Setting a worldwide record, India’s very own indigenous gun–the first high capacity, long range 155mm 52 caliber Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS), on 4 September 2017, successfully test-fired three shells out to a distance of 48 kilometres from the gun position at the Pokhran ranges. This is perhaps the longest range ever achieved by any 155 mm 52-calibre gun in service, anywhere in the world, where most such guns have a range of 40-45 kilometres. The ammunition used was High Explosive-Base Bleed(HE – BB), a special, long-range ammunition. The longer range achieved in the ATAGS is due to its larger chamber — 25 litres — that packs in more high explosive propellant, thus enabling longer range, compared to 23 litres in most 155-millimetre guns like the French Nexter and Israeli Elbit guns.
The ATAGS is being developed by DRDO through two prototypes. One is in partnership with Tata Power (Strategic Engineering Division) and another with Bharat Forge.With the successful completion of summer trials in Pokhran, the ATAGS will now undergo modifications and prepare for “winter trials” in December.
BREAKING THE STALEMATE: FICV
The Army requires about 2300 FICVs to replace its ageing fleet of BMP II Infantry Combat Vehicles. The cost is projected at Rs 60,000 crore. The Acceptance of Necessity (AON) was first accorded by the defence ministry (MoD) way back in October 2009. However, progress got stalled due to bureaucratic bottlenecks and wrangling and corporate rivalry. To further complicate matters, the US has now also offered India the development and production of armoured personnel carriers in a trilateral venture with Israel under the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI). Under the original FICV project, two of the five Indian private firms in the fray, apart from the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), were to be selected to design and build prototypes, with the government funding 80 percent of the developmental cost of around Rs 3,000 crore. The private contenders are L&T, Mahindra, Pipavav Defence & Offshore Engineering and two consortiums of Tata Motors-Bharat Forge and Tata Power SED-Titagarh Wagons. The best prototype thereafter was to get the go-ahead for mass production of the FICVs.
The hitch came in with a major disagreement within the MoD over the number of private contenders that should be asked to make detailed project reports. One section was of the view that all five contenders must get the opportunity. The other view was that only the two which are selected should be involved in the process to avoid further delays and costs.This has stalled the entire process for long despite the MoD’s integrated project management team having evaluated the EoI (expression of interest) responses submitted by the OFB and five private vendors.
This is a call which the new Defence Minister, Ms Nirmala Sitharaman will have to take in the meeting of the Defence Acquisition Council. There is a need for quicker decision making as till date, no major “Make in India” project in defence production, from new-generation stealth submarines to light utility helicopters, has taken concrete shape on the ground. The decision on FICVs must be taken quickly, as they are required to negate any potential threat from Pakistan. While such threats in the near to medium term appear minimal, it must also be remembered that the lead time for product testing, production and induction is very long. With the close relations that exist between China and Pakistan, India can ill afford to delay on a matter of such vital import. The previous EoI for the FICV project, which was issued in May 2010, was scrapped by the MoD after major faults were found in the evaluation process in December 2012. The current EoI, issued in July 2015, lays down the contenders will be assessed on four major counts: commercial, technical capability, availability of critical technologies and technical specifications of the FICVs they propose to build. The BMP-2 infantry combat vehicles (ICV) currently in service are being license produced by OFB and there are around 2000 such platforms in operation.
NAVIKA SAGAR PARIKRAMA
Navika Sagar Parikrama is the name given to an all women naval expedition sailing the globe. It was flagged off on 10 September 2017, by the Raksha Mantri, Smt Nirmala Sitharaman at the INS Mandovi Naval Training Base near Panaji. Nirmala Sitharaman had assumed charge of the Defence Ministry just a week earlier and this was one of her first tasks as the Raksha Mantri. The crew of the ‘Sagar Parikrama’ comprises of a six-member all women team on board the sailing vessel INSV Tarini and will circumnavigate the globe in approximately 165 days. Captained by Lt. Commander Vartika Joshi, the other crew members are Lt Commander Pratibha Jamwal, Lt Commander P Swathi, Lt S. Vijaya Devi, Lt B. Aishwarya and Lt Payal Gupta. They are expected to return in March 2018.
INSV Tarini is a 55-foot sailing vessel, which has been built indigenously, and was inducted in the Indian Navy earlier this year.The crew will stop at four ports— Fremantle (Australia), Lyttleton (New Zealand), Port Stanley (Falklands), and Cape Town (South Africa). Speaking on the occasion, the Raksha Mantri called it “a historic day for India,” which will be marked in Indian and global navigation history.
BATTLE OF HAIFA COMMEMORATED
To mark the coming Centennial of the Battle of Haifa, a series of events are being planned over the year by various organisations to
commemorate the event. To kick start the commemoration, the Indian War Veterans Association (IWVA), in collaboration with India Foundation and Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML) hosted a seminar in the NMML auditorium in Teen Murti Bhavan on 20 September 2017. The event was graced by veterans, serving officers and a large number of dignitaries to include Shri Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Minister of State in the Ministry of Agriculture, whose ancestors fought in that battle and Shri Ram Madhav, National General Secretary of the Bhartiya Janta Party, who also spoke during the event. The other speakers were Brig MS Jodha, Gp Cdr, NCC, Tejpur, Maj Chadrakant Singh, VrC, (Retd) Col Bhawani Singh, (Retd), Ms Nazneen Rowhani, Secretary General of the Spiritual Association of the Bahai’s in India, Shri Bhaskar Rao, Addl DG, Karnataka State Reserve Police Forces and Shri Wajahat Habibullah, all of whom had some connect with this epic battle fought on 23 September 1918, when the Indian Cavalry charged a well fortified Turkish position defended by machine guns and artillery and won the day. Teen Murti Bhavan derives its name from this battle, the three soldiers depicting the three Indian Regiments which were part in this action
US DRONES TO MONITOR INDIAN OCEAN?
With the Chines Navy (PLAN) increasing its footprints in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), New Delhi is looking to purchase naval drones from the U.S. to monitor Chinese naval presence. Upto two dozen unarmed drones are likely to be purchased at an estimated cost of USD 3 billion according to defense researcher Jane’s by IHS Markit. The approval by the USA to this sale is the first such clearance to a friendly, non-NATO nation, but the transaction is yet to be finalised and was a key topic of discussion during General James Mattis’ visit to India in September. The Guardian Drone is manufactured by General Atomics, and is reported to be the world’s most advanced maritime reconnaissance platform, which can help India track the movement of Chinese warships with its multi-mode maritime radar.
HAL GETS ORDERS FOR 41 ADVANCED LIGHT HELICOPTERS
The Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), signed one more contract for supply of 41 Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH), 40 of which will be supplied to the Army and one to the Navy. According to Mr. T. Suvarna Raju, CMD-HAL, this“reflects the trust on HAL’s capabilities and gives an impetus to Make-in- India campaign. It reposes faith of Indian Defence forces in indigenous ALH which has been serving them with distinction for a long time.” The contracts for supply of 41 ALHs amounting to around Rs 6100 crore will be executed in a period of 60 months. The contract was signed between MoD and HAL in New Delhi recently. Officials from MoD, Indian Army, Indian Navy and HAL were present during the event. Earlier, in March 2017, HAL had signed a contract for supply of 32 ALH to boost the maritime security capabilities of the Indian Navy (IN) and Indian Coast Guard (ICG).