Monday, May 29, 2017

This Monster Rocket Will Launch India's First Vyomanaut Into Space

Left: The Current Vehicle and its future variants

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)  braces to tame monster rocket that could launch the first Indians into space. ISRO enters into a bold new world muscling its way to make its mark in the world’s heavy weight multi-billion dollar launch market

An indigenous rocket as heavy as 200 full-grown Asian elephants could well be the one taking “Indians into space from Indian soil” as the country inches closer to joining the big boy’s space club. Standing tall on the rocket port at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh is the country’s latest rocket the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV Mk- III), the heaviest rocket ever made by India that is capable of carrying 4-ton heavy satellites into orbit. This monster rocket has an elegant design and is capable of carrying loads equal to the weight of two sports utility vehicles or SUVs into space.

It is the maiden experimental launch of GSLV-Mk III earlier named Launch Vehicle Mark-3, but if all goes on well in a decade or after a slew of at least half a dozen successful launches, this rocket could be India’s vehicle of choice to launch “Indians into space, from Indian soil using Indian rockets.

This heavy lift rocket is capable of placing up to 8 tons in a low Earth orbit, enough to carry India’s crew module. ISRO has already prepared plans of hoisting a 2-3 member human crew into space as soon as the government gives it a sanction of about 3-4 billion dollars.

If the human venture materializes, India would become only the fourth country after Russia, the US and China to have a human space flight program.

Incidentally ISRO asserts the first Indian to go into space could well be a woman!

In the intense pre-monsoon heat, India’s rocket port is buzzing with feverish activity as engineers from the Indian space agency get set to launch an all new indigenously-made rocket. It is the heaviest fully-functional rocket to reach the launch pad weighing 640 tons or almost 5 times the weight of a fully loaded Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet airplane.

The new rocket is capable of carrying satellites of 4-ton class into the geosynchronous orbit and opens a whole new window through which ISRO can now explore the universe. It is estimated that the new rocket costs a whopping Rs 300 crore but the country would end up saving almost as much when an Indian launcher is used to place heavy communication satellites.

Today India uses the French Ariane-5 rocket launched from Kourou in South America to place its heavy 4 ton class of communication satellites. ISRO says that the GSLV-Mk III is a rocket designed and made in India from scratch and hence engineers from ISRO are very keen to tame this new monster in its very first attempt. Not an easy task, since India’s track record suggests that maiden launches of its rockets often end up in failure.

The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) failed on its maiden launch in 1993, due to a minor control software glitch and the failure analysis revealed it was a simple divide by zero overflow bug.(Incidentally, such software errors are not unusual. NASA's space shuttle mission had to be grounded in 1988 when similar software errors were found and all the five on-board computers had to be debugged) and since then it has had 38 consecutively successful launches and the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk-1 (GSLV Mk-1) has a mixed record, while the GSLV failed in 2001 and since then it has 11 launches with half of them successful.

Space fairing is a very risky business and all nations the US, France and Japan and even the new private companies have had failures in recent times like the spectacular Falcon-9 rocket in 2016.

Hopefully, the GSLV-Mk III will break that jinx.

The Rocket Explained

India already has two operational rockets — the workhorse PSLV that can hoist satellites of 1.5 tons into space and was the preferred vehicle for India’s maiden mission to Moon and Mars. The second — the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark II can hoist 2 ton class of satellites and because of its repeated failures it was dubbed as ‘the naughty boy of ISRO’ by then mission director Dr. K Sivan of the GSLV-D5 rocket which successful launched India's first indigenous cryogenic engine.

The new GSLV-Mk III is an all new vehicle designed and developed in India and in 2014 a sub-orbital successful test of this vehicle was conducted to understand how it performs in the atmosphere. The rocket never went into space but helped test India’s future astronaut capsule. It had a dummy cryogenic engine to study the vehicle dynamics and to simulate a full-fledged flight and was a single stage vehicle.

Even though the GSLV-Mk III is 43-m-tall, making it the shortest of the three big Indian rockets, it carries a huge punch as it weighs almost 1.5 times heavier than India’s next biggest rocket the GSLV Mk-2 and almost twice as heavy as India’s PSLV.

The massive first stage along with its two strap-on boosters weighs 610 tons and comprises multiple engines all firing nearly simultaneously. It is the second stage which is all together a new animal for this mammoth rocket, it is a novel Indian cryogenic engine that weighs about 30 tons.

The new CE-20 cryogenic engine is being tested on a fully functional rocket for the first time and it is the development of this technology that uses liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen as propellant is what took more than 15 years for our scientists to master.

New Technological Challenges

GSLV Mk-III's core stage called the L-110 uses two clustered Vikas liquid engines which is a first for ISRO, the core stage also consists of two S-200 solid rocket motors.

Image result for S200 solid Rocket Booster
The major propulsion modules include two S-200 solid strap-on boosters, and the L-110 core stage using two clustered Vikas liquid engines

The technological criticality in developing this vehicle was placing two massive strap on boosters the S-200 which puts tight requirements of controlling its differential thrust and its delay in performance. The next technological challenge is between the S-200 and L-110 stages which needed a transition as a liquid stage takes over while a solid motor was working. This was the first time ISRO was attempting this process and the control change was achieved perfectly during its first flight. The separation process of the S-200 strapons is also new as 12 small separate solid motors are used to separate the two S-200 engines from the core without causing any harm to the ongoing vehicle. This was also achieved with precision.

There is a lot of excitement at the rocket port as a whole new rocket and an entirely new class of a high through put satellite system is all set to be launched. (With input from Agencies)

Our Bureau

PM Narendra Modi To Begin His 4-Nation Tour On Today

Prime Minister Modi with German Chancellor Angela Merkel

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi who begins his four-nation tour of Germany, Spain, Russia and France tomorrow is aimed at boosting India's economic engagement with these nations and inviting more investment. In the first leg of his six-day trip, he will visit Germany, where he will hold talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel under the framework of India-Germany Intergovernmental Consultations (IGC).

He will also call on German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. PM Modi said he and Ms Merkel will "chart out a future roadmap of cooperation with focus on trade and investment, security and counter-terrorism, innovation and science and technology, skill development, urban infrastructure, railways and civil aviation, clean energy, development cooperation, health and alternative medicine."

Describing Germany as a valuable partner, the prime minister said, "German competencies fit well with my vision for India's transformation."

In Berlin, PM Modi and Ms Merkel will also interact with top business leaders of both the countries to further strengthen the trade and investment ties.

"I am confident that this visit will open a new chapter in our bilateral cooperation with Germany and further deepen our Strategic Partnership," he said in a Facebook post.

On Tuesday, PM Modi will travel to Spain for an official visit, the first by an Indian prime minister in almost three decades. He will call on King Felipe VI and hold talks with President Mariano Rajoy.

"We will discuss ways to enhance bilateral engagement, especially in the economic sphere, and cooperation on international issues of common concern, particularly in combating terrorism," he said.

The prime minister said there is significant potential for deepening bilateral trade and investment ties. "We seek active participation of Spanish industry in various Indian projects including infrastructure, smart cities, digital economy, renewable energy, defence and tourism," he added.

He will also meet top CEOs of the Spanish industry and encourage them to partner in the 'Make in India' initiative. "I look forward to their valuable recommendations for strengthening India-Spain economic partnership," he wrote.

PM Modi will travel to St. Petersburg in Russia from May 31 to June 2 for the 18th India-Russia Annual Summit. "...I will be conducting detailed discussions with President Vladimir Putin to take forward our dialogue from the last Summit in Goa in October 2016," he said.

The two leaders will also be interacting with CEOs from the two countries. On June 2, PM Modi and President Putin will address the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) where India is the 'guest country'.

"In a first meeting of its kind, I will also have the opportunity to engage with Governors from various Russian regions to further broad base bilateral cooperation and more actively involve States/Regions and other diversified stakeholders," he said.

At the beginning of his visit, he will go to Piskarovskoye Cemetery to pay homage to those who perished during the siege of Leningrad. He will also visit the world famous State Hermitage Museum and the Institute of Oriental manuscripts.

"I greatly look forward to my visit to St. Petersburg in this special year for the bilateral relationship as both countries celebrate the 70th Anniversary of our diplomatic relations," PM Modi said.

In the last leg of the tour, he will visit France from June 2 to 3 for an official meeting with the newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron. "France is one of our most important Strategic Partners. I look forward to meeting President Emmanuel Macron and have discussions on issues of mutual interest," PM Modi said.

"I would be exchanging views with the French President on important global issues including UN Security Council reforms and India's permanent membership of the UN Security Council, India's membership of the various multilateral export control regimes, counter-terrorism cooperation, collaboration on climate change and International Solar Alliance," he added.

France is India's 9th largest investment partner and a key partner in its development initiatives in the area of defence, space, nuclear and renewable energy, urban development and railways. "I am committed to substantially strengthening and advancing our multi-faceted partnership with France," the prime minister said.

Dhola-Sadiya Bridge Not Enough, China Still Miles Ahead Of India In Infrastructure Along LAC

by Shaurya Karanbir Gurung

The construction of the 73 ICBRs began in 1999 (in phases), however, until now only 27 have been completed. Those completed are also riddled with problems, as pointed out in a recent CAG report that audited the work of the Border Roads Organisation (BRO)

NEW DELHI: The inauguration of the 9.15 km long Dhola-Sadiya bridge is a step forward for India in reinforcing the defence infrastructure against China. However, what is actually needed is a combination of more airfields, helipads, bridges and strategic roads leading up to the Line of Actual Control (LAC), to allow quick mobilisation of troops and a stronger defence barrier against a conflict or aggression.

As there are limited flights to the airfields and helipads, due to high fuel costs and terrain restrictions, the main access to the LAC is through narrow dirt tracks currently, which can take hours and sometimes days to cover. One of the few options explored is the construction of 73 strategic Indo-China Border Roads (ICBRs). But most roads are nowhere near completion.

Even the Mountain Strike Corps, which is being raised with 80,000 soldiers and is being pitched as India’s primary force against the Chinese, depends entirely on road connectivity along the LAC to be used in an offensive or to restore an adverse situation.

On the other hand, across the LAC, China has built numerous roads, bridges and airfields, which give it an advantage to quickly mobilise and breach the border.


Before the war, in around 1959, there were intrusions and instances of armed aggression by Chinese soldiers at the LAC in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh. Even then proper connectivity was a major issue, because of which posts were largely inaccessible. At the time, there was just a few dirt tracks.

Experts, after the 1962 war, decided to delay construction of roads so that the Chinese, in case of another war, would not find easy ways back into Indian hinterland. However, an incursion was carried out by the Chinese in Sumdorong Chu valley in Arunachal Pradesh in April 1986. This made India review its strategies.

A China Study Group (CSG) was subsequently constituted to understand the requirement of roads along the China border. Around 1997, when the Chinese had increased the rate of construction of roads along the LAC, the CSG too decided to improve connectivity through 13 roads along the LAC for better border management.

Subsequently, 33 more General Staff roads were identified for construction by 2012, followed by 27 Indo-Tibetan Border Police roads to be developed along the frontier with China. These were the 73 planned ICBRs.

Improper Execution

The construction of the 73 ICBRs began in 1999 (in phases), however, until now only 27 have been completed. Those completed are also riddled with problems, as pointed out in a recent CAG report that audited the work of the Border Roads Organisation (BRO). The BRO has been tasked with construction of 61 of the ICBRs. The remaining 12 roads are being constructed by other agencies.

As per the CAG report, users’ feedback indicated that the BRO construction was riddled with grave issues like improper gradient, undulating surface and improper turning radius in 17 roads out of 24 selected for audit.

Other than improper construction, the BRO has also had trouble sticking to deadlines. According to the CAG report, only 22 out of 61 roads were completed by March 2016. In fact, the 61 roads were to be completed by 2012.

Dhola-Sadiya bridge not enough, China still miles ahead of India in infrastructure along LAC

Source- CAG audit report 

But Why So Slow?

The biggest problem in the construction of roads in border areas is the acquisition of land. The acquisition becomes a bigger problem, especially in Arunachal Pradesh, because of lack of land records. “So if a villager says a tract of land is his, we have to believe him,” said an army official who has served in the state.

Other than the difficulty of finding land for construction, the fluctuating costs also become an issue. There have been numerous cases where the price of land in Arunachal Pradesh has been revised by the state, while at the construction stage, resulting into higher compensation than negotiated.

The required permissions to build on lands that pass through forests and wildlife sanctuaries also take a long time to come through, which force the construction agencies to sit on the job as deadlines loom closer. However, if the agency does decide to start works before bureaucratic permissions come through, its workers are arrested and equipment seized for illegal construction. 

Issues are also faced by the construction agency in arranging for the logistics in areas of uneven terrain like that in the Northeast, which hamper work. Lack of local labour, insurgency and inclement weather also contribute to smaller workable time-frames. 

Just Roads Not Enough

The recently inaugurated Dhola-Sadiya bridge is a leap forward in creating access to the LAC. However, according to experts, there is a need for more such bridges to create alternative routes, in case roads get blocked or come under fire in a war.

With the inauguration of Dhola-Sadiya bridge, the number of bridges on the Indian side goes up to four. These bridges will lead to quick insertion of troops towards border areas in Arunachal. With the Dhola-Sadiya bridge alone, the army can reach its posts in Kibitoo, Walong and Chaglahagam in eastern Arunachal, cutting travel time by four hours as against an ordeal to cross the Brahmaputra by boat.

The fourth bridge of the lot, Bogibeel bridge, is yet to come up. According to the plan, it will be a combination of a road and rail network over the Brahmaputra and will allow faster movement of supplies for troops in western Arunachal.

However, experts say that the responsibility of creating access should not be bundled on these four bridges alone. While there is a need for greater access through more such bridges, experts suggest that these must also be treated as alternative routes in case one gets destroyed by enemy missiles. Besides this, multiplicity will also help confuse the enemy of routes being taken by the troops during a showdown.

Need more helipads and airfields as well 

There is also a need for more airfields along the LAC known as ‘advanced landing grounds’ (ALGs) in military parlance. Like bridges and roads, the ALGs assist in mobilisation, forward movement of reserve troops and targeting enemy airfields and roads. There are six ALGs in Arunachal Pradesh and two more are to come up. Ladakh, also has around three ALGs. But due to the mountainous terrain along the LAC, flying of aircraft is sometimes not a viable option.

This is the reason why helipads come into play. But most of the helipads along the LAC are capable of landing only small helicopters such as the Cheetah and Chetak. Such small helicopters are mainly used for casualty evacuation, not for inserting large number of troops into a particular spot along the LAC. The remaining helipads, where large helicopters such as the IAF’s Mi-17s can land, are too few in number. The Mi-17s can carry both troops and supplies in large numbers. Experts, therefore, assert that there is a need to transform all the helipads along the LAC and have more like them, so that more such troop carrying helicopters can land.

There is also a requirement of having more forward aviation bases at central locations, where, unlike helipads, large number of helicopters can land, refuel and park. Helicopters from such bases then fly to the helipads located along the LAC.

What China Has?

Though the construction of roads, bridges, airfields and helipads have been planned to reduce the chances of incursions from China to the Indian side, our counterparts are far ahead in terms of preparedness to support their troops on the border.

The Chinese are known to already have 11 bridges over the Tsangpo (Brahmaputra) opposite Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim, all of which have been constructed to carry very heavy loads. Having numerous bridges gives China enough option routes to launch an offensive. They can also switch forces from one sector to another, if the need arises.

Meanwhile, roads capable of carrying heavy loads, start from Lhasa and connect with these bridges, and further with the LAC. China also has three important highways leading into Tibet - the Central, Western and Eastern - which start from the hinterland. Besides this it also has the Qinghai Tibet Railway, connecting Qinghai to Lhasa.

China also has nine air bases located opposite to the LAC, primarily facing Arunachal Pradesh.

This means that the Chinese side has prepared its border areas for easy movement of heavy tanks and artillery and quick attacks on Indian airfields and roads.

IAF's Sukhoi-30 Jet Crash: Black Box Recovered

Black box of Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jet found, search ops still on for 2 pilots

TEZPUR/NEW DELHI: The black box of the Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter jet that went missing with two pilots on board has been recovered from a dense forest in Arunachal Pradesh, two days after wreckage of the plane was sighted.

However, the fate of the crew was not yet known.

"A ground search and rescue party has reached the crash site. The black box of the aircraft has been recovered. Further search is in progress," IAF spokesperson Wing Commander Anupam Banerjee said in Delhi.

The identity of the missing pilots has not been disclosed and the worst is feared.

The jet had gone missing shortly after taking off from Tezpur Air Force station on Tuesday on a routine training sortie and its wreckage was found on Friday in a dense forest, 60 km from Tezpur airbase.

The Indian Air Force has already ordered a court of inquiry into the crash.

The wreckage was spotted from air, and search teams reached the crash site today only. The rescue teams could not reach the spot earlier due to inclement weather and because the area had dense foliage.

The plane was part of a two-aircraft formation when it went missing.

The first batch of the Russia-made fighter jet was inducted by the IAF in the late 1990s. Since their induction, seven crashes have taken place.

A frontline fighter jet, SU-30 MKI aircraft were deployed in the Tezpur airbase on June 15, 2009 for guarding the Sino- India frontier in Arunachal Pradesh.

At present, two squadrons comprising around 36 aircraft are deployed at Tezpur.

Defence Equipment Production Made Easy; Commerce Ministry To Give Licences

Those categories which will come under the new arrangement are: tanks and other armoured fighting vehicles, military vehicles fitted with mountings for arms.

NEW DELHI: The Ministry of Commerce and Industry will now grant licences for manufacturing of tanks, fighter planes, warships and other defence equipment.

In a gazette notification, the home ministry said the secretary in the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) can now issue licences for manufacturing of defence items.

However, the licences will be issued to the prospective manufacturers by the DIPP under the home ministry's "supervision and control", the notification said.

The decision has been taken to expedite the 'Make In India' initiative, a pet project of the Narendra Modi government, and to invite private sector in the defence manufacturing sector, an official said.

The DIPP comes under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and mainly deals with promotion of investment and industries.

The power of issuing licences was exclusively with the home ministry earlier. The private sector can now apply to the DIPP for the licences.

Those categories which will come under the new arrangement are: tanks and other armoured fighting vehicles, military vehicles fitted with mountings for arms or equipment for mine lying, all tracked and wheeled self propelled armoured and non-armoured weapon systems and all-wheel drive vehicles capable of off-road use.

Defence aircraft, spacecraft and their parts, helicopters, lighter-than-air vehicles, unmanned aerial vehicles, remotely piloted vehicles, warships of all kinds, vessels fitted with automatic weapons, chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear protect, special naval equipment, anti-submarines or torpedo nets will also come under its purview.

The home ministry has given security clearance to nearly 3,300 fresh investment proposals in the last three years after conducting national risk assessment.

It issued policy guidelines for assessment of proposals for national security clearance on July 1, 2015 with the objective of ensuring a balance between requirements of national security and the imperatives of rapid economic growth.

The objective of the national security clearance is to evaluate potential threats, visible or embedded, in proposals received by the home ministry and to provide a national risk assessment, an official said.

The national security clearance policy was drawn up by the home ministry to fast-track the security clearance process within 4-6 weeks as part of ease of business mantra under the 'Make In India' initiative.

As per the policy, the promoters, owners and directors of the company are mandated to give self declarations regarding any criminal history on their part, which reduced the period required to give security clearance from 2-3 months earlier to to just 4-6 weeks now.

Security inputs from the Intelligence Bureau, the CBI, the Enforcement Directorate and other agencies are sought only in serious crimes and not in case of minor offences.

A total of 14-15 parameters have been set out in eight to nine sensitive areas like telecom, ports, civil aviation, uplinking/downlinking of TV channels or FM stations.

The home ministry has also spelt out locations where foreign investment is not welcome such as those close to border and vital installations.

Pakistan Nuclear Tests Created Balance of Power In Region: Nawaz Sharif

Sharif said the journey of national economic development was going on with fast pace and "just like nuclear explosion, Pakistan will also carry out an economic explosion

ISLAMABAD: Nuclear tests conducted by Pakistan in 1998 created a balance of power in South Asia and gave a strong message to the "enemies" that aggressors would meet an exemplary fate, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said today.

Sharif, in his message to commemorate the historic nuclear tests, said that the day was an unforgettable day for Pakistan.

"Pakistan's nuclear programme created balance of power in South Asia, just becoming a symbol of peace as the smaller states in the region also heaved a sigh of relief," he said.

The Prime Minister said that after becoming a nuclear power, now was the time to make the country an economic power, Associated Press of Pakistan reported.

"Nineteen years ago, we had made country's defence as impregnable. Today, with same dedication and passion, the country's economy is also being made strong and stable. In this age, the defence of any nation cannot be separated from its economic stability," he said.

Sharif said the journey of national economic development was going on with fast pace and "just like nuclear explosion, Pakistan will also carry out an economic explosion. The whole world believed in such possibilities," he said.

Dirty War In Kashmir Has To Be Fought With Innovative Ways, Says Army Chief General Bipin Rawat

: The Indian Army is facing a "dirty war" in Jammu and Kashmir which has to be fought through "innovative" ways, Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat has said, stoutly defending the use of a Kashmiri as a 'human shield' by a young officer.

In an exclusive interaction with PTI, Rawat said the main objective of awarding Major Leetul Gogoi, when a Court of Inquiry was finalising its probe into the incident, was to boost the morale of young officers of the force who are operating in a very difficult environment in the militancy infested state.

"This is a proxy war and proxy war is a dirty war. It is played in a dirty way. The rules of engagements are there when the adversary comes face-to-face and fights with you. It is a dirty war.... That is where innovation comes in. You fight a dirty war with innovations," Rawat said.

The Army Chief's Commendation medal to Gogoi, who had tied a man to an army jeep and used him as a human shield from stone throwers last month was criticised by human rights activists, Kashmiri groups and by a few retired army generals.

A video of the incident had triggered a row with many condemning it.

Gogoi was awarded for his sustained efforts in counterinsurgency operations.

"People are throwing stones at us, people are throwing petrol bombs at us. If my men ask me what do we do, should I say, just wait and die? I will come with a nice coffin with a national flag and I will send your bodies home with honour. Is it what I am supposed to tell them as chief? I have to maintain the morale of my troops who are operating there," Gen Rawat said.

Talking about the complexity of the security challenge in the state, he suggested it would have been easier for the armed forces if the protesters were firing weapons instead of throwing stones.

"In fact, I wish these people, instead of throwing stones at us, were firing weapons at us. Then I would have been happy. Then I could do what I (want to do)," he said.

Gen Rawat, who had served in Jammu and Kashmir extensively, said if people in any country lose fear of the army, then the country is doomed.

"Adversaries must be afraid of you and at the same time your people must be afraid of you. We are a friendly army, but when we are called to restore law and order, people have to be afraid of us," he said.

At the same time, he asserted that maximum restraint is being maintained while handling the situation in the Valley.

Gen Rawat said that as the Army chief, it was his duty to lift the morale of the army personnel in Jammu and Kashmir and he did it by awarding Major Gogoi.

"As Army Chief my concern is morale of the Army. That is my job. I am far away from the battle field. I cannot influence the situation there. I can only tell the boys that I am with you. I always tell my people, things will go wrong, but if things have gone wrong and you did not have malafide intent, I am there," he said.

Gen Rawat said there was a ploy to break the trust between various security forces, and Major Gogoi could not have refused to provide security when polling agents had sought security assistance.

"Tomorrow elections have to be held in Anantnag and similar things may happen. If the army does not respond to call for assistance, then the trust between the people whom we are protecting, police and army will break.

"That is something I cannot allow to happen. This is what the militants want. It can create a divide between the army and other security forces," he said.


Here Is How Several Home Grown Defence Startups Are Helping Indian Armed Forces In Modern Warfare

VizExpert, a Gurugram-based start-up, uses 3D visualisation to map out unknown terrains for the BSF. It uses 3D technology equipped with various interaction devices, software and terrain data to plan the operation on a real-time basis.

This could be the best of times for the Union government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative in the highly sensitive defence sector. After a year-long logjam that had held up approvals for industrial licences to manufacture defence equipment, the government has now reportedly resolved the issue, providing big relief to the private sector that is keen on investing in the sector. Under the policy, the government aims to encourage local manufacturing of military aircraft, warships, ammunition and armoured vehicles.

As per reports, the government had stopped issuing licences since June last year due to undisclosed reasons. But now, the home ministry, through a recent notification, has empowered the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion to grant licences under its strict “supervision and control”, say reports. This development might be seen as a big boost to local manufacturing by private companies, but the truth is, several homegrown defence start-ups are already assisting the country’s armed forces in modern warfare.

In Strike Mode

Let’s say, during a counter-terrorist operation, a soldier wants to see around the corners and shoot at a target without entering the line of fire. Or, the member of a commando team is in need of an in-built video interface on his weapon that would enable his commander to receive real-time video feed of the operation regardless of weather or light conditions.

What do they do? In the first scenario, the soldier can take the help of a small, lightweight thermal imaging device called ‘Arjun’—the soldier can just crouch behind a blockade, stick his weapon over his head and shoot at his target with the same accuracy as if he were taking aim normally.

In the second scenario, the commando can use a dual-sensor thermal weapon called ‘Cobra’. Both Arjun and Cobra have been developed by Tonbo Imaging, a Bengaluru-based maker of advanced night vision systems.

These are but some of the many areas where homegrown defence start-ups such as Tonbo Imaging are working behind the scenes and technologically assisting the men in uniform.

Tonbo Imaging is an offshoot of Sarnoff Corporation, a former subsidiary of American non-profit Stanford Research International, now called SRI International. “In 2008, there was a management buyout of Sarnoff’s India operations and we spun out a standalone company that became Tonbo Imaging,” explains Arvind Lakshmikumar, founder and CEO, Tonbo Imaging.

The company is working with the Indian military and paramilitary forces on a range of programmes. With the Indian military, it’s working on tactical imaging systems for soldiers, night-vision systems for battle tanks, electro-optics and sighting systems for weapon platforms and payloads for unmanned aerial vehicles. To the paramilitary (BSF, CRPF, NSG, etc), it’s supplying various night-vision devices for surveillance and monitoring.

Tonbo recently won a $25-million border surveillance contract in North Africa and Europe (Macedonia border) to deploy electro-optics surveillance systems. The contract was won against international competition from listed companies such as FLIR, Thales and other Israeli bidders. The Indian start-up will be in charge of manufacturing and deploying night-vision, thermal imaging and long-range surveillance systems. The total order value of $25 million will be executed over the next two years.

Also, late last year, the start-up won a $100-million contract with the Peruvian Army to manufacture and export ‘night-vision sights’ for guns. Of the $100 million, the firm got the first $5.6 million purchase order this year.

Tech-Tronic Activity

Another company from Bengaluru, CM Envirosystems (CME), found a business solution to the problem of testing military equipment. “When the Kargil War took place in 1999, our armed forces were at a serious disadvantage, as some of the armament didn’t work at high altitudes and low temperatures due to lack of specialised provisions for storage of such weapons and equipment. This limitation in our defence technology greatly moved our chairman (Jacob Crasta) and he took it up as a challenge. We realigned our business strategy, focusing on environmental test systems and, today, we are a renowned name among defence suppliers,” says Prajwal Crasta, CEO, CME.

Starting with just about five employees in 1982, CME is today present in four continents, with more than 150 employees. It offers a complete range of environmental test chambers for automotive, electronics and electrical, and defence and aerospace industries. Similarly, hi-tech start-up Saankhya Labs has built a chip called ‘Pruthvi’. The size of a postage stamp, it functions as a ‘software-defined radio’ (SDR), considered the cornerstone of all military communication. “The SDR allows defence forces to integrate various communication platforms (satellite, terrestrial, etc) and inter-operate between legacy and current communication equipment,” says Parag Naik, founder and CEO, Saankhya Labs.

Bengaluru-based Saankhya Labs sells chipsets, modules and complete communication solutions. To the defence segment, it sells hardware modules and complete solutions. “We have 47 employees and we work closely with the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro), Bharat Electronics (BEL), Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the defence services. We have just finished a long R&D cycle and are now monetising it. We can’t divulge our order book due to confidentiality reasons… but I can say we are seeing 15 times growth in revenue over the past few years,” says Naik.

There are several other start-ups that are working on similar technologies. VizExpert, a Gurugram-based start-up, for instance, uses 3D visualisation to map out unknown terrains for the BSF. It uses 3D technology equipped with various interaction devices, software and terrain data to plan the operation on a real-time basis.

Then there is Navi Mumbai-based firm ideaForge Technology, whose ‘Netra’ unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were used in the 2015 Nepal earthquake and the 2013 Uttarakhand flood relief operations. Netra UAVs are a collaborative effort with the DRDO. The company, started in 2008 by five IIT Bombay graduates—Ankit Mehta, Ashish Bhat, Rahul Singh, Vipul Joshi and Amardeep Singh—counts the National Security Guard, Indo-Tibetan Border Police, National Disaster Response Force and the Delhi Police among its top clients.

Ground Reality

Although still fraught with challenges, the people behind these defence start-ups feel the situation is slowly but steadily improving. “While there are several challenges such as the long gestation period, wary financial investors and the mindset that technology can’t be developed in India, there have been some welcome steps too, such as the overhauling of the government’s Defence Procurement Procedure (that lays out the process for the acquisition of equipment for the armed forces) to include the Indigenously Designed Developed and Manufactured category (that boosts the participation of domestic companies in defence manufacturing), etc. The overall execution speed still remains a challenge though,” says Naik of Saankhya Labs.

Lakshmikumar of Tonbo Imaging says, “The current government is doing a good job of promoting the involvement of private companies. India is in dire need of critical night-vision technology… what’s currently fielded by imports is not state-of-the-art. The government has to fast-track procurement and ensure that our forces have the right equipment when they need it.”

Environmental test chambers were often imported in the past, says Crasta of CME, and Indian companies were not well-perceived by the defence industry in the country. “Most defence companies are unable to keep themselves updated with the fast-changing technologies and emerging trends. They also do not have the methodology in place to make visits, meet different entities and interact before they set the procurement guidelines or technical requirements.

All such initiatives, even when proposed and accepted by the top bosses, are always seen through the prism of potential corruption, even though we have seldom encountered it in the recent past,” says Crasta, adding, “The situation, however, has changed and companies like ours have been able to meet the same performance standard and quality engineering as the imported products.”

Yasin Malik Arrested After Visiting Sabzar Bhat's Residence

JKLF chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik was arrested Sunday morning from his Srinagar residence in Maisuma near Lal Chowk, the police said. Malik has been shifted to central jail in Srinagar, police official informed.

The JKLF chairman had visited the residences of slain Hizbul Mujahideen militants Sabzar Ahmed Bhat and Faizan Muzaffar in Tral area of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district on Saturday. The two militants were killed in an encounter with the security forces in Soimoh area of Tral.

Malik and chairmen of both factions of Hurriyat Conference, Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, have called for a two-day shutdown in the Valley to protest the killing of the two militants and the use of “brute force” against the protestors. The separatist trio has also called for a march to Tral on Tuesday to pay tributes to the two militants.

Russia's Next-Gen Military Satellite Launched Atop Soyuz-2.1b Carrier

PLESETSK COSMODROME (Arkhangelsk Region) — The spacecraft was sent from pad 4 of Plesetsk's Site 43 at 06:34 GMT.

Russia's Soyuz-2.1b carrier rocket with a next-generation military satellite has successfully launched from Plesetsk Cosmodrome, the Russian Defense Ministry said Thursday.

"The Aerospace Forces' Space Forces combat crew successfully implemented the launch of 'Soyuz-2.1b' medium capacity carrier rocket with a next-generation spacecraft in the interests of the Russian Defense Ministry," the ministry said.

A third launch site for light Soyuz carrier rockets is expected to be constructed at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in 2021-2025, the Russian Defense Ministry also said.

"Our program in 2018 plans to reconstruct the second launch complex for the Soyuz-2 medium capacity launch vehicle, and from 2021 to 2025 to build a third launch complex for small-lift Soyuz carrier rockets," Deputy Minister Timur Ivanov told reporters.

Day After Sabzar Bhat Is Killed, 1292 Kashmiri Youths Appear For Army Recruitment Exam

"It is a clear rejection of regressive bandh calls, for choosing a brighter future," the official said.

A day after Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Sabzar Bhat was killed and amid separatists’ shutdown call, around 1300 Kashmiri youths on Sunday appeared for the common entrance written exam for the selection of junior commissioned officers and other ranks in the Indian Army. The army is asserting this development as a “clear rejection of the regressive bandh calls”.

Defying the two day bandh, 799 candidates out of the 815 who had registered for the exam appeared at Pattan in North Kashmir’s Baramulla district. Out of 500 candidates, 493 appeared for the exam in Srinagar. This totals to 1292 candidates who had appeared at the two locations. The army said that the 20 odd candidates who were absent is nothing unusual.

Talking to media in Baramulla, Major General A.K. Singh, the Kilo Force General Officer Commanding (GOC), said, "The Kashmir youth need employment. You have seen how hundreds of Kashmiri youth participated in the army recruitment examination on Sunday despite shutdown called by the separatists."

"If we continue to take appropriate measures in this direction, we will bring Kashmiri youth on the right path," he added.

Another officer said, “Those who are interested in their life and career are not falling prey to the bandh and turmoil,” said an army officer.

"It is a clear rejection of regressive bandh calls, for choosing a brighter future," said the official.

Defence Minister Inaugurates Rs 1,300 Crore Aeronautical Test Range In Karnataka

Indigenous drones such as TAPAS-II among others will be flight tested in the new facility

CHITRADURGA (KARNATAKA): In a veiled reference to Pakistan, Defence Minister Arun Jaitley today said it has perpetuated a security threat for nearly 70 years and hence India's defence preparedness should always be optimal.

Inaugurating the country's first ever Aeronautical Test Range (ATR), set up near here for testing unmanned and manned aircraft being developed locally, he said India was geographically located in a region that was not free from trouble.

"We have a neighbour who for almost seven decades has perpetuated a security threat as far as India is concerned and therefore the level of our defence preparedness always should be optimal," he said.

Defence Minister Arun Jaitley inaugurates Aeronautical Test Range at Chellakere, Chitradurga district, seated besides him is Director-General of DRDO Dr. S Christopher

For the level of defence preparedness always to be optimal, "you need to in the long run eventually establish the facilities - to a large extent possible - for its manufacturing within the country itself," he added.

Noting that the aeronautical test range was the first of its kind in the country, Jaitley said the entire ambit of aeronautical defence preparedness gets tested in this area.

The ATR, conceived by Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) Bengaluru in collaboration with other Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) labs, has been located at nearby Challakere, about 250 kms from Bangalore. 

According to defence authorities, it is a key facility for integrating and testing various unmanned air vehicles before being inducted into the armed forces and other organisations.

It is a 'national asset' encompassing 4,090 acres of technical infrastructure and 200 acres for transit and residential purposes. The land was alloted by the state government.

Noting that the country was spending a large part of defence budget allocation toward procurement from outside, Jaitley said "If the best minds produced here can dominate technology elsewhere in the world, there is no reason why they cannot make India itself a world leader and a world beater".

The government had been consistently leaning in favour of policy where these optimal facilities were created within the country, the defence minister said.

He said the demonstration that had been made to him today of the unmanned flying objects, their capacity and various other allied facilities will go a long way in helping in many areas of life and certainly in the country's security.

"I asked the chairman of the DRDO as to where does he see this facility in 20 years from now. He was more optimistic than me, and said why would you say 20 years, the questions really should be where do you see this facility 5 years from now. That's the pace at which our research really should progress," Jaitley said.

DRDO officials said the test range has been completed with a budget of Rs 290 crore.

They said current length of the runway at the ATR was two kms and would be extended to three kms in due course, so that it can be used for testing of bigger aircraft like AEW&CS (Airborne Early Warning & Control Systems) meant for surveillance and intelligence gathering, which had been inducted into the Indian Air Force.

The DRDO in November last year had successfully carried out the maiden-flight of TAPAS 201 (RUSTOM-II), a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV at the ATR. The ATR houses two hangars with annexe for integration and testing of UAVs and a radar centre, besides being equipped with a fibre optic network system.

Apart from DRDO, the multi-agency mega complex at Challakere will also house facilities of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Indian Space Research Organisation and the Indian Institute of Science.

INS Ganga Godavari-Class Guided Missile Frigate Decommissioned

The ship, commissioned on December 30, 1985, at Mumbai, and presently in her 24th Commission, is commanded by Captain NP Pradeep.

MUMBAI: Guided Missile Frigate INS Ganga entered the Mumbai harbour under own steam for the last time yesterday and was placed in the non-operational category today.

After 32 years of glorious service, the ship is likely to be decommissioned before the year-end, an official release said.

The ship, commissioned on December 30, 1985, at Mumbai, and presently in her 24th Commission, is commanded by Captain NP Pradeep. 

Despite the long service, she still retains her capabilities in all three dimensions of naval warfare. 

It is a testimony to the resilience of the ship and her crew that she sailed into Mumbai flying the flag of Rear Admiral RB Pandit, Flag Officer Commanding Western Fleet straight from a 45-day long active patrol in the Northern Arabian Sea, guarding the nation's maritime borders till her last operational day, it said.

'INS Ganga' is also affiliated to the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry (JAKLI) of the Indian Army.

Moving Forward With Permanent Solution For Kashmir: Rajnath Singh

"We have come up with a permanent solution to solve Kashmir. The initiative has begun. We are moving forward," Rajnath Singh said.

NEW DELHI: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday asserted that the BJP-led NDA government has found a "permanent solution" to the vexed Kashmir issue but there would be no compromise on the territorial integrity of India.

The Minister also ruled out inviting separatist groups for talks on Kashmir and said whoever wanted to talk "development and peace" was welcome.

"We have come up with a permanent solution to solve Kashmir. The initiative has begun. We are moving forward," Rajnath Singh said.

He was replying to a question from IANS while talking to a group of journalists on the sidelines of a BJP function to highlight achievements of the three years of the NDA government.

The Minister, however, refused to elaborate on what kind of solution the BJP government has found for Jammu and Kashmir, which is battling nearly three decades of a violent separatist campaign.

Pressed further if the solution was "political in nature", Rajnath Singh said: "It is too early to discuss it in public. I don't want to discuss it with the media."

Asked about the possibility of talks with Hurriyat leaders, the Minister said the government was ready for talks with all stakeholders but there would be no invitations to individuals or organisations.

"We have never said no to talks. I went there (Kashmir) last year and stayed for three days for talks with all stakeholders. Those who wanted to talk came forward. Even (Chief Minister) Mehbooba Mufti had written a letter of invitation to separatists, but..."

Rajnath Singh said Kashmir had indeed been a challenge for the government but refused to accept Opposition claims that the PDP-BJP ruling combine in the state was responsible for it.

"Kashmir has been burning and the problem is decades old," he said.

Rajnath Singh attributed recurring street unrest, increasing number of stone-pelting protests and heightened militancy related incidents to radicalisation of youth in the Kashmir Valley.

"Radicalisation is a global phenomena. We are aware of it and we will tackle it."

Asked if the central government was satisfied with the way the state administration was handling the situation in the wake of fresh trouble, the Minister said: "There is no reason to be unhappy about it."

The Kashmir Valley has been on the boil since the April 9 Lok Sabha polls for the Srinagar parliamentary constituency when eight civilian protesters were killed in firing by security forces guarding voting stations.

The gunning down on Saturday of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Sabzar Bhat has triggered widespread protests once again. Bhat was a close aide of militant 'poster boy' Burhan Wani, whose death last year led to months of violent unrest that left some 100 civilians dead.

A top BJP leader at the function said Bhat's "fate was written" when he picked up the gun to fight security forces and it was true about anyone who resorts to violence.

"Whoever picks arms, will be killed. They will have to die," the BJP leader said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The BJP leader, who is also a top policy maker for the party, ruled out the possibility of talks with separatist leaders at a time when the valley was burning.

"Is it possible to hold talks with those who throw stones?" he asked.

Asked why not talk to the civil society in Kashmir, the BJP leader said: "Many feel that stone-pelters too are members of the (Kashmir) civil society...There can't be talks in such an environment."

A Stung Hurriyat: The Separatist Group Fights A Battle For Credibility In Kashmir

After a TV sting, a prominent leader was expelled. But the Hurriyat remains the political face of azadi

by Rayan Naqash

On Tuesday, a team from the National Investigation Agency questioned separatist leaders from the Hurriyat in Srinagar. About a week ago, the television channel, India Today, had run footage from a “sting operation” on the leaders, where they seemed to admit taking money from state and non-state actors in Pakistan to foment unrest in Kashmir.

Three leaders were caught on camera: Naeem Khan and Ghazi Javed Baba, part of Hurriyat Conference, the separatist cnglomerate led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani, and Farooq Ahmad Dar, chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front faction headed by the London-based Abdul Majid Tramboo.

While Khan was suspended from the Hurriyat Conference, no action was taken against Baba, who is part of Geelani’s own party, the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat. Khan has called the tapes doctored. Geelani has said the “Indian media is biased and untrustworthy. They are working for Indian agencies and as a mouthpiece for fanatical forces.”

In Kashmir, the stings have caused little surprise. Srinagar based journalist Hilal Mir said it brought no new revelations: “It’s common knowledge that money comes in from Pakistan”.

Bashir Manzar, editor of Daily Kashmir Images, said that, to run a separatist movement, the Hurriyat “needs money, and not just for stone pelting. Every Kashmiri knows money is coming from Pakistan.”

Besides, the national television media is held in no great regard in the Valley. “The Hurriyat feels accountable to the people of Kashmir, not India nor its media,” said columnist and political commentator Gowhar Geelani. “The problem is it is the Indian media’s sting. And the Indian media has zero credibility in Kashmir, especially electronic media.”

Mir, for his part, suspected the motives behind the sting. “The Indian state has lost everything here,” he said. “The only link between India and Kashmir is the soldier. So the sting is just to divert attention. Its an ostrich approach, they do not want to see the reality.”

A Reaction

Still, Geelani chose to act on the contents of the so-called sting operation. Political observers in the Valley see it as a move by the separatist wing to preserve its credibility.

Manzar asked why Geelani took action against Manzar after the sting, if the national media had no currency in the Valley. “It’s because Geelani thinks there is some credibility to the story. If someone like Geelani thinks so, a common man (in Kashmir) also does,” he mused.

According to Manzar, it was not the act of seeking funds that could harm the Hurriyat’s reputation, but the way the money was allegedly used. “It is one thing to get money for the movement, another if the money is used for creating confusion and chaos, burning schools etc, like what happened in 2016. And the people believe it, it is damaging,” he reflected.

According to Gowhar Geelani, Khan was suspended because he violated protocol followed by the separatist group. “He violated the Hurriyat constitution by going alone, without consulting the Hurriyat,” he said. “Even if he met some people who came as potential funders, he did not inform his parent organisation, the conglomerate. It’s a disciplinary problem.”

All agreed that discrediting the Hurriyat, the political face of separatism in Kashmir, was dangerous. Militancy and stone pelting were “faceless”, explained Manzar, without the Hurriyat, there would be no one left to engage in political dialogue.

“You need a buffer between violence and the Hurriyat is that buffer,” Manzar said. “If you demolish Hurriyat, you will demolish all roads to some sort of reconciliation.”

Down, But Not Out

Voices from the Hurriyat assert their relevance to the separatist movement in Kashmir. “The people who represent the elements, of Kashmir’s collective political consciousness and collective painful soul, in letter and spirit will never be marginalised and cannot be in the future also. They have a role and will continue to have a role in seeking a lasting solution to the Kashmir problem,” said Abdul Ghani Bhat, a vetaran leader who heads the Muslim Conference, part of the Hurriyat faction led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.

In any dialogue process, Bhat said, all of “Kashmir will not be involved, but the leadership.”

But, after the protests of 2016, triggered by the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, there was a growing impression that the Hurriyat was no longer central to the movement. After the initial groundswell of protest, the Hurriyat had stepped in, trying to enforce a calendar of strikes and shutdowns.

In several places, the Hurriyat’s writ wore thin. Geelani called shopkeepers who did not obey the Hurriyat shutdown “traitors” who would be “wiped away like straw”. On the other hand, the Hurriyat also struggled to enforce the “relaxation hours” - periods when shops were allowed to open - as bands of boys stopped shops from opening their counters. The Mirwaiz faction of the Hurriyat called them “anti-movement”.

But political observers agree that the Hurriyat is still an important part of the movement. Aijaz Ashraf Wani, assistant professor of political science at the University of Kashmir, said it was a fact that the Hurriyat was not in control. “But to say Hurriyat has lost relevance will be too harsh and politically immature,” he added.

In a conflict like Kashmir, he continued, there were multiple methods catering to diverse constituencies. It was not the sole representative of Kashmiris, because no party, pro-India or separatist, could be the sole representative in the Valley, he said.

“There are phases when one approach or stakeholder may seem to have gone on the backfoot,” he explained. “But that never means it has completely lost out. Remember, from 2000 to 2008 militancy was almost a non-entity, then the agitations started and everything changed.”

Gowhar Geelani points to the diversity of the Hurriyat, which includes political, social, religious and trade organisations: “It is a conglomerate of 23 parties. Hurriyat is very big in that way in Kashmiri politics.” But the organisation had never been wellspring of the movement for azadi, he said: “The Hurriyat is not important as far as Kashmiri movement is concerned because it is a by-product of the struggle, not the other way around”.

For Mir, the organisation’s centrality to separatist politics was self-evident; it was the Hurriyat that Delhi approached when it wanted to talk. “Even in the agenda of alliance (the agreement between the alliance partners ruling the current state government) the word Hurriyat has been specifically mentioned. If there is a dialogue, the Hurriyat is included,” he said.

Besides, they still managed to get a substantial public response. “Each time they give a strike call, people respond,” said Mir. “On the other side, you have a government which has been elected by 60-67% of voters and they can’t show their face to the people.”

Manzar believes that the Hurriyat may have merely latched itself on to the protests of 2016 to look relevant. But a large section of the public still takes them seriously. “Because we have a very important party (to the dispute) - Pakistan - and it has relevance there,” he said.

Dialogue Again?

“The real problem with Hurriyat,” Wani said, “is the lack of a concrete action plan and goals to be achieved. We all know there is discord within Hurriyat ranks regarding their goals. Also, it is only during crisis period that Hurriyat resurfaces, otherwise, they are dormant. That puts a question mark on its future.”

The lack of tangible results after all these years had also contributed to the shrinking of the Hurriyat, he mused. “The important question is will Hurriyat take the risk to go for a dialogue process, given it current position and its past record,” Wani continued. “Given the current situation and the mood on the ground they may lose whatever credibility they have by going for meaningless dialogue.”

Manzar, however, believes it is wrong to say that Delhi engaged the Hurriyat in meaningless dialogue; it was the Hurriyat that lacked clarity. For years, it had maintained that the Kashmir issue should be resolved after through a referendum, as mentioned in the United Nations Security Council resolutions, or through dialogue between three parties: India, Pakistan and Kashmir, represented by the Hurriyat.

“The Security Council resolution only has two options: India or Pakistan,” Manzar pointed out. “They (the Hurriyat) are already fighting India, so that leaves them with only one option. They are still not spelling it out.”

Before any dialogue between Hurriyat and India, Manzar felt, the latter had to break the ice with Pakistan. “The second stage is to engage with the Hurriyat,” he continued. “History speaks that whenever India and Pakistan have talked to each other, there has been peace here.”

Bhat admits that the Hurriyat lacked a road map. It is so rooted in the past, he said, that “it does not pay attention to the possibilities in future”. “There is no change in the collective political consciousness of the people, no two Kashmiris can differ on it. But then there is the ijtimai sha’ur (the collective political stand of the Hurriyat),” he said. That had not evolved over the years with changing circumstances.

As for lapses on the part of Hurriyat leaders, they did not matter, he felt. The confrontation between the Hurriyat and the Indian government was a “battle between a mosquito and an elephant”. “We have a tough fight,” he said.