Indian Parliament Panel Demands Smoking-Gun Report From Defense Ministry
By AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NEW DELHI
An Indian parliamentary panel Aug. 6 attacked the Defence Ministry for concealing a report that purportedly highlights shady arms deals at the height of a near-war with nuclear rival Pakistan in 1999.
Parliament erupted in an uproar after the private Aaj Tak television network during broadcasts cited the report of India’s Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), which deals with high-level corruption.
The 22-member Parliamentary Affairs Committee (PAC) told lawmakers that it was unable to launch its own independent probe as the ministry, citing national security, had declined to hand over the now-leaked CVC report.
“In the face of refusal by the Ministry of Defence in supplying the report, the PAC regrets its inability to give their findings on the defense procurement transactions,” the Parliament’s watchdog PAC said.
It flayed the ministry for giving an Indian journalist classified documents on the controversial purchase of unusable coffins in 1999 while denying the PAC access to the latest probe.
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s government tried to ward off the united opposition’s attack by jamming work in Parliament’s lower house with protests over the leak of the report.
Aaj Tak, citing the purported report, accused unnamed Defence Ministry officials of accepting bribes, and inflating procurement costs of artillery guns, shells and bullet-proof jackets during the conflict four years ago.
India in 1999 launched a full-scale military offensive to dislodge Pakistan-backed forces holding strategic peaks in the Kargil region of Indian Kashmir, leaving some 1,000 combatants dead on both sides.
Within months of the conflict, national watchdog agencies exposed shady arms deals clinched during the Kargil fighting, including the import of unusable coffins.
The developments are likely to put Defence Minister George Fernandes in the eye of yet more political turmoil. Fernandes remains under the cloud of a financial scandal that erupted two years ago. A news organization in April 2001 alleged kickbacks in defense deals, following which the president of the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party, Bangaru Laxman, had to resign. Thereafter, Fernandes also tendered his resignation but was again inducted as defense minister eight months later. The probe continues.
The defense minister, the only socialist in Vajpayee’s Hindu nationalist-led government, nearly destroyed New Delhi’s bilateral ties with Beijing in 1998 by dubbing China as India’s No. 1 enemy.
A senior member of the PAC told DefenseNews.com Aug. 6 that the panel also wants to discuss the upgrade of 125 MiG-21 bis aircraft and the purchase of missiles during the Kargil conflict, claiming the costs of both were inflated.
The PAC member said the committee wanted to explore why there was a four-year delay in the MiG-21 bis upgrades when the homegrown Light Combat Aircraft was behind schedule, and noted that the missiles were received months after the Kargil hostilities ended.
A Ministry of Defence official said the PAC report, coming ahead of next year’s general elections and against the backdrop of the 2000 defense scandal, will severely affect progress on several defense procurement programs, such as the advanced jet trainers, the Russian-built aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, and the $2 billion purchase of Scorpene submarines.
U.S.-India Group Discusses Military Relations
BY JASON SHERMAN
U.S. and Indian defense officials Aug. 6 kicked off two days of meetings at the Pentagon, aimed at advancing the bilateral military relations.
The third meeting of the U.S.-India Defense Policy Group since 2001 will include discussions between U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Ajai Prasad, India’s permanent defense secretary, according to a Pentagon official.
The two nations in recent years have increased military cooperation, combining naval patrols in the Malacca Strait, resuming arms sales, conducting exercises and inking an agreement to facilitate cooperation in defense technology.
Previous meetings have included discussions on how to enhance prospects for peace and stability in Asia, strengthen counterterrorism efforts and improve the security environment in Afghanistan. The United States is keen for India to send troops to Baghdad, a move India will not consider without a request from the United Nations.
The bilateral policy group is expected conclude its work Aug. 7, according to a Pentagon official.
India Eyes British Carrier
By VIVEK RAGHUVANSHI, NEW DELHI
The Indian Navy is eyeing Britain’s HMS Invincible aircraft carrier, as talks with Russia over another carrier deal remain at a stalemate.
British Defence Ministry officials offered to sell the Invincible to India when naval chief Adm. Madhavendra Singh visited the United Kingdom July 1-3. The offer includes an unspecified number of Sea King helicopters and used Sea Harrier aircraft, said a senior Indian Defence Ministry official, who declined to disclose the cost and the timetable of the possible deal.
A senior diplomat at the U.K. High Commission here confirmed the British government made an offer.
Interview: Air Chief Marshal Srinivaspuram Krishnaswamy, India’s Air Force Chief Defense news 17 Aug 03
By VIVEK RAGHUVANSHI, NEW DELHI
Air Chief Marshall Srinivaspuram Krishnaswamy heads the region’s largest air force as it maps its largest modernization program in decades.
During the next dozen years, India’s array of aging combat jets from MiG-21s — which have experienced a string of recent crashes that have exposed Krishnaswamy’s boss, Defence Minister George Fernandes, to criticism — to indigenous fighters will be retired as part of a comprehensive modernization program to field fewer but more capable aircraft.
Another top priority is better electronic warfare capabilities as part of a broader effort to improve the command-and-control structure.
Krishnaswamy is widely recognized as the right man for the job. An accomplished aviator and test pilot with experience in 30 aircraft types, he has helped develop a range of military aircraft and weapon systems, including Indian-built MiG-21s. An expert in weapon development and electronic warfare, he also holds the distinction of starting the first Electronic Warfare Command in Indian Air Force (IAF) history.
LCA goes supersonic
By Harichandan A. A. The Hindu 02 aug 03
BANGALORE AUG. 1. Tejas, the light combat aircraft (LCA), powered by an American GE 404 engine, made its maiden supersonic flight here on Friday to make Indian aviation history. Wing Commander Vikram Singh, one of three test pilots on Team LCA, took technology demonstrator I to a "targeted'' speed of Mach 1.08, flying at an altitude of 11 km.
"She behaved beautifully,'' the Wing Commander, who has flown much faster than this on other aircraft, told a media conference called to announce the test conducted by the National Flight Test Centre (NFTC), Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA). He held the aircraft at supersonic speed for 12 seconds. The flight lasted 35 minutes.
"This is the first time an Indian designed fighter aircraft has been able to accelerate to in a level flight to supersonic speed and hold at that speed,'' said a pleased M.B. Verma, LCA Programme Director ADA. V.K. Aatre, Scientifc Adviser to the Defence Ministry, and N.R. Mohanty, Chairman, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, were present.
Over the coming months, more supersonic flights are planned for technology demonstrators (TD) I and II, and for prototype version I (PV I) which will be rolled out in September, Mr. Aatre said. The Indian Air Force, and possibly the Navy, will each get their versions of the LCA "by the end of this decade''. Kaveri, the indigenous engine for the LCA, "is being developed", he said.
The technology demonstrators have been flown 94 times to date, with the flight duration being increased gradually. Over the next two years "we will concentrate on weaponisation and integration of systems'', Mr. Verma said.
The LCA's first supersonic flight, which came true two weeks later than announced, made everyone at the NFTC-ADA proud. Mr. Mohanty summed it up best. "On July 1, 2001, the LCA made its first ever flight, today within two years, it has made its first supersonic flight... it's a great day for us''.
Tejas, as the Prime Minister named it, was accompanied by a Mirage 2000 and a MiG 21, piloted by Air Commodore Parvez Khoker, Project Director, NFTC, and Squadron Leader Suneeth Krishna, Test Pilot, NFTC, respectively. The three aircraft flew supersonic simultaneously.
Later, Wg. Cdr. Vikram Singh stated that the maximum speed achieved by any aircraft piloted by a human being was Mach 3, that is, three times the speed of sound. An aircraft moving at Mach 1, which is the speed of sound, will cover about 334 metres a second.
Today, Wg. Cdr. Vikram Singh took a 2.5 G turn on the LCA, during which manoeuvre the aircraft and the pilot would have experienced a pull two and a half times that of gravity. He took the aircraft to an altitude of 8 km at sub-sonic speeds, and then climbed to 11 km, preparing for the supersonic flight. Then came the moment to forget theory and trust the aircraft. After months of agonising calculations, computer simulation and wind tunnel testing of wing vibrations and a battery of other tests, for 12 seconds, the LCA — an unstable configuration — made it.
The Hindu 02 Aug 03
The Defence Minister, George Fernandes, waves from the cockpit after a successful flight on the MiG 21 fighter aircraft, at the Air Force Station in Ambala on Friday . — Photo: V.V. Krishnan.
AMBALA AUG. 1. In an attempt to end what he described as the "misinformed" debate over the airworthiness of MiG-21s, the Defence Minister, George Fernandes, flew for nearly half-an-hour this morning in a 20-year-old two-seater trainer version in overcast conditions.
While the pilot reportedly wanted to head back to base after attaining a height of 5,000 metres and a maximum speed of 750 kmph, Mr. Fernandes, sitting behind him in the cockpit, told him to execute some simple manoeuvres. After a "barrel roll", "stiff turn" and "wing over", admittedly not the stuff to severely test the plane but enough to make a point, Mr. Fernandes returned triumphantly to waiting cameras and fussing technicians.
During the flight, blank shots were fired frequently to scare away birds while a Chetak helicopter kept a vigilant eye on the proceedings. The seating order in the plane was reversed for the Minister and the Western Command chief was at hand to promptly replace the helmeted mask that appeared to give some trouble.
It had been drizzling since Thursday here, at one of the oldest air force bases in the country, and initially it appeared that Mr. Fernandes might have to return disappointed because fighter aircraft normally do not take off in rain. This air base also has a rather dubious history — the first recorded MiG-21 crash took place here 40 years ago and the last crash was recorded in April this year.
The MiGs have been dubbed "flying coffins" for registering over 100 crashes from 1993 till date. Mr. Fernandes took to the skies in one of them to prove to the general public and the air force fraternity that the plane is still the mainstay of the Indian fighter fleet. There had also been insinuations in the media and from a few Parliamentarians that he had flown in the brand new Sukhoi-30 last month, but shied away from "testing" the much older MiG-21s.
In New Delhi, the CPI (M) leader, Somnath Chatterjee, said, "one flight by the Defence Minister does not mean the aircraft is safe".
Russia raising extra funds to meet IAF’s MiG upgrade target
IndianExpress 06 Aug 03
Moscow, August 5: Russia is raising additional funds to the tune of $18 million to meet the supplies schedule of kits for the upgradation of MiG-21 BIS fighter jets currently in service with the IAF.
Vice-premier Boris Alyoshin said that from September onwards, Russia will remove the ‘‘slippage’’ in supplies of kits for the modernisation and upgradation of IAF’s MiG-21BIS fleet and will fulfil its contractual obligations.
The manufacturer is raising extra funds to the tune of $18 million in private sector to meet its contractual commitments, Alyoshin was quoted as saying by Ria Novosti.
Under the deal, which is already behind the original schedule by three years, Russia was to develop upgradation technology for modernised MiG-21-93 and transfer it to the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. The upgradation involves the replacement of the original engine with a more powerful one used in MiG-29 fighters, a sophisticated ‘‘kopyo’’ (spear) phased-array radar capable of simultaneously engaging up to nine targets. (PTI)
‘Let MiGs fly, but safely’
Gadgils’ petition receives President’s ‘personal assurance’
IndianExpress 06 Aug 03
Express News Service
New Delhi, August 5: The Indian Air Force (IAF) today found an unexpected ally in Kavita Gadgil, mother of Flt Lt Abhijit Gadgil who died in a MiG-21 air crash two years ago, who emerged from an hour-long meeting with President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam to dismiss reports that she was ‘‘anti-IAF or wanted the MiG-21 fleet grounded or replaced.’’
According to her, Kalam also gave them his ‘‘personal assurance’’ to look into their petition. Gadgil, who established the Abhijit Air Safety Foundation after her son’s death, has been at the forefront of a campaign for greater air safety measures. However, she dismissed reports that she was ‘‘anti-IAF’’ and specified that she was neither for grounding the MiG-21 fleet, nor in favour of replacing it overnight. ‘‘That is not practical. All we want is greater safety for young pilots. We want the IAF to implement certain measures such as the induction of Advanced Jet Trainers (AJT) among others,’’ she said.
However the Gadgils are upset over a letter they received from the IAF alleging that Abhijit’s records indicate ‘‘that he was weak in certain aspects of flying which was monitored.’’ Rejecting the letter, his father Wg Cdr Anil Gadgil (retd) said the IAF could have grounded Abhijit if they were unhappy with his flying record. ‘‘If they didn’t think much of his capabilities why did they make him a two-aircraft leader? Why did they let him into the cockpit in the first place?’’ he asked after meeting the President. In their petition, the Gadgils have referred to the letter as misleading and ‘‘in poor taste’’. They have also filed an additional petition with the President demanding a fresh inquiry into their son’s accident to re-examine the crash.
During the meeting, the Gadgils presented a voluminous petition with their demands to improve air safety. They have suggested that the IAF carry out a squadron-by-squadron audit of aircraft serviceability by an independent board of experts. They have also demanded good high quality simulators for better training, modern safety equipment for the MiG-21s and want the IAF to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of cannibalisation of the fleet and induct AJTs.
Don’t shoot down IAF over the MiG myths
IndianExpress 13 Aug 03
A. K. Goel
If there is anything more important for the Indian Air Force than defending the country, it is to ensure cost of such defence is minimum. Thus, while we must train and prepare for perhaps the most demanding profession on Earth, we aim to ensure accidents are kept to the lowest levels.
The reality is since man was never meant to fly, and especially fly in fast and highly manoeuvrable jet fighters that require split-second responses, there are occasions when things go wrong. Many ponderables and imponderables combine to cause accidents.
But if there is anything that hurts the IAF internally is the loss of an aircraft and even more painful, the loss of precious lives. Every loss of aircraft means that one less operational aircraft is available for the country’s defence. As regards loss of life, this amounts to not just the loss of a trained combat pilot, but also a family member.
People like P. Chidambaram (‘‘Where Life is Cheap’’, July 27) who claim the IAF treats life cheap know little about the Air Force, its ethos, traditions, and professionalism. His column may be called Politically Correct but it is not factually correct. Allow me to outline some bare facts.
MiGs are the mainstay of the IAF and have been so for three decades. The IAF has different types of MiGs — the MiG-21, MiG-23BN, MiG-23MF, MiG 25, MiG-27 and MiG-29. There is an unfortunate tendency to club them together.
Most people are not aware that the MiG-21 has 21 variants of which 10 have served in the IAF. These are the Type 74, Type 76, Type 77, Type 96B, Type 96, Type 75, the Bison (upgraded MiG-21), and the two-seater Type 66, Type 69 and the Type 69B.
All these types were inducted into service between 1969-1976. Each one is a modified improvement of the earlier variant, with the last of the aircraft being manufactured in 1989.
Three different types of engines equip these fighters and trainers. Every sub-system and component of the aircraft, including its engine and airframe, has a design life after which it is replaced.
The aircraft and its systems are subject to scheduled maintenance ranging from pre-flight to between flights, daily and weekly inspections, and overhaul at defined intervals. The criteria for airworthiness are the serviceability of the aircraft and its systems within its design life-cycle. There is no arbitrary concept of ‘‘age’’.
The basic truth is an aircraft is either serviceable or it is not, irrespective of age. There is no halfway house in military aviation and this must be clearly understood. Therefore, contrary to what is often conveyed in the media, the IAF does not fly unserviceable, unfit or non-airworthy aircraft.
No air force in the world phases out its aircraft merely because of age. They are periodically refurbished and upgraded. In most cases, phasing out is done either because technologically the aircraft is markedly inferior to its potential challenger, or because it has completed its design life.
The United States Air Force still flies the B-52 aircraft, which is 45 years old. The IAF still uses the Canberra, introduced in 1957.
One has to look at MiG-21 accidents in perspective. The MiG-21 fleet comprises 47 per cent of the total fighter inventory of the IAF and yet accounts for nearly 70 per cent of total sorties flown by the IAF’s fighter fleet. In the absence of an advanced jet trainer, the IAF is compelled to use the MiG-21 as an operational trainer.
Though the MiG-21 technology is of 1960s or 1970s vintage it does not automatically follow that it is unsafe to fly. It is unfair that the sobriquet of ‘‘Flying Coffin’’ has been conferred on a truly versatile flying machine.
In 1999, the aircraft proved its worth as a frontline combat aircraft in Kargil and again when a MiG-21 shot down a Pakistani Atlantique aircraft which intruded across the border.
It is unfortunate that eminent people have publicly questioned the integrity of the IAF. The IAF has in practice one of the most scientific approaches to flight safety. The number of fighter aircraft lost in accidents has been progressively coming down, from 30 per year in the 1980s to 23 per year in the 1990s. It is now 18 per year.
Fighter flying is intrinsically hazardous. Man and machine have to operate at the limit of their capability. In aviation, even a small mistake in judgment or skill could lead to disaster. Human failure, whether at the level of design, manufacture, maintenance or flying, could individually or collectively lead to such mistakes. The goal of the IAF’s flight safety programme is to ensure these errors don’t happen. When they do, it is to investigate the failure and prevent recurrence.
The author is inspector general, air safety, IAF
India denies troops mobilisation in Dras-Kargil
Press Trust of Indian Express 17 Aug 03
New Delhi, Aug 17: India on Sunday termed as "completely baseless" Pakistan's claims that New Delhi was preparing for military action by mobilising troops in the Dras-Kargil sectors of Jammu and Kashmir and said it was "normal movement at formation level."
Pakistan's official news agency, APP, quoting intelligence sources had reported on Saturday night that India was preparing for military action in the Dras-Kargil sector. There was an increased movement of troops and other related activity, especially in Dras area and restrictions were being imposed on movement of civilians, it said.
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Describing the report as "completely baseless," a Defence Ministry spokesman said, "This was a normal movement of troops at formation level and there were no restrictions on the movement of civilians in the area."
The spokesman said the Srinagar-Leh highway overlooking Dras-Kargil was open to traffic and several tourists were moving along it.
Last week, Defence Minister George Fernandes had denied in Parliament that Pakistani forces were in occupation of an Indian peak in northern Dras.
posted by promila 4:58 AM