Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Nuclear Deterrence And Pakistan’s Second Strike Capability In The Indian Ocean Region

To make nuclear deterrence work without any hurdles, states desire invincibility for their nuclear arsenals against the threat of being taken out in first attack massive retaliation from the enemy. Enemy’s lack of ability to wage an aggression is the role assigned to nuclear deterrence. If nuclear arms race between two nuclear belligerents goes on, states strive to keep their deterrence against each other relevant by choosing an option of second strike capability.

Second strike capability allows the state to respond to the nuclear attacker with nuclear retaliation. End of 20th century was marked with nuclearisation of two South Asian neighbors. Ever since their nuclearisation both India and Pakistan – are constantly involved in nuclear arms race. In this contagious race, both have been pulled into the spiral of developing weapon capabilities in the form of ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and ballistic missile defences to Multiple Independently Re-entry Targetable vehicles.

However, recent developments of nuclear submarines and naval nuclear weapons by India and Pakistan are the step forward on the deterrence ladder. Now, both countries are developing their second strike capabilities to deter their enemy form resorting to the first attack.

Since the beginning of its nuclear program, India wanted to have nuclear triad and started its nuclear submarine program in 1970’s. India acquired its first ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) in 2009 and now it is developing its indigenous ballistic missile submarines and nuclear powered attack submarines (SSN) as well. Moreover it has sea based K4, K15, Brahmos and Dhanush missiles. From India’s perspective, the development of 2nd strike capability is a logical step but it has changed the strategic equilibrium between India and Pakistan. Moreover, it has opened the new arena of nuclear arms race for South Asian nuclear rivals.

However, what is done is done. So, there is no point in repeating these chronological events. But, what is necessary now is the development of credible and survivable 2nd strike capability by Pakistan to maintain the strategic balance and to uphold the nuclear deterrence in the region. This initiative should be important for Pakistan because it is neighbor to ambitious, shrewd, and hostile nuclear neighbor that wants Indian Ocean as only its area of influence.

At the moment Pakistan does possess second strike capability in the form of BABUR 3 that is nuclear tipped naval cruise missile for the purpose of deterring the enemy. But, what is necessary is the induction of credibility in 2nd strike capability of Pakistan. Reason behind why Pakistan never opted for nuclear triad earlier is its firm belief in the idea of credible minimum deterrence.

But, with India’s massive nuclearisation and naval buildup Pakistan cannot sit in denial and needs to develop its second strike capability. It is important for Pakistan to develop second strike capability more than ever because with huge investment in CPEC and Gwadar Port, Pakistan wants to claim its piece in the Indian Ocean Region for its economic development as well. Development of credible second strike capability would enable Pakistan to protect and promote its interest in the Indian Ocean Region where Indian naval vessels patrol throughout the year. Therefore, for economic prosperity, security of SLOC and ports is necessary so that enemy is not able to use these economic centers as leverage in case of a crisis situation.

Thus, Pakistan needs to take many initiatives for enhancing its second strike capability. First and foremost initiative should be investment in development of small but high-tech ship building industry for achieving self-sufficiency. No country in history has achieved the status of global power with borrowed vessels and purchased ships.

Moreover, Pakistan needs to invest in nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine as well. Because so far Pakistan has spent only in diesel-electric submarines (SSK) that use air-propulsion. For the credibility of sea based deterrence, it is necessary that its position remains hidden from the enemy. Nuclear powered submarines have the capability to stay submersed for longer duration that provides them with the better opportunity to hide from enemies radars. Another aspect that will affect the future of Pakistan’s SSKs is Indian space modernization. With ability to see from space, India could locate submarines that have to reemerge after every three weeks. Moreover, with SSKs Pakistan is only enable to deploy its cruise missiles and on SSBN Pakistan could deploy its strategic weapons as well.

Lastly, to avoid any accident both countries need to develop some kind of CBMs on practicing restrain, reporting nuclear accidents and advance notification of missile testing. These initiatives are important because with development of second strike capability and naval nuclearisation both parties are venturing into untapped territories of nuclear competition.

India's Muted Response To Trump's Jerusalem Move Stokes Arab Unease

Protestors shout slogans during a protest, organised by various communist and religious organisations, against the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in New Delhi

NEW DELHI - A dozen Arab ambassadors have asked India to clarify its position on the U.S recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, diplomatic sources said, after New Delhi’s muted response suggested a shift in support for the Palestinian cause.

U.S. President Donald Trump abruptly reversed decades of U.S. policy this month when he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, generating outrage from Palestinians. Trump also plans to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

Countries around the world, including U.S. allies Britain and France, criticized Trump’s decision, but India did not take sides.

Instead, the Indian foreign ministry in a brief statement, said India’s position was consistent and independent of any third party.

The bland statement made no reference to Jerusalem and prompted criticism at home that it was insufficient, vague and anti-Palestinian.

Israel maintains that all of Jerusalem is its capital. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future independent state and say Trump’s move has left them marginalized and jeopardized any hopes of a two-state solution.

Last week, envoys from Arab states including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Kuwait based in New Delhi met Indian junior foreign minister M.J. Akbar to brief the government about an Arab League meeting on Dec. 9 condemning the U.S. decision, a diplomatic and an Indian government source said.

The envoys also sought a more forthright Indian response, the sources said.

But Akbar gave no assurance and the Indian source said the government had no plans for a further articulation on Jerusalem, which is at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Akbar did not promise anything,” the diplomatic source briefed on the meeting said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of diplomatic sensitivities.

India was one of the earliest and vocal champions of the Palestinian cause during the days it was leading the Non-Aligned Movement while it quietly pursued ties with Israel.

But under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, New Delhi has moved to a more open relationship with Israel, lifting the curtain on thriving military ties and also homeland security cooperation.

Modi’s Hindu nationalist ruling group views Israel and India as bound together in a common fight against Islamist militancy and long called for a public embrace of Israel.

Modi in July made a first trip to Israel by an Indian prime minister and did not go to Ramallah, the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority and a customary stop for leaders trying to maintain a balance in political ties.

P.R. Kumaraswamy, a leading Indian expert on ties with Israel at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, said a “major shift” on India’s policy had been evident since early this year when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visited New Delhi.

“With the Palestinian president standing by his side, Prime Minister Modi reiterated India’s support for Palestinian statehood but carefully avoided any direct reference to East Jerusalem,” he said.

For decades, India’s support for a Palestinian state was accompanied by an explicit reference to East Jerusalem being the Palestinian capital. But Delhi has moved to a more balanced position, refusing to take sides in an explosive dispute, he said.

During the meeting last week, the ambassadors of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Somalia and the Palestinian Authority spoke, the diplomatic source said. Besides the dozen envoys there were charges d‘affaires from several other countries in the region.

“They were expecting more from India, perhaps to denounce Israel and the U.S.” said former Indian ambassador to Jordan and Anil Trigunayat. “But would it really make a difference, adding one more voice?”

India, China Revive Talks On DGMO-Level Hotline Issue

by Ajay Banerjee

India and China have revived their long-pending issue of setting up a telephonic hotline at the level of Director-General Military Operations (DGMO)

The matter was revived at a meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs in Beijing last month. The two sides are now coordinating on how to have a Mandarin-to-English translator in India and the reverse of it in China. The telephonic talk between the two senior officers may be done like a conference call with translators listening in to transcribe, on either side.

This is being done in the backdrop of the 20th round of special representatives (SR) talks on boundary resolution in New Delhi on December 21-22. National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval and his counterpart, state councillor Yang Jiechi, will discuss the entire gamut of bilateral relations, including the situation along the 3,488-km Line of Actual Control (LAC). This is the first SR-level meeting since the 73-day military standoff at Doklam.

Since the two are responsible for boundary resolution, they are expected to discuss measures to maintain peace and tranquillity along the LAC.

The issue of the DGMO-level hotline was discussed at a higher level in April 2016 during the visit of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar to China. A draft agreement was exchanged, but there were hurdles of language and also for China to identify an officer at the rank of the DGMO-a three-star lieutenant general.

At present, India and China have five border personnel meeting points along the Himalayas, where formation commanders on either side discuss local irksome issues. A DGMO-level hotline will be for overall talks when matters heat up.

1000 Naga Rebels Nabbed By Indian Security Forces In 2 years, Reports Says

531 underground cadres and 542 over ground workers were arrested in Manipur and Nagaland

After the June 2015 attack, the Indian Army had carried out a major surgical strike

Kohima: Indian security forces have nabbed more than 1,000 Naga rebels, since the ghastly attack on the Indian Army convoy by the banned outfit (NSCN-K) that killed 18 soldiers in Manipur two years ago, the report said.

According to sources, 531 underground cadres of NSCN-K and 542 over ground workers were arrested in Manipur and Nagaland following intensive operations which began after the June 4, 2015 attack on the Army personnel.

Meanwhile, a Home Ministry official said that the operations are continuing even now and security forces have been able to restrict the NSCN-K’s movement to a great extent.

The official reportedly claimed that it was for the first time in a decade that such a large number of Naga militants were arrested in just two years.

During the last two years, the security forces have also exterminated 34 NSCN-K militants and recovered 571 sophisticated arms from arrested cadres of the group.

After the June 2015 attack, the Indian Army had carried out a major surgical strike on the camps of NSCN-K, killing some militants and destroying the camps.

The Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland is a Greater Naga Revolutionist, Christian Naga nationalist insurgent group operating mainly in Northeast India, with minor activities in northwest Myanmar until 2012.

Kim Jong-Un In Kerala: Communists Has A Poster Boy Like No Other

This time, it seems the insensitive communists of Kerala have undone themselves 

Starting his Sunday with a rather quirky attack on the Left in Kerala, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra tweeted a CPI-M poster spotted somewhere- that has a picture of North Korean depot Kim Jong-Un on it.

Drawing a unique analogy thereafter, Patra said that this reasons the mass killing of RSS cadres in the state.

Hoping that CPI-M does not launch missile attack on the BJP, RSS offices like Kim Jong-Un's plans to nuke the United States, Patra added, "Hope the Left is not planning to launch missiles at the RSS, BJP offices as their next gruesome agenda."

Meanwhile, the poster is an invite to all CPI-M cadres to attend the party meet in Nedumkandam on December 16-17.

In the past, the CPI-M has reportedly used images of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin on their posters, but Kim Jong-Un's is definitely a first.

The CPI-M's district secretary said the poster must be a mistake made by the party's local factions. The party has asked that it be removed, the district secretary said. 

Speaking to India Today, Sambit Patra added, "The poster is not an unintentional mistake. This is intentional and shows the mindset of the Left. Also exposes the intolerance brigade." 


Kerala has long been marred with reports of RSS-Left cadres indulging in political killings.

Over the years, violence has been sparked by the smallest of provocations-a missing party flag, an altercation at a bus stop, a casual remark directed at a party leader, even the defacing of a 'party wall'.

Killings and counter-killings have been endemic to Kerala over the ever-lasting feud between the saffron and the red.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has time and again raised hue and cry over what it claims are ideological murders of its workers by Left cadre in Kerala.

Insinuating that perhaps the North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un's belligerent ideas are influencing the CPM cadres in the state, Patra has sure stirred a storm on the internet for the day.

One More Youth Shuns Violence, Joins Family In Kashmir

Srinagar: One more youth has shunned the path of violence and returned to join the mainstream in the Kashmir valley, police said.

However, police appealed to media not to disclose the name and other details of the youth who returned to home.

Taking to micro-blogging site Twitter, police said, “ In our efforts to get misguided youth to mainstream, one more youth who had recently joined, shuns path of violence & returns home.

Identity of individual stands protected.

Media is requested not to publish any particulars for his protection.

Syndicated Feed

China Conducts Test Flight of Second Prototype C919 Passenger Jet

A Comac C919, the China's first medium-haul passenger jet aircraft, takes off from Pudong International Airport in Shanghai on December 17, 2017

The aircraft, in development by the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac) in a bid to compete with Boeing's 737 and Airbus' A320 series of passenger jets, flew its second test flight to Shanghai on December 17, according to state media.

A second prototype of the China’s indigenously-built passenger aircraft today successfully completed its maiden test flight, media reports said.

The prototype of the C919 plane took off from Shanghai’s Pudong International airport this morning for the test flight.

With this, the country has moved a step closer to its ambition to penetrate the global passenger jet market, estimated to be worth USD 2 trillion over the next 20 years.

“The test flight lasted for around two hours during which performance of the plane’s major systems and equipments like taking-off and landing, navigation and communication, speed acceleration and deceleration were tested,” the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

The first prototype of C919 narrow-body aircraft, which will compete with single-aisle planes of Boeing’s 737 and the Airbus A320, made its maiden flight in May. Its first intercity test flight was conducted last month.

With main focus on engine tests, the aircraft manufacturer, Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China plans to produce six such planes for flight testing and plans to carry out more than 1,000 tests.

With a standard range of 4,075 km, the C919 jet is comparable to the updated Airbus 320 and Boeing’s new generation 737, it said.

China which currently uses Boeing and Airbus planes for passenger use wants to produce its own passenger jets in future.

With the successful maiden test flight, the aircraft will move into an airworthiness certification phase, which its manufacturer are aiming to obtain from Chinese regulators as well as Europe’s aviation safety regulator.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Agreement With France For Supply of Rafale Fighter Jets

An Inter-Governmental Agreement was signed on 23rd September, 2016 between the Government of India and French Republic for the procurement of 36 Rafale aircraft including weapons, long term maintenance support, simulators along with 10 years of annual maintenance and associated equipment.

The Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) proposal was for procurement of 126 aircraft in which 18 aircraft were direct fly-away aircraft and 108 aircraft were to be License Manufactured in India. In the present procurement, 36 Rafale aircraft are being procured in direct fly-away condition under Inter-Governmental Agreement between the Government of India and French Republic. In the IGA, better terms have been achieved in terms of better pricing, better maintenance terms and better delivery schedule.

Glide Bomb SAAW: Guided Weapon's Success Proof of DRDO Prowess In Developing Indigenous Capability

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) recently successfully tested the guided bomb which is capable of destroying airstrips.

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) recently successfully tested the guided bomb which is capable of destroying airstrips. The weapon has been under development by the state-owned agency in collaboration with the Indian Air Force (IAF) and Research Centre Imarat (RCI). To be inducted soon into the Armed Forces, the lightweight Glide Bomb, SAAW (Smart Anti Airfield Weapon) is capable of engaging ground targets with high precision up to a range of 100 kms, and can be launched from SU-30 aircraft. The indigenous lightweight high precision guided bomb is being touted as a world-class weapon system.

Director General, Missiles and Strategic System, DRDO, G Satheesh Reddy described it as “a significant milestone in the indigenous capability to develop guided bombs”. The guided bomb, successfully tested from IAF aircraft at Integrated Test Range (ITR), Odisha and guided through precision navigation system, reached the targets at greater than 70 km range, with high accuracy. A total of three tests with different release conditions and ranges were conducted and all were successful.

According to DRDO, conventional 1000 lb class of aircraft bombs offer more drag, thereby adversely attesting the operational efficiency of modern high speed aircraft. Keeping this in view, DRDO has designed and developed high speed low drag (HSLD) bombs suitable for carriage and release by modern aircraft. These bombs are effective against ground targets like railway yards /bridges, major installations, bunkers, runways and hardened targets. Earlier this year, IAF had also successfully tested 500-kg precision guided HSLD bomb in Rajasthan. Developed by the Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE), General Purpose Bomb ‘PGHSLD-500’ underwent flight trials released from Su-30MKI at Air Force Station, Jodhpur, fitted on a hard point and was released from an altitude of 5 km to validate its separation performance and to estimate stability.

During the carriage trials, the aircraft touched the carriage limits of 0.85 at 150 m altitude and completed 6.5 ‘g’ and full roll manoeuvres. The bomb can be carried on various in-service aircraft like Jaguar, MiG and other advanced combat aircraft of the IAF. Scheduled to be ready in seven years, the next-generation airborne early warning and control system (AWACS), with a 360-degree scan and angle of coverage as against 200-km range, is being developed by the DRDO. It would also double up as an air-to-air refueller following a request by the IAF, according to DRDO, making India the second country in the world after Israel to develop such a system.

The Airbus A-330, a medium to long-range wide-body twin-engine jet, which emerged as the single bidder for the tender floated by India, is expected to be the platform for the next generation AWACS systems, which will double up as mid-air refuellers.

Today, the indigenous 240-degree angle of Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AEW&C) built by the DRDO on the Brazilian Embraer-145 modified jet for the IAF is already in service. The new system being developed by DRDO would have AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radars with 360-degree capability, which can detect incoming aerial threats like hostile fighters, drones and cruise missiles from 400 km away. The IAF is already using the Israeli Phalcon AWACS on the Russian IL-76 heavy-lift aircraft—though it is a fuel guzzler—to detect aerial threats from jets or missiles even from targets 400 km away.

Rafale Fighters To Have Deadly Meteor Missiles, To Improve India's Air Superiority

Rafale fighter jets will be fitted with deadly Meteor missiles. The Meteor missiles have a range of 100 kilometers. This will give a major boost to India Air Force's firepower

The much awaited Rafale fighter aircraft will be a major boost to India's firepower as the fighters will come fitted with Meteor and Mica missiles from Europe.

These missiles will give immense advantage to Rafale fighter aircraft as these are 'beyond visual range' weapons. In simpler terms, the pilot of the fighter plane will be able to target enemy plane even if he cannot physically see the enemy craft.

The range of meteor and mica missile is exceptionally long at 100 kilometers. This will give a comprehensive edge to these planes in combat situations.

The Rafale fighters will come along with Meteor Mica missiles under the Rs 59,800 crore deal which will give Indian Air Force aerial superiority in case of launching air campaigns against enemy ground targets and will also suppress their air defence planes as well.

The deal is facing questions from the Congress which had declared Rafale as the L-1 bidder in 2012 and contract negotiations had begun with its manufacturer Dassault Aviation that year.

Contract negotiations remained incomplete even after 2 years in 2014 due to a lack of agreement on various terms of RFP compliance and cost related issues.

There was no deal under the UPA Government. Transfer of Technology remained the primary issue of concern between the two sides. Dassault Aviation was also not willing to take the responsibility of quality control of production of 108 aircraft in India. While Dassault provisioned for 3 crore man hours for production of the aircraft in India, HAL's estimate was nearly 3 times higher, escalating costs manifold.

As per comparisons drawn between the two deals based on the cost of flyaway condition planes, the NDA deal is coming out to be cheaper by Rs 12,000 crore.

The Air Force is sending teams of its pilots and technicians to a French air base to train on the Rafales that will start arriving in early 2019.

India Building Bridges In Arunachal For LaC Access

by Shaurya Karanbir Gurung

NEW DELHI: This week two strategic bridges were inaugurated in eastern Arunachal Pradesh, opening up another way in the area to the Line of Actual Control. Like the two, there are close to 150 strategic bridges being constructed in the state to provide quick mobility to troops and supplies towards the LAC and act as alternative routes in case one gets destroyed during a conflict.

Bridges are an important requirement of Arunachal, because the area is prevalent with rivers, including the Brahmaputra tributaries, besides Nallahs.

Due to monsoon and flash floods, most of the state's border regions are cut off. These bridges will ensure all-year connectivity to the strategic roads located along the LAC in the state. A similar border infrastructure for better connectivity is also being done in the neighbouring state of Sikkim, following the Doklam standoff.


The Border Roads Organisation (BRO), under the Defence Ministry, is constructing 410 bridges of strategic importance for stronger connectivity to the 3440- km long LAC from Ladakh to Arunachal. Arunachal has the most number of bridges-144 out of 410- due to its rivers and problems of monsoon.

Out of 144, 75 are under construction and will be completed by 2020. Out of 75, about seven located at Lower Dibang Valley and Lohit districts are nearing completion.

Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre inaugurated the 300m-long Deopani Bridge on December 12. It is located over the Deopani River in Ro-ing-Hunli road and links Lower Dibang Valley with Upper Dibang Valley and Assam. The bridge is important because during monsoon the two districts are cut off from each other. It will also connect further north to Mipi and Dembuen at the LAC.

The second bridge inaugurated by Bhamre is the Injupani Bridge between Roing and Paya in the Lower Dibang Valley. South of Roing is the 9.15 km long Dhola Sadiya Bridge constructed across Lohit River.

The bridge which is on the Tinsukia (Assam)- Roing road was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May. "Merely having the Dhola Sadiya bridge for connectivity in the region was not enough, therefore the Deopani Bridge among others had to be constructed," explained the official. Located west of the DeopaniBridge is Pasighat in Arunachal's East Siang district.

The BRO is connecting Pasighat with Roing by constructing a 5.7 km -long bridge, which is to be completed by March 2018. Pasighat will get connected to Dibrugarh, Assam, located south of it, by the Bogibeel Bridge across the Brahmaputra. And Dibrugarh is connected to Tinsukia.

"So it's a loop connec-ting Lower Dibang and Upper Dibang with East Siang and Assam," explained another official. Dibang is also connected with its eastern neighbouring district, Lohit, by a series of 10 bridges. Only one is left to be completed, which will be achieved by March next year, says the BRO. Tinsukia through the Alubarighat Bridge also connects with Lohit and Anjaw districts, including their bordering areas. Located east of this region is Upper Siang, which borders the LAC.

About 12 bridges are under construction here from Pangin to Gelling (located at the LAC). There are also same number of bridges from Along to to Yorlung in West Siang. Further east of the Siang district is Daporijo, which also has about 12 bridges moving up to the LAC.

Even western Arunachal's Tawang district has about 15 bridges under construction from Balipara in Assam up to Tawang.

Along the Remaining LAC 

Arunachal's neighbouring state, Sikkim, has about 40 bridges under construction. "The infrastructure development here has taken off at a fast pace in the past few months. Work is also going on at a strategic location in North Sikkim and nearby areas," said another official.

In Jammu and Kashmir there are about 100 bridges under construction, besides 25 and 55 in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. "Out of the 410 bridges having a length of 22 km, 150 are under construction and we are completing 3 km length of bridges every year," said an official.

All of them are two-laned road bridges and of class 70, meaning it can bear very heavy loads, including of tanks. Its these bridges connected with the strategic roads leading to the LAC that ensure the connectivity and movement of forces in a large strength and that too on schedule. The multiplicity will also help confuse the enemy of routes being taken by the troops.

The work on the bridges which started about a decade ago, however, has its challenges. It ranges from limited working periods due to weather and to dealing with construction issues and limited expertise in it.


India May Not Allow China’s Bid To Delink Doklam From Special Representative Mandate

The crisis ended on August 28, a month after National Security Advisor Ajit Kumar Doval, who is also the special representative for talks with China, met Chinese state councilor and special representative Yang Jiechi on the sidelines of a BRICS NSA meeting in Beijing

by Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury

New Delhi: India is not giving into Chinese attempts to delink the Doklam plateau from the special representative (SR) mechanism, insisting that the two sides discuss the area along with other boundary disputes at the SR talks this week in New Delhi. Doklam was the scene of a 75-day-long military face off between the two countries that pushed bilateral ties to a new low. 

The crisis ended on August 28, a month after National Security Advisor Ajit Kumar Doval, who is also the special representative for talks with China, met Chinese state councilor and special representative Yang Jiechi on the sidelines of a BRICS NSA meeting in Beijing.

Doval is now expected to host Yang for the 20th round of the annual boundary negotiations here on December 20-21. This is going to be the first meeting between the two special representatives since the Doklam face off.

Delhi and Beijing, however, are still not on the same page on whether the mandate of the special representatives includes negotiation over the dispute in the Sikkim sector of the Line of Actual Control (4,057-km long), which covers the Doklam trijunction with Bhutan, according to people familiar with the issue.

Beijing has refused to budge from its position that the Doklam plateau is out of the purview of the special representatives. It has been arguing that since the boundary between the two neighbours at the Sikkim sector has already been delimited by the 1890 convention between the UK and China, the bilateral mechanism led by the special representatives has no scope to discuss the area. 

But Delhi doesn't agree. It argues that while the status of Sikkim as an integral part of India has been settled, the India-China boundary in the Sikkim sector remains unsettled and hence amatter of negotiation between the special representatives.

Yang, according to people familiar with process, may urge Doval to start negotiations for an "early-harvest agreement" tosettle the bilateral dispute over the Sikkim sector. Delhi has so far been cautious about the proposal and maintained that it will rather prefer a comprehensive settlement over the entire India-China boundary than resolving it in a piecemeal manner.

Doval is expected to present Yang a proposal mooted by Delhi for setting up a trilateral arrangement involving India, China and Bhutan in order to settle the dispute over the trijunction boundary point, informed one of the people quoted above.

Besides Bhutan, India and China share trijunction boundary points with Myanmar and Nepal - at Diphu Pass and Lipulekh Pass respectively. Delhi and Beijing had in 2012 agreed that the trijunction boundary points among India, China and third countries will be finalised in consultation with the third countries following settlement of the LAC.

IAF Phases Out Soviet-Era Multi-Utility Mi-8 Choppers

BANGALORE: The Indian Air Force's Soviet era multi-utility medium lift Mi-8 helicopters were phased out of service in a ceremony at the Yelhanka Air Force Station here on Sunday.

The phasing out ceremony was attended by veterans headed by former IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major (Retd), who flew the last MI-8 mission along with CO 112 Helicopter Unit.

IAF Training Command chief Air Marshal S.R.K. Nair, was the chief guest at the event. National Defence Academy Commandant, Air Marshal Jasjit Singh Kler, the senior most MI-8 pilot, was also present on the occasion.

"The de-commissioned choppers will be handed over to the agencies concerned for static display and to motivate the youth to join the armed forces," said Nair as the vintage craft took a bow before flying into the sunset.

MI-8, called Pratap, had been the backbone of the IAF's medium lift combat capability. Though the twin-turbine copter was mostly used for air-lifting warriors, troops and goods to remote and inaccessible areas, including the mountain ranges, its armed variant with gunship was an airborne command post.

The MI-8 helicopters arrived in India in 1971 at Bombay and were formally inducted in the IAF helicopter inventory in the year 1972. Between 1971 and 1988, 107 were inducted and served for 45 years.

The MI-8 formed 10 operational helicopter units and it operated in several major IAF operations including Operation Meghdoot in the Siachen Glacier and Operation Pawan in Sri Lanka. The helicopter also operated extensively in humanitarian and disaster relief operations across the length and breadth of the country. It was also used for ferrying VIPs and VVIPs for decades.

"MI-8 through its glorious service career, did not just establish itself as a mainstay of the helicopter operations but also left an indelible mark on the future by providing the Indian Air Force with a lineage of professional helicopter aircrew," an official statement said.

IAF’s Mid-Air Refuelling Fleet To Take A Hit As Numbers Fall

An Indian Air Force IL-78 refuelling a Sukhoi-Su30MKI fighter. American, Russian, European and Israeli military contractors are tracking the air force’s tanker program

The IAF operates a modest fleet of six IL-78 aircraft bought from Russia in 2003-04 at a cost of Rs 132 crore each to expand the strategic reach of its fighter jets

by Rahul Singh 

The Indian Air Force’s mid-air refuelling capabilities will take a hit next year when its Russia-procured Ilyushin-78 tankers go for an overhaul, leaving the air force with little option as two attempts to buy new tankers have failed.

The IAF operates a modest fleet of six IL-78 aircraft bought from Russia in 2003-04 at a cost of Rs 132 crore each to expand the strategic reach of its fighter jets. Riddled with problems, only two or three planes from the tanker squadron are available for missions at any given time.

Used for refuelling jets mid-air to keep them airborne longer, the IL-78 tankers’ overhaul — in phases — will involve upgrading the engines of the aircraft to allow them to take off from shorter runways.

“No doubt we will have even fewer refuellers to exploit during the refit. This happens in the lifetime of every fleet. It’s unavoidable,” said Air Chief Marshal Fali Major, a retired IAF chief. The air force’s midair refuelling crisis is partly a result of failed attempts to strengthen its capabilities with new tankers.

Two tenders to buy refuellers in the last 10 years came to naught due to commercial complications. European Airbus 330 MRTT was the frontrunner in both tanker contests in which the Russian IL-78 also took part.

India is expected to float a new global tender for six or more tankers next year to stay prepared to counter China in the eastern sector, the sources said. The purchase could be worth as much as Rs 13,000 crore.

The finance ministry had raised objections over the price during the last tender.

“Building military strength doesn't come cheap. You can’t put a price on enhanced operational capability. Tankers are an essential requirement and the government needs to prioritise the purchase,” said Air Marshal Vinod Patni (retd), head of Centre for Air Power Studies and a former IAF vice chief.

Air Chief Marshal PV Naik, also a retired IAF chief, stressed that the tankers allow fighter planes to carry more weapons and less fuel when taking off from high altitude bases.

American, Russian, European and Israeli military contractors are tracking the air force’s tanker programme. US defence major Boeing and Israel Aerospace Industries’ Bedek Aviation Group are expected to be new entrants in the tanker competition.

A recent comprehensive audit of the tanker fleet revealed that the IAF’s runways were too short for its IL-78 tanker fleet, their refuelling pods were dogged by failures and the aircraft’s overall airworthiness was questionable.

In a report tabled in Parliament in August, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) also found that there weren't enough hangars for the IL-78 refuellers, tanking them up on the ground posed problems and there were no dedicated refuelling corridors in the skies.

The aircraft requires a runway length of 11,480 feet to 15,022 feet to carry full fuel loads, but the 10 airfields identified by the IAF for tanker operations have runways measuring less than 10,000 feet.

The national auditor also raised questions about the reliability of the fleet. The report found that the serviceability of the IL-78 fleet stood at 49% during the 2010-16 period, compared to a desired 70%, and also that less than half the fleet was mission-ready at any given time.

The serviceability of aerial refuelling pods — hoses used to transfer fuel — was also found to be poor due to frequent failures, inadequate repair facilities and poor maintenance support from the manufacturer.

The air force doesn't have enough hydrant refueling systems (HRS) to tank up the refuellers swiftly and efficiently on the ground.

The HRS facility or underground tanks was available only in two of the 10 airbases identified for IL-78 operations in 2007, the report found.

It also revealed that the IAF had not obtained approval for creating 12 dedicated corridors for midair refuelling so that commercial traffic is not disrupted and only one hangar had been constructed for the six refuellers.

Tejas Platforms Till SP-12 Will Enter Equipping Stage Soon

by Anantha Krishnan M

Bangalore: Amidst the ongoing ‘controversy and confusion’ over whether the Indian Air Force (IAF) is keen to go ahead with the home-grown Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas programme beyond the first and second blocks of 20 each, the sixth series production variant from the hangars of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) took to the skies for the first time sans any fanfare, recently.

The maiden flight of SP-7, the sixth out of the total 20 to be delivered in the Initial Operational Clearance (ICO) standards, took place on December 12 at the HAL airport here, with zero snags being reported by the pilot after completing the Profile-1 of the flight envelope.

Tejas SP-7 was piloted by Gp Capt K K Venugopal (Retd). With this, the IAF No 45 Squadron (Flying Daggers) would soon have half-a-dozen of Tejas platforms to operate with. Currently being raised in Bangalore, the No 45 Squadron will eventually move to Air Force Station Sulur, near Coimbatore.

IAF is ramping up its infrastructure at AFS Sulur with modern hangars being reading to accommodate Tejas 16 fighters and four trainers, part of the first block of delivery from HAL.

SP-5 from Kiran hangar will join the party soon

The fifth Tejas series production platform SP-5, being built at the second production line established at the Aircraft Division by HAL, too will have its maiden flight soon. HAL converted the erstwhile Kiran hangar to set up this additional production line, which boasts of producing three aircraft per year, when fully operational.

V Sridharan, who retired as the Executive Director of LCA Division recently, says that Tejas platforms up to SP-10 are currently under equipping in Final Assembly Hangar.

“Very soon they will be followed by SP-11 and SP-12. Kudos to the entire Team of Tejas involved in the manufacturing activities for their untiring efforts in making this possible despite adverse criticism in the last three years, both in terms of quality and quantity,” says Sridharan.

Frequent Modifications A Concern

Interestingly, he says that the even after delivering six series production platforms by HAL, the Standard of Preparation (Build to Print Documents) have not been frozen, despite the IOC nod in December 2013.

“The introduction of more than 270 modifications after accordance of IOC, in the name of concurrent engineering is a potential source of introducing uncertainties during the production phase. This can affect time-lines on a regular basis. These changes even warrant design and manufacturing of new parts which results in delays. All these changes are introduced towards envisaged performance and system improvements as per the requirements of IAF,” says Sridharan, who has been credited with establishing the new LCA Division.

He says the LCA Division developed ICY (interchangeability) tools for all 147 panels and for 830 pipelines out of 934 pipelines within the build of first seven SP Tejas aircraft itself.

“This is a huge shift compared to any other projects in HAL, that too at such short span of time after the release of RSD (Release of Service Documents). Even now, only concept of replaceable pipes is existing in other projects. LCA has gone far ahead in the area of ICY compliance through the dedicated efforts of its tooling department,” claims Sridharan.

He says HAL, in an effort to further augment the production capacity, has outsourced all the major structural modules to private partners, including sub-assemblies, role equipment, pipelines, sheet metal part electrical looms and panels.

“This would enhance the production rate to 16 per year from the year 2019 onwards apart from developing an eco-system for manufacturing of a 4.5 generation fighter aircraft in India. This is likely to materialize by mid-2018 and thereafter, HAL would further be able to ramp up the production rate to 20 aircraft-plus every year,” adds Sridharan.

On the Final Operational Clearance (FOC) front, sources at Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) say that the program will complete all tasks mandated within 2018.

“There are only few more crucial test points to be achieved. Then there could be additional requirements. Hopefully, the FOC should be in place in the third quarter of 2018,” says a top scientist.

Currently, Tejas LSP-8 is optimising flight profiles with the in-flight refueling probe (IFR). The air-to-air refueling trials will begin early 2018. Four Tejas variants recently undertook night attack missions for the first time, as per the FOC schedule.