Saturday, December 3, 2016

What It Takes To Fly From INS Vikramaditya

A MiG-29K fighter on the deck of INS Vikramaditya
by Mustafa Shaikh

Experts say planes land and take off at a furious rate in a limited space. One careless movement, and a fighter jet engine could suck somebody in or blast somebody off the edge of the deck into the ocean.
INS Vikramaditya is the only aircraft carrier in service in India.

Experts say planes land and take off at a furious rate in a limited space. Very few countries, including India, have deck carrier pilots.
INS Vikramaditya is the only aircraft carrier in service in India. Flying from the deck of the carrier is a difficult job said Lieutenant Commander, Kothiyal, MiG 29 fighter pilot. The length of the deck is around 180 meter and the aircraft takes off at a speed of 800 km/hr.

"An aircraft carrier flight deck is one of the most exhilarating and dangerous work environments in the world. The deck may look like an ordinary land runway, but it works very differently, due to its smaller size," Kothiyal said.

Experts say planes land and take off at a furious rate in a limited space. One careless movement, and a fighter jet engine could suck somebody in or blast somebody off the edge of the deck into the ocean.

The same difficulty persists while landing on the flight deck. The deck is around 500-feet runway speed which is not enough for high-speed jets. To decrease the speed a tail-hook is snagged to arresting wires, sturdy cables woven from high-tensile steel wire.

"There are many things which generate speed in the jet before taking off that is the reason why very few countries in the world have deck carrier pilots," added Kothiyal.

As part of Navy Week 2016, Vice Admitral Girish Luthra, Flag Officer Commanding in Chief Western Naval Command said, "Due to the prevailing security scenaria in the region western naval command has maintained an enhanced state of readiness. Assets have been deployed to face emergency situations."

He also said that the coastal road project and proposed Shivaji memorial in the sea doesn't impact their operations and that Navy is pro development projects.

Have Cleared Names of New Army And Air Chiefs, Announcement Soon: Parrikar

Defense Minister Parrikar with Air Force Chief  Arup Raha

New Delhi: Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Friday said the names of the next army and navy chiefs will be announced very soon.

"I don't see any reason why it has to be two months ahead... they are out of the top people in the forces. The Defence Ministry has cleared the names. It has to be approved by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet," Parrikar said.

He was speaking at an interactive session in the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit here.

The current Indian Army chief, General Dalbir Singh, and Indian Air Force chief, Air Marshal Arup Raha, are retiring on December 31. As per the convention, the service chiefs are named two months ahead of the impending retirement of incumbents.

As for the Indian Army's September 28-29 surgical strikes across the Line of Control in Pakistan, Parrikar said: "The surgical strikes introduced a degree of uncertainty in the minds of our adversaries."

"Earlier, one thing was very sure (that) India won't cross (over)," he added.

As for the delay in the implementation of a committee's recommendation for beefing up security at military bases, Parrikar said: "You can't create the infrastructure overnight. The selection of technology is equally important. Those aspects are already being cleared out."

A tri-services panel headed by former Vice Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Philip Campose had pointed out deficiencies in security infrastructure. The panel took a close look at the issues involved and came up with upgraded standard operating procedures for all defence installations to prevent militant attacks.

The panel submitted its report to Parrikar in May.

Speaking on the Nagrota attack in Jammu and Kashmir, the minister said: "It is very painful to see soldiers die..."

Speaking on the opposition's questioning the attempt to hog credit for the surgical strikes, he said: "I am not taking credit for the strikes. I am taking credit for the capacity to take a decision."

Regarding clearance of the defence procurement backlog, the minister said that he could not clear all the backlog. "What we have ordered today has to be catered for in the next five to seven years," he said.

"I have laid down a plan. I will be very happy to have three per cent of the gross domestic product (for defence expenditure); it can't be done overnight. I think the economy will be able to generate some cash."

India currently spends more than two per cent of its GDP on defence.

He said the cost of defence acquisitions had come down. "In one case, I saw the price coming down to 20 per cent."

Obvious That Some Lethargy Has Set In: Manohar Parrikar On Nagrota

NEW DELHI: In the wake of Nagrota terror attack, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar today admitted that there is scope for improvement in security as some "sort of lethargy" has set in over a period of time and said those behind any "lapse" will pay for it.

The Minister also said that the recent surgical strike has led to a sense of "uncertainty" in the Pakistani security establishment and it was also a good confidence building measure for India.

Replying to queries on security arrangements at army camps, Parrikar said, "I think we can definitely improve upon it. Probably, over a period, some sort of lethargy has set in. Relaxation, it is obvious... it is taking some time."

He was asked if there was something that should have been done or can be done in the security arrangements in the wake of militants storming the complex of 166 artillery unit of Army at Nagrota on Tuesday.

Seven security personnel, including two officers, were killed in the incident which witnessed a fierce gunbattle and a hostage-like situation at the army camp, considered to be a peace posting in the Army parlance.

Parrikar, who was speaking at HT Leadership Summit, said it is "very painful" to see soldiers die but they needed to save children and families.

"I think we need to think out of the box. I am very sure that Army is aware of it and working on it," he said.

Asked about his earlier stress on fixing responsibility, Parrikar said even if he does a mistake, he will "have to pay for it".

"Even if there are lapses, they need to be tackled properly. You cannot afford lapses," the Minister said.

Parrikar spoke about the need to use smart technologies for perimeter protection of sensitive bases but said infrastructure cannot be created overnight.

He indicated that lengthy army procedures were coming in the way of getting things done swiftly.

Asked if India could carry out more surgical strikes, Parrikar said the "principle of uncertainty" should be allowed to operate. "It will be beneficial to all of us."

He said that surgical strikes have introduced a degree of uncertainty. "Obviously, uncertainty itself creates decision-making bottlenecks. You will never know them."

The surgical strike were carried out in retaliation to the September 18 Uri attack that left 19 Indian soldiers dead.

Indian Navy Keeping A Close Eye On Chinese Ships In IOR: Navy Chief

China would deploy its naval ships along with Pakistan Navy to safeguard the strategic Gwadar port and trade routes under the USD 46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

NEW DELHI: India is keeping a close watch on Chinese naval activity in the Indian Ocean region and noted a recent operational turnaround of a People Liberation Army (Navy) nuclear attack submarine at Karachi, Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba has said, adding that adequate assets are available to tackle all contingencies.

The officer, who was speaking ahead of the annual Navy Day function, said that there have been several port calls in Karachi by Chinese forces and that their movements are being monitored by India. He also downplayed reports that the Chinese Navy was preparing for deployment at the Pakistani Gwadar port.

“We have the capability and assets to take on any force which is deployed, and if and when this happens, we have plans in place to tackle it,” the Navy Chief said, adding that there has been no case of Chinese vessels breaching Indian territorial waters.

Admiral Lanba also rubbished as ‘bogus’ claims by Pakistan that it has recently repelled an Indian submarine from its territorial waters. “There was no Indian submarine deployed in the area where the Pakistan navy is claiming it to be. The claim made by Pakistan Navy is totally bogus. We will continue to deploy our submarines," he added.

On India’s capabilities, the Navy Chief said efforts are on to procure autonomous underwater vessels as well as unmanned aerial vehicles to be operated from warships.

While Admiral Lanba did not get into specifics of the navy’s submarine augmentation plans, he said the recent leak of data on the Scorpene submarines was not critical and did not contain information on the armament it carries.

The Navy will also procure new LPD amphibious warships, with Admiral Lanba saying that commercial bids for the project by L&T and Reliance Defence will shortly be opened after both qualified on technical grounds.

Search on for new fighter planes for Navy

Meanwhile, India has embarked on a search for new Naval fighter aircraft as the indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) is not up to the mark yet, the Navy Chief has said. 

Without getting into numbers, Admiral Lanba said that a new fighter is needed within the next five years, even though it is still encouraging DRDO to develop the naval version of the LCA. 

The Navy Chief said the LCA is not adequately powered to be used for carrier operations and cannot take off with a full weapons load.


Shortage Of Manpower Not Affected Operational Efficiency: Navy

KOCHI: Indian Navy is facing shortage of manpower but it has not affected the operational efficiency of the elite force, a top Navy official said here today.

"Shortfall is there. There is a shortfall in the manpower. This shortfall has not affected the operational efficiency of the Navy," Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Naval Command, Vice Admiral A R Karve said.

He said the Navy has a plan for addressing the shortfall in the next few years by increasing the intake capacity of its various training institutions.

"We feel that we are able to continue with the operational readiness of our Navy despite this shortfall..." Karve said in response to a question during a press conference organised onboard INS Tir at South Jetty, Naval Base here on the occasion of Navy Week celebrations.

He said as and when the capacity of Naval academies increases, the shortfall will get reduced and "it will take another two years and currently it has not bearing on our readiness."

According to the Ministry of Defence, the Indian Navy today comprises about 1 lakh uniformed and civilian personnel of which the uniformed manpower is about 69,000.

The shortfall of uniformed personnel is about 21 per cent for officers and 18 per cent for sailors. 

The shortfall for civilian personnel, with a current shortage of some 8,000 individuals, amounts to 18 per cent.

Dismissing suggestions that premature retirement is increasing in Indian Navy because of various issues including implementation of pay commission recommendations, Karve said "On the contrary, I think, we get a deluge of applications for the very few vacancies we advertise every year in the Navy."

"For a few thousand vacancies, we get more than lakhs and lakhs of applications. So I feel that the Navy and the Armed forces continued to be an attractive option for the youth of our country and we request you to continue to encourage our youth to join the defence forces," he said.

He said it is a very attractive career and successive pay commissions have given quite a few benefits.

"As and when the pay commission is finalised, I am sure that will also bring in lots of benefits with regard to pay and allowances etc," he said.

Karve also said the issues regarding seventh pay commission have already been taken up at the highest level of the government and are presently under examination at New Delhi.

India To Step Up Efforts For Pakistan's Isolation At Heart of Asia Conference

India will target Pakistan at the Heart of Asia Conference

AMRITSAR: Amid heightened tension with Pakistan following yet another brazen terror attack on an army base, India is likely to step up efforts to corner it diplomatically and mobilize support for concrete action against state-sponsored terrorism at the two-day Heart of Asia (HoA) conference beginning here tomorrow.

Afghanistan, which has also been witnessing increased attacks from terror groups operating from Pakistani soil, is set to push hard for a regional counter-terror framework with "binding" commitment at the annual meeting of Heart of Asia - Istanbul Process, a platform set up in 2011 to assist the war-battered country in its transition.

Top officials of the 14 member countries will meet tomorrow to discuss key challenges facing the region including from terror groups and explore ways to bring lasting peace and stability to Afghanistan.

On Sunday, the main conference will be jointly inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani where both India and Afghanistan are likely to corner Pakistan on terror.

Pakistan Prime Minister's Foreign Affairs Advisor Sartaj Aziz will represent Islamabad at the conference and all eyes will be on whether an Indo-Pak bilateral meeting takes place on the sidelines. Ahead of Aziz's visit here, India had yesterday said it will never accept continuing cross border terrorism as the "new normal" in bilateral ties with Pakistan while making it clear that talks cannot take place in an atmosphere of "continued terror".

India had called for isolating Pakistan diplomatically after the Uri attack on an army establishment and it is likely to continue efforts in that direction at the Heart of Asia conference. At the BRICS summit in Goa in October, India had called Pakistan the "mother ship" of terrorism globally.

Aziz is scheduled to arrive here on Sunday and is expected to return the same day.

The entire holy city, which is not far from Indo-Pak border, has been decked up, while multiple layers of security have been put in place. Strong vigil is being kept along the Indo-Pak border in Punjab.

It was clear that dealing with terrorism will be a major focus at the conference as both India and Afghanistan earlier this week called terror emanating from Pakistan the "greatest threat" to regional peace and stability.

Afghanistan has been pushing for an effective counter- terror framework and the matter will be discussed at length at the conference being attended by representatives from over 30 countries including China, the US, Russia and Iran.

The Indian delegation will be led by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the absence of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who is ill.

US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter To Visit India Next Week

IAF is set to acquire its first missile-armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from the US

Reflecting a new bonhomie of Indo-US defence ties, the Pentagon today announced that outgoing Defence Secretary Ashton Carter would be visiting India next week on his final around the world trip. Slated to be in India on December 8, Carter would travel to Japan, Bahrain, Israel, Italy and Great Britain before returning to the US on December 16. This is for the first time that an outgoing American Defence Secretary has included India in his itinerary for the final overseas trip.

“He (Carter) will look to build on the strategic handshake between the two nations and to continue the momentum in the relationship over the past decade, including expanded defence cooperation during his time as Secretary,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

Carter among others would meet Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.

Ahead of his visit, informed sources said India has made maritime security a significant priority and in discussion with the US for sale of Predator drones from General Atomics.

The outgoing Obama administration is trying to concretize steps taken with India in the defence domain as they transition the efforts to the Trump administration, sources noted, adding that on Carter’s agenda include M777 and Predator Guardian for the Indian Navy.

Early this year, India was able to join the MTCR with support from the US. Subsequently, India was also designated a “a major defence partner” when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the US and met President Barack Obama at the Oval Office this Summer.

The first opportunity for US Government to showcase this would be in the maritime domain surveillance area with the export of Predator Guardian, informed sources pointed out, adding that Obama and Carter are keen to establish a concrete legacy with India.

Vivek Lall, chief executive, US and International Strategic Development at General Atomics, are among the US leaders that have been advocating greater convergence between the US and India.

It is under his leadership that, India had acquired Boeing P8I aircraft in 2009 which would complement the Guardian aircraft for maritime security.

Noting that Obama and Modi have repeatedly stressed that cooperation in the Indian Ocean is key to both countries national security interests, it is anticipated that both sides will discuss the Avenger drones for the Indian Air Force.

India requires more than 100 such drones, sources said.

The combined value of Guardian and Avengers could be almost equivalent to the MMRCA requirement in value. Most militaries around the world are focusing their budgets and efforts to acquire unmanned platforms in the future.

Modi spoke to President-elect Donald Trump on November 9 to congratulate and build on the strong Indo-US relations. Both leaders are believed to be keen to take the strategic partnership to a new heights.

India hopes that Trump will pursue a strategy in South Asia making India truly a priority and an anchor in the region.

US Finds India's First Indigenous Aircraft Carrier INS Vikrant 'Non-Operational For A Decade'

The US Naval engineers who inspected India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikranthave found it as non-operational for up to decade.

They found the carrier with shortcomings like lacking at least small missile system to defend itself, a limited ability to launch sorties and no defined strategy for how to use the ship in combat.

The Naval engineers inspected the aircraft carrier in February at the port of Kochi, expecting it to be battle-ready ship set to help counter China’s growing influence in the Indian Ocean but found that it cannot be operational.

The inspection was part of US plans to share aircraft carrier technology with India. In August, both the countries had signed a military agreement sharing logistics. The US has also approved proposals by Lockheed Martin and Boeing Co. to make advanced jet fighters in India.

“China’s navy will be the biggest in the world soon, and they’re definitely eyeing the Indian Ocean with ports planned in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh,” retired Admiral Arun Prakash, the former commander of India’s navy was quoted as saying by The Wall Street Journal Wednesday.

The emerging relationship between India and US naval has given way to new dynamics to Asia’s geopolitical terrain, with China having diplomatic issues with the joint exercises.

US is concerned about India’s military strategy. “There have been severe delays on the part of New Delhi in modernising its carriers, jet fighters and nuclear submarines.” Experts said.

Gujarat To Come Up With Aerospace & Defence Manufacturing Policy: Vijay Rupani

Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani on Thursday said the state government will soon come up with an Aerospace and Defence Manufacturing policy. “The purpose behind it (the policy) is to establish Gujarat as the country’s leading hub for indigenous aerospace and defence manufacturing, develop globally competitive talent in the sector, promote research and development investments to drive globally-recognised innovation in product design,” said Rupani.

The chief minister was speaking after inaugurating the 10th Global Trade Show Exhibition, organised by Vadodara Chamber of Commerce and Industries here.

“Gujarat is committed to position itself as the country’s leading aerospace and defence manufacturing hub. The state’s well-recognised manufacturing proficiency and state-of-the-art infrastructure can help in meeting country’s critical need to be self-reliant in the sector,” he added.

According to Rupani, Gujarat aims to attract five mega A&D investments in the next 5 years.

“The A&D sector is envisaged to create 20,000 direct and indirect jobs in Gujarat in the next 5 years. This policy will be in addition to 18 existing policies announced by the state government to attract huge industrial investments,” the chief minister said.

He also announced that the state’s first Skill Development University will be set up here.

“The (state) government’s focus is more on skill development so as to generate more employable manpower,” he added.

“The Gujarat government has also decided to set up vertical GIDC (Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation) estates in each of the existing estates for meeting the infrastructure requirements of small scale units located in it,” the chief minister added.

Meanwhile, Ravindranath, Director of National Small Industries Corporation announced opening of its office in Vadodara after Rajkot.

Over 300 companies from all across the country have set up 750 stalls in 13 domes in this five-day event.

2015 Saw Most Number of Terror Attacks In India: Report

On May 11, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was addressing an election rally in Kerala compared the state with crisis-hit Somalia. Keralites took to social media to vent their ire against Modi for such a comparison and the hash tag #PoMoneModi (a play on a Malayalam film dialogue – Po Mone Dinesha) started trending on Twitter.

Ironically, the latest Global Terrorism Index (GTI) published by Institute for Economics and Peace shows that there is only a minor difference between the two countries, India and Somalia, in terms of terror attacks. On a scale of one to ten, India scores 7.484 at eighth position while Somalia stands right above at seventh with a score of 7.548.

However, when we analyse the data from previous four or five GTI reports, India has seen improvements. The report said, “In 2015, India had the highest number of attacks since 2000, whilst paradoxically it had the second lowest number of deaths for a single year since 2000.” Almost 80 per cent of the attacks had no casualties.

The disparity between fatalities and attacks perhaps indicate that the nature of terrorism in India is different. Most of these groups seem to be looking for political recognition rather than killing people. For example, around 10 attacks came from the People’s Liberation Army in India which resulted in no casualties.

In plain numbers, India saw 289 deaths from 800 attacks, which accounts for 7% of terror attacks globally. Most of these attacks were targeted towards the government which is also the case in other South Asian countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq. 

According to the report, the two most deadly terror groups of 2015 are Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Hizbul Mujahedeen. Another surprising factor from the report is that among the 49 different terrorist groups that engaged in terrorism, “four of them accounted for 72 per cent of all deaths”.

For example, two Maoist attacks claimed around 176 deaths, mainly comprising police officers operating in Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Odisha.

Predictably, the main source of Islamist terrorism comes from the Kashmir dispute with Pakistan. LeT and Hizbul Mujahedeen killed 33 civilians in 2015.

Meanwhile, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria — countries worst-affected by terrorism —constitute 47% of overall terror attacks across the world.

United Launch Alliance Launches Innovative “RocketBuilder” Website

RocketBuilderSM to Transform How Launch Services are Selected with Transparent Pricing Information

Washington, D.C., (Nov. 30, 2016) – United Launch Alliance (ULA) announced its new, innovative website today that enhances the way customers shop for launch services and sets a new standard for pricing transparency. It also provides insight into reliability, schedule assurance and performance, allowing users to make a true value comparison.

“The value of a launch is a lot more than its price tag,” said Tory Bruno, ULA president and chief executive officer. “Through our RocketBuilderSM website, customers are now empowered with pricing information that can be used to make decisions during their spacecraft development process, potentially helping customers keep program costs down. In addition, customers are able to build a rocket based on the needs they input, their spacecraft specifications and mission requirements.”

Users have the flexibility to select a launch date, the satellite’s orbit, rocket configuration and the customized service level needed for the mission. Finally, the site will capture savings in extra revenue or mission life, provide the true total cost of the specific mission requirements, and allow users to begin the contracting process.

“RocketBuilder makes launch services more transparent and accessible to anyone, from students and teachers to current and future customers,” said Bruno. “This site continues ULA’s transformation to make space more affordable and accessible, and as we celebrate our company’s 10th anniversary tomorrow, there is no better way to underscore our tremendous progress towards a sub $100 million rocket launch service.” 

In addition to building a rocket to meet specific requirements, RocketBuilder offers users an industry comparison regarding key value items only ULA can offer, such as unmatched reliability in the form of insurance savings, schedule certainty for increased on-orbit revenue, and orbit optimization with accurate satellite placement that extends the life of the satellite on orbit. 

“Comparing not only the cost of a mission, but the important value items such as schedule certainty is critical for customers, especially our commercial customers,” said Bruno. “An estimated launch slip of just three months can cost a customer upwards of $12 million in lost revenue and $18 million of deferred revenue. ULA’s average launch date slip has been less than two weeks for the past five years.” 

Organizations that are in the earliest stages of designing or developing spacecraft will be able to use the information provided on the website to make decisions about their designs and the most cost-effective way to get to space.

“RocketBuilder not only educates our customers on the different launch service options and costs, it can also serve as an educational reference for students, teachers, or anyone with an interest in rockets and space,” said Bruno. “Ultimately, RocketBuilder will help drive down costs even further as customers are able to optimize the cost-effectiveness of their designs.”

Atlas V launches for commercial customers are provided through Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services. 

To build your launch service, visit www.rocketbuilder.com or access it through www.ulalaunch.com.

With more than a century of combined heritage, United Launch Alliance is the nation’s most experienced and reliable launch service provider. ULA has successfully delivered more than 110 satellites to orbit that provide critical capabilities for troops in the field, aid meteorologists in tracking severe weather, enable personal device-based GPS navigation and unlock the mysteries of our solar system.

‘No Firm Blacklisted For Misconduct In Defense Deals In 3 Years’: Parrikar

No firm or entity has been blacklisted for misconduct or wrongdoing in defence deals in the last three years says defence minister Manohar Parrikar. (PTI File Photo)

No firm or entity has been blacklisted for misconduct or wrongdoing in defence deals in the last three years, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said on Friday.

He, however, said six firms have been debarred from carrying out further business dealings with Ministry of Defence for a period of ten years.

“This was further made applicable to all allied/ subsidiary firms of each of the debarred firms until further orders or until such time as the order of debarring of the firm subsists, whichever is earlier,” he informed the Lok Sabha during Question Hour.

The minister also said that business dealings have been suspended or put on hold in respect of 13 firms.

“In respect of another four firms, orders have been issued restricting procurement from the concerned firms to cases where procurements are justified and necessary on the basis of operational urgency, national security and non-availability of other alternatives,” he added.

Parrikar said the ministry has recently issued guidelines for penalties in business dealings with entities, which have come into effect from November 21.

The guidelines lay down policy for levy of financial penalties and/or suspension or banning of business dealings with entities, seeking to enter into contract with or having entered into a contract for the procurement of goods and services by the ministry.

“It has also been decided to review existing cases of suspension/ban/blacklisting etc against vendors in light of the new guidelines dated November 21, 2016,” he added.

In reply to another question, the minister said the government has undertaken some defence research and development projects with Israel.

Israeli companies have also set up joint ventures with Indian companies for manufacture of defence equipment as well as R&D.

“Some of the procurement cases with Israel companies also involve transfer of technology. Further, the collaboration with foreign countries for strategic tie-ups is an ongoing process to safeguard overall security of the country,” he said.

He also said that India was using technologies such as laser and electronic fencing to secure Indian boundaries with Pakistan.

General Atomics Performs First Flight of Next-Generation Predator

The first CPB being produced

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems has carried out the maiden flight of its Certifiable Predator B (CPB), ahead of delivery to launch customer the UK's Royal Air Force in 2018.

Performed at the company’s Gray Butte flight operations facility in California on 17 November, the sortie kicks off a two-year qualification effort for the unmanned air vehicle.

In November, the US state department approved the sale of up to 26 CPBs worth $1 billion to the RAF, comprising 16 firm orders and 10 options.

Deliveries will begin in “late 2018”, says General Atomics, once the UAV has been declared compliant with NATO and UK airworthiness regulations.

“The first flight of our Certifiable Predator B aircraft is a major milestone in our progression towards delivering an RPA [remotely-piloted aircraft] that meets all airworthiness requirements,” says Linden Blue, General Atomics chief executive.

“The CPB is the first RPA system of its kind to be compliant with an international type-certification standard, and can therefore be more easily integrated into civil airspace operations around the world.”

Three UAVs will be used to support the qualification testing phase, with two further examples built for full-scale fatigue and static tests.

The UK is the first customer for the type, although the US Air Force is updating its existing fleet to the new standard – a further sale of retrofit kits, worth some $39 million, was announced on 21 November. This covers modification equipment for 23 of the USAF’s Block 5 MQ-9 Reapers, plus options for 95 more, General Atomics tells FlightGlobal.

To date, 49 USAF aircraft have been modernised, with upgrades including an extended-range capability provided by auxiliary external fuel tanks and new wings. New-build CBPs have increased internal fuel capacity as well as the new wings.

The Block 5 variant of the MQ-9 Reaper is also being acquired by Spain, and the company is looking for local suppliers to support the program.

Madrid ordered four aircraft plus two ground control stations in February 2016, and General Atomics is now calling on Spanish industry to outline how it can contribute to the development. Three industry days will be held in January in Madrid, Malaga and Bilbao, for companies with experience in a number of sectors including maintenance; sensor data processing, exploitation and dissemination; airborne sensors; supply chain management and UAV research and development.

India To Launch Chandrayaan-II In Early 2018 To Search For Minerals And Water-Ice On Moon

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will launch its second unmanned mission to the moon in the first quarter of 2018, and it will look for, among other things, the abundance of minerals and presence of water-ice on Earth's only natural satellite. However, the exact date of the launch has not been announced yet.

"ISRO is working towards the launch of Chandrayaan-2 during the first quarter of 2018," Union Minister of State for Atomic Energy and Space, Jitendra Singh, said in a written reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha, according to a statement from the Department of Space. He said it is a "totally indigenous mission comprising of orbiter, lander and rover."

ISRO already has a number of launches lined up for 2017, from which it looks to earn big moolah. The organisation has already earned more than $62 million from launches conducted for other countries in 2014-15. The Chandrayaan-2, however, will be an Indian launch, but the data gathered from it should be available to scientists across the world. 

He added: "The orbiter and rover flight systems are in an advanced stage of realisation. Payloads are under development at various ISRO centres and laboratories. Realisation of an indigenous lander is in progress. Special tests for new systems in the lander have been identified and a Lander Sensors Performance Test (phase-1) over artificial craters created in the Chitradurga district in Karnataka has been conducted. A Lunar Terrain Test facility is ready for the lander drop and rover mobility tests."

It may be mentioned that ISRO Satellite Centre (ISAC) director M Annadurai had earlier said about the lander tests: "Tests are [being] conducted over the simulated craters at Chitradurga. We are using an aircraft to assess whether the sensors on the Lander will do their job [later] of identifying the landing spot on the Moon," 

About the contents of the spacecraft, he said: "The orbiter carrying six payloads will orbit around the Moon in 100 km lunar orbit. The payloads will collect scientific information on lunar topography, mineralogy, elemental abundance, lunar exosphere and signatures of hydroxyl and water-ice."

Donald Trump To Nominate Gen James 'Mad Dog' Mattis For Defence Secretary

WASHINGTON: US President-elect Donald Trump today announced that he will nominate retired Marine general James Mattis, renowned for his tough talk and battlefield experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, to be his defence secretary.

"We are going to appoint 'Mad Dog' Mattis as our Secretary of Defence," Trump told a cheering crowd at Cincinnati in Ohio in his first of the series of 'Thank You' victory tour.

"But we are not announcing this till Monday, so don't tell anybody," Trump told his supporters in his characteristic way.

Trump described 66-year-old Mattis as "one of our great, great generals."

"He's our best. They say he's the closest thing to (World War II-era) general George Patton that we have and it's about time," Trump said at the rally.

The retired four-star general, known as "Mad Dog," commanded a Marine battalion during the First Gulf War and a Marine division during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In 2010, he was named to head the US Central Command.

Tough-talking Mattis attracted controversy in 2005 when he said "it's fun to shoot some people" while addressing service members in San Diego.

If confirmed by the US Senate, Mattis would replace outgoing Defence Secretary Ashton Carter.

The nomination comes after Mattis met with Trump in Bedminster, New Jersey, last month.

Trump had said he changed his position on enhanced interrogation after meeting Mattis.

"General Mattis is a strong, highly dignified man. I met with him at length and I asked him that question. I said, 'What do you think of waterboarding?'" Trump told The New York Times in an interview.

"He said -- I was surprised -- he said, 'I've never found it to be useful.' He said, 'I've always found, give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I do better with that than I do with torture," Trump said.