Monday, September 28, 2009

US puts Lockheed off Tejas flight path

The US government is, for the second time, squeezing American aerospace giant Lockheed Martin out of an important contract related to India’s Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA).
Business Standard learns that Lockheed Martin, selected in June as a consultant for developing the Naval version of the Tejas, was given 90 days to obtain the clearances it needed from the US government. But now, with time running out, Washington has sent Lockheed Martin a list of questions about what assistance the company will provide.
Senior officials from Bangalore-based Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), which manages the Tejas programme, say they will not delay the naval version any longer. ADA has recommended to the Ministry of Defence that another consultant be chosen. It has put forward the names of France’s Dassault Aviation, and European consortium EADS.
For Lockheed Martin, this is déjà vu. In 1993, it was selected to partner ADA in developing the Tejas’ high-tech flight control system (FCS). But after India’s nuclear tests in 1998, Washington ordered the company to terminate the partnership. India eventually went it alone, developing the world class FCS that is on the Tejas today.
Lockheed Martin is still fighting to salvage the situation. The company told Business Standard, “We are continuing our dialogue with the Aeronautical Development Agency and the US Department of Defense and are hopeful we will be able provide the consultancy desired by ADA on the Naval LCA.”
But the decision now lies in the hands of V K Saraswat, scientific advisor to the defence minister.
Lockheed Martin’s current situation replicates that of Boeing, which was front-runner for the air force Tejas consultancy. But earlier this year, after the US government failed to grant Boeing a clearance (called Technical Assistance Agreement) in time, the defence ministry awarded EADS the contract. The European consortium obtained the sanctions in time and is now working with ADA.
Foreign consultancy has been sought by ADA to introduce the Tejas into service without further delay. The air force Tejas, a single-seat, single-engine fighter, is at an advanced stage of testing. The naval Tejas, being developed around the twin-seater air force trainer, will take to the skies by mid-2010. But it will fly off an aircraft only in 2014, after getting a new, more powerful, engine. That is about when the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier, being built in Kochi, will join the Indian Navy.
The immediate challenges before the naval Tejas — which the consultant will help to resolve — include strengthening the undercarriage to absorb the high impact of landing on aircraft carrier decks, fitting an arrestor hook at the tail of the aircraft to bring it to a quick halt after landing, and adding a flap on the front edge of the wings to slow the landing speed by almost 150 kmph.
In addition, the naval Tejas needs a fuel dump system, in case of an emergency just after take-off. The take-off weight of a Tejas, with full weapons load and fuel, is 12.5 tonnes. But for landing back on an aircraft carrier, it must be less than 9.5 tonnes. In an emergency, 2 tonnes of weapons and external fuel tanks will be instantly shed, but a system must be built in for jettisoning another tonne of fuel from the fighter’s wing tanks.
None of the US Navy’s most successful carrier-borne aircraft — the F-4 Phantom, the F-14 Tomcat and the F/A-18 Hornet — was built by Lockheed Martin. Despite that, ADA believes Lockheed Martin’s experience in designing the futuristic F-35 Lightning Joint Strike Fighter qualifies it as a consultant.
“All the earlier US navy aircraft had two engines, giving them the weight and strength to support a tail hook,” explained P S Subramaniam, the director of ADA. “But Lockheed Martin has designed the F-35 Lightning, which is a single-engine fighter with a tail hook.”
Dassault’s Rafale fighter and EADS’s Eurofighter Typhoon are both twin-engine aircraft.

Highest parachute landing-world record set near Mount Everest

KATHMANDU, Nepal --Three skydivers: two Britons, Leo Dickinson and Ralph Mitchell, and one Indian Air Force officer, Ramesh Tripathi jumped from an airplane at 20,000 ft (6,154 meters) and landed by parachute at Gorak Shep, a frozen lake bed, 16,940ft. (5,165 meters) above sea level, near Mount Everest-setting the world for the highest parachute jump landing.

   Photo: Mr Dickinson, flanked by fellow Briton Ralph Mitchell (left) and Indian army officer Ramesh Tripathi, stand at the 16,800ft-high plateau after they all skydived on to it from a helicopter flying 4,000ft above / AP photo
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 "They landed at the highest zone at Gorakshep," Tourism Ministry official Dipendra Poudel said. "This will open a new adventure tourism event in Nepal and more skydivers are coming to Nepal."   

   Dickinson told reporters in the Nepal's capital, Katmandu, that after he jumped, he got a glimpse of Mount Everest before opening his parachute and saw "a panorama of fantastic mountains" and it was just amazing. You have got the mountains rushing past you. I just didn't want it to end. I had a freefall for four seconds and in the next three minutes I was already landing," Dickinson said.

   The divers were in free fall for about 5 seconds before opening their parachutes and gliding down to the landing zone. All three are experienced skydivers. Mr. Dickinson and Mr. Mitchell have done over 4,000 jumps so far, while Mr. Tripathi has done over 3,000 jumps.

   Photo: A skydiver prepares to land at Gorakshep at a height of 5164 metres after a parachute jump over Mount Everest. Photo: AFP
  (enlarge photo)

   "It was the fulfilment of a dream,” said Tripathi, who in 2005 had led the IAF team that ascended Mt Everest. “Now if I die tomorrow, I will die a happy man.”

   It was a remarkable feat for Tripathi especially as he had suffered a brain haemorrhage six months ago and his doctors opposed his skydive plan from a height where the dearth of oxygen could cause death. Unlike his peers, who spent about five days in Gorak Shep acclimatising, Tripathi did not have that luxury since he did not have leave.

   Surendra Sapkota, chief of Nepal's mountaineering department said officials from his department, police and the home ministry escorted the skydivers to the area and witnessed the jump.

  The previous world record for the highest parachute landing was made last year when skydivers jumped to a drop zone in the same region at 12,350ft.

   Gorakshep is a small patch of flat land at 16,940 feet near Mount Everest.

   Bikrum Pandey, chief of Nepali hiking agency Himalaya Expeditions that provided logistics to the skydivers said it was a "test jump" to see if Gorakshep could become a safe landing site for regular skydiving.

   This is the first year that the Nepal tourism has opened the Everest zone to skydiving. The landlocked mountain nation plans to celebrate Visit Nepal Year in 2011 to attract more tourists.
    Tourism is one of the Nepal's biggest foreign currency earners with tens of thousands of tourists coming to trek in the Himalayas every year.

  More than 3,600 climbers -- including a 16-year-old boy, a 76-year-old man, a man with an artificial limb and a blind person -- have since scaled the world's highest mountain.

   In May this year, the Indian Army’s Colonel Niraj Rana set another record by landing above Camp II of Mount Makalu, situated at 7,000 metres, on a paraglider. This was the highest place a paraglider has ever landed. 

Gorshkov deal inked in ‘haste’

Delhi, September 27
India signed the multi-million dollar deal of decommissioned Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov merely on “visual examination in as-is condition” and Navy “thought” ship could be repaired.

After signing the contract in 2004, the opening up the equipment for detailed examination and survey of the state of the hull structure, systems and cabling, it emerged that these could not be repaired and hence would have to be replaced with new ones, says Vice Admiral SPS Cheema.
The contract for the aircraft carrier was signed in January 2004 for which the “work package was drawn up based on visual examination in ‘as-is’ condition wherein it was thought that the majority of equipment, systems and hull structures could be repaired while the electronic equipment could be renewed,” Cheema said in a reply to an RTI application filed by Subhash Chandra Agrwal.
“This has resulted in additional work and in the interest to endure operation efficacy of the ship, these additional works have been accepted for consideration. The extra works have in turn resulted in increase in the project cost,” he said.
The deal which was signed for $ 974 million has escalated by about 300 per cent to $ 2.9 billion, according to sources. The Comptroller and Auditor General of India had also slammed the Indian Navy for the deal in which it would be “acquiring, belatedly, a second hand ship with a limited life span by paying significantly more than what it would have paid for a new ship.”
The report without naming the ship said that it was not an aircraft carrier but more of a cruiser equipped with a flight deck which had to be configured for a different type of service from that of its original design. “The vendor’s shipyard that was to undertake the repair and re-equipping work, had neither repaired ships of this magnitude nor had any work experience on aircraft carriers,” the report had said.
Cheema refuted the report saying the “basis on which the report has arrived such a conclusion is not known, as per the data available from internet and other sources, a new carrier of size of Gorshkov, is likely to cost anything between three and four billion US dollars and that too understandably without the spares, training, infrastructure and documentation cost.” He said it is not feasible to buy a new aircraft carrier commercially off-the shelf. — PTI

Chinese Soldiers on Indian Borders


The media these days are full of stories of the Chinese Army’s violation of India’s northern borders. Of late it spoke of violation in the central sector. I live in a border town in this sector. Before one believes these stories of violations, one should have an idea of the border topography. The border, not surveyed and not demarcated yet, for it to be accepted by both sides, runs along the highest ridges, across which it is impossible to see. A newspaper story quoted a villager seeing Chinese roads built in Tibet and Chinese soldiers coming on them. That is impossibility. One can see Tibet only from the top of the ridge that, in this sector, divides India from Tibet. Seeing Chinese motor roads from the Indian side is a matter of imagination and so is seeing soldiers coming riding across.
Does India have sentries bang on the border ridges? It does not. I speak of the central sector, reported to have been violated. This sector, as the entire border now, is patrolled by the Indo-Tibet Border Police (ITBP), created to guard the border. The disputed area here is called Bara Hoti, an 80-square kilometre sloping pasture. The ITBP post in this sector is at Rim Khim, some ten kilometres from the high pass one has to cross to enter Tibet. Two kilometres ahead of the ITBP post is a ridge where there is an observation post where the ITBP men and an Indian Army soldier go and spend the day watching the border. Beyond that is a lake called Parvati Kund and then a small river called the Hoti Gad, from where one starts climbing to the high passes of Tunjunla, Marila and Salsalla that lead into Tibet. From the Indian observation post the passes are at least eight kilometres away, from where it will be impossible to notice anyone coming through the passes.
The ITBP men do go patrolling into the pasture and up to the lake. The pasture has Indian shepherds from the border villages tending their sheep. The ITBP men have in the past come across people from Tibet bringing their yaks for grazing to the pasture. They wear standard Chinese close collar jackets and trousers and are sometimes taken for Chinese soldiers. Neither side knows the language of the other. Yak owners do gesticulate which has been interpreted by the ITBP men as saying that the pasture belongs to them. From the Indian border villages shepherds stay in the pastures for months. The high altitude grass there is very nourishing and fattens the winter-starved sheep and yak.
In the 1962 border war there was no fighting in this sector, while battles were fought in the eastern and western sectors. Chinese soldiers did come to this sector, as did Indian ones and there was some argument but no shots were fired. Since then there has never been any shooting or conflict in the area.
Those that bring their yaks across are surely Tibetan villagers and not Chinese soldiers. Soldiers always carry guns and generally ride horses. The Chinese motor road does come to the Tibetan border village of Dapa and a little below the passes, which are quite high, at about 17,000 feet. It is said that perhaps once a year, in July or August, Chinese soldiers do come across Tunjunla and down to the Hoti Gad river. There have been occasions when the ITBP men have gone there to confront them and show banners written in Chinese saying it is Indian territory and they should go back. And they have always gone back. Coming there once a year might be a way to their asserting that they have a claim to it and the border remains disputed. In the other tiny disputed area in this sector, beyond Neelang and Jadang, the Chinese have not come at all.
As stated, nobody lives in the bowl-like pasture all the year round. Indian shepherds arrive there in the summer. Occasionally an ITBP patrol with a lone Indian Armyman goes there.
One wondered how and who leaked to the media the news of Chinese troop incursion in the middle sector. There are only three sources: the Army, the Intelligence Bureau and the Research and Analysis Wing. Officials of the last two stay in Joshimath, almost a hundred kilometres from the border. They seldom go to the border and it may not be easy for them to get day-to-day information from there. The ITBP and the Army have persons on that border and know more than the others the goings-on there. One does not know if it is the intention of the Army to create an impression that China is causing a threat along the middle sector and in fact all along the border.
The last round of India-China talks on the border was held in Delhi last month. Neither side gave any account of what happened at that round. China has issued a long report which does not go beyond generalities of both sides wanting to settle the issue peacefully through negotiations. At what stage the talks are, neither side has made public. The last one heard years ago was that both sides had asked for their respective maps. India had given its border maps to China, but China has made no comment of them so far. What are they doing with the maps? Are they trying to reconcile them? There has been no news.
I have visited some passes in the eastern sector, like Jalepla, Nathula in Sikkim and the one below Chhuthangmo in Kameng of Arunachal Pradesh. From nowhere on the Indian side can one see Tibet across these passes and this must be the case with passes that lie further to the east. Yet there has been a spate of news stories of Chinese soldiers being seen intruding in the west, central and eastern sectors of our border and the media has gone to town over the security threat China is said to be causing all around, not only along the border but also from next-door countries like Myanmar, where China is said to be planning to build a naval station.
Apart from protesting over the visit of the Dalai Lama to Arunachal Pradesh, the Chinese have made no statements that could be remotely related to its unhappiness over the border deliberations or developments in India.

Indian Army's Artillery regiment celebrates 182nd Gunners Day on Monday

ndian Army's Artillery regiment will be celebrating its 182nd foundation day on Monday.
The raising day, which is known as Gunners day, is observed every year on September 28 to mark the raising of first Indian Artillery Unit 5 (Bombay) Mountain Battery on this momentous day in 1827.
Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor will lay the wreath at the Amar Jawan jyoti to pay homage to the martyrs on the occasion.
The Bahmani Sultans first used artillery in India in the 14th Century during the Deccan War against Vijaynagar Kingdom. Since then the Mughals, the Marathas, Hyder Ali, Tipu Sultan and the Sikhs under Maharaja Ranjit Singh, artillery was the leading arm and the 'Golandaz' battalions occupied a place of pride in the battlefield.
In 1935, Second Lieutenant P.S. Gyani became the first Indian officer to be commissioned into 'A' Field Brigade which was a unit comprising four batteries of horse drawn guns. The Royal Indian Artillery won its spurs in the Second World War.
The Artillery regiment was part of all the wars that India fought since independence. The gunners demonstrated fortitude against all odds during operations of 1947-48, 1962, 1965, 1971 and Kargil War.
Since the mid 1980s, gunners have been fighting shoulder to shoulder with the infantry in counter insurgency operations in Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir and the North Eastern States.
During the Kargil War in May-June 1999, the Artillery regiment created havoc among the enemy lines and giving an unprecedented victory to the Indian Armed forces.
Amongst the present inventory of the Artillery are the indigenously manufactured 105mm Indian Field Gun (IFG) and its lighter version for employment in mountains called Light Field Gun (LFG). The 155mm FH 77B Bofors, and the 130mm Medium Gun of Russian origin are two of the most versatile and effective gun systems, in all types of terrain and climatic conditions.