Wednesday, September 2, 2009

DO WE HAVE IT IN US : Polish Land Forces Commander Resigns Over Equipment Issues

Polish Land Forces Commander Lt. Gen Waldemar Skrzypczak has resigned, after accusing defense bureaucrats in Warsaw of “serious incompetence,” which was partly responsible for the deaths of Polish soldiers. On August 17, the general told the Dziennik daily newspaper that defense ministry officials “knew war only from the movies” and reportedly said that:

“It is shameful that we haven’t given soldiers needed equipment… We’ve been fighting for equipment [like UAVs and fully armed helicopters] for over two years, but no one is listening to commanders. We’re asking for arms but everything is drowning in procedures.”

As one might predict, those comments touched off promises of a major equipment purchase, along with a political firestorm. One that only got worse when Poland’s Defense Minister Bogdan Klich told a press conference that the general had admitted his comments were a mistake…

Polish troops, Afghanistan
(click to view larger)

The general quickly responded that the minister was being dishonest, adding that the only mistake he accepted had been making the comments the day before the funeral of Capt. Daniel Ambrozinski, 32, killed by a Taliban sniper on Aug 10/09. Four soldiers were wounded in the clash, and initial inquiries found that the unit had not received prompt back-up owing to equipment shortages. Gen. Skrzypczak added that he stood fully behind the substance of his remarks, and resigned in protest.

In a Polish Radio interview the next day, Defence Minister Bogdan Klich described the resignation as being “politically motivated,” which is true even if one takes the general fully at his word for his reasons. Minister Kilch added that the general had never approached him with these criticisms, “neither in public nor in private.”

This has hardly been the first complaint regarding Polish equipment and logistics performance, however, as their presence in Afghanistan has grown from a token force of about 100 to around 2,000 troops today. Some of these problems have apparently come from trying to keep up with the Americans, who keep changing key components of their body armor, roadside bomb jammers, and night vision gear. Other problems involve difficulty budgeting for and delivering equipment to meet trends like personal tactical radios and UAVs, which have caught on in Britain and America as critical components for urban combat. Still other problems involved timely provision of basic upgrades like actually mounting adequate machine guns on Poland’s Mi-17s, and an MND supply office that was slow to provide spare parts, leaving Polish soldiers with broken and hence useless equipment.

The United States military has loaned Poland 30-40 blast-resistant Cougar vehicles for use in Afghanistan, and has reportedly made quite a few front-line “loans” of day-to-day equipment as well. According to recent reports, a rescue package of equipment may also be in the cards from Warsaw. On Aug 19/09, reports surfaced of a “billion zloty” package (about $350 million) that would include the intended Polish MRAP competition for up to 60 vehicles, 2 medium-range UAV systems, and up to 5 helicopters that would “probably” be more Mi-17s, bringing the Polish Mi-17 fleet to 11. As “UK SAS Commander Quits, Citing Inadequate Equipment” has noted, Gen. Skrzypczak is not alone in taking such steps. Peacetime armies are never fully adapted to wartime urgencies, and the cost is always measured in lives. If the soldiers on the front lines must put their lives on the line, however, the senior officer’s highest ethic calls for honest advice and fidelity to their soldiers, even if that results in the sacrifice of their careers. Lt. Gen Waldemar Skrzypczak has fulfilled that duty as he saw it. It remains to be seen whether this produces real change on the front lines

Jaswal to take over Northern Command

Lt-Gen BS Jaswal, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Army Training Command (ARTRAC) here, will be assuming the command of the prestigious Northern Command on October 1.
Jaswal was commissioned in the third battalion of the Jammu and Kashmir Rifles in 1970. He will assume office in place of Lt-Gen PC Bhardwaj, AVSM, VrC, SC, VSM, who will be moving to take over the appointment of Vice-Chief of the Army Staff.
He is considered an expert in combating insurgency as has decades of experience in bringing peace to militancy-affected areas both in Jammu and Kashmir and Assam.
He has been decorated on three different occasions for his outstanding achievements. Lt-Gen AS Lamba, Chief of Staff, ARTRAC, will take over as General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the ARTRAC on promotion.

Pak enhancing N-capability to target India

Top US nuclear scientists have shockingly revealed in a report that Pakistan is enhancing its nuclear weapons and production capabilities.
According to the report, which is yet to enter the public domain, Pakistan is readying a new nuclear capable ballistic missile for deployment and two nuclear capable cruise missiles.
It also says that Pakistan is building two new plutonium production reactors and a second chemical separation facility at Chasma, Khushab and Dera Ghazi Khan in southern Punjab.
Pakistan is also renewing work on a partially built separation plant at Chasma. It is believed that this secretive and substantial arsenal build-up is targeted at India.
Based on official estimates of Pakistan's current uranium and plutonium technology, scientists had so far thought the country far short of having 100 nuclear warheads in its kitty.
The new report, however, suggests that Pakistan has exceeded earlier estimates, and from being able to build 30-40 nuclear weapons it actually could possess as many as 70-90 - a disturbing figure from India's point of view and that of the US, currently debating financial and military aid to its friend in keeping with the AFPAK agreement. Moreover, if this report is true Pakistan is clearly going beyond the moratorium existing as an unwritten code of conduct in South Asia to halt the arms race.

HAL blames BAE Systems for Hawk delays

The Indian Air Force (IAF) is desperately short of aircraft for training its flight cadets. With the entire fleet of basic trainers — the HPT-32 Deepak — grounded after a series of crashes, advanced training is suffering equally due to unexpected delays in the manufacture of the Hawk advanced jet trainer (AJT) in India.

Now Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), under sharp attack for the delays, has unequivocally blamed BAE Systems, UK, for failing to properly honour its contract to transfer technology, design drawings, tools, manufacturing jigs and components essential for smoothly rolling out the Hawk in India.

BAE Systems had signed a $1.2-billion contract with India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) in 2004 to supply 24 ready-built Hawk-132 AJTs (already delivered) and transfer the technology for building another 42 in HAL, Bangalore.

According to the contracted schedule, the first 15 Hawks should have already been built in Bangalore. Instead, only five have been completed.

HAL Chairman Ashok Nayak has listed out for Business Standard a string of lapses by BAE Systems, which, he alleges, is behind this delay. “This is the first time that BAE Systems has transferred technology for building the Hawk-132 AJT abroad. Some of the jigs (frames on which aircraft parts are assembled) and tooling that they supplied HAL relate to earlier models of the Hawk, which has gone through several versions over the years.”

BAE Systems last transferred the Hawk technology abroad more than a decade ago, when Australia built 21 Hawk-127 trainers — an earlier version of the Hawk — in the late 1990s.

Nayak also says that when HAL pointed out the discrepancy to the BAE Systems team stationed at the Hawk assembly line, “they had to refer back to the UK for everything. They weren’t able to address these issues themselves.”

While most issues have now been resolved, there are still some continuing delays. Hawk windscreens, manufactured by Indian vendors must be sent to BAE Systems for certifying their strength and clarity. This procedure, says HAL, is taking unduly long.

Guy Douglas, BAE Systems’ spokesperson in India, strongly refutes HAL’s version. In an emailed response, he states “BAE Systems does not accept that the programme delays being experienced by HAL, on their contract with the government of India, are materially down to BAE Systems. BAE Systems has completed all hardware deliveries to support the licence-build programme. BAE Systems has repeatedly made clear that it stands ready to assist HAL, should they require it. In this respect, a number of proposals have been made by BAE Systems to HAL and we await their response.”

Nayak denies that HAL has had any difficulties in assimilating the technology needed for manufacturing the Hawk in India.

The HAL chairman states, “We have assembled the Jaguar and other aircraft. That is not the problem. Why were the jigs and fixtures that (BAE Systems) supplied incorrect? We have their Technical Assistance Team’s signatures on each and every one of them. I can quote you minimum 300 such examples, and some of them took weeks to sort out.”

Nor is the MoD impressed with BAE Systems’ execution of the Hawk contract, signalling its disapproval earlier this year by floating a fresh global inquiry for India’s requirement of 57 additional trainers. That was an unambiguous rap on the knuckles for BAE Systems; with an assembly line already producing AJTs in Bangalore, the additional requirement would normally have been added on to the ongoing licensed production.

Now, however, BAE Systems is back in talks with South Block over the order for 57 more Hawks.

Air version of Brahmos readied for tests on Sukhoi jets: Official

TIRUCHIRAPALLI (TN): The faster air version of the successful supersonic BrahMos cruise missile is being readied for tests on the Sukhoi-30 jets and the weapon is expected to be formally inducted into the Indian Air Force (IAF) by 2012, a top official said.

A final shape to the hypersonic missile BrahMos-II project being executed by the Indo-Russian joint venture BrahMos Aerospace would emerge shortly, the company CEO and Managing Director A Sivathanu Pillai told reporters.

Project authorities are awaiting the modified Sukhoi-30 MKI aircraft that would be fitted with the sophisticated missile which can travel at speeds between Mach 5 and Mach 7. (Mach 1, which is the speed of sound, is equal to roughly 1,200 km per hour).

After being fitted on an aircraft, BrahMos-II will be the only cruise missile with the capability of being launched from land, sea and air, Pillai said.

The design team had already been lined up and discussions would be held shortly between the joint venture partners on investments, sharing of technical responsibilities, administration and sharing of manufacturing facility infrastructure, he said.

On the new version of BrahMos, Pillai said the preliminary exercise for its induction into the IAF is already on.

The design and development of this version had been fruitful and the advanced missile, which weighs 0.5 tonne less than that of the three-tonne land version BrahMos, was ready.

BrahMos, which has a capability of carrying 300 kg conventional warheads at a speed of around 2.8 Mach, has already been inducted into the Army and the Navy.

Pillai said he was hopeful that the target for induction of the air version set for 2012 would be achieved

Amit Aneja takes charge as Commandant of AFA

Hyderabad, Sept 1 (PTI) Air Vice Marshal Amit Aneja today took over as the Commandant of the prestigious Air Force Academy (AFA) at Dundigal here.

AFA, is a premier IAF training institute where flight cadets are imparted quality training to become officers in the flying, technical, administration, logistics, accounts, meteorology and education branches of the Indian Air Force.

AVM Amit Aneja was commissioned in the Indian Air Force as a fighter pilot in December 1976. An alumnus of the National Defence Academy, the Air Officer has flown over 3,000 hours which includes operational flying in various front line fighter squadrons.

His flying experience includes flying on Kiran, Hunter, Gnat, MIG-21 and Mirage-2000 and he is a qualified Flying Instructor.

The Air Officer is a post graduate in Defence and Strategic Studies and did the higher command course.

FLIR gets $7.2 million surveillance order from the Indian Air Force

September 1, 2009--FLIR Systems (Portland, OR) received a $7.2 million U.S. Government Foreign Military Sale (FMS) order for the Indian Air Force. The order includes FLIR System's Star SAFIRE(R) III infrared multi-sensor surveillance systems, training and related services. The units delivered under this award will be installed on C-130J Fixed Wing Surveillance Platforms in support of Indian Ministry of Defense airborne missions.
This FMS order represents the first fixed-wing sale of FLIR's multi-sensor systems to the Indian Ministry of Defense. Work on this order will be performed at FLIR's facility in Wilsonville, Oregon and deliveries are expected to be completed by 2011.
"This order, the result of FLIR's world-class products and significant investment in regional support and training, demonstrates our ability to penetrate new international markets," said Earl R. Lewis, president and CEO of FLIR Systems. "We are pleased the Indian Ministry of Defense has chosen FLIR products for their critical homeland security and national defense missions and look forward to collaborating with them in the future."

FLIR Systems designs, manufactures, and markets thermal imaging and stabilized camera systems for a wide variety of thermography and imaging applications.

Hopes, dreams take wing as Air Force declares results

New Delhi Outside the gates of the Indian Air Force base at Race Course road, hundreds of young boys are waiting — some walk around to pass time, others sit on the pavement fighting the muggy monsoon day with ice creams.
These are aspiring Airboys, waiting for the results of the Air Force exam. Newsline joins in to ask what motivated the youngsters to apply for the Air Force.
Answers vary from Air Force being the dream they nurtured for years to a hunt for a secure job and a good livelihood. There are also some who are attracted to the idea of flying, uniforms and guns, while some turned up, well, just like that.
Most aspirants are from Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and other neighbouring states and the crowd outside the building displays a mix of opinions and emotions:
For Amit Dalal, 18, from Haryana, Air Force was a dream since childhood and it turned into an aim as he grew up. As he grew up, it turned into his aim. “I always wanted to be in the Air Force and now my dream can come true,” he says. Though Dalal is applying for a non-technical job, he wants to fly fighter planes one day. “I will do it,” he avers.
Sonu Naresh, 18, wants a secure government job. His plan includes not just the Air Force but also the Navy and other defence forces. He knew all about the tests even before his neighbouring bookstore in Ghaziabad started selling the forms. “I want to get a government job and a steady income. Life will be then on a track,” says Naresh, who wants to retire before he is 30. “The pension will keep coming every year and I will do my own business,” he says.
Hem Chandra Pandey, 17, wears glasses and is dressed in formals. Pandey, an NCC cadet from Jharkhand, likes discipline and that is why he turned to the Air Force. “I want to be in the Air Force because I want my life to be disciplined. I want everything to be in order,” says Pandey, a B Com student at the Kumao University in Jharkhand. He aims to be a commissioned officer.
It is 1 pm and the result is being announced. From the two batches of 500 applicants, only 48 have been selected. Hope gives way to dejection and for some, a resolve to try again.
Near a plinth, Vinay Kumar, 18, gets up to go back home in Ghazipur, UP. He has not been selected. His father is already walking ahead, sad that his son didn’t make it. Kumar, though, is coming here next year again and before that he will apply for the Navy as well. For Kumar, a career in defence runs in the family. “My father is in the Army, my uncle in the Navy and even my grandfather was an armyman. I have always wanted to be in the Air Force or Navy,” he says. Kumar lost out this year by one mark. “I will do it because I have to,” he says as he follows his father.

Lockheed Martin to fund Delhi undergrads’ next-gen UAV

NEW DELHI - Impressed by the talent of a group of engineering undergraduates who won top honours at an international competition for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), US aerospace major Lockheed Martin announced Tuesday it would fund their efforts to create a new generation machine that would have civilian and military applications.
“Here is a group of students who are undergraduates and have worked on a technology they don’t even have classes on,” said Ray O. Johnson, Lockheed Martin senior vice president and chief technology officer, while announcing the company would ink a deal with the Delhi Technology University (DTU), to which the 10 students belong.
“We will provide the broad parameters of the design requirements to be implemented by the students,” he added.
While congratulating the students, Johnson said: “This partnership is one more example of Lockheed Martins long-term commitment to India and the partnerships which we seek to develop and nurture.
The company will provide the student group with Lockheed Martin-generated design space to structure their efforts. The team will be required to make an initial design and then develop a flying prototype - with the drones hopefully going into production by the Commonwealth Games in October 2010.
These will be ideal vehicles for carrying out aerial surveillance at the Games’ venues and also for controlling traffic, P.B. Sharma, the vice chancellor of the DTU, which was previously known as the Delhi College of Engineering (DCE).
Sharma, along with other DTU faculty, had guided the 10 students who won the director’s award for the best team effort for demonstrating a successful flight of a UAV at the 2009 Association of Unmanned Vehicles System International (AUVSI) Student Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) competition.
Explaining the salient features of the new UAV, Rochak Chadha, a third year student of electronics and communications engineering, said the effort would be to increase its endurance to 10 hours from an hour the existing machine can stay aloft.
It will also run on an electric motor against the present petrol engine, we will downsize the autopilot and change the camera system for greater resolution and clarity, Chadha added.
Speaking about what motivated the team to start work on the existing craft, Chadha said: Technology for UAV’s is woefully lacking and the defence forces have to import these from Israel. We wanted to work on the ultimate level of robotics and to create something that was commercially viable.”
The global UAV market is currently estimated at $3.4 billion and has the potential to rise to $7 billion in 10 years, he added.
Asked if the defence ministry has been approached for potential purchase of the UAV, Sharma replied: The defence ministry and ADA (Aeronautical Development Agency) are aware of our capabilities. But more than that, there is tremendous potential for the machine in the civilian sector.

Utilise spare time in social services

ALLAHABAD: Calling upon the youth to devote themselves to nation building, Colonel Kaushal Chaturvedi, group commander of Allahabad NCC group while flagging off a boat expedition from Saraswati ghat here on Tuesday advised them to utilise their spare time in social services.

The pullin-cum-sailing boat expedition on two whaler boats is being conducted by Varanasi Naval Unit NCC under the aegis of UP NCC Directorate, Lucknow.

30 cadets of Varanasi NCC unit and senior sailors of Indian Navy are participating in the 410 kilometre long expedition which will pass through Mirzapur, Chunar, Varanasi and Ghazipur before culminating at Ballia on September 10.

The main objective of the expedition is to impart adventure sports training to cadets. They would also be engaged in spreading awareness about river Ganga and pollution control among people living near the river bank. The expedition will also provide opportunity to rural youth to know more about the Indian Nay.

Colonel Harjeet Singh, group commander, Varanasi NCC conveyed his good wishes to the participants while Lieutenant Commander Pramod Dutta and Commander SK Singh of Indian Nay were also present on the occasion. A large number of NCC cadets of Allahabad alongwith the locals cheered the expedition team.

Pipavav Shipyard to focus on defence, oil and gas sectors

Bangalore: Private shipbuilder Pipavav Shipyard Ltd, co-promoted by engineering firm Punj Lloyd Ltd, will focus on building ships for the defence and oil and gas sectors, a top executive said.
The shipbuilding firm, India’s newest in the private sector, is looking to tap into a portion of the big projects lined up by the Indian Navy, estimated to be worth Rs50,000 crore to be spent in the next 15-20 years.
“Going forward, we will position ourselves as a builder of defence vessels and ships used to support oil and gas exploration activities along the coast,” Bhavesh Gandhi, vice-chairman of Pipavav Shipyard, said Mint over the phone from Mumbai.
Gandhi said the new focus on the defence and oil and gas sectors had nothing to do with the fact that the global commercial shipbuilding business has not been in good shape in the past 12 months.
“It is just that the demand in these two sectors is so huge that it requires a company of large scale and size with modern infrastructure to undertake the job,” he said. “We are at the right place, at the right time to service the needs of these two sectors.”
Pipavav has applied for a tender floated by the Indian Navy to build seven ships, including patrol and training vessels.
Gandhi said Pipavav will have tie-ups with specialists in naval shipbuilding on a project-by-project basis. “For instance, we will outsource design for naval ships from global firms specializing in this area,” he said.
He added that the firm had a large contingent of people involved in building naval ships in Russia and Germany.
As the firm grows, Pipavav Shipyard plans to raise at least Rs550 crore through an initial public offering between 17 and 24 September.
In July, it won a $112 million (around Rs545 crore) contract from state-run explorer Oil and Natural Gas Corp. Ltd to build 12 ships that will be used to support its drilling operations.
The firm has also secured contracts worth $1.1 billion to build 26 dry bulk cargo ships from global fleet owners such as Setaf SAS of France and Avgi Maritime Services SA of Greece.
The shipyard, which has the largest dry dock facility in the country, is equipped to build oil super tankers.
A dry dock is a large dock from which water can be pumped out, and is used to build or repair a ship below its waterline.

India drops anchor in the Maldives

NEW DELHI - For some time, India and China have eyed each other's influence in the Indian Ocean region, which has significant strategic, military, transport, energy and commercial interests for both countries.

The recent three-day visit of Indian Defense Minister A K Antony to the Maldives for a meeting with President Mohammed Nasheed is viewed as one more step by Delhi to increase its presence in this important region.

Defense engagements between India and the Maldives are described as of those between "good friends and equal partners". Antony said the Maldivian authorities "expressed concerns over

the crucial tasks of safeguarding and protecting their vast exclusive economic zone while stating its need to develop and enhance maritime surveillance and aerial mobility capabilities".

To allay the fears raised by Male, Indian navy and coast guard warships will patrol the pirate-infested waters of the Maldives. This will also help Delhi secure the Andaman and Nicobar chain of islands.

While the immediate reason for enhanced defense cooperation is to build military assets in the Maldives to guard against terrorists and pirates, observers also view India's military positioning in the Indian Ocean island nation as a furtherance of its longer-term military deterrence against China.

India has for some while talked of a naval base and a listening post in the Maldives to contain Beijing's growing muscle in the region.

Further, the Maldives being a Muslim country, India is wary about the influence that Pakistan may exert, including the possibility of infiltration by terror cells to launch attacks in India, as has happened in Bangladesh. New Delhi has thus been looking to set up an intelligence base in Male.

"India and the Maldives have agreed on a series of measures to step up defense cooperation between the two countries,'' an Indian Defense Ministry spokesperson said of Antony's visit.

Officials have said that regular Dornier surveillance flights and an air force station, as well as military helicopters and 26 coastal radars, are part of the security plan. A 25-bed military hospital in Male has also been pledged by India.

India may also set up a network of ground radars on major atolls of the Maldives. linking them with the Indian Coastal Command. This would bring the Maldives into the eye of India's coastal security setup and within the security network of its armed forces.

India is concerned over bases being set up by China in its neighborhood, which have been described as a "string of pearls'' around India's neck that could easily be tightened should the need arise.

In Gwadar, Pakistan, China is developing a deep-water harbor that could be used by its expanding fleet of nuclear submarines. Ports and other infrastructure projects are being developed by China in Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Bangladesh.

India has been particularly unhappy about the deep-water port in Hambantota on Sri Lanka's south coast, being built with the help of the Chinese. After being beaten in Myanmar, Delhi is also wary that Chinese energy firms are going to make a dash for Sri Lanka's oil and gas sources in the Mannar Basin. China is already building two naval bases in Myanmar. Major Chinese investments are also being made in East Africa, Kenya and Tanzania.

Over the long term, Chinese naval officers speak of developing three ocean-going fleets to patrol the areas of Japan and Korea and the western Pacific, the Strait of Malacca and the Indian Ocean.

Not to be left wanting, India has already established a new listening post that has begun operations in northern Madagascar, a large island off Africa's east coast. The monitoring station is to gather intelligence on foreign navies operating in the region by linking with similar facilities in Mumbai and Kochi located on India's west coast and which are the headquarters of the India navy's western and southern commands, respectively.

The station is India's first in the southern Indian Ocean and is significant due to the increasing oil traffic now going round the Cape of Good Hope off South Africa via the Mozambique channel. India has also set up a monitoring facility at an island it has leased from Mauritius situated to the east of Madagascar.

The latest defense agreements with the Maldives only strengthen such moves.

The Maldives comprises over 1,000 tiny islands, out of which about 200 are inhabited; over 640 kilometers separate the northernmost island from the southern islands. The island chain is about 400 nautical miles from the Indian coast.

Relations between India and the Maldives have always been good. The country's independence in 1965 from Britain was first recognized by India, and the country has emerged as a high-end tourist destination, especially for Western travelers.

In 1988, New Delhi extended quick assistance when the island nation faced a coup. In 2004, India was the first to send relief when it was hit by a tsunami. In 2006, India gifted a fast attack craft to the Maldives.

Powering the seas
Powering the seas remains a crucial cog in India's ongoing defense modernization exercise that is estimated will cost more than US$100 billion.

The Indian navy is looking to produce at least 25 underwater vessels valued at $20 billion to meet challenges across the Indian Ocean. The government plans to invest over $15 billion over the next 10 years on warships.

India's first indigenous nuclear-powered submarine, INS Arihant, was launched for trials last month. This is part of the $3 billion plan to build five submarines and complete the triad of nuclear weapons launch pads - from air, land and sea platforms.

Built under the Advanced Technology Vessel project with Russian help, INS Arihant is expected to be commissioned around 2012. India will be the sixth country after the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain to possess a nuclear-powered submarine.

Meanwhile, construction of the highly advanced Scorpene submarine is progressing at the upgraded Mazgon Dock (Mumbai) under a $3.5 billion deal for six such French submarines.

India has developed a submarine-launched supersonic missile, a modification of the BrahMos cruise missiles, a capability limited so far to advanced nations such as the US, France and Russia.

Ship- and land-launched versions of the cruise missiles BrahMos are being inducted into the navy and army. The state-controlled Defense Research and Development Organization is also undertaking a joint development project with Israel Aerospace Industries for a surface-to-air missile for use by ship or on land.

In early 2007, India purchased the 36-year-old warship, the USS Trenton (rechristened the INS Jalashwa) from America. It has a gross tonnage of 16,900 tonnes and cost $50 million.

The INS Jalashwa is the first-ever warship purchased from the US and the second-biggest that India now possesses, after aircraft carrier INS Viraat.

Indian navy commanders have steadfastly tried to impress the political leadership about India's need for at least three aircraft carriers, for the eastern and western seaboards, while the third maybe be refitted and upgraded to secure strategic interests that stretch from Africa's eastern coast to the Malacca Strait.

INS Viraat, which as per earlier plans should have been junked by now, has been refitted to operate for five more years, by which time India hopes to have procured more sea carriers. India's 40,000-tonne indigenous aircraft carrier being built at Cochin Shipyard, Kochi, Kerala, will be ready in 2015-2016.

Despite India's efforts to hasten the procurement of the refurbished 44,570-tonne Admiral Gorshkov from Russia, undergoing a refit at the Sevmash Shipyard in north Russia, the ship armed with MiG fighter jets will only be available by 2013. India and Russia are yet to work out the final cost of the Gorshkov's refit, with Moscow wanting nearly $3 billion and India prepared to shell out a little more than $2 billion.

India Struggles to Keep Navy Afloat

NEW DELHI -- India's defense procurement and modernization processes are infamously slow, and mired in red tape, corruption, and lack of long-term strategic planning. One prominent result has been the country's unsuccessful quest to either procure aircraft carriers internationally or build them at home.

The delays have forced India to refit its sole aircraft carrier -- the 50-year-old INS Viraat, which according to earlier plans should have been junked by now -- to operate for five more years, by which time India hopes to have procured more.

The irony is that, over time, Viraat's air fleet has also been substantially depleted due to accidents, which makes the ship essentially a "toothless tiger," as an anonymous army official was recently quoted as saying. In the 1980s, the Indian navy inducted roughly 30 British Sea Harriers for the 28,000-ton Viraat. More than half have been lost to crashes, with the latest going down in August in Goa, killing the pilot and resulting in the grounding of the jets pending an inquiry.

Viraat, a Centaur-class aircraft carrier, was originally commissioned in the British Royal Navy as HMS Hermes in 1959. The Indian navy acquired the platform in 1987.

Sources say that the vessel's 18-month refitting schedule would probably have taken even more time had it not been for the November Mumbai terror attacks, in which militants used a sea route from Pakistan. Since the 40,000-ton carrier being built at Cochin Shipyard will not be ready before 2015-2016 due to years of political and bureaucratic indifference, the need to keep Viraat operational became more urgent.

Despite India's efforts to hasten the procurement of the refurbished 44,570-ton Admiral Gorshkov from Russia, that ship -- currently undergoing a refit at the Sevmash Shipyard in North Russia -- will only be available by 2013, assuming existing differences are sorted out. India and Russia have yet to work out the final cost of the Gorshkov's refit, with Moscow wanting nearly $3 billion, while India hopes to spend a little more than $2 billion.

Indian navy commanders have long tried to impress the political leadership about India's need for at least three aircraft carriers
to secure strategic interests that stretch from Africa's eastern coast to the Malacca Strait, in order to assure that two remain active -- one each for the eastern and western seaboards -- even if the third must be refitted and upgraded.

A growing rivalry has emerged between India and China to control the waters of the Indian Ocean. China has spoken of developing three ocean-going fleets, to patrol the areas of Japan and Korea, the western Pacific, and the Malacca Strait and Indian Ocean region.

On paper, at least, manning the seas is a crucial element in India's ongoing defense modernization exercise, estimated at over $100 billion. The Indian Navy is looking to produce at least 25 submarines valued at $20 billion to meet challenges across the Indian Ocean. The government also has plans to invest more than $15 billion over the next 10 years on warships.

There has been some progress as well, especially in efforts to meet heightened threats from Pakistan and to balance the advanced military capabilities of China. The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India has reported that over the three years from 2004-7, India has spent $10.5 billion on military imports, making it one of the largest arms importers in the developing world.

India launched its first indigenous nuclear-powered submarine, the INS Arihant, for trials in July. Part of a $3 billion plan to build five such submarines, the Arihant would complete the triad of nuclear launch capability from air, land and sea platforms. The project, conceptualized in the late 1970s, is already long-delayed. Built under the Advanced Technology Vessel project with Russian help, Arihant is expected to be commissioned around 2012, making India the sixth country -- after the U.S., Russia, China, France and Britain -- to possess a nuclear-powered submarine.

Meanwhile, the construction of the highly advanced Scorpene submarine is progressing at the upgraded Mazgon Dock in Mumbai, under a $3.5 billion deal for six such French vessels.

India has also developed a submarine-launched supersonic missile using a modification of the BrahMos cruise missiles, a capability limited so far to advanced nations such as U.S., France and Russia. Ship- and land-launched versions of the BrahMos cruise missiles are also being inducted in the navy and army. The state-controlled Defense Research and Development Organization is also undertaking a joint development project with Israel Aerospace Industries for a surface-to-air missile for use from land and ship.

In early 2007, India purchased the 36-year-old 16,900-ton warship U.S.S. Trenton -- re-christened INS Jalashwa -- for $50 million. Trenton is the first Indian warship purchased from the U.S., and the second-largest that India now possesses, after the Viraat.

In addition to expanding its naval capabilities, India is also intent on improving its air force. Trials began in August for India's largest-ever defense deal, the $12 billion contract for 126 medium multirole combat aircraft (MRCA). Lockheed Martin and Boeing (U.S.), Dassault's Rafale (France), Gripen (Sweden), MiG (Russia) and Eurofighter Typhoon (a consortium of British, German, Italian and Spanish companies) have begun presenting their fighter jets for flight testing by the Indian air force.

The new MRCA fleet will replace the shrinking MiG-21 interceptors, filling the gap between the more powerful Russian Sukhoi-30MKIs and the low-end indigenous Tejas LCA lightweight fighter.

The question of India's aircraft carriers, however, remains caught in a time warp.

Siddharth Srivastava is a New Delhi-based journalist covering foreign and strategic affairs, security, politics, defense, business and lifestyle issues. He has been a correspondent for the Times of India and is widely published in newspapers and magazines in Asia, Europe and America. His Web site can be found here.

Somali pirates using Pakistani arms: Indian Navy

Pakistan has found Somali sea pirates as the new tools in its covert war against India, the Indian Navy confirmed on Tuesday.

From jihad factories in Pakistan to pirate terror off the Gulf of Aden, Pakistan's hidden war against India has been crossing the seas.

There have been numerous attacks by Somali pirates on merchant ships with Indian crew on board. And, the Navy destroyer - INS Mysore - reported the Pakistani link to Somali pirates.

Nine months ago, during action against pirate ship Salahuddin, the Indian Navy patrol ships found material evidence of Pakistan's sinister plot.

Most of the weapons used by the Somali brigands bore the stamp of Pakistani ordnance factories. The rocket-propelled grenade launcher and the rifles seized from the boat were all made-in-Pakistan. Even the magazines recovered had Pak ordnance factory tags.

The revelation has raised serious concerns about a possible link between the sea pirates and the suspected terrorist groups.

Joint IAF-Army motorcycle expedition flagged off at Zero Road today

Indian Air Force and Indian Army have been operating in Siachen Glacier known to be the highest battlefield in the world since the year 1984. The year 2009 marks twenty five successful years of jointmanship in operation of Air Force and Army, guarding the borders, battling the enemy, braving severe climatic conditions of the region.

To commemorate this spirit of jointmanship of Air Force and Army, a motorcycle expedition has been organized aptly named ‘Mission Kshitij’ or ‘Mission Horizon’. The name of expedition is symbolic of the place where the land the sky meet, signifying the convergence of pupose of Army and Air Force.

The expedition was flagged off today at Zero Road, Turtuk and would be flagged in at India Gate, New Delhi on 10 Sep 09. The distance to be covered by the team per day has been so planned that the team members have adequate opportunity to interact with the army units enroute. The expedition will cover all passes of Ladakh region, six states and two Union Territories before reaching India gate.

Hot Air Ballooning by Signal Group of Indian Army

21 Signal Group of the Corps of Signals is celebrated its 25th Raising Day today in new Delhi. 21 Signal Group was raised in Sep 1984 by merging and reorganising two Signal units. Reorganisation of the Group was completed in Jun 1984 and it was christened 21 Signal Group on 21 Aug 1984. Maj Gen (Retd) DN Verma (then Colonel) assumed command of the Group as its first Commander on 08 Aug 1984. He addressed all ranks on 01 Sep 1984, the date which has been celebrated as the Raising Day of this Group every year since.

The Group has since grown from strength to strength. The Group has participated in Op PAWAN, Op VIJAY, Op PARAKRAM, Ex Brass Tracks (1986-1987), Ex Shatrunash (2007), Ex Brazen Chariot (2008) and Dakshin Shakti(2008). In its very short history since inception, the Group has accredited itself with a considerable number of awards. It is the only unit to be awarded the Silver Trophy by the Army Chief for commendable work done towards ICTisation. On its silver jubilee day the Group looks back on the years gone by with immense satisfaction and pride and extends its gratitude to its predecessors for having set the pace and the high standards achieved.

As part of the Raising Day celebrations, the 21 Signal Group presented an exciting Hot Air Ballooning demonstration. The audiences were introduced to the finer nuances and difficulties which goes in to make this complicated flight successful.

THE WAR WITHIN : Indian Army vice chief appointment may spark succession row

New Delhi: The naming of Lt. Gen. P.C. Bhardwaj as the Indian Army's vice chief Tuesday could spark a succession row as it technically means supersession of the senior-most three-star officer, Lt. Gen. V.K. Singh, but Army Headquarters says this is not necessarily so.
Singh was tipped to become the Indian Army chief when incumbent Gen. Deepak Kapoor retires in March 2010. Technically, the new postings mean that for the six months from October when Bhardwaj assumes the vice chief's post, Singh would be reporting to an officer who is his junior.

Singh's other option would be to put in his papers, but a senior army officer sought to downplay the possibility of this. "There's nothing of that sort. Both are in the same higher administrative grade and get the same pay and perks," he noted.

In the normal scheme of things, Singh would have, in all probability, become the vice chief when incumbent Lt. Gen. Noble Thamburaj retires October 1. However, the defence ministry accepted Kapoor's recommendation that the vice chief serve a two-year term.

Thus, the appointment of Bhardwaj, who currently heads the Udhampur-based Northern Command, could be said to have upset Singh's apple cart.

"What can we do about this? It was a decision taken by the defence ministry. We can only follow orders," the officer pointed out.

The Indian Army's new promotion policy assigns officers of the rank of Major General and Lieutenant General to either command or administrative streams.

Under the policy, staff stream officers will perform only administrative tasks, while command stream officers will lead troops in field formations.

Officers would not be able to change stream while moving up the career ladder.

Bhardwaj has been chief of the Udhampur-based Northern Command since March this year. He took over from Lt. Gen. H.S. Panag, who was shifted to the relatively insignificant Central Command.

Panag has taken in his stride what could be construed a demotion.

Prior to heading the Northern Command, Bhardwaj commanded the Leh-based 14 Corps that guards the frontiers with China and Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir, as also the Siachen glacier, the world's highest battlefield.

Bhardwaj has vast experience in terror-hit Kashmir, having been the Brigadier General Staff of the Nagrota-based 16 Corps in 2000-01, when militancy was at its peak and infiltration was at its highest level.

He has also commanded the counter-insurgency Delta Force in the Doda region of Jammu.

An alumnus of the National Defence Academy, the Indian Military Academy and the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, Bhardwaj was commissioned into the first battalion of the Parachute Regiment in June 1970.

He has also received training at the Special Forces School at Fort Bragg in the US.

A recipient of the Vir Chakra during the 1971 India-Pakistan war, Bhardwaj has commanded the elite Parachute Brigade and was the defence attache to Myanmar from 1994 to 1997.

Indian army trooper killed on LOC

SRINAGAR, India-controlled Kashmir, Sept. 1 (Xinhua) -- The Indian Army Tuesday accused the Pakistani counterparts of killing its soldier in India-controlled Kashmir in the fresh violation of ceasefire along the Line-of-Control (LoC).
The incident took place Monday night in the Balnoi sector of Poonch, 230 kilometers northwest of Jammu, the region's winter capital, according to an Indian defense official.
"At around 02:00 a.m. local time, the Pakistani army resorted to unprovoked firing, during which one of our troopers got killed, "said Lt. Col. Biplab Nath, defense spokesman based in Jammu.
The soldier has been identified as Dag Bahadur Gurung.
New Delhi and Islamabad in 2003 agreed to observe a ceasefire along the International Border and LoC in Kashmir. Though some violations have been reported on both sides, the ceasefire remains in effect.

GOVT THINKING MY WAY : India's swine flu deaths 101, preventive homeopathy advised

India Tuesday reported one more swine flu death, taking the total toll due to the influenza A (H1N1) virus to 101, health authorities said here.
The latest death was reported from Goa. While two deaths in Karnataka were suspected to be due to the virus, lab reports were still awaited.
Of the 101 deaths, Maharashtra has recorded the highest number of deaths, 55, followed by 27 in Andhra Pradesh.
The union health ministry recommended preventive homeopathy medicine, Arsenicum album 30. The decision to advise people to take the preventive medicine was taken after the Central Council for Research in Homeopathy (CCRH), a state-run research wing, gave the suggestion for curbing the spread of the diseases.
'It has recommended one doze of the medicine daily on empty stomach for three days. The dose should be repeated after one month by following the same schedule in case flu like conditions prevail in the area,' the ministry said in a statement.
Meanwhile, 114 people were tested positive for the influenza A (H1N1) virus Tuesday in the country, taking the total number of cases to 4,101.
Maharashtra continued to top the charts both in terms of deaths and positive cases. On Tuesday, 48 fresh cases were from the state alone. So far, about 1,687 people have been affected due to the virus in the state.
It was followed by Delhi in the number of cases. At least 665 people have been infected with the disease in the capital. On Tuesday, 10 fresh cases were reported in the Indian capital.
Karnataka reported 22 fresh cases, taking the total number of people infected with the virus to 463 - the third highest in the country.
Other fresh cases were reported from West Bengal (18) and Orissa (3). One case each was reported from Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir and Chhattisgarh while Puducherry and Chandigarh reported two swine flu cases each.
Meanwhile, a government study has found that swine flu is killing more young and middle-aged people and those suffering from associated diseases like diabetes and chronic heart ailment.
'We have conducted a study and found that more than 50 percent of those affected by the virus were in the age group of 15-45 years,' R.K. Srivastava, director general of the Directorate General of Health Services, told reporters.
'Deaths were also due to late reporting to identified health facilities and delay in initiation of Tamiflu,' he said.
The report, which was presented to Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad during Monday's stock-taking meeting of the ministry, studied the first 82 deaths that occurred till Aug 31.
Among the dead were 43 men and 39 women including three pregnant women.
Srivastava said that of the 82 deaths, 61 were in urban areas and 19 in rural areas.
He said there were five deaths in the age group of 0-5 years and three from 6-15 age group. Thirteen victims were from the age group of 16 to 25 years, while 18 people died in the age group of 26-35 years.
Srivastava said 24 people died in the age group of 36-45, as compared to 18 in the age group of 46-65. Only one person died in the above 65-year category.


Study: Worst fears about swine flu eased

WASHINGTON — Put swine flu in a room with other strains of influenza and it doesn't mix into a new superbug — it takes over, researchers reported Tuesday.
University of Maryland researchers deliberately co-infected ferrets to examine one of the worst fears about the new swine flu. But fortunately, the flu didn't mutate. The researchers carefully swabbed the ferrets' nasal cavities and found no evidence of gene-swapping.
The animals who caught both kinds of flu, however, had worse symptoms. And they easily spread the new swine flu, what scientists formally call the 2009 H1N1 virus, to their uninfected ferret neighbors — but didn't spread regular winter flu strains nearly as easily.
In other words, it's no surprise that swine flu has become the world's dominant strain of influenza. It's not under evolutionary pressure right now to mix and mutate while it has a clear biological advantage over other kinds of flu, concluded the Maryland team led by virologist Daniel Perez.
The Maryland study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, reinforces concern about how easily swine flu may sweep through the country.
"The results suggest that 2009 H1N1 influenza may out-compete seasonal flu virus strains and may be more communicable as well," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. "These new data, while preliminary, underscore the need for vaccinating against both seasonal influenza and the 2009 H1N1 influenza this fall and winter."
Seasonal flu vaccine is available around the country now, and swine flu vaccine is expected to arrive in mid-October.
The U.S. has closely watched how swine flu rapidly dominated the Southern Hemisphere's winter, as authorities here prepare a fall resurgence. In Australia alone, eight of every 10 people who tested positive for influenza had the new pandemic strain. While it seems no more deadly than seasonal flu, it claims different victims: Seasonal flu kills mostly people over 65. The new swine flu spreads most easily in children and young adults, and so far has killed mostly people in their 20s, 30s and 40s.
The study is posted on PLoS Currents: Influenza, a Web site operated by the Public Library of Science to rapidly share scientific flu information.