DEFENCE NEWS (March-April 2018)


A joint logistics framework to speed up procurement and improve maintenance of military hardware has been put in place at the country’s lone tri-services command in Andaman and Nicobar islandin sync with the government’s endeavour to bring synergy among the Army, Navy and Air Force. The new model of having common logistics and maintenance facilities would be gradually replicated at around 12 places across the country.

The new model of logistics has been created following an approval by Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC) Admiral Sunil Lanba. This is in line with the broader concept of “joint doctrine” among the three services, to achieve integration. The joint doctrine unveiled in 2017, facilitates establishment of a broad framework of concepts and principles for joint planning and conduct of operations across all the domains such as land, air, sea, space and cyber-space. The doctrine had proposed joint training of personnel and an unified command and control structure besides pushing for a tri service approach for the modernisation of the three forces.


India has handed over to Bangladesh a Mi-4 helicopter and two PT-76 tanks as part of the 1971 Liberation War memorabilia. The memorabilia also included 25 weapons like pistols, rifles, machine guns and mortars alongside a large number of artefacts, historical photographs, archival audio and video clipping, maps and battle records related to the 1971 Liberation War. Most items of memorabilia have been handed over to the Bangladesh National Museum. However, the larger items like the PT-76 tanks and the Mi 4 helicopter were handed over to the Bangladesh Army and Air Force. These were part of the gifts given by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj during her visit to Bangladesh in 2017. In the Liberation War, the PT 76 tanks played a crucial role, and often outclassed the much larger force and technically superior M34 Chafee tanks, used by the Pakistani Army in the war. The Mi-4 transport helicopter was extensively utilised for heliborne operations by the India-Bangladesh joint forces in the eastern sector, especially in the remarkable crossing of the Meghna River, which resulted in the early surrender of the Pakistani forces.


Suspended after the Doklam face-off, the bilateral military exercise of India and China is likely to resume this year, in sync with renewed efforts by both the countries to reset ties, hit by a tense standoff between their troops. The exercise ‘Hand-in-Hand’ between the armies of the two countries will take place within next 4-5 months in China and an announcement is likely to be made very soon. The issue of resumption of the annual exercise had figured during talks between Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and her Chinese counterpart General Wei Fenghe in Beijing, during the Raksha Mantri’s visit to China in April.

The annual exercise was to be hosted by China in 2017 but it did not take place due to the Doklam standoff. So far, both sides have participated in six editions of the exercise. India had hosted the exercise in 2016. Resumption of the military exercise will act as a confidence building measure between the two armies, after the 73-day-long standoff in Doklam from 16 June 2017, after the Indian side stopped the building of a road in the disputed area by the Chinese Army.


In an apparent change to India’s existing defence security architecture, the government is set to create a Defence Planning Committee (DPC) under the National Security Advisor (NSA). Defence planning, which for long has become synonymous wit the acquisition of military hardware, will now, under the DPC encompass the preparation of draft reportson National Security Strategy and International Defence Engagement Strategy. The DPC will also prepare a road map to build the following:
• Defence manufacturing ecosystem;
• Strategy to boost defence exports;
• Capability development plans.

The DPC will be a permanent body that will have as itsmembers the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, the three Service Chiefs, the Principal Secretary to PM, the Defence Secretary, the Foreign Secretary and Secretary (Expenditure) of the Ministry of Finance (MoF). The Chairman of the Chiefs oStaff Committee (CISC) will be the Member Secretary of the Committee, and the HQ of the Integrated Defence Staff will provide secretariat support. The DPC will look into four broad areas, through four sub committees as under:
Policy and Strategy: This vertical will assess external security risks and define defence and security priorities. It will also formulate and review military and national security strategy.
Planning and Capability Development: This will look into integrating various ministries on national security issues. It will also formulate a capability development plan and monitor its timely execution.
Defence Diplomacy: The mandate here is to evaluate foreign policy needs, create a defence engagement strategy and identify foreign acquisitions and sales to achieve strategic leverage.
Defence Manufacturing: This will draft a comprehensive policy for research and development (R&D), draw out a road map for indigenisation and formulate policy and institute structural framework to boost defence exports.

Some analysts have posited that the proposed DPC, like its earlier avatar in 1974, will lack the institutional memory, so vital in any organisation. Even if domain knowledge can be passed on, there is the problem of group-think, that impulsively priorities sectional interests. This line of thinking is not wholly without merit. However, with the HQ IDS taking on the functions of the secretariat, the problem of retaining institutional memory can be overcome. However, to obviate group-think challenges concrete measures would be required. Such measures will be opposed by the bureaucrats who consider such actions as impinging on their turf. That was the reason why the Raksha Mantri’s Advisory Committee on Ministry of Defence Capital Projects (RMCOMP) was scuttled.

A fundamental weakness in the proposed set up is the lack of a political head. Having the NSA chairing a meeting with the three Service Chiefs as members is not a sound proposition. Perhaps the Committee should have had the Raksha Mantri as the Chairperson and made into an executive body, with appropriate powers and accountability. There would also be a need to exercise periodic parliamentary oversight. It would be beneficial if the DPC was mandated to periodically brief the Parliamentary Committee of Defence on issues under its mandate.

Pursuant to the recommendations made by the Group of Ministers on Reforming the National Security System in February 2001, a Defence Acquisition Council was set up, with the Raksha Mantri as the Chairperson. It has as its members, the RRM, the Service Chiefs, Defence Secretary and others. Also set up was the Defence Procurement Board under the chairmanship of the Defence Secretary. These two organisations now appear to be superfluous in the new set up and clarity is required whether they will continue to function as hither-to-fore or otherwise. If they too remain as currently mandated, then the DPC will simply be another cog in the wheel.

As an integrated set up, which includes the Service Chiefs and the Secretaries for Defence, External Affairs and Finance, it will be able to provide holistic inputs for the nation’s security architecture, to include foreign policy imperatives, operational directives, long-term defence equipment acquisition and infrastructure development plans and future technology. This would help in defining Indian military objectives and preparing military doctrines, through which will flow the defence minister’s operational directives to the Forces. However, it is hoped that preparation of doctrines does not become just another PR exercise or a peer validation exercise. These must be subjected to severe academic and think tank review, outside the system, as only then will weaknesses in the system get highlighted.

It is likely to speed up the acquisition process and will make defence planning and strategy a more integrated and forward looking process. To that extent, it represents a great leap forward and is perhaps the biggest defence policy reform since the turn of the century.

The DPC appears to be a work in being. Only time will tell whether it is an effective body to formulate responses to national security challenges and whether its constitution will result in appropriate financial outlays, better prioritisation of defence needs, technological advancement and elimination of the bureaucratic stranglehold on defence matters. Most importantly, it remains to be seen how such a body can be held accountable to the nation for its performance or lack of it.


The Common Wealth Games held at Gold Coast, Australia saw India bringing home a rich haul of 66 medals, 26 of which were Gold. India stood third in the overall medal’s tally and this years CWG was also the third best performance ever put up by the country. In the medals tally, the Army contributed handsomely with three Golds, three Silver and four Bronze medals. The Air Force contributed a further three medals, a Silver and two Bronze medals.

The Army’s boxers won a rich haul of five medals, with Hav Gaurav Solanki winning Gold in the 52 kg category. Nb Sub Amit Phangal (49 kg), Nb Sub Manish Kaushik (60 kg) and Nb Sub Satish Kumar (91 kg+) won the Silver medal while Hav Mohammed Hussamuddin won the Bronze (56 kg). The Shooters too did us proud by winning four medals. Sub Jitu Ram won Gold in the men’s 10 m Air Pistol, with JWO Ravi Kumar from the IAF winning Bronze in the same event. Hav Om Prakash Mitharval won two Bronze medals, one in the 10 m Air Pistol and the other in the men’s 50 m Pistol.

Nb Sub Neeraj Chopra won the Gold in Javelin, with a new meet record. In weightlifting, Sgt P. Gururaja won Silver in the men’s 56 kg event while another Air Warrior, JWO Vikas Thakur won Bronze in the men’s 94 kg. From the Army, Nb Sub Deepak Lather won a Bronze in the men’s 69 kg event.

Felicitating the Army athletes on 18 April, on their return from the CWG, the COAS Gen. Bipin Rawat further encouraged and motivated the athletes to continue their sustained and focused efforts as they train and prepare for the forthcoming international events, before they launch themselves into the Olympics arena. While the Services contribution to the medal tally was quite impressive with the Army getting 10 medals and the Air Force three, there is potential to do far more. Sports like shooting, boxing, wrestling, weight lifting, archery etc can and should be further strengthened to provide champions to the country. Also, for India to be in the medal reckoning in the Olympics, we need to improve our performance in the swimming and athletic events.


The Army has started training for CISF personnel in the identification of Drones. This has been done on the request of the CISF who see foreign drones of Pakistani and Chinese origin as potential threats to aviation security. To this effect, a six-day-long training session was conducted in March 2018 in Gopalpur, Odisha, with more sessions planned for the CISF personnel posted at 59 airports across the country.

The threat of drones is becoming increasingly manifest in the country, with over 60-70 cases of unidentified flying objects being sighted in Delhi itself. The training now being imparted by the Army will help the CISF not only in detection and identification of the drone but will also train them on how drones are to be neutralised. For training, the Army displays various types of drones, called ‘Remotely Piloted Aerial System’. The students are taught how to recognise drones that are assembled in India and in neighbouring countries, their differences and techniques of neutralisation.


The biggest air exercise that the IAF has undertaken so far, “Gagan Shakti 2018” was conducted over a period of two weeks from 8 April to 22 April. The exercise covered practically the entire Indian peninsula, including the coastal belt and India’s Island territories. During Gagan Shakti, each and every fighting and support system of the IAF was tested in a war scenario along with the Army and Navy to ascertain their battle worthiness. Besides the operational preparedness of various combat formations of the IAF, the effectiveness of current standard operating procedures were also looked into.

Over 1100 combat aircraft, transport aircraft and rotary wings were mobilised for the purpose, and an additional 300 officers and 15,000 airmen were coopted into the exercise. The aircraft included hundreds of Su-30MKIs and MiG-21s, MiG 27s, Mirage 2000, Jaguars and MiG 29s, including Navy MiG-29Ks, LCA fighters alongside transport aircraft of various sizes besides helicopters and three stage readiness indicators namely arming, detection and refuelling aircraft in the giant exercise which was touted as a “demonstration of the development results of the past 10 years”. Also tested was the reaction time of the radar system which controls fighters so as to put them to tactical advantage. Being an important part of the air defence network, its mobility and operational readiness, along with the missile and anti-aircraft gun system it controls, were exercised and judged. Gagan Shakti 2018 intended to evaluate IAF’s competency in a war that is “short, intense and swift” and to find out areas where improvements can be made. Beginning on 8 April, the IAF focused on tackling a two front war scenario, with focus initially on suppressing hostile air effort on one front and then in shifting its forces to tackle the next front. In the first phase, Su-30 and Jaguar fighter aircraft equipped with the potent BrahMos and Harpoon anti-ship missiles addressed in-depth targets over the Western sea boards. The second phase was focussed on India’s Eastern border with China.

As per military protocol, both Pakistan and China were kept in the loop about the exercise. A leading Chinese paper commenting on this exercise surprisingly made very complimentary remarks, stating that a simulated war exercise of this magnitude was earlier thought to be within the capability of only a few countries like the US, but if India could involve over 1,100 air assets in the Gagan Shakti exercise, then Russia and China should reassess its take on India’s aerial offensive and defensive capabilities. This indicates the success of the exercise, in sending out a signal to potential adversaries of the strength of India’s air power. During the exercise, Su-30MKIs fitted with BrahMos missiles carried out strikes in the Malacca Straits, which will be the entry point of the Chinese military in the Indian Ocean region.The aircraft also carried out a sortie of over 2,000 km, where they were provided mid-air refuelling by Ilyushin 78 tankers and direction by the Airborne Earl Warning Systems (AWACS). The Sukhoi-launched BrahMos can hit targets from a range of 300 kms and has the potential to destroy
hostile ships and carriers.

The successful culmination of the exercise is but a start point. Now, the IAF will examine all aspects of the exercises, to look into areas where improvements can take place. More importantly, the exercise will certainly highlight the need for realising and undertaking the Make in India approach, one of the leading agendas of the present government, in defence technology and weapon development. Only then can India’s strategic autonomy be maintained.

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