Israel launches ‘Ofek 16’ reconnaissance satellite - The Daily Guardian
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Israel launches ‘Ofek 16’ reconnaissance satellite

Ashish Singh

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The Space Administration in the Directorate of Defence Research and Development (DDR&D), of the Israel Ministry of Defence (IMoD), and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), successfully launched the ‘Ofek 16’ reconnaissance satellite into space. The launch was performed from a launch site based in central Israel, using a ‘Shavit’ launcher.

Ofek 16’ is an electro-optical reconnaissance satellite with advanced capabilities and is aimed to provide high-quality surveillance for Israel’s military intelligence. Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd designed a crucial end-to-end role in the launch by building the launcher’s third stage propulsion, which is responsible for putting satellite into the orbit. Along with the propulsion, the thrusters for the launcher’s Reaction Control System, full hydrazine propulsion system for the satellite and payload structure made of unique composite materials were also constructed by the company. It also took over complete launch site fuelling of both the launcher as well as the satellite.

During the initial period of operation, the satellite will undergo a series of tests to determine its propriety and performance level. Once the satellite is deemed fully operational, the Ministry of Defense will deliver responsibilities to the IDF’s ‘9900’ Intelligence Unit.

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Defence

INDIAN NAVY’S P8I AIRCRAFT DELIVERS CORONAVIRUS VACCINE DOSES TO SEYCHELLES AND MAURITIUS

Ashish Singh

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The Indian Navy’s P8I aircraft landed at Seychelles International Airport earlier this week to handover 50,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses. The Indian crew, led by Captain Rahul Mehta, was accorded a warm welcome by the diplomats from Seychelles, members of Indian High Commission and medical crew who received the vaccine shipment at Seychelles International Airport. India-Seychelles bilateral relations have always been characterised by close friendship, understanding and cooperation since Seychelles gained Independence in 1976.

Thereafter the P8I landed at Mauritius International airport to handover 1,00,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses. The Indian crew, was accorded a warm welcome by the Prime Minister of Mauritius, Foreign Affairs minister, High Commissioner India and other diplomats and medical crew who received the vaccine shipment at Mauritius International Airport. The long-standing India-Mauritius bilateral relations pans over more than 200 years of shared history.

India through this mission has reiterated its resolve to further the strategic partnership in the post-Covid era. The mission was in keeping with India’s commitment to use local vaccine production and delivery capacity to help all of humanity fight the pandemic.

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Defence

BATTLEFIELD ENERGY, OIL OF SPACE AND REBALANCING

High altitude operational areas and battlefields are energy guzzlers due to rarefied atmospheres, lack of oxygen and inefficient engines. Energy requirement of the battlefield will keep increasing with modernisation. Till now the single-point answer to meeting energy requirements in high-altitude areas has been fossil fuels—kerosene, petrol and diesel. Not anymore.

LT GEN PR SHANKAR (Retd)

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India’s armed forces are rebalancing to the north. Infrastructure development will continue. Good news. Across the LAC, China is ‘solidifying Tibet’. Hereafter, the areas adjoining the LAC will see elevated troop levels even if there are no hostilities. The number of troops to be maintained permanently in extreme high altitudes will nearly double (including IAF personnel). It also means an increased logistical load year on year. In these areas, energy is required to power battlefield systems (weapons, surveillance platforms, networks), transportation and most importantly for human sustenance. High altitude operational areas and battlefields are energy guzzlers due to rarefied atmospheres, lack of oxygen and inefficient engines. Energy requirement of the battlefield will keep increasing with modernisation. Till now the single-point answer to meeting energy requirements in high-altitude areas has been fossil fuels—kerosene, petrol and diesel. Not anymore.

Advanced Winter Stocking: Presently an intricate and complex system is in place to ensure that the required fossil fuels are sent up from the plains through a time-tested procedure called the Advanced Winter Stocking. In this system, the complete requirement of energy for one year is stocked from plains in high altitude in about 3-4 months of the ‘Road Open’ period. It involves multiple legs, modes and transfers. It is a complicated, laborious, tenuous, and extremely expensive process. Environmental degradation is high. This will now have to be doubled. We are exacerbating a nightmarish and unsustainable process. The answer is to find energy in situ.

The High-Altitude Problem: The problem in High altitudes is that other energy options—Hydro, Solar or Wind are unreliable and available only for part of a year. Significantly, hydro and solar energy are inadequate in winter, when needed most. Continuing to burn fossil fuels is extravagantly costly and intensively polluting. To give an idea of cost. The landed cost of kerosene at any post in the Siachen was Rs2400/-, when a litre cost Rs 15, a decade back. That is a whopping 160 times increase. Today it should be around Rs 4,000 per litre. All posts in eastern Ladakh which have now been added are in that variety. Can we bear this burden hereafter at inflated costs? So, what do we do? Turn to technology. I got this idea when I was studying about energy requirements in space being met through the hydrogen—Fuel Cell system.

FUEL CELLS AND HYDROGEN SYSTEM

‘Oil of space’ in high altitude. Space applications need enormous energy which is created out of water, hydrogen and oxygen. In fact, water is called the ‘oil of space’. Simply put, hydrogen and oxygen are used in space to create energy. They are derived from water (which incidentally is not available in space). The entire business of lunar landings is all about the search for water; which is then converted into energy for further exploration and sustenance. Just think. High altitudes are as desolate as space but have water! Hence, we must exploit this resource and not look outside. I am convinced that since we have to deploy large numbers of troops in High altitudes and also be able to sustain people through development, the only way forward is to take a technological leap by using water for energy—Fuel Cells and the Hydrogen system. Let me elucidate this further.

Fuel Cells: Fuel cells can provide power for systems as large as a utility power station and as small as a laptop computer. A fuel cell combines hydrogen with oxygen to produce electrical power. It works similar to batteries, but never runs down or needs to be recharged. It has a cathode and an anode separated by an electrolyte. In a fuel cell, the electrode is not consumed, and the cell can produce electricity as long as hydrogen and oxidizer levels are maintained. With hydrogen as fuel, heat and water are the only by-products. Fuel cells are of many types: proton-exchange-membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs), regenerative fuel cell (RFC) systems, alkaline fuel cells, direct methanol fuel cells (DMFC), phosphoric acid fuel cells (PAFC), molten carbonate fuel cells (MCFC) and solid-oxide fuel cells (SOFCs).They can run indefinitely, as long as they are supplied with a source of hydrogen and a source of oxygen (usually air).

Efficiency: Fuel cells are less efficient than electric batteries. However, present day fuel cells are comparable with internal combustion engines. IC engines convert fuel into kinetic energy at roughly 25% efficiency. A fuel cell, by contrast, can mix hydrogen with air to produce electricity at up to 60 % efficiency.

Hydrogen: Hydrogen can be produced cost-effectively through electrolysis by splitting water into its constituent hydrogen and oxygen atoms or from LNG. Currently only 2% of the world hydrogen production is from water electrolysis. 98% is produced from natural gas. We have to focus on electrolysis. Electrolytically produced hydrogen is presently costly. It will need initial investment in hydrogen production and distribution infrastructure. The scarcity of infrastructure is the largest obstacle to the adoption of hydrogen technology. This process is getting cheaper with time.

International Efforts: The Toyota Mirai, the most popular Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV), sells world-wide. UAE’s first hydrogen station has been opened by Toyota. In Japan, 100 refuelling stations have already been established, and the government aims to have 800,000 FCEVs on the road by 2030. Cost of Hydrogen is expected to reduce by 90% by 2050. Hydrogen technology is being contemplated for a range transport market segments and other applications. Hydrogen trials have been conducted on everything from public buses and forklifts to trains, planes and boats. In Europe, the ‘EU Turbines’ group was to make their gas turbines run with 20% hydrogen gas initially (it was to be completed by 2020). They want to develop turbine technology to allow all manufactured units to run, or be retrofitted to run, on 100% hydrogen gas, and be carbon-neutral, by 2030. All major gas turbine manufacturers are currently developing gas turbines that could combust 100% hydrogen, for power applications as a decarbonised alternative to natural gas. These are just examples to highlight international efforts.

Falling Cost of Hydrogen Systems: The cost of hydrogen is falling due to improvements in water electrolysis and hydrogen fuel cell technology. The Paris-based International Energy Agency expects the cost of producing hydrogen to fall by a further 30% by 2030. It might fall even faster. Since 2010, the cost of electrolysis has fallen about 60% (from between $10/kg and $15/kg hydrogen to as low as $4/kg). By 2030 costs could fall another 60%. As investment in hydrogen infrastructure grows, net costs will continue to fall. However, hydrogen will only be “relevant in regions constrained in renewables potential and situations where alternatives like fossil fuels are not an option.” This is a ready-made high-altitude scenario. For an assumed import price of $3/kg of hydrogen (international average cost), power produced from hydrogen turbines could cost about $140/MWh. In comparison, Lazard’s November 2019 levelised cost of energy (LCOE) analysis suggests unsubsidized natural gas combined cycle generation today costs between $44/MWh and $68/MWh (approx. three times costly).

Strengths and Challenges: Hydrogen and fuel cell systems are very reliable, quite in operation (no moving parts) and need very little maintenance. They are modular and scalable. They occupy less space when compared to wind or solar systems, and can be sited both outdoors and indoors. Fuel cells are pollution free when run on pure hydrogen. They are more efficient than combustion engines. Fuel cells can be refuelled, which is faster than recharging. A fuel cell gives more bang per energy buck than a similarly-sized battery. Fuel cell systems are lighter even taking into account hydrogen storage. The main challenges of fuel cells are price, cost of producing hydrogen and need for pure fuels. Hydrogen is difficult to store. It must be heavily compressed in order to fit into a practical container. Hydrogen gas requires high-pressure fibre-composite tanks. Liquid Hydrogen requires keeping its temperature down to cryogenic levels. However if the system is in a ‘consume as you produce’ mode the costs will reduce. Hydrogen is mass produced in the US. The technology has been around for over half a century.

We need to think out of the box: Technologically and practically to solve the exponentially increasing battlefield energy requirements. The current system will be an unsustainable nightmare. If we think of ‘High Altitudes’ as ‘Space’, the answer lies in water! Compare costs. The current cost of fuel in high altitudes should be around 60-70 times on an average at the delivery point. Hydrogen based energy would be far cheaper and less complex even now including infrastructure. The cost of fossil fuels keeps inflating whereas the hydrogen economy is deflating. In the long term, the pollution free, fuel cell-hydrogen system wins hands down. The technology is established. It needs to be adapted, It also needs a multi-agency approach at national levels since there are wider implications than just for the Armed Forces. From a national perspective this should be a civil military fusion project led by the Armed forces. Do we have a choice in not following this route? Of course, we have. We can remain primitive.

It is my recommendation that an inter-departmental pilot project be started in Leh under the aegis of the Army. In about a year or so we will have gained enough experience to scale it up. It is also cautioned that fuel cells cannot be deployed everywhere and are not the ultimate solution. We have to eventually have to look at an energy mix in which fuel cell energy share is expanding. Use of some fossil fuels and naturally renewable energy systems will continue. Most importantly we need to start somewhere.

HOPE

This is not a flight of fancy. I do hope someone with sense in the decision matrix reads it and takes action.

MY FEAR

The Chinese will read this and pick up the idea. They will implement it while we keep humping kerosene-like cavemen to Siachen and revel in burning it in soot filled bukharis which will choke our lungs and continue to degrade our environment. The day Global Times puts out a video showing off their fuel cell deployment ahead of us will be a sad day for me.

Lt Gen P.R. Shankar was India’s DG Artillery. He is highly decorated and qualified with vast operational experience. He contributed significantly to the modernisation and indigenization of Artillery. He is now a Professor in the Aerospace Dept of IIT Madras and is involved in applied research for defence technology. His other articles can be read on www.gunnersshot.com.

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CHANGE OF COMMAND OF INDIAN ARMY’S GAJRAJ CORPS

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The command of Indian Army’s Frontier Gajraj Corps changed hands from Lt Gen Shantanu Dayal to Lt Gen Ravin Khosla. Lt Gen Ravin Khosla brings with him immense operational experience and has served in important command and staff appointment both in Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast.

He comes to Gajraj Corps from Integrated Headquarters of Ministry of Defence (Army), New Delhi  where he was holding the appointment of Director General (Manpower Planning & Personnel Services). The General Officer has served in Sri Lanka during Operation PAWAN. For his illustrative service, he has been awarded Ati Vishist Sewa Medal, Sena Medal and the Vishisht Seva Medal. In addition to his professional pursuits, the general officer is also a keen sportsperson and an avid reader. 

Lt Gen Shantanu Dayal had an eventful tenure of a year at Tezpur during which the formation enhanced its  capabilities in an exemplary manner both in the Kameng Sector as well as in the counter insurgency operations in Lower and Central Assam. In the Unified Command HQ Mechanism, he chaired the Operational Group, which was responsible for executing the Counter Insurgency/ Counter Terrorism operations in Assam.

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Revamped portal to honour the gallantry awardees of India

Ashish Singh

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Defence Minister Rajnath Singh launched a revamped version of the Gallantry Awards Portal www.gallantryawards.gov.in on Monday. This portal will serve as a one-stop virtual platform to honour the immortal contribution of the fearless Gallantry Awardees of India. Nationwide quiz and ‘Selfie For Bravehearts’ initiatives were also launched on the portal.

Since our nation’s independence, our brave men and women have displayed exemplary courage and devotion for the nation. The Government of India has accorded topmost priority to honour the immortal contribution of its Brave-hearts for protecting the unity and integrity of our nation. Launching of a revamped Gallantry Awards Portal is a key initiative undertaken in this regard.

Speaking during the launch program, Raksha Mantri hailed the significant role played by the Gallantry Awardees of India in not only securing our nation but also inspiring the future generations of the country to contribute for protecting our motherland. He further stated that in the coming years, the Gallantry Awards Portal shall transform as an interactive, participative and dynamic platform that shall instil a sense of patriotism and devotion among the citizens especially the “Yuva Shakti” of the nation.

Recalling some of the initiatives like the implementation of OROP and building of National War Memorial, Rajnath Singh said the government has been doing everything to acknowledge the contributions of our veterans and martyrs. Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar said that the revamped website has new enriched content, graphics and participative features aimed towards celebrating valour of Armed Forces in India, to provide a wholesome experience to the user and to develop an ecosystem for honouring the contribution of martyrs in nation-building.

On the occasion of the launch of the revamped Gallantry Awards Portal, a nationwide Gallantry Awards Quiz has also been initiated on the Portal platform. This quiz aims to provide an opportunity to the bright minds from across the nation to showcase their knowledge about the Gallantry Awardees of India. This program shall be organised from 26 January 2021 to 26 February 2021. Another initiative, ‘Selfie for Bravehearts’ was also launched which encourages and invites citizens to click their selfie images in front of war memorials and monuments across the country and show their support for the Gallantry Awardees of the nation.

The Defence Minister urged people to participate in the Quiz competition and Selfie initiative. Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, Chief of Army Staff General Manoj Mukund Naravane, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Karambir Singh, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria and other senior officials from MoD were also present on the occasion.

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Sainik school celebrates Republic Day online

Ashish Singh

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Sainik School Balachadi, Jamnagar celebrated 72nd Republic Day through online mode. On this occasion, the Chief Guest Group Captain Ravinder Singh, Principal, Sainik School Balachadi laid the wreath on Shourya Stambh—the war memorial and unfurled the Indian tricolour followed by the national anthem.

A documentary on Republic Day was shown on this occasion. Cadet Krish Ninama of class IX and Cadet Hrushabh Vaza of class X expressed the importance and greatness of Republic Day through video conference in Hindi and English respectively followed by patriotic songs sung by cadets and staff. Cadets of class XII presented an online patriotic poem to honour the brave hearts of the country. School Cadet Captain Amit Raushan and Cadet Devang Bhargav reflected their seven years in the school in the Passing-out Course Memoir.

Virtual candle passing ceremony of class XII was also conducted. Anchoring of the complete event was done by Cadet Devanshu Yadav and Cadet Chris Francis of class IX. The Chief Guest in his address extended his warm wishes to cadets, staff and family members and emphasized on the sense of patriotism and belongingness towards the nation. He asked the cadets to understand the requirement of Constitution for a country and imbibe the spirit of Constitution in their daily lives. The event culminated with the school song presented by the cadets.

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Venkaiah Naidu inaugurates DRDO’S Integrated Weapon System Design Centre

Ashish Singh

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M. Venkaiah Naidu, the Vice President of India, visited DRDO’s Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Missile Complex in Hyderabad to inaugurate the Integrated Weapon System Design Centre in the complex. Vice President was briefed about the various ongoing projects and technological developments of missile complex laboratories namely Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL), and Research Centre Imarat (RCI). He was also showcased a range of indigenously developed missile systems and avionics technologies. He evinced keen interest in DRDO technologies and various test facilities being used for advanced technology developments.

The Integrated Weapon System Design facility will enhance the capability in design and development of command & control systems for surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems and ballistic missile defence (BMD) systems. The centre will give thrust to the overall system design and evaluation methodology for state-of-the-art missile systems and will help in improving the performance of missiles. This will play a major role in the realization of highly complex futuristic aerospace & defence systems.

Extending new year wishes to the scientists, Vice President said that year 2021 will open up new horizons, opportunities and also multiple new challenges. Addressing DRDO fraternity on the occasion, Shri Naidu complimented the scientists for their hard work and dedication even during the nationwide lockdown and stated that the efforts of DRDO have led to the phenomenal technological advancements in the form of series of successful missions such as HSTDV, SMART, ATGM, NGARM, HELINA, NAG, BRAHMOS etc. He mentioned that DRDO is an epitome and torchbearer of Scientific Social Responsibility and is a place of eternal learning. The role played by DRDO during the Covid Pandemic has set an example for others to emulate. He further said that the development of a range of indigenous defence systems by DRDO has given confidence to government for banning import of 101 items. Remembering Dr Kalam, Naidu said that scientific institutions of the country should never work in the incremental mode rather they should continuously attempt to leapfrog in scientific endeavours. He praised the scientists for maintaining the legacy of Dr Kalam. He said that Dr Kalam wanted India to become a superpower and mentioned that the scientists have the calibre to make Atmanirbhar Bharat. He pointed out that, it is important to hold hands of young techno-preneurs, industries, academia, guide them and move together to build a strong and technologically superior country. He stated that we have made commendable achievements in missiles, and hoped that by doing so we may become top exporter in the field of missiles.

VP Naidu also inaugurated a new missile technology exposition and seminar hall in the same campus. The exposition will display missile technologies and weapon systems and the centre will be the backbone for outreach activities. This hall is a part of knowledge management initiatives taken up by the Missile Complex to provide an interactive platform for continuous learning and fostering technical excellence among the missile community. It will be a hub for organizing scientific expositions, structured training programmes on virtual platforms and technical lectures for the benefit of DRDO community. He commended the work being done by DRDO under the leadership of Dr G Satheesh Reddy, Secretary, DDR&D & Chairman DRDO. Mr. MSR Prasad, Director General, Missiles and Strategic Systems was also present during the visit and explained about the various missile technologies.

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