INDIA JOINS AUSTRALIA GROUP (AG)
India became the 43rd member of the Australia Group (AG) on 17 January 2018. This is a cooperative and voluntary group of countries working to counter the spread of materials, equipment and technologies that could contribute to the development or acquisition of chemical and biological weapons (CBW) by states or terrorist groups. With this, India has attained membership of three of the four non-proliferation and export control groups. In 2016 India was admitted as a member of MTCR (Missile Technology Control Regime) and in 2017, gained membership to the Wassenar Arrangement. The fourth grouping in which India seeks membership is the Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG), for which its application is pending following China’s objection.
India’s entry into the AG was welcomed by all the other members and is a recognition of India’s commitment to bring its export control system into alignment with the Australia Group and also exhibits India’s determination to contribute to the global effort to prevent the proliferation of Chemical and Biological Weapons in the security interests of all members of the international community. With its admission into the AG, India has demonstrated the will to implement rigorous controls of high standards in international trade, and its capacity to adapt its national regulatory system to meet the necessities of its expanding economy. India is also aware of the need to constantly adapt its export controls in the face of rapidly evolving scientific and technological challenges, and in this regard, affirmed its readiness to act in close cooperation with all members towards the furtherance of Australia Group objectives.
TDF PROJECT FOR BULLET PROOF MATERIAL
The Indian Army’s very first TDF (Technology Development Fund) project has been assigned for the development of Light Weight Bullet Proof Materials for Indian troops. The TDF certificates were awarded to L&T and Amrita University by the Raksha Mantri Smt Nirmala Sitharaman in Chennai on 18 January 2018.L&T and Amrita University have entered into an Agreement with DRDO, acting through the Director Futuristic Technology Management & Technology Development Fund for grant of a technology development project titled Development of Light Weight Bullet Proof Materials. L&T will be the Development Agency in collaboration with Amrita University as the technology development partner.
Dr Shantanu Bhowmik of Amrita University is the innovator of this technology. He expressed his happiness at receiving the project and said that they will now set up 10 equipments to develop the composite panels for the light weight bullet proof jackets for Indian Army within two years. For the first time, a User-Industry-Academia ecosystem has been developed for cutting edge technologies, which will boost the Make in India programme for defence manufacture within India.
The TDF scheme provides Grant-in-Aid for 90% of the Project Cost estimated at 9.81 Cr. It has been established to promote self-reliance in Defence Technology as part of the “Make in India” initiative. The grant will be used to set up a pilot scale facility at Amrita University for processing these materials, supporting research at Amrita University for developing the configuration, realisation and testing of panels and delivery of a prototype vest from the facility. L&T’s new composites manufacturing unit being setup at Coimbatore in addition to the existing facility at Vadodara, and their in-house R&D will support this development effort and subsequent scale up.
The project aims to develop a high performance thermoplastic polymeric composite with high energy absorbing characteristics, to provide necessary bullet proof resistance. The technology targets use of indigenously developed thermoplastic resins with carbon fibre fabric and processes for optimising the solution. A prototype is likely to be got ready within two years. The foreground IP generated will be jointly owned by DRDO, L&T and Amrita University.
For the Army users, the hope is that the bullet proof jacket so produced will be lighter than the ones currently in use and will also afford better protection.
INDIGENOUS AIRCRAFT CARRIER DELAYED
Commissioning of India’s indigenously manufactured Aircraft Carrier, VIKRANT, is likely to be delayed by two years. Earlier scheduled for a 2018 Commissioning, the delay is being attributed to the delay on part of Russia in supplying aviation items. The warship is now expected to be commissioned by October 2020. Vice Admiral Hari Kumar, the Controller of Personnel Services (CPS), said the Navy has had a dialogue with the Russians and the force is hoping to stick to the 2020 deadline now.
As of now, the Indian Navy has only one carrier, INS Vikramaditya, contracted from Russia under a $2.3-billion deal and inducted into service in November 2013. INS Viraat was recently retired from service after cumulatively serving the British and Indian Navies for over 50 years. INS Vikramaditya displaces 45,400 tonnes. The new Vikrant will displace 40,000 tonnes.
While the first two carriers operated the Harriers which are capable of short take-off and vertical landing, the Vikramaditya’s angular fight deck enables hosting of Mig-29K fighters; the modern Russian fighters will fly from Vikrant as well.
AGNI V SUCCESSFULLY TEST FIRED
On 18 January, Indiatest-fired the nuclear-capable Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Agni-V from the Abdul Kalam Island test facility off the coast of Odisha. The Agni V is a surface-to-surface, three-stage, solid propellant powered missile.It is about 17 metres long, two metres wide and weighs over 50 tonnes and is the latest in the Agni missile series. The earlier series missiles are the Agni-I (700 km range), Agni-II (2,000 km range), Agni-III (3,000-5,000 km range) and Agni-IV (3,500-4,000 km range). Agni V has a range of 5,500-5,800 kilometres, which makes it capable of covering the entire Asian landmass and also parts of Africa and Europe. This is the fifth successful test carried out of the missile, developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program. It was first test-fired on 19 April 2012 and subsequently in September 2013, January 2015 and December 2016.
The fifth successful test firing of the missile paves the way for the missiles operationalisation and for its induction into the India Army’s Strategic Forces Command.
INDIA TO BUY SPIKE MISSILES
During the visit of Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to India, the deal the Spike anti-tank guided missiles, which was earlier cancelled, has now been given the green signal. The final details and scope of the deal are still in the process of being worked out. The earlier USD 500 million deal with the manufacturer, Rafael Advance Defence Systems Ltd, is being renegotiated and is now likely to be a government to government deal. The Indian defence ministry has been strongly pushing for transfer of technology in procuring various weapons and other platforms from foreign defence majors as part of its broad policy initiative to encourage domestic defence industry. The missile deal had faced hurdles when Israel apparently expressed reservations in ensuring full transfer of technology as per the provisions of the ‘Make in India’ initiative. Rafael Advanced Defence Systems had recently inaugurated its facilities in Hyderabad where the project was to be executed.
ATAGS TO BE TESTED IN SIKKIM
India’s indigenously manufactured howitzer, the 155 mm 52-calibre advanced towed artillery gun system (ATAGS), will soon be tested for high altitude serviceability in Sikkim. Developed by DRDO’s Armament Research and Development Wing (ARDE), in partnership with Ordnance Factories Board (OFB), Kalyani Group, and Tata Power, the gun has already successfully completed desert trials in Rajasthan in September 2017 and will be inducted into service once all the field trials are over. Its performance in the desert surpassed expectations, with the gun hitting targets at a range of 48 km against its planned effective firing range of 340 km.
Weighing 12 tons, the all-electric ATAGS has a chamber size of 25 litres which helps it fire shells at longer distances than guns of a comparable make. It can fire 3 rounds burst in 15 seconds enabling it to target the enemy before they find shelter. Each gun is expected to cost around Rs.15 crore. The Army needs over 2000 howitzers.
F-35 JETS FOR INDIA?
American aerospace and defence major Lockheed Martin has proposed to manufacture custom-built F-35 fighter jets in India, which its officials say will give Indian industry a unique opportunity to become part of the world’s largest fighter aircraft ecosystem. Vivek Lall, Vice President, Strategy and Business Development, at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics told PTI in an interview, “India-specific state-of-the-art fighter production in India will be exclusive, something that has never before been presented by any other fighter aircraft manufacturer, past or present. There will also be a significant export market available for Indian-made fighters”.
As per Lall, the India-specific fighter on offer and its programme’s size, scope and success will enable Indian industry to take advantage of unprecedented manufacturing, upgrade and sustainment opportunities well into the future and give Indian industry a unique opportunity to become a part of the world’s largest fighter aircraft ecosystem. He said that they intended to create far more than an “assembly line” in India. He went on to say that no other advanced fourth generation platform even comes close to matching the record of real-world combat experience and proven operational effectiveness and that the fighter being offered specifically to India is uniquely the best state-of-the-art fighter.
OFFSHORE PATROL VESSELS FOR THE NAVY
An RFI (Request for Information) has been issued by the MoD for acquisition of a new class of offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) to improve the navy’s maritime surveillance and interdiction capabilities, to finalise specifications of the programme. The platform, which will be known as the next generation offshore patrol vessel (NGOPV), will also be used by the Indian Navy (IN) for military operations other than war (MOOTW) such as search-and-rescue (SAR) missions, non-combatant evacuations, and anti-poaching patrols.
According to technical specification issued with the RFI, the NGOPV should displace about 2,500 tonnes, and feature accommodation for approximately 130 sailors and 20 officers, including four female officers. The RFI has been issued for six such vessels.
RUDRA ATTACK HELICOPTER AT R DAY PARADE
India’s indigenously developed weapon system integrated helicopter, Rudra, will make its maiden appearance in the 2018 Republic Day parade. As per officers from the IAF, the flypast by the Indian Air Force on the Republic Day parade will involve 38 aircraft, including 21 fighters, 12 helicopters and five transporters.
The Ensign formation of the flypast will include a Mi-17 V5 helicopter carrying the ASEAN flag to commemorate the summit meeting of India and the block of South East Asian countries to be held here on January 19-30. The flypast will be divided into two blocks. The second block will start with Rudra formation comprising Advanced Light Helicopter MK-IV WSI. This is the first time this aircraft is being showcased in the Republic Day Parade. The IAF tableau will be themed on “Indian Air Force encouraging indigenisation,” while the tri-service tableau will be themed on ‘veterans are asset to the nation’.
ASSAULT RIFLES FOR THE ARMY
India appears to be set to import assault rifles and carbines for its armed forces. The MoD has cleared a proposal to purchase assault rifles and carbinesworth USD 554 million. An announcement on the MoD website, pib.nic.in states: “the Defence Acquisition Council has cleared procurement of 72,400 assault rifles and 93,895 carbines on fast track basis for 3,547 crores (approx $554 million).” The total requirement for the Armed forces is a staggering 600,000 assault rifles and 325,000 carbines, over and above the initial order. A part of this, possibly 25 percent is likely to be manufactured by the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) and the remaining by local private industry. In September 2017, the Indian government had canceled a tender won by Galil Ace of Israeli Weapon Industry (IWI) for 44,618 close quarter battle carbines and 33.6 million rounds of ammunition because of a “single vendor situation” which goes against India’s defence procurement policy.
The fact that rifles and carbines have to be imported is a blot on the capability of the DRDO and the OFB. Infantry weapons are relatively low end on the technology scale and India’s inability to produce the same for its Armed Forces reflects poorly on the MoD. There appear to be systemic failures in the acquisition process, from the concept stage to the final delivery of the product. These need to be looked into and the procedures streamlined to enable quick decision making and fixing accountability.
INDIA-MYANMAR BORDER FORCE?
In a move which is seen as controversial, the Ministry of Home Affairs is considering the creation of a 29-battalion India-Myanmar Border Force from the corps of the Assam Rifles and the Indo-Tibetan Border Force to patrol (ITBP) India’s 1,643-kilometre mountainous border with Myanmar. The aim is ostensibly to curtail drugs and arms smuggling and also crimp the activities of Manipuri and Naga insurgents who take advantage of the porous border. As of now, the Indo Myanmar border is guarded by the Assam Rifles. The proposal envisages using 25 battalions of the Assam rifles and four battalions of the ITBP to form the new force. Ithas however, yet to receive cabinet sanction.The above appears to be a retrograde step and is unlikely to enhance security along the Indo-Myanmar border. The mindless creation of additional forces does little to ensure security but creates extra fiscal burden on the nation, which could be better utilised elsewhere. The Assam Rifles is a para military force which works in close coordination with the Army in the insurgency prone areas astride the Myanmar border. Putting another force there, will weaken the coordination and reduce force application against terrorists who take shelter across the border. The Assam Rifles is also used as a back up force in case of hostilities against China and this action, if implemented, will degrade such capability.
DEFEXPO INDIA 2018
DEFEXPO 2018, an annual exhibition to showcase Land, Naval and Internal Homeland Security Systems is being held from 11-14 April 2018 at the Arulmigu Nithyakalyana Perumal Temple in Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu. DEFEXPO 2017 was held in Goa and the earlier DEFEXPOs were held in Delhi.