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Needed, a tank for high altitude

The ongoing LAC standoff between India and China has highlighted the lack of a suitable tank for high altitudes. The nation needs such tanks not only for defending its territories but also for carrying out any offensive into China.

LT GEN PR SHANKAR (Retd)

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The current SinoIndian standoff has highlighted the lack of a suitable tank for high altitudes. The tank is required not only for defending our territory but also for carrying out any offensive into China. Unless we pose a credible offensive threat to China, our territory will always be subject to salami slicing. Having a light tank in adequate numbers in eastern Ladakh and Sikkim is mandatory. The second issue which has been starkly highlighted is that we need this tank as of ‘day before yesterday’. India does not have the luxury of daydreaming through strategic partnerships or building the castles (FRCV) in air. Procrastination by our military and civil bureaucracy has been the thief of our territory. Enough of paperwork. Keep the draft DPP aside and get down to business. We do not need a DPP. We need a tank. We must build a tank now with what we have and can. We have two choices. We can go back to the Russians as we have traditionally done and buy a light tank from them. The Russian lobby in our uniforms must already be salivating at this prospect. Otherwise, we take the Aatmanirbharta route and do things on our own. I would prefer the second route.

There are basically two options. First use the K9 Vajra hull and build a light tank on it. The second option is to up-gun a BMP and convert it into a light tank. I have grave doubts whether anything beyond a 40mm gun can be mounted on a BMP. A 40mm gun will be inadequate for the task. Also, OFB has major issues of capacity, on time delivery and quality, besides undergoing the wobble of corporatisation. We are left with only one option. Luckily it is credible. However, within this we have two choices. We can design and build a tank using the Vajra Hull and mating it with a 105/120 mm gun and turret. We might come out with a prototype in about 2years. Carry out trials for another two years and then negotiate and place orders. By then we would have lost some more salamis to China! The other option is to evolve into a light tank by down gunning the Vajra progressively in stages while increasing our combat power. Have a look at the Russian T series of tanks — T34, T55, T62, T72, T80, T90. It is an evolution. Though the current case is different, the lesson is to evolve and not attempt reinvention of the wheel.

Stage1: Convert two VAJRAs into high altitude capable guns by incorporating heating devices, turbo chargers, using thinner oils, modified fuels and using better rubber parts. Incorporate a CM3LR Sight to improve its antitank engagement capability. Induct them into eastern Ladakh forthwith. Use both guns for a couple of months. Based on the experience, modify and induct one regiment of high altitude capable VAJRAs into eastern Ladakh by October. The hull and engine would be proven fit for the job. Any other problems will also bubble up. It is a concept of operational utilisation cum trials. Use the experience of 155mm Dhanush environmental trials of a troop in high altitude. Additionally, the regiment so inducted reinforces the existing armour in eastern Ladakh. A 155mm 52 cal SP gun with a sophisticated night sight like CM3LR will provide devastating direct fire. Remember Tololing and Tiger hill being plastered by BOFORS? All Chinese defences will become vulnerable. It will blow any Chinese tank to smithereens. The CM3LR Sight is important. It is available in India with other guns. At 47 tons, the AFV will be mobile enough for the purpose. The gun can be used in normal role also. Its 52 Cal barrel achieves a range of 40 km. In high altitudes, it will achieve over 50 km. One VAJRA SP regiment will change the firepower balance in eastern Ladakh. It will immediately generate offensive options. The major payoff will be that intent is conveyed.

Stage 2: Strip the VAJRA of unwanted weight. Even if its weight can be reduced by about 2 tons, its mobility will improve substantially. However, care should be taken to ensure the overall stability is not lost. A stripped-down VAJRA should be able to operate in Eastern Ladakh in about 3-4 months. This stripping operation should be done in Leh. If nothing else, we will have a high-altitude capable VAJRA — fit for both antitank and indirect roles. Let us also not fret too much about purity of a tank design. In eastern Ladakh the requirement is mobile shooting capability with a degree of protection and not great manoeuvrability. Till this stage ammunition is not a problem at all. We have adequate 155mm ammunition.

Stage 3: It must commence simultaneously in parallel. We need at least two options of a Vajra mated with a turret and guns in the range of 105-120mm. It should make use of the feed-back received from the inducted VAJRAs. I am not too worried about stability, mating etc. the VAJRA hull will take on any tank gun in the 105/120 mm class. Reason is simple. A 52 cal 155mm gun which achieves 40 km range is a beast-compared to all other guns. Remove that and the VAJRA hull could be prancing horse. Target a weight of about 35 tons. Time frame. In 18 months, we should be evaluating the equipment in Eastern Ladakh. The evaluation should be for about 2-3 months (Max) since the VAJRA would have been in use already in High Altitude for 2 years plus by then. Thereafter it is production time. We must have clarity on ammunition in the meanwhile. We should not end up in a cul-de-sac where we have a tank without ammunition. All maintenance and quality related issues should have been sorted out meanwhile. Trials should be largely truncated since most of such evaluation has already been done on the K9 VAJRA Gun. Commence production when some degree of assurance is visible that the effort will succeed. Some risk taking is mandatory.

Stage 4: It must commence once the candidates for the turret are identified. The idea will be to reduce the weight of the hull by incorporating better and lighter materials. Our aim should be to ensure that the overall weight should not exceed 30 tons ultimately. Part of this endeavour should be to come up with an indigenous 1000 hp engine within this time frame on a mission mode. Otherwise sack the entire R&D staff of those who have been fooling the nation for the past two decades that they will produce an engine. Induct some right thinking, risk taking youngsters to deliver the goods. I am making this statement very deliberately.

For this option we have everything in place — design, development and production capability. What we have been lacking is the motivation. That has been provided by the Chinese, who have appeared with a salami slicing knife. The natural question will be — will our system permit this? My answer — the system will enable it double time if two gentlemen sit across a table and decide that it should be done. One sits in the 5th Floor of Sena Bhavan. The other sits in the 1st floor of South Block. In my opinion, the Army should have the fire in the belly to take the reins and ride this horse with everyone (MoD, DRDO, OFB, Industry) enabling it.

If this comes through, and I do not see why not, we will feel late Manohar Parrikar’s warm smile from heaven as it was depicted with the Rafale in flight in the social media. After all it was he, when sitting in 1st floor South Block decided with the gentleman in 5th floor Sena Bhavan that the Vajra (and more) should come in. Everything came — despite the GSQRs, trials, CNC, DPP, DAC, DPB, DGQA, FADS, etc. If the path to hell is crooked. The path to heaven is more so.

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 indigenisation 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 his blog www. gunnersshot.com.

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Defence

‘ARMY CAN MEET ANY CHALLENGE TO SAFEGUARD COUNTRY’

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The Army is fully prepared to meet any challenge like the use of drones and social media by adversaries to safeguard the country, said Commandant of Chennai-based Officers Training Academy (OTA) Lieutenant General M K Das. Lt Gen Das, who is also the colonel of the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry (JAKLI) regiment, said the situation in J&K is getting better with the Army and other security agencies working together to stamp out terrorism. Speaking to media on the sidelines of the maiden attestation parade of 460 new recruits of the 126th batch after a successful 40-week training period at Dansal here, he said the Indian Army is aware of the challenges and prepared to give a befitting response to the enemies of the nation.

Talking about the need to introduce special training courses for soldiers in the aftermath of the developments in Afghanistan, he said, “Our training is very contemporary as it caters for all the contingencies and unforeseen situations. My young soldiers, who have taken the oath to defend the constitution and the country, will live up to all the challenges. One of the unique things of this regiment (JAKLI) is all our troops hail from J&K and Ladakh. They have ingrained quality to be security conscious much more than others.” Lt Gen Das said, “All the situations unfolding in the country or in our neighbourhood, the JAKLI regiment will continue to excel and be the lead agency in the fight against terrorism.” Asked about the challenges posed by the use of drones to hit targets and deliver weapons and narcotics from across the LoC and International Border, he said a capsule course on anti-drone measures has been introduced. “On Army Day on 15 January, our chief took the threat seriously and our soldiers are being prepared to deal with the challenge in a better way.” During recruitment training, Lt Gen Das said that besides the arms handing and exercises, thrust is also given on science and technology, cybersecurity and other new challenges. He said the misuse of social media by “anti-national” elements is a reality and the new recruits are being trained in cybersecurity during their basic and orientation courses.

On attempts by Pakistan to mislead the youth of J&K, Lt Gen Das said, “The youth of J&K is showing keenness to be a part of the regiment which is a message to those who think they can mislead our youth. Joining the regiment is the best way to serve the nation, the youth live like a family and there is complete communal harmony.” He said the regiment is increasing the number of local youth from Ladakh and would also go for recruitment in J&K to provide an opportunity to the local youth to become part of this regiment. Asked about his message to the misguided youth, he said, “J&K is the crown of India but if I focus as a soldier, I feel they (misguided youth) have not understood their country… the situation has not gone out of hand and the Army has kept its window open to allow them to surrender and join the national mainstream.”

He added, “We have a unit of 162 Infantry Territorial Army who are former militants but have become upright soldiers.” Lt Gen Das said the Army and other security agencies are working in close coordination and the situation in J&K is getting better and the “day is not far when this region will make our country proud.”

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Defence

SOUTHERN NAVAL COMMAND OBSERVES INTERNATIONAL COASTAL CLEAN-UP DAY IN KOCHI

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The Southern Naval Command observed International Coastal Clean-up Day on Saturday with a focus on mangrove plantation and clearance of plastic/non-biodegradable waste along with waterfront areas in and around Kochi, said a press release from the Ministry of Defence.

Pursuant to the global campaign of keeping coastlines clean, more than 600 Naval personnel and the families of Southern Naval Command undertook clearance of plastic and non-biodegradable waste at different locations spread across the city, coastal areas such as Fort Kochi beach, Thevara waterfront, Willingdon Island, Cherai beach, Bolgatty and around 2 km stretch of the Venduruthy channel while restoring around 1 lakh sqm of mangroves to the pristine condition. In addition, 80 mangrove saplings were also planted along the Venduruthy channel. Similar coastal cleanup drives and lectures/webinars/competitions emphasising protection of the coastal and marine environment were undertaken with the enthusiastic participation of the Naval community at other outstation Naval units located at Lonavala, Jamnagar, Chilka, Coimbatore, Goa, Ezhimala and Mumbai.

Being the Training Command of the Indian Navy, the Southern Naval Command has always been at the vanguard in promoting environmental conservation activities both at the Command Headquarters, Kochi as well as at Naval stations spread across the country.

Mandated to oversee naval training, the Southern Naval Command has conceptualised and implemented a variety of green initiatives. Keeping environmental preservation as one of the Key Result Areas, the Command has constantly endeavoured to motivate young officer and sailor trainees of the Indian Navy to imbibe the habit of protecting mother nature as part of their grooming efforts in preparing them to become responsible future Naval leaders and dependable citizens of India.

Particular attention has also been given to create more awareness among the families and more importantly the children.

During the last three years, the Command has adopted a multi-dimensional approach towards conservation of the environment and implementation of energy conservation methods.

To highlight a few, the personnel of the Command were actively involved in the rejuvenation of 4.5-km-long Venduruthy Channel near Kochi Naval base, creating awareness in and around Naval establishments.

Efforts were undertaken to enhance green cover by conducting mass plantation drives which included planting more than 75,000 trees, using the fast-growing Miyawaki forestation method. In addition, regular coastal clean-up drives, mangrove plantation drives, in-house handling and recycling of bio and non-biodegradable waste, adopting efficient energy and water-saving methods etc were also undertaken. The Command has also earnestly endeavoured to continue all the efforts for protecting and conserving the environment and natural resources. Towards achieving the same, the Command has implemented a Green Initiative and Environment Conservation Roadmap with a prime focus on Carbon footprint reduction.

With the personal involvement of Vice Admiral Anil Kumar Chawla, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Naval Command is committed to creating a clean, green and healthy environment in line with the visionary environment conservation policies of the Govt of India. On the occasion, Adv M Anilkumar, Mayor, Kochi Municipal Corporation and staff also participated in Kochi.

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Defence

IAF TO HOLD AIR SHOW OVER DAL LAKE IN SRINAGAR ON 26 SEPT

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An air show will be held here on 26 September where IAF’s skydiving team Akash Ganga and Suryakiran Aerobatic and Display Team and paramotor flying will manoeuvre the skies over the famous Dal Lake, officials informed on Saturday.

The air show will be organised by the Air Force Station Srinagar and the Jammu and Kashmir administration as part of the ongoing celebrations commemorating ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’, they said. The main aim of the exercise—under the theme ‘Give Wings to Your Dream’—is to motivate the youth of the valley to join the Indian Air Force (IAF) and to promote tourism in the region, the officials said.

The event will be flagged off Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha at the Sher-e-Kashmir International Conference Centre (SKICC) overlooking Dal Lake.

More than 3,000 college and school students are expected to participate in the programme to witness the impressive manoeuvres of the IAF, which will motivate them to dream about a career in the force and in the aviation sector, the officials said. “The show will also develop passion among the students to give wings to their dreams. Along with the students, 700 teachers will also be present at the venue,” they added.

During the demonstration, students will also be familiarised with the new technological advancements achieved and incorporated by the IAF while flying aircraft in the sky over the world-famous Dal Lake, the officials said. Stalls will be established at SKICC where students will be familiarised with the achievements of the Air Force, employment opportunities in the IAF, recruitment rules and eligibility criteria, they added.

Srinagar-based PRO Defence Col Emron Musavi said the display will include flypast by various aircraft of the IAF. The spectators would also get to witness paramotor flying and IAF’s skydiving team Akash Ganga in action. ‘Ambassadors of IAF’, Suryakiran Aerobatic Display Team, will be performing in the valley after a gap of 14 years, he said. Col Musavi said the symphony orchestra of the IAF would also be performing at the event. The event would also consist of a photo exhibition depicting the history of the

IAF, he said. 

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Defence

ARMY ORGANISES EXHIBITION IN JAIPUR TO COMMEMORATE INDIA’S VICTORY IN 1971 WAR

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JAIPUR : South Western Command of the Indian Army on Saturday organised an exhibition showcasing defence equipment at Chitrakoot Stadium in Jaipur to mark the 50th anniversary of India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war.

Speaking to ANI, an Indian army official said, “We have displayed the defence equipment in this exhibition to make people aware of the Indian army achievements. We want to motivate the youth by showcasing these types of equipment.” “Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, these events had been started to make people aware of Indian Arm Forces. So, we are also continuing the move by organising these kinds of events,” he added.

Further, he said that India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war is memorable for all the Indians, so, every citizen should be aware of this war.  

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Defence

BRO makes history, appoints woman Army officer in-charge of road construction unit

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The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has appointed a woman Army officer for the first as the Officer Commanding of its 75 road construction company (RCC) in Uttarakhand, the Defence Ministry said on Sunday.

The three platoon commanders under Major Aaina, Captain Anjana, AEE (Civ) Bhawana Joshi and AEE (Civ) Vishnumaya K became the first women RCC. The appointments were made on August 30.

BRO on Sunday recalled the list of women officers who were assigned higher leadership roles in the organisation in the current year.

According to a statement issued by the Defence Ministry, BRO has inducted a large number of women into its workforce over the years, right from officers to the level of commercial pilot license holders. “In this regard, a General Reserve Engineer Force (GREF) officer EE (Civ) Vaishali S Hiwase took over the reins of 83 Road Construction Company on April 28, employed on an important Indo-China road connecting Munisairi-Bughdiar-Milam, in an area full of adversity and challenges. The lady officer has taken control and is leading the charge with meticulous execution of her tasks,” the statement said.

“The BRO created history again on 30 August when Major Aaina of Project Shivalik took charged as Officer Commanding, 75 Road Construction Companies (RCC) at Pipalkoti in Chamoli district in Uttarakhand. She is the first Indian Army Engineer Officer to command a road construction company. Not only this, all three platoon commanders under her, Captain Anjana, AEE (Civ) Bhawana Joshi and AEE (Civ) Vishnumaya K are lady officers and they have together created a first-ever women RCC. The Border Roads plans to make four such all women-led RCCs, two each in North Eastern and Western Sectors.”

As India celebrates 75 Years of Azaadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, it also celebrates the ongoing efforts of our Nation towards women empowerment. Women today have started assuming their rightful, equal place as the frontrunners in nation-building and representatives of our strong national character, the statement read.

Over the last six decades, in a graduated and steady manner, the BRO has increased the number of women employed in various roles and duties of road construction. A consolidated effort is being made to empower them by giving them authority and responsibilities to undertake work independently. These women have become symbols of Nari Shakti in their respective areas.

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Defence

IN FIRST FOREIGN VISIT AFTER TAKING OVER AS CDS, GEN BIPIN RAWAT TO VISIT RUSSIA, US

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In his first visit abroad after taking over as the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Bipin Rawat will be visiting Russia and the US.

Rawat took over his new office as CDS on 31 December 2019, and since then has been declining foreign invitations for focusing on the new assignment of integrating the defence forces as a combined fighting force. “There is a conference of the CDS-rank officers of the Shanghai Cooperation Agreement member countries. China and Pakistan are also part of this grouping,” senior defence officials said.

The CDS conference would be focusing on addressing the regional security issues and Afghanistan is also likely to come up for discussion, they said.

The CDS would also witness the activities of the respective armed forces taking part in the SCO peace mission drills being held in Russia. Indian Army and Air Force are also taking part in the exercise there.

The visit will take place in the coming week and soon after return from Russia, Rawat would be leaving for the US for meeting his counterpart and other American military leadership at the Pentagon.

The two countries have been coming closer militarily in the last few years and have been holding multiple military exercises and hardware cooperation.

The Indian military saw a major change in senior-level structures under the Narendra Modi government as the focus is now on the theatrisation of the fighting forces and bringing in more capabilities and jointness among the three services. 

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