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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

Major push to Make in India in defence sector

Ajay Jandyal

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To give a major push to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Atamanirbhar Bharat mission, the Indian Army has joined hands with various technology firms to cater to the demands of the present security scenario.

The Army says if it has to remain operational all around, it cannot rely on obsolete technology hence latest advancement in the sector have to be adopted.

“The Northern Command is always combat ready in the times to come, the challenges will continue to increase so we have to rely on advance technology and keep on innovating,” Lieutenant General Upendra Dwivedi told The Daily Guardian on the sidelines of the Northern Technology Symposium held in Udhampur on Sunday.

North Tech Symposium was organized under the aegis of HQ Northern Command at Udhampur. Technology symposium, exhibition was organised wherein 162 companies from Indian defence industry including MSMEs, DRDO, DPSU, participated and exhibited their products.

In addition, 42 innovative solutions by Army establishments towards enhancement of combat potential of the Army were also on display. Lt Gen BS Raju, Vice Chief of Army Staff inaugurated the first of its kind technology symposium in Jammu and Kashmir.

Addressing the event, vice-chief of Army staff Lt Gen V S Raju said that he would have appreciated if the investors, capital ventures would have also shown interest in the event to boost the new start-up.

“To cope up with the ever-evolving and ever-changing security scenario, we also need to adopt changes and keep on innovating. I am happy that so many companies have shown interest to showcase their products at the North Tech Symposium. I am hopeful that in near future, many of the products would be put in use by the armed forces,” General Raju said.

In the wake of recent incidence of drone dropping in Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab from across the Indo-Pak border, various companies have displayed their products including anti- drone system, drone jammer which can strengthen the forces and border guarding forces to thwart Pakistan’s plan of disturbing peace.

Other than drone dropping threats, detection of tunnels on Jammu and Kashmir border is also a major threat for the security forces these days as 11 tunnels have been detected on Indian-Pakistan border in the past few years. There was number of companies which showcased their products to detect underground tunnels by using artificial intelligence and special radar.

The symposium saw active participation from of senior officers from different forces including IDS, Army HQ, HQ ARTRAC, other Commands, HQ Northern Command, and its subordinate formations. This interactive platform for knowledge diffusion through Joint Army-Industry participation was an important step in the direction of the government’s initiative of “Make in India”.

On the first day of the seminar, the participants from Army and industry discussed the policy and procedures for expeditious procurement, Raksha Atmanirbharta initiatives by Indian Army, DRDO and Defence Public Sector Undertakings, how can private sector contribute towards surveillance system, weapon sights, drones and counter drone system and miscellaneous technologies like 3D printing.

The symposium served to showcase cutting edge technologies and innovative products providing solutions to some of the complex challenges faced by the security forces in Northern Command and also acted as an ideal platform for mutual exchange of ideas between the domestic defence industry and the Army. The technologies and products on display covered a wide canvas, the prominent ones being surveillance and situational awareness, tactical mobility, firepower, force protection, communications, combat medical facility, robotics and simulators.

The symposium was a huge success and Lt Gen Upendra Dwivedi, AVSM lauded the initiative and innovations of all the vendors. The General Officer expressed his conviction that the plethora of technologies available indigenously can further boost the “Atmanirbhar Bharat” project of the nation. The spirit of Atmanirbharta demands that research and development, the domestic defence industry and Army have work in a synchronized manner to realise the nation’s vision.

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Defence

ARMY MAJOR SUCCUMBS TO INJURIES DURING OPERATION IN KASHMIR

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An Indian Army Major lost his life after slipping into a ravine during a counter-infiltration operation in the Uri sector of Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday.

Major Raghunath Ahlawat.

Late Major Raghunath Ahlawat, 34 was leading his team on a counter-infiltration operation based on reliable intelligence input. “To identify a safe approach for the team he led from the front while carrying out reconnaissance on a route through a steep cliff. “Unfortunately, he slipped due to bad weather and slippery conditions and fell 60 meters into a ravine. Critically injured, he succumbed to his injuries enroute while being evacuated to the nearest Army Hospital,” Indian Army officials said in a statement.

The Army paid tribute to the officer in a ceremony held in the Badami Bagh Cantonment in Srinagar led by Chinar Corps Commander Lieutenant General DP Pandey.

Major Ahlawat was commissioned into the Army in 2012 and hails from Dwarka, New Delhi and is survived by his wife and his parents.

The mortal remains of Late Maj Raghunath Ahlawat were taken for last rites to his native place, where he would be laid to rest with full military honours.

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Defence

FOR 114 FIGHTER JETS, IAF FAVOURS ‘BUY GLOBAL MAKE IN INDIA’ ROUTE

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For over USD 20 billion tender for manufacturing 114 multi-role fighter aircraft (MRFA) the Indian Air Force (IAF) would prefer to take the ‘Buy Global Make in India’ route over the strategic partnership policy model to produce the planes within the country.

‘Buy Global Make in India’ is a category of procurement process provided in the Defence Acquisition Procedure 2020 under Defence Minister Rajnath Singh to smoothen the acquisition of foreign weapon systems and their production within the country under the ‘Make in India’ in the defence programme. Along with the indigenous LCA Tejas and the 5th Generation Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft project, the 114 MRFA project would also be required by the IAF to maintain an edge over both the Northern and Western adversaries. We would prefer to go in for the Buy Global Make in India route which is preferred by the vendors also who are expected to take part in the programme, government sources said. Three American aircraft including the F-18, F-15 and F-21 (modified version of the F-16), Russian Mig-35 and Su-35 along with the French Rafale, Swedish Saab Gripen and the Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft are expected to participate in the programme. The Indian Air Force had also sought the views of these companies on the acquisition procedure that they would like to opt for in the programme and most of them have shown a preference for the Buy Global Make in India route only, they said.

The sources said that the force has also sought directions from the government on the project.

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Defence

INDIA GETS DEFENCE SUPPLIES FROM RUSSIA, BUT PAYMENT MAY BECOME AN ISSUE

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Amid the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, defence supplies from Moscow are continuing as the Indian defence forces have received a shipment of overhauled aircraft engines and spares. However, there is concern about whether this would continue in the near future as a solution for making payment to Russia has not yet been found.

“The defence forces have received shipments from the Russians very recently and it is still on. So far, there has not been any glitch in supplies for our forces,” a government source told ANI.

“However, there are concerns on whether these supplies can continue in the same manner as the Indian side cannot make payments to these Russian firms in view of the sanctions related to their banks,” he added.

The sources said the Indian and Russian sides are working to find a way this issue can be overcome and many options are being explored.

The latest supplies from Russia included overhauled fighter aircraft engines and spares for an aircraft fleet and they arrived through the sea route, the sources said.

India also received the final parts of the S-400 Triumf air defence system from Russia whose first squadron is operational with its elements deployed to take care of threats from both Pakistan and China.

India is one of the largest users of Russian weaponry including major platforms like fighter jets, transport aircraft, helicopters, warships, tanks, infantry combat vehicles and submarines.

Over the last couple of decades, it has broadened its source base by including equipment from countries like the US, France and Israel in a big way but the dependence on Russia still remains very high.

The Air Force is dependent majorly on the Russian supplies as its mainstay Su30 aircraft fleet is Russian along with its Mi-17 helicopter fleet.

The Army is also dependent on the Russian-origin T-90 and T-72 tank fleet for the armoured regiments.

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Defence

IAF, ARMY BRASS WILL ASSESS LAC SITUATION

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The top brass of the Indian Army and Air Force would be assessing the preparedness of their forces and infrastructure requirements along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) as the militaries of both India and China continue to remain in a standoff position in eastern Ladakh.

The Indian Air Force brass would be meeting this week from 6 April to discuss the security situation including air operations along the northern borders. The Indian Army commanders led by Army Chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane would be assessing the present deployments along eastern Ladakh and the northeastern sectors from 18 April onwards in the bi-annual commanders’ conference.

The top brass of the Indian Army had jointly discussed the infrastructure requirements and developments required by the Indian side from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh during a conference in Lucknow recently.

India has made several changes in its deployments post aggression shown by Chinese troops in April-May 2020.

India and China have been talking to each other at both military and diplomatic levels to address the issues but so far they have not been able to do so mainly because of Chinese reluctance. In recent talks to address the Patrolling Point 15 friction, they proposed a solution that was not acceptable to the Indian side.

Indian security establishment led by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval has been of the view that the issue would be resolved only if the Chinese completely disengaged and went back to pre April 2020 positions.The Indian side has strengthened its deployments manifold all along the LAC. The Indian Air Force has also started building advanced bases in the forward areas including infrastructure to operate fighter jets and attack helicopters from the forward fields such as Nyoma.

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Defence

Sharp fall in infiltration of foreign terrorists, stone pelting: CRPF DG

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There has been a sharp decline in the infiltration of foreign terrorists as well as in stone-pelting incidents in Jammu and Kashmir since the abrogation of Article 370 from the erstwhile state, Director General of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) Kuldiep Singh said on Thursday.

However, noting the targeted killings in Jammu and Kashmir, the officer said, “Some time there is a spurt in terrorist incidents” and the recent killing in “periodic series” are among those, and “it occurs”. Replying to queries during a press briefing here at the CRPF Headquarters, Singh said, “CRPF immediately try to control terrorist incidents in Jammu and Kashmir soon after it gets inputs. These incidents are not totally controlled by internal terrorist people who are there. On many occasions, it is controlled by those sitting across the border and it is directed whom to be targeted or not.”

The CRPF DG reiterated that “some directions comes from foreign lands too”, and thus, “terrorist incidents some times increase and sometimes decrease” “It does not mean that things are out of hand…You can see that the incidents of stone-pelting are almost nil. There has been a sharp decline in the number of infiltration of foreign terrorists into Jammu and Kashmir. Sometimes, there is a spurt in terrorist incidents but it happens,” he said.

The officer informed that the CRPF has neutralized 175 terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir and apprehended 183 from March 1, 2021, to March 16, 2022.

Meanwhile, the CRPF has recovered 253 arms from Jammu and Kashmir and seized 7,541 ammunition as well as 96.38 kg explosives, 23 Improvised Explosive Device (IED), 232 grenades, and 36 detonators from the Union Territory, Singh said. Further, he informed that as many as 91 encounters have taken place from March 1, 2021, to March 16 this year. CRPF is the premier Central Armed Police Force (CRPF) entrusted with the responsibility of safeguarding the internal security of the country. It is deployed across the length and breadth of the country, assisting various state police in the discharge of their duties. CRPF is providing security cover to 117 protectees of various categories, he said adding that 32 women personnel have been inducted into the VIP Security Wing.

A total of 41 VIPs were provided security cover by the CRPF during recently concluded Assembly elections in five states, the DG said adding that the security of 27 protectees has been withdrawn post-elections. The CRPF chief also said that under financial assistance from the risk fund, ex-gratia for personnel martyred in action has been increased to Rs 30 lakhs from Rs 20 lakhs, and for all other cases, the ex-gratia has been increased to Rs 20 lakhs from Rs 15 lakhs.

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