The Navy, looking for a replacement of its single-engine carrier-borne fighter, the Sea Harrier, engaged with the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) in the early 90s, to see if the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) being developed for the Air Force could be adapted for carrier operations. The feasibility study indicated that with some modifications it was possible. It included strengthening of undercarriage for higher sink rate during flare-less landing on the carrier, reduction in landing speed to keep it within the limits of the arrester gear system, fitment of an arrester hook and supporting structure design, over-the-nose vision during approach and controllability of the aircraft during take-off after ramp exit. A naval team was positioned at ADA in 1994 to assist the designers and be an interface between the user and the development agency.
Post a detailed study, encompassing the Project Definition Phase and Pre-Project Phase, government sanction for the LCA Navy project was given in 2003. The ‘Full-Scale Engineering Development (FSED)’ included the production of two prototype LCA Navy aircrafts, one trainer and one fighter and a Shore Based Test Facility (SBTF), for conducting aircraft trials of ski-jump takeoffs and arrested landings ashore. The core issue was for the Tejas to demonstrate the capability to safely operate from the carrier. The timeline for completion of FSED including Carrier Compatibility Testing(CCT) was 2009. The tight timeline of six years from the production of aircraft to completion of testing with a minuscule number of aircraft indicated that the design change envisaged was minimal.
Early in the naval programme, it became evident that the heavier than anticipated design would result in a shortfall in meeting operational requirements. To meet mission parameters from onboard the aircraft carrier, the LCA Navy required an engine with greater thrust. A second government approval through Government sanction for Full-Scale Engineering Development 2(FSED-2) was given in 2009. This envisaged production of two additional fighters (NP3, NP4), with a new more powerful engine, called the LCA Navy Mark
The production and proving of the Mark 2 aircraft was to be completed by 2018. The approval also extended the FSED 1 (Mark 1 production, test flying and CCT) timelines by five years to 2014, as the LCA Navy Mk1 programme was running behind schedule, with the first aircraft yet to be produced.
Running a developmental naval fighter programme with just two aircrafts to prove Carrier Compatibility is challenging. Any adverse event leading to the downtime of the aircraft could delay timelines. The Navy had therefore sought the build of additional aircraft in 2009 itself. The ADA General Body Meetings during 2010 and 2011, chaired by the Raksha Mantri, agreed that the two Mk1 prototypes were grossly inadequate. Three more Mark 1 prototypes, a twin-seater trainer (NP-5) and two single-seater fighters (NP-6 and NP-7) were recommended for production.
The LCA Navy Mark 1 thus became a technology demonstrator programme to prove the aircraft design capable of safe operation from aircraft carriers. It would be the LCA Navy Mark 2 that would be inducted into the Navy for operational deployment. As there was no limitation for shore-based operations, the Mark 1 aircraft could be utilised from ashore.
With the larger LCA Air Force programme seeing serious slippages, it had an adverse fall-out on the naval programme, as largely the same agencies were involved. It required significant effort, across all levels, to ensure the progress of the LCA Navy programme from the shadow of the larger LCA Air Force programme. The first Tejas Navy Mark 1(NP1) had its first flight in April 2012. The performance parameters were on expected lines. With this one aircraft, flight tests for the naval LCA programme commenced.
The core issue was safe operations of the Tejas Navy from the deck, for which take-off and landing trials would first require to be carried out from ashore. With the ski-jump portion of the SBTF readied, the first significant test would be its performance during a ski- jump take-off. The aircraft structure faces significant stress while accelerating for take-off from the 14 degrees curved ski-jump ramp. As the aircraft exits the ski-jump at lower than the stall speed, till the aircraft becomes fully wing-borne, aircraft controllability is a central concern. The ski-jump take-off was successfully demonstrated on NP1 in December 2014 at Naval Air Station, Goa. A single LCA Navy aircraft had been the mainstay for such a large and complicated development programme. It was finally joined by the second aircraft, NP2, a single-seat fighter built to near-production standards, in February 2015, when it did its first sortie.
The Tejas Navy was planned to fly alongside the Mig 29K from the deck and complement its capability with a substantial number planned for induction. The Navy had, right from the inception of the LCA Navy programme, provided steadfast support with manpower, materiel and funding. In 2016, the Navy for reasons of the inability of the on design-board LCA Navy Mark 2 aircraft to meet operational parameters, terminated its plan to induct the aircraft in Service. This development was a major setback. It was later clarified that while the Navy would not induct the LCA Navy into Service, it would continue to support its development. Notwithstanding, with no concrete end other than proving of design, has an adverse impact, and it was seen in the further slow-down of pace.
The LCA Navy programme running way behind schedule had yet not cleared Carrier Compatibility Testing, as it had yet to be tested for arrested landing ashore. After due checks and work-up, the first ‘arrested landing’ ashore at the SBTF at Goa was finally demonstrated in September 2019. Soon thereafter, on 11 January 2020, the aircraft carried out the first arrested landing on Vikramaditya successfully. This was followed by 18 launches and recoveries from Vikramaditya in a matter of days. The final frontier for the naval programme, operating the LCA Navy from the deck of an aircraft carrier, had been accomplished. The Defence Minister rightly called it “a great event in the history of Indian fighter aircraft development programme.” India had joined the ranks of few countries capable of designing and building a naval fighter, capable of operating from aircraft carriers.
All who have flown the Tejas Navy have vouched for its excellent flying characteristics. The aircraft design had been validated and it has a creditable flying record with zero accidents in the most testing of trials, exhibiting the professionalism and competence of the design, manufacturing, and testing teams. A noteworthy aspect is this capability was proven with only two aircrafts. The other three Mark 1 aircrafts have not been produced to date. The LCA Navy has also exhibited its flying capability and manoeuvrability during Defexpo 2016 and Aero India 2017.
With the Navy rejecting the LCA Navy Mark 2 for induction and having re-defined operational requirements, the LCA Navy programme has been reduced to a technology demonstrator. ADA has commenced work on designing the new naval fighter, nicknamed the Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF), which, as per media reports, would be flying by 2026.
The lingering question is, have the aims of the LCA Navy programme been achieved and should the programme need to wound up? While the LCA Navy has demonstrated that it can safely operate from the deck, the full envelope for operations from the deck has yet, not been proven or established for the aircraft. This is essential to be undertaken, to ensure that the design is robust and has catered for full operating conditions. It is only then that the aircraft design can truly be called proven. Secondly, user evaluation is important and would bring out many practical issues concerning operations and maintenance aspects. The learnings from the above activities would benefit the follow-on naval fighter programme and could be factored in the design stage itself. It is therefore important that impetus on the Tejas Navy programme be maintained.
ADA must put in place a carrier flight testing schedule, in liaison with the Navy, aiming to complete it within a year. On completion, the aircraft should be given to the Navy for flying operations and user evaluation. The Naval Flight Test Squadron at Goa could operate and assess the aircraft, both ashore and from the aircraft carrier. The Navy has committed to supporting the LCA Navy project. It must, along with its share of funding, provide a small team of flight and maintenance crew to progress further trials. The programme is on the final leg of learning and it should be taken forward to its logical conclusion.
The LCA programme has been a saga of contradictions — of technical issues, huge time overruns, as also of great achievement and satisfaction. It has overcome many technological challenges and matured our design and aircraft production capabilities. Induction of over 100 LCA aircrafts by the Air Force is a matter of great satisfaction and shows user confidence. The LCA Navy has proven the technology, but due to a shortfall in meeting some aspects of mission requirements, has not been accepted by the Navy. All agencies should now work with an even greater focus to ensure that the new naval fighter under design, meets user requirements and is inducted into service. It is the basis on which Naval Aviation can play a significant role in furthering the Prime Minister’s vision of an Aatmanirbhar Bharat.
The author is a former naval fighter pilot with extensive flying experience on aircraft carriers
The Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) programme has been a saga of contradictions — of technical issues, huge time overruns, as also of great achievement and satisfaction. It has overcome many technological challenges and matured our design and aircraft production capabilities. Induction of over 100 LCA aircrafts by the Air Force is a matter of great satisfaction and shows user confidence.
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SWARNIM VIJAY VARSH CELEBRATIONS AT RASHTRIYA RIFLES SECTOR HEADQUARTERS
NEW DELHI: The Swarnim Vijay Varsh Victory Flame after having entered the serene Kashmir Valley through the Navyug Tunnel on Tuesday, continued its journey and made its way to Anantnag City, also known as the ‘Land of Infinite Springs’. The Victory flame was received by Commanding Officer of Rashtriya Rifles Battalion, Wuzur and travelled to Khanabal, Anantnag via Mir Bazar, Khudwani and Wampoh and reached Rashtriya Rifles Sector Headquarter, Khanabal.
The flame was received with tremendous fervour by school children, local youth, 13 Veer Naris, 55 ex-servicemen, personnel from Security Forces & Law Enforcement Agencies and many other civilian dignitaries from the local administration. Thereafter, the Victory Flame was escorted through the Khanabal Junction, proudly carried by military personnel & civilians alike before entering the Khanabal Military Garrison. Later, the Victory Flame was handed over to the Commander, Sector Rashtriya Rifles, Khanabal at the War Memorial. Wreaths were laid to pay homage to the unsung War Heroes, by the visiting dignitaries, including Mr Hilal Ahmed Shah, Mayor Anantnag, Mr Ghulam Hussain Sheikh, IAS, Additional DC Anantnag, Mr Imtiyaz Hussain Mir, SSP Anantnag, Mr DP Upadhyay, DIG CRPF, Mr Abdul Jabbar, IPS, DIG (South Kashmir) and Commander Sector Rashtriya Rifles, Khanabal, followed by a ceremonial Guard of Honour. Post the solemn event, the celebrations continued with cultural performances by school children and local artists, followed by the felicitation of Veer Naris, Veer Matas & veterans by the dignitaries present.
CHINA’S NEW BRI: BRIDE RESUPPLY INITIATIVE
China is facing a mammoth problem due to a huge gender imbalance, with the male population exceeding the female population by more than 30 million, as per the data from China’s National Bureau of Statistics. The imbalance in the post-2000s and population of marriageable age have become incrementally vicious & even more urgent.
In 2020, the sex ratio of the total population in China was 105.302 males per 100 females as per data provided by Statistic Times. In total, there are 738,247,340 or 738.25 million males and 701,076,434 or 701.08 million females in China. The percentage of the female population is 48.71 percent compared to 51.29 percent male population.
The most influential factor behind such skewed figures has been the erstwhile infamous “one-child” policy of China from 1979 to 2015, which prompted many parents to decide that their sole child must be a boy. Though China reversed it in 2016 to allow families to have two children as fears grew about the country’s fast-ageing population and shrinking workforce, the change has not yet resulted in a baby boom, with Chinese women often delaying or avoiding childbirth and young couples blaming rising costs and insufficient policy support for families.
China now has a huge, and growing, gender gap among the generations most likely to be seeking a spouse—a bride shortage. As on date there are around 35 million males more than females and this figure is expected to grow by almost 5% every year (as per present sex ratio), meaning that China will have more than 50 million ‘Extra Men’ within next five years. Experts project that many of these extra men will never marry; others may go to extreme measures to do so. The difficulty that these Chinese men now face in finding wives, combined with a lack of protections in China, is driving a brutal business of selling women and girls from neighbouring countries.
BRIDE RESUPPLY INITIATIVE
It has emerged that agents in China and Pakistan have used the garb of CPEC to literally kidnap girls from lower socio-economic backgrounds, especially from minority communities such as Christians, Hindus and marry them off to Chinese men. US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Samuel Brownback during a statement in Dec 2020 mentioned this as one of the reasons for designating Pakistan as a country of particular concern (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act.
Most of these Pakistani brides are given inflated information about the socio-economic status of these Chinese grooms which turns out to be false. These women and girls are typically tricked by brokers who promise well-paid employment across the border in China. Once in China, they find themselves at the mercy of the brokers, who sell them for around $3,000 to $13,000 to Chinese families. Once purchased they may be held prisoner and pressured to produce babies as quickly as possible. Similar stories have been documented by journalists and researchers in some other countries too like Cambodia, North Korea, Myanmar, and Vietnam, among others, although on a relatively smaller scale.
As part of the Belt and Road Initiative’s China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, Pakistan received a $ 62-billion infrastructural investment package to develop major works, from roads to power plants. Quite naturally, the Pak government has sought to curtail investigations, putting “immense pressure” on officials from the Federal Investigation Agency pursuing trafficking networks fearing such efforts could sour relationships with the country’s all weather ally- China, says Saleem Iqbal, a Christian activist who has helped parents rescue several young girls from China and prevented others from being sent there. Other countries with trafficked brides face similar asymmetrical power and economic relationships with China, and analysts doubt these nations will discuss difficult topics like action against bride trafficking in negotiations with their powerful neighbour.
The Chinese government’s main response for many years seemed to be simply to ignore growing allegations about authorities’ complicity in these crimes. But the problem is becoming too big to ignore; the government’s stonewalling is gradually being replaced by a mixture of criminal justice and propaganda responses, neither of which get to the real issue of gender discrimination.
As per experts’ calculations, it will take about 50 to 60 years to slowly resolve the gender imbalance formed 20 to 30 years ago if some concrete steps are taken today. Well, while that might be true, Xi Jinping does not need to bother much having a sidekick like Pakistan under his thumb. With a sinking economy, ever rising pile of debts with some requiring immediate payback and the FATF sword looming on is neck since ages, Pakistan is left with very little choice other than complying with the Chinese demands even if that’s at the cost of its daughters.
AT ASEAN DEFENCE MINISTERS’ MEETING, RAJNATH SINGH CALLS FOR AN OPEN AND INCLUSIVE ORDER IN INDO-PACIFIC
NEW DELHI: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh called for an open and inclusive order in Indo-Pacific based upon respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of nations while addressing the 8th ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting (ADMM) Plus on Wednesday. The ADMM Plus is an annual meeting of Defence Ministers of 10 ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries and eight dialogue partner countries – Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Russia and the United States. Brunei is the Chair of the ADMM Plus forum this year.
Rajnath Singh also stressed on “peaceful resolutions of disputes through dialogue and adherence to international rules and laws.” “India has strengthened its cooperative engagements in the Indo-Pacific based on converging visions and values for promotion of peace, stability and prosperity in the region. Premised upon the centrality of ASEAN, India supports utilisation of ASEAN-led mechanisms as important platforms for implementation of our shared vision for the Indo-Pacific”, he added. During thematic discussions on regional and international security environment, Rajnath Singh put forth India’s views before the Defence Ministers of ASEAN countries and eight dialogue partners. He stressed that the emerging challenges to international peace and security cannot be addressed with outdated systems designed to deal with trials of the past.
The Raksha Mantri reiterated India’s support to freedom of navigation, over-flight and unimpeded commerce for all in international waters in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). “Maritime security challenges are a concern to India. The Sea lanes of Communication are critical for peace, stability, prosperity and development of the Indo-Pacific region,” he stressed. The Raksha Mantri hoped that the Code of Conduct negotiations will lead to outcomes keeping with international law and do not prejudice the legitimate rights and interests of nations that are not party to these discussions.
On the ‘Act East Policy’, announced by Prime Minister Narender Modi in November 2014,Rajnath Singh stated that the key elements of the policy aim to promote economic cooperation, cultural ties and develop strategic relationships with countries in the Indo-Pacific region through continuous engagement at bilateral, regional and multilateral levels. Terming terrorism and radicalisation as gravest threats to world peace and security, Rajnath Singh called for collective cooperation to fully disrupt terror organisations and their networks; identify the perpetrators and hold them accountable and ensure that strong measures are taken against those who support and finance terrorism and provide sanctuary to terrorists. As a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), he said India remains committed to combat financing of terrorism.
To deal with cyber threats, the Raksha Mantri called for a multi-stakeholder approach, guided by democratic values, with a governance structure that is open and inclusive and a secure, open and stable internet with due respect to sovereignty of countries, that would drive the future of cyberspace. On the most recent challenge faced by the world, COVID-19, Rajnath Singh said the effect of the pandemic is still unfolding and the test, therefore, is to make sure that the world economy moves on the path of recovery and no one is left behind. This is only possible if entire humanity is vaccinated, he stated. “Globally available patent free vaccines, unhindered supply chains and greater global medical capacities are some of the lines of effort that India has suggested for a combined effort,” he highlighted.
Referring to the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations, the Raksha Mantri stated that India remains one of the first to respond in times of distress in the immediate as well as extended neighbourhood. As a founding member of the Heads of Asian Coast Guard Agencies Meeting (HACGAM), India seeks to enhance capacity building through collaboration in the areas of Maritime Search & Rescue, he added. Rajnath Singh also underscored the importance India attaches to ASEAN centrality and unity in ensuring peace and stability in the region. He said India shares a deep connect with ASEAN and has continued its active engagement in many areas contributing to regional peace and stability, particularly through ASEAN led mechanisms, such as East Asia Summit, ASEAN Regional Forum and ADMM-Plus. The India-ASEAN strategic partnership has been strengthened by virtue of flourishing cultural and civilisational links and enhanced people-to-people cooperation, he added. The Raksha Mantri thanked Brunei for conducting the ADMM Plus despite the restrictions imposed by COVID-19. Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar and Chief of Integrated Defence Staff to the Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee (CISC) Vice Admiral Atul Kumar Jain and other senior officials of Ministry of Defence and Ministry of External Affairs attended the meeting.
INSPECTOR GENERAL M.V. PATHAK TAKES OVER AS THE COMMANDER OF COAST GUARD REGION NORTH EAST
Inspector General MV Pathak took over as the Regional Commander, Coast Guard Region North East, Kolkata from Inspector General AK Harbola on Monday. Inspector General Pathak is an alumnus of the US Coast Guard Academy, Connecticut, having undergone the IMO Course from this academy.
During his illustrious career of more than three decades, Inspector General Pathak has commanded all classes of Coast Guard Ships. The shore appointments held by the flag officer include Chief of Staff to Coast Guard Commander (Western Seaboard) Mumbai, Commander Coast Guard (Kerala and Mahe), Principal Director (Administration), and Director (Manpower, Recruitment and Training) at Coast Guard Headquarters, New Delhi.
Before taking over the reins of Coast Guard Region North East, Inspector General Pathak was the Regional Commander, Coast Guard Region (Andaman & Nicobar) at Port Blair for three years. The flag officer is a recipient of the ‘Tatrakshak Medal’. Inspector General Maneesh Pathak on taking over said that his priority will be strengthening the Coastal Security mechanism through coordination with all State and Central Agencies and to make the seas safe for all fishermen and seafarers. He further added that the Indian Coast Guard is committed to in motto “Vayam Rakshamah” which means “We Protect”.
INDIAN ARMY CONDUCTS RAIL TRIALS ON DEDICATED FREIGHT CORRIDOR
The recently developed “Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC)” by the Indian Railways provides faster movement of freight across the Country. The Indian Army, on Monday, conducted a successful trial by moving a military train loaded with vehicles and equipment from New Rewari to New Phulera validating the efficacy of the DFC. The intricate and synchronised coordination by the Indian Army with Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India Ltd (DFCCIL) and Indian Railways will significantly enhance the mobilisation capability of the Armed Forces. These trials were part of the “Whole of the Nation Approach” for optimising national resources and achieve seamless synergy among various ministries and departments.
Interactions by the Indian Army with all stakeholders including DFCCIL and Indian Railways will now assist in leveraging the DFC and allied infrastructure into the mobilisation matrix of Armed Forces. Development of infrastructure at certain locations to support mobilisation and trials to validate move of defence owned rolling stock on Roll On-Roll Off (RO-RO) service is being formalised and modalities are being evolved. These trials herald the first step in this process to pave the way for enhancing the operational readiness of the Armed Forces. This initiative would set in place processes to ensure that military requirements are dovetailed in the national infrastructure development at the planning stage itself.
NORTHERN ARMY COMMANDER FELICITATES ‘VEER NARIS’ AND WAR HEROES OF 1971 INDIA-PAK WAR
NEW DELHI: Lt Gen YK Joshi, GOC-in-C, Northern Command laid a wreath to Swarnim Vijay Mashaal and paid tributes to fallen heroes at the Warrior’s Grove War Memorial, Crossed Swords Division, Akhnoor as a part of Swarnim Vijay Varsh celebrations. The Army Commander accompanied by Lt Gen MV Suchindra Kumar, GOC White Knight Corps was briefed on the saga and valour of gallant soldiers of Indian Armed Forces during the 1971 Indo-Pak War. A documentary on the 1971 Indo-Pak War was screened for the audience.
The General officer felicitated Veer Naris and war heroes of the 1971 Indo Pak war at Akhnoor. The GOC-in-C, a war hero and Vir Chakra awardee, appreciated the veterans for their invaluable services for the motherland. He also expressed deep gratitude for the sacrifices of the Veer Naris. Lt Gen YK Joshi, GOC-in-C, Northern Command interacted with all veterans and Veer Naris following Covid protocol. He expressed gratitude and acknowledged the contributions of the populace of Jammu & Kasmir who have played a pivotal role during various operations. He assured Veer Naris and veterans of full support at all times as was extended during the Covid pandemic. He motivated them to take maximum benefits from the facilities rendered by the Indian Army at their doorstep including Covid Care Facilities, Covid vaccination, Covid preventive measures, and government schemes, etc.
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