What's Hot- Analysis of RECENT happenings



Army: The decks are cleared for the tank and additional 155 mm howitzer acquisition programmes. Bofors, currently under Celcius Saab umbrella, has been removed from the blacklist and the firm received orders for spares, and approval for the supply of one 155 mm D model for trials in India. The Controller General of Accounts and Public Accounts Committee came down heavily on the DRDO for not delivering on the MBT ARJUN for 16 years after spending over US$ 100 million. The project is delayed and the Army has demanded a lighter tank with greater accuracy in fire-power.
The Army Aviation Corps plan to acquire 300 helicopters at a likely cost of US$ 500 million so as to increase their number from 150 to 450, has received Govt’s approval in principle. Talks are being held with French Company – Eurocopter and with Dutch for MD544. HAL has also offered to design and build an indigenous aircraft to meet the Army’s requirements. Air Force:. The Defence Minister George Fernandes announced that 66 Advanced Jet trainers were cleared for order but did not name the successful bidder. The French Dassault Alphajet and BAE Hawk 100 are both contenders. He also confirmed that Israel was supplying UAVs. The speculation was that additional Searcher IIIs and HERON 450S family for high altitude recce would be ordered to keep vigil over the Kargil heights. The Nishant – another DRDO-HAL built remotely piloted vehicle, was also cleared for acquisition. The Air Force received one A 50 Russian AWACS in April at Chandigarh for trials on the IL 76 platform with which the IAF is familiar, on a lease basis. The plan is to induct three. The six month deployment is being looked at with interest. The Indian DRDO had lost its indigenous ASWACS with a rotodome radar and the EW equipment on an Avro 748, in an air crash on 10 Jan 1999, in which the entire crew and scientists had all died. In end April, Air Chief Marshal A Y Tipnis surprised analysts by making a plea at the Air Force Commanders Conference in the presence of Defence Minister George submitting - “All air assets of the Navy and Army should come under one umbrella ( Air Force) for optimal employment of aerial resources”. The controversy of control of nuclear delivery platforms, the Prithvi and the ICBM Agni, currently under development has been debated, with no clear-cut policy arrived at, and the Indian Air Force is keen on a strategic air command. The Defence Minister also stated that DRDO’s US supported LCA programme had slowed down due to the US sanctions but the Phase One cost of US$ 600 mill will be followed with another equal sum of US$600 mill. He was referring to the GE 404 engines, the Lockheed FCS System tried out on an F 16 (VISTA) and other such systems that are on hold. The long pending deal to purchase 10 Mirage 2000 aircraft from Dassaut which has been hanging fire on the price issue, is likely to top the agenda when French Defence Minister Alain Richard visits Delhi beginning 18 May. These 10 aircraft would act as the ‘war reserve’ for the 40 machines acquired by IAF in 1985.
Navy : It is reported that GE LM 2500 kits for the Indian Navy meant for the type 17A frigates to be built at Mazagon Dock Ltd, were cleared for import by HAL. The Navy appointed fighter pilot Rear Admiral Suresh Mehta as Contoller Carrier Projects to oversee the induction of Gorshkov and the Air Defence Ship which will have a ski ramp and arrestor gear but will not need a catapult. The projects have moved ahead and the Navy has honed in on the acquisition of MIG 29Ks in preference to upgrading the Sea Harriers which will be maintained by a local facility code named Ashok in Cochin. The Navy has sanctioned an advance of US$ 8 million to Cochin Shipyard to begin activity for the Air Defence Ship ordered on it, and a search is on for consultants. The Navy also nominated a three star Admiral Arun Prakash to look into the offer of vertical launched Barak AA missile from Israel for the future frigates though the price quoted compared to the Kashtan Russian offer is higher. There is no clear-cut acquisition policy and more and more senior officers are being hand picked to oversee the acquisitions of large inductions. As reported in AMR last issue INS Aditya the fleet tanker and INS Bramahaputra Project 16A the follow on Godavari class frigate, 12 years in the building, were commissioned in April at Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers in Calcutta and inducted into the Indian Navy. The Bramhaputra is without the Trishul AA system which is still to be delivered but has the powerful URAN 16 missile launchers still being operationalised in the IN. INS Karmukh the Kora class 6th missile corvette was also launched at GRSE Calcutta in April.
The Defence Minister Mr. George Fernandes, accompanied by an inter service team including Rear Admiral SV Gopalachari, ACNS Policy and Plans of the Navy, visited Viet Nam in end March for a week. During meetings with Lt Gen Pham Van Tra, the Viet Nam Defence Minister, and Mr Nguyan Dy Bian, the Foreign Minister, the Viet Namese offered jungle warfare training for the Indian Army, who may well accept the offer to hone its operations in the North East. The French Defence Chief of Staff, Gen Jean Pierre Kelche, who had hosted Gen V P Malik Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee earlier this year in France, paid a return visit, and after calls and meetings in Delhi, visited Agra and Gwalior on 24 April when he took ill and had to be flown back by a special French plane, thus cutting short his visit. India flies its VIPs around India in the Avro 748 on official visits and it is reported that when the French Chief entered the Avro he was traveling in, the temperature in the plane was over 48 degrees celcius and he was overcome by the heat. He left Delhi fully recovered. He did not, however, lose the opportunity to recommend the twin engined Alpha Jet that the French have offered to the Indian Air Force. Earlier, Gen La Rosa, Director of the French Armament Studies College CHEAR, had visited India and called on Mr. T R Prasad and Probir Sengupta, the Defence Secretaries, to push for French interests. Alan Richard, the French Defence Minister, is also due to visit from 18 May. An Air Force helicopter team of 187, led by Gp Capt B S Siwach, with 4 MI8s and 4 Alouttees left for Sierra Leone to assist the UN Military team, which includes the Indian Army contingent. In an interesting development, Mr Sergei Ivanov, the Secretary of Russia’s powerful National Security Council, and close confidante of Russia’s President elect Vladimir Putin, arrived in New Delhi on 26 April, at the invitation of Brijesh Misra, who is both India’s National Security Adviser and the Principal Private Secretary to Prime Minister Vajpayee. He held meetings where many security issues of cooperation were discussed, including the induction of the carrier Gorshkov. The Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Yang Wenchang also visited from 27 April and took part in the 12th joint working group meeting to resolve the border and other issues where the Chinese have shown diplomatic finesse in their approach to keep Pakistan supplied with nuclear and defence assistance, whilst ensuring that India is kept appeased with talks which were suspended post the Pokharan nuclear blasts.
Three ships the Ranvir, Gomati and tanker Shakti visited Safaga in Egypt and the Israeli port of Eilat in early Three ships the Ranvir, Gomati and tanker Shakti visited Safaga in Egypt and the Israeli port of Eilat in early April to strengthen ties with these countries. In Israel the Fleet Commander Rear Admiral Suresh Mehta was joined by the Flag Officer Commanding Western Naval Command Vice Admiral Madhevendra Singh and signifies the increasing ties with Israel. Last year Shri Jaswant Singh had to cancel an official visit to Israel at the last moment. The Training Squadron ships Tir and Krishna visited Dubai on 11 Apr and the Eastern Fleet ships Rana and Khukri visited Bangkok and Port Kelang in mid May.

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