India acquired its First Fighter Jet, the ‘Ouragan,’ (French: Hurricane) in 1953, when it placed an order for 71 of these fighter aircraft. It was renamed as the Toofani(Hindi: Hurricane). An additional 33 second-hand aircraft were ordered in 1957, bringing the total to 104.
The Toofani fighter started to be replaced in front-line service by the Mystere IVA in 1957, and was fully withdrawn in 1965, although it continued in use for some years as an advanced trainer and Target Tug.TheM.D.450 Ouragan was the first French-designed jet fighter-bomber to enter production, playing a key role in the resurgence of the French aviation industry after World War II. The Company which supplied the fighter was Dassault—the same company which delivered the first batch of five Rafale fighter aircraft to India on 27 July 2020. The Rafale took just a couple of days to be flown in from France after an overnight stopover in the UAE.
The time taken by the Toofanis to reach India was a bit longer. To be precise, it took 30 days, a full four weeks more than what it took the Toofanis of 1953! As per the log books, the journey began on 1 October 1953 and terminated on 30 October. They had a total of 12 stops, including a penultimate one at Karachi, from where they then flew to Palam and thence to Ambala. The route they took was Mont-de-Marson-Istres-Tunis-Idris-Almaza-Mafraq-Baghdad-Bahrain-Sharjah-Karachi-Palam(Delhi)-Ambala.
The Toofanis saw action in war, when they were used to liberate Diu from the Portuguese in 1961. They were also used in 1962 for reconnaissance missions in the Sino-Indian War. The entire intrepid crew which flew in the first batch of Toofanis made history. Many of them were to achieve high positions in the IAF in later years.
INDIA GETS THE RAFALE
On 29 July 2020, five Rafale fighters touched-down at the Ambala airbase in Haryana after covering a journey of 7,000km from France. The journey included a mid-air refuelling and an overnight pit stop in the UAE. The three single-seat and two twin-seat Omni-role fighters, flown by seven IAF pilots of the 17 Squadron, nicknamed ‘Golden Arrows,’ were led by the Commanding Officer, Group Captain Harkirat Singh.
Mr Eric Trappier, Dassault Aviation Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, had this to say, of the IAF:
“I am strongly impressed by the amazing efficiency and determination of the Indian Air Force and Indian Ministry of Defence, despite this unprecedented world health crisis, to master rapidly all aspects of the Rafale for comforting Indian sovereignty and contributing to the protection and security of Indian people…This first ferry testifies that the program is running smoothly and that deliveries are on time in spite of COVID-19 pandemic. It initiates the induction of the Rafale in the Indian Air Force, in the frame of the contract of 36 aircraft, and paves the way to fulfil the present and future needs and requirements of the Government of India”.
As the first lot of five Rafale fighter jets flew over the Indian Ocean, they were welcomed by Indian Warship INS Kolkatta. This message exchange between the two is both memorable and historic.
Indian Naval Warship Delta 63: Welcome to the Indian Ocean
Naval Warship Delta 63, Arrow Leader: Many Thanks. Most reassuring to have an Indian Warship guarding the seas.
Arrow Leader Delta 63:May you Touch the Sky with Glory. Happy Landings.
Delta 63 Arrow Leader: Wish you Fair Winds, Happy Hunting. Over and out.
The Rafale fighter jets are now part of the IAF inventory. But it was a 20 year long wait, from the time the proposal was first initiated til the arrival of the fighters in Ambala.
The IAF received the Rafale jets 23 years after it imported Sukhoi-30 Ks from Russia in 1997. A statement by the former Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa, summed u the nations mood:
”I am very happy for the Indian Air Force as it (the Rafale) has given the Air Force a tremendous capability jump and technological asymmetry over our adversaries—something which was missing for such a long time,”Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa.
ANDAMAN AND NICOBAR ISLANDS
The shift of the world economy towards the Indo-Pacific has heightened the need to secure the sea lanes in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) for free and open navigation on the high seas. China’s expansionist claims in the South China Sea and its construction of artificial Islands on what are considered rocks and reefs has also added to tension and to contestation in the South China Sea.
The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) increasing forays into the IOR and the construction of ports by China in Djibouti, Gwadar in Balochistan, Hambantota in Sri Lanka, container shipping facility in Chittagong, Bangladesh and Kyaukpyu in Myanmar, is all part of Chinese attempts to gain dominance in the IOR.
This has heightened Indian concerns, and consequently, India is now making a rapid push for upgrading its facilities in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. This has acquired further urgency with reports being received that China is pushing Thailand to start work on the Thai canal (Kra canal), that has been on the drawing board for 70 years.
The canal has been proposed to slice through the Malay peninsula some 800 km south of Bangkok and connect the Gulf of Thailand with the Andaman Sea.It would let ships bypass the choked Malacca Strait, the main shipping channel between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean that has become the world’s busiest trade route. For ships passing between the Indian and Pacific Oceans, it would shorten the distance by at least 1,200 km.
Islands are unsinkable aircraft carriers, but they have to be resourced accordingly. To strengthen India’s military capability, the airstrips at INS Kohassa, Shibpur in North Andamans and at the Campbell Bay in Nicobar, are being upgraded into full-fledged fighter bases. The airstrip at Agatti, in Lakshadweep, will also be upgraded for military operations to secure both the Bay of Bengal up to Malacca Straits and the Arabian Sea up to the Gulf of Aden.
Communication is the backbone of security architecture and towards that end, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated a Rs 1,224-crore optic fibre-based telecom connectivity initiative between Chennai and Andaman & Nicobar Islands, on 10 August 2020. While this will facilitate ease of living for locals and also boost tourism, the undersea optic fibre cable link will also give a boost to the security architecture of the island territories.
Strengthening both the Lakshadweep and the Andaman group of Islands makes great strategic sense as they lie on the 6 degree and 9 degree line of Latitude, North of the Equator, which is among the busiest sea lanes of the world. They will thus be the unsinkable aircraft carriers of India, extending the navy’s reach in the region far from the mainland.
Naval Air Station (NAS) Shibpur was commissioned as INS Kohassa by Admiral Sunil Lanba, PVSM, AVSM, ADC, Chairman COSC and Chief of the Naval Staff, on 24 January 2019.
ASSAM RIFLES: WOMEN ON DEPUTATION WITH INDIAN ARMY
The Assam Rifles, India’s oldest Para Military Force, has seen service across the country and also in Operation Pawan in Sri Lanka. Generally convinced to North East India, the Assam Rifles have, for the very first time, now deployed ‘rifle women’ along the Line of Control (LoC) between India and Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir on national security duty. About half a dozen ‘rifle women’, led by a woman officer of the Indian Army, have now been deployed on the Nistachun Pass, also popularly called the Sadhna Pass.
These women from the Assam Rifles are on deputation to the Indian Army and have been tasked for checkpoint duties at the Pass, which is close to the LoC. This involves a check on smuggling of narcotics, fake currency and weapons through the Sadhana Pass, which is at an altitude of 10,000 feet above sea level.
ASSAM RIFLES: MAINTAINING PEACE AND TRANQUILITY
The Assam Rifles have been doing yeoman service in Northeast India, in curbing violence and in preventing illegal activities. A look into the local dailies of Northeast India give one a sense of the tremendous amount of work being done by the Assam Rifles. On a daily basis, one sees headlines such as the ones mentioned below:
ASSAM RIFLES APPREHENDS NSCN(R) & NSCN (K-YA) CADRES IN NAGALAND
In a series of operations conducted on 09 and 10 August, Assam Rifles in Dimapur apprehended an active cadre of NSCN(R) from general area Chekiye with Pt 32 Pistol & another active cadre of NSCN (K-YA) from general area Selouphe with one Pt 32 Pistol and one 12 Bore Rifle. The apprehended individuals and recovered items have been handed over to the Police.
ASSAM RIFLES APPREHENDS A SUBVERSIVE WITH EXPLOSIVES IN MANIPUR
In a joint operation with Imphal (W) Commandos, Assam Rifles apprehended a PREPAK cadre & recovered 260gm PEK, 700gm TNT Explosive Powder, One Chinese Hand Grenade, Two 9 volt Batteries, three electronic circuits, four detonators & three wire coils used for making IEDs (improvised explosive devices). The apprehended people and the recovered items have been handed over to Police.
HUGE RECOVERY OF CONTRABANDS WORTH APPROX RS 93.5 LAKH BY ASSAM RIFLES IN MANIPUR
Assam Rifles recovered contraband worth Rs 93.5 lakh in Tengnoupal on 22 August. Recovered items and apprehended individuals handed over to the Police/Custom officials.
ANOTHER RECOVERY OF CONTRABANDAT KHUDENGTHABI, MANIPUR WORTH APPROX RS 80 LAKH
Assam Rifles recovered contrabands worth Rs 80 lakhs at Permanent Vehicle Check Post (PVCP) Khudengthabi, Manipur on concealed in a vehicle. The detained indl & recovered items have been handed over to PS Moreh.
ASSAM RIFLES RECOVERS SMUGGLED GOODS WORTH APPROX RS 3.6 CR IN MANIPUR
Based on own inputs, Assam Rifles conducted an operation in Manipur on 14/15 Aug confiscated a truck smuggling banned goods worth approx Rs 3.6 Crore. The apprehended individual and recovered items were handed over to Mao PS.
The above is just a sampling of the headlines seen every day in Northeast India. Indeed, the Assam Rifles, India’s oldest Para Military Force, continues to do yeoman service and make the nation proud of its achievements in a very difficult environment.
A RIFLE FOR THE INFANTRY
The AK-203 is all set to be the Indian Army’s standard-issue assault rifles for its regular infantry units in the coming years. A new facility at the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) complex in Amethi’s Korwa in March 2019 was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the manufacturing of around seven lakh AK-203 rifles, but the project is yet to take off, putting into hold the Indian army’s decades-long plan to replace the INSAS Rifle with a modern rifle, more suitable for modern warfare and counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations.
The production of the AK 203 was to be a joint venture between the OFB, Russia’s Kalashnikov Concern and Rosoboronexport, the Russian government agency for military exports. An inter-governmental agreement (IGA) to build the AK-203 was signed in February 2019 and it was stated that the first batch of AK-203 rifles for the Indian Army, would roll off the production line in 2019. That, unfortunately, has not happened and till date, production has not yet started. And the problem appears to be a lack of agreement on the cost of the rifle.
The negotiations involved not just the transfer of technology and manufacture of the rifle in India, but also the requirement of indigenisation of the rifle, in stages, till 100 per cent indigenisation was achieved. This made the deal more complex than earlier deals of such nature. In February 2020, after much delays, the Joint Venture submitted its techno-commercial bid but quoted a price much higher than the benchmark price. India’s Ministry of Defence thought that this price was unreasonable and has consequently appointed a costing committee to look into the matter.
While manufacturing of a foreign weapon system brings in new technology, the concomitant development of infrastructure and capabilities adds to the strengthening of the Indian military-industrial complex. This however increases cost of production in the short term as it involves training costs as also the setting up of a new production line and maintenance workshops. The requirement of a rifle, progressively indigenised to 100 per cent also adds to cost.
The agreement envisions that all rifles, beyond the first 120,000, will have 100 per cent indigenous content. While indigenisation of a weapon system produces jobs, capabilities and infrastructure in the local defence industry as contracts for various subsystems go to Indian manufacturers instead of foreign vendors, the cost in many cases increases, as new production lines for assemblies and parts have to be established. This pushes up the cost by as much as 25 to 50 per cent from imported items in the initial stages. Only when economies of scale set in, can prices be lowered.
In the meantime, the Indian Army had in February 2019, placed the first order for US-built SIG716 rifles at a cost of Rs 700 crore, under the fast-track programme, using the financial powers granted to it. The first tranche of rifles was received in December 2019 and over the next few months, the entire order was executed. These have been used to replace the INSAS rifle used by troops deployed on the borders and in counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism (CICT) operations.
The maker of the rifle, Sig Sauer Inc, has now been given a second order for 72,000 SIG716 rifles. This will meet in full the earlier projected requirement of about 150,000 assault rifles for CICT operations and for frontline troops deployed on the LoC and LAC. The wider requirement of assault rifles for regular infantry units will be met with the procurement of AK-203s, as and when the production of these rifles commences. The new rifles will replace the existing Indian Small Arms System (INSAS) 5.56x45mm rifles used by the forces and manufactured locally by the Ordnance Factories Board (OFB).
Now, an Indian private sector firearms technology firm is all set to unveil and offer for test another assault rifle for the Indian Army and other security forces. While the firm, Bengaluru based SSS Defence, appreciates the fact that the Indian Army will be equipped with the AK 203, it is developing a 7.62×39 rifle, currently simply designated ‘7.62×39 SSS Defence Weapon’ and will unveil a specimen shortly. The weapon is a modification of the company’s existing P-72 Rapid Engagement Combat Rifle (RECR), replacing, among other things, the short-stroke piston with a long-stroke piston.
SSS Defence believes India’s recently imposed import ban, which includes 7.62×39 assault rifles, offers an opportunity for the company’s upcoming weapon product. The company states that its rifle will have the ability to accommodate every type of optic sight and that the buttstock is both telescopic as well as can be folded.
The Indian AK-203 will have some differences as compared to the basic Russian assault rifle. It will have a folding buttstock, upper handguard without a Picatinny rail, and a standard plastic 30-round magazine with no clear window. The distinctive slotted muzzle brake has however been retained. A cleaning rod has been mounted under the weapon’s barrel, in the AK-74M/AK-103 fashion.
The Indian version is chambered for 7.62x39mm cartridge that is also known as M43. It has a firing range of 800 m, a firing rate of 800 rounds per minute and a muzzle velocity of 715 m/s. It weighs 3.8 kg without accessories and with an empty magazine. The assault rifle is fitted with a 415mm barrel and has a length of 943/704 mm (with unfolded/folded buttstock, respectively).
The SIG 716 assault rifle is an improved version of the SIG 516 series rifles. It has a more powerful 7.62 mm cartridge and features a short-stroke pushrod gas system. This advanced operating system reduces carbon fouling, excessive heat and unburned powder in the action, ensuring high reliability. A free-floating, aluminium, KeyMod handguard with a full-length integrated top rail provides quick mounting for optics and accessories.