Tuesday, November 3, 2009



Lt Gen. (retd) Vijay Madan has been appointed as interlocutor for holding talks with the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM). (whispers)

Crash shadow on troops carrier

New Delhi, Nov. 2: Indian Air Force headquarters was today thinking of grounding its Ilyushin 76 fleet and has asked the manufacturers for advice after Russia ordered the heavy transport planes back to hangars following a crash.
The IAF operates two squadrons of the aircraft (17) in its transport fleet that ferries troops from difficult terrain — Kashmir and the Northeast — almost daily, and was also used last month to move paramilitary forces for counter-Maoist operations in Maharashtra.
Grounding the aircraft will severely impact the air force’s daily maintenance operations. Hundreds of Indian Army soldiers are dependent on courier services run by the IAF on its IL-76 aircraft.
Variants of the aircraft are also the basic platforms for surveillance missions by the Aviation Research Centre — an intelligence agency — and are also operated as mid-air refuellers and for India’s only airborne early warning and command system.
IAF authorities told The Telegraph the transport directorate at air headquarters was in touch with the two makers of the aircraft — Ilyushin Aviation Complex Joint Stock Company, Moscow, and Tashkent Aircraft Production Corporation in Uzbekistan.
“We are waiting for communication from the companies. We are checking out what has happened,” an IAF source said.
Sources in air headquarters said the authorities were worried after the Russian Air Force reported two IL-76 mishaps in less than a month.
On October 7, one of the four huge D30KP turbofan engines of an IL-76 fell off as it was preparing to take off. There was no casualty. The Russian Air Force had grounded the IL-76 after that incident but the IAF did not.
But on Sunday, another IL-76 doing duty for the Russian interior ministry crashed in Siberia, killing all 11 crew and passengers (troops) on board.
News reports from Russia said the aircraft failed to gain height though it was being powered on full throttle.

Such An Embarrassment

November 2, 2009: Recently, an Indian made Dhruv helicopter encountered problems while doing a flyby over a Ecuadoran military parade. It made a hard landing in front of the president of Ecuador. The other six Dhruvs Ecuador owned were promptly grounded until the source of the problem could be found. Last year, Ecuador bought seven Dhruvs, for $7.2 million each. The big attraction of the Dhruv was their low price.

Earlier, the Indian Navy bought six of the Dhruvs for evaluation, and did not like what they saw. The main complaints were lack of engine power, and poor reliability. These were considered fatal flaws for helicopters meant for SAR (search and rescue) and ASW (anti-submarine warfare.) The army actually bought 40 Dhruvs without thoroughly testing them (but under intense pressure from the government to "buy Indian"). Then the army discovered that, although the purchase contract stipulated that the Dhruv be able to operate at high altitudes (5,000 meters/16,000 feet), its engine (as the navy noted) was underpowered and could not handle high altitudes. So the army has to keep its older helicopters in service until the Dhruvs were upgraded.

The 5.5 ton Dhruv was in development for two decades before the first one was delivered seven years ago. Since then, over 80 have been delivered, mostly to the Indian Army. But some foreign customers (Ecuador, Nepal and Myanmar) have also taken a few. A series of crashes indicated some basic design flaws, which the manufacturer insists do not exist. The navy disagrees, even though the fleet is desperate to replace over three dozen of its elderly Sea King helicopters (a 1950s design, and the Indian Navy models are 20-35 years old.)

In the normal course of events, a hard landing by a new helicopter is no big deal. But with the Dhruv's history, and the failure occurring in front of cameras, and top government officials, hurts the prospects of further Dhruv sales. 

Indian Army patents camouflage uniform news


Kolkata: The Indian Army has moved ahead to solve a nagging problem – it has finally patented its camouflage uniform. The Ordnance Factory at Avadi, in Chennai, has warned of legal consequences if manufacturers continue to produce clothing that resembles battle fatigues worn by soldiers.

Though it may appear to be a non-issue in most parts of the country, the army has been bothered by the continued use of camouflage clothing by civilians in militancy-prone areas. With militants donning similar fatigues it makes it difficult for the army to distinguish between the enemy and their comrades.

The problem is not restricted to the army alone but gets complicated for the civilians as well, for they cannot distinguish hostile elements from friendly forces thanks to this ambiguity. This can become particularly critical for Village Defence Forces in insurgency or terrorism prone areas, where it can easily result in a matter of life or death for those caught unawares.

The army has patented two varieties of camouflage - one in a jungle pattern in green and the other a desert pattern in brown. Both will have the logo of the Indian Army. Officials said legal action will be taken against companies manufacturing such textiles and even if a product resembles officially produced cloth in any way. 

It is being said that paramilitary outfits are also being supplied with the same cloth as regular army units.

Differences over army role in anti-Maoist ops

New Delhi: Sharp differences have cropped up between the home and defence ministries over the use of the army in anti-Maoist operations. While the former is keen to involve the army in a direct role, the defence ministry is firm on not playing a role.

"The army is the last resort in internal security measures and the government does not intend to use it against Maoist activities," defence minister AK Antony said in Thiruvananthapuram on Monday. This is in sharp contrast to the position of home minister P Chidambaram, who last week told commanders that the army should get involved.

Antony's statement reflects the firm stand taken by army commanders last week during internal consultations on their possible role in the operations. They recommended that the army should not be looked at as an option. To share army expertise, the commanders recommended the setting up of a national anti-Naxal operations training centre under army supervision, and the appointment of military advisors for affected states.

The commanders pointed out that the home ministry had raised 120 paramilitary battalions for counter-insurgency operations, and they must be deployed in full before looking at the army's role.

But Chidambaram believes that the military will have to be deployed for quick results. Home ministry officials have been talking informally about the possibility of withdrawing some Rashtriya Rifles (RR) battalions from Kashmir for operations against Maoists. 

Though a paramilitary force, RR is fully manned by army personnel. The defence ministry's reluctance is also clear by the nature of permission given to the air force: fire at the rebels but in self-defence.