ones, including Armed Forces personnel.

No.7 :  Sports

The performance of sportspersons from our Armed Forces has been a heart-warming one. Recently, Subedar Vijay Kumar, did our nation and the Armed Forces proud by winning the silver medal in shooting in the 25-metre rapid-fire pistol event at the London Olympics. I take pride in extending my heartiest congratulations to the Indian Army Women Expedition team that put 17 climbers atop Mount Everest, which is indeed a rare and a historic feat. I also congratulate the 'Delphinus' team of air warriors of Indian Air Force, which recently swam across the English Channel successfully under extreme conditions.

What would have been your top five issues?

Defence offsets cross Rs 25,000 crore; bigger contracts loom

The MoD releases the Defence Production Policy in Jan 2011

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 14th Aug 12

Minister of State for Defence, MM Pallam Raju, told parliament today that Indian companies had signed 19 offset contracts with foreign vendors since the offset policy came into effect in Sept 05. Indian Air Force (IAF) procurements have generated 80% of all offsets, with naval procurements accounting for the other 20%. Army procurement have yielded no offsets so far.

Business Standard has calculated, from MoD figures released over time, that the total value of these offsets has just crossed the Rs 25,000 crore mark. Starting from a modest offset contract worth $5.4 million (Rs 30 crore), linked to the procurement of Medium Power Radars (MPRs) from Israel in 2007, offsets have accelerated sharply, particularly over the last two years. In 2011 and 2012, offset contracts worth $2.2 billion (Rs 12,350 crore) were signed.

The most recent signing was a $150 million (Rs 830 crore) offset contract this summer with Swiss aircraft builder, Pilatus. This was linked with Pilatus’ contract to supply the IAF with 75 trainer aircraft.

The defence offset policy requires international arms vendors who win contracts worth Rs 300 crore or more to plough back at least 30% of the contract value into India in the form of defence orders, technology or infrastructure. Offsets were first made mandatory in the Defence Procurement Policy of 2005 (DPP-2005) and then revised periodically, most recently on Aug 1st.

The biggest offset contract signed so far has been with The Boeing Company, a massive $1092 million (Rs 6,050 crore) contract, linked with the purchase of C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft for the IAF. Close on its heels are the $979 million (Rs 5425 crore) offsets linked with the upgrade of Mirage 2000 fighter aircraft. This includes a $592 million (Rs 3,280 crore) offset contract with Thales for the aircraft upgradation; and a $386 million (Rs 2,140 crore) offset contract with MBDA for new missiles for the Mirage 2000.

Looming ahead is the mother of all offset contracts. French aerospace major, Dassault, and its major sub-vendors like Thales, will be liable for offsets worth 50% of the value of the contract to supply 126 Rafale medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) to the IAF. With the Rafale contract conservatively expected to be worth some Rs 75,000 crore, it would generate another Rs 37,500 crore in offsets.

Major offset deals:

Ser No

Date of signing

Mig-29 Upgrade

$308 mn
Mi-17 V-5 Helicopters(MLH)

$405 mn
C-130 J-30

$219 mn
AW-101 VVIP Helicopter

$224 mn
C-17 Aircraft

$1092 mn
Mirage-2000 Upgrade

$592.8 mn
MICA Missile for Mirage-2000

$386.4 mn

P-8I maritime aircraft

 $641.3 mn