Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Navy Chief defends anti-piracy action



Am off to Mumbai today. This is war.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Interview with Navy chief

I interviewed Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sureesh Mehta today on a whole host of topics, including piracy, the INS Tabar incident, the nuclear submarine programme, modernisation, pay commission and Vikramaditya. Will post from the interview tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Photos: INS Tabar pounds pirates (in a fishing trawler!)



The Indian Navy stealth frigate INS Tabar uses its A-190 100-mm canon to smash this pirate mothership to bits on the evening of 18 November, 385 nautical miles south-west of Salalah port in Oman. Congratulations to Capt Pradyut K Banerjee and the entire F44 crew! Shano Varun.

Photos Courtesy Indian Navy

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Profile of "that USAF Colonel"














NAME: FORNOF, TERRENCE

CALLSIGN: "SKINS"

CURRENT OFFICE: DIRECTOR, TESTING & REQUIREMENTS

WING: USAF WARFARE CENTER, NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, NV

AIRCRAFT: F-15C / TEST PILOT

UNDERGRADUATE PILOT TRAINING (UPT): 1984 COURSE-4, COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, MISSISSIPPI (see photo)

UNDERGRADUATE COLLEGE: UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA, NORMAN, OKLAHOMA, CLASS OF 1982

HIGH SCHOOL: VANDEBILT CATHOLIC HIGH SCHOOL, HOUMA, LOUISIANA, CLASS OF 1977

Top Photo: Fornof in 1984 undergoing training at Columbus AFB (USAF Photo)
Second Photo: Lt Col Les Gonzalez, the Nevada Air Guard chief of staff, prepares to plant a lemon meringue pie in the face of Col Terrence Fornof as part of the Top Three Council’s summer hangar party at the air base in Reno (Battle Born Photo)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

LiveFist Column: Vishnu Som first-hand on what really happened at Red Flag 08

Vishnu Som, Associate Editor and Senior Anchor at NDTV, was the only journalist from India at Red Flag 08, and in that sense, best placed to talk about what happened there. He sent us a very comprehensive comment to the last post on the leaked video controversy. Vishnu has allowed me to post his excellent comment here as a column. Thanks Vishnu!

For all of you who are out there in the internet world and who have an interest in the performance of the Indian Air Force at Red Flag 2008 .. I have a few remarks. As the only Indian journalist who spent a lengthy period of time at Nellis after being granted permission by both the Indian Air Force and the US Air Force, I was granted access to impeccable sources in both forces.

Whats more, I was able to independently corroborate this information with reliable, alternative sources. Several of the points I present here in the form of this post on the Bharat Rakshak forum will be compiled into an article which I will post on my company website ndtv.com. For those of you not familiar with the Indian media ... New Delhi Television (NDTV) is India's largest 24 hour news network and our website is one of the most viewed among news websites in the country. For the moment, I have decided not to do a television news report on this since I believe the contents of this post are too technical for a larger audience.

For starters ... and this cannot be stressed enough ... the Red Flag exercises were a brilliant learning experience for all the participants, not least of all the Indian Air Force which, over a period of time, has earned the reputation of being one of the world's finest operational air forces.

This was a reputation which was reinforced at Red Flag 2008, the world's most advanced air combat exercises where the Indian Air Force fielded a number of state of the art Sukhoi 30 MKI jets in addition to IL-76 transports and IL-78 mid air refuellers.

For other participants at the Red Flag exercises ... namely the South Korean Air Force, French and US Air Force ... the opportunity to train with a platform such as the Sukhoi 30 MKI was an opportunity which just couldn't be missed. This has a lot to do not just with the jet but also with the air force operating the fighter, a force which has made a mark as an innovative operator of fast jets.The US Air Force … the host of these exercises … was singularly gracious in its appreciation for the Indian Air Force contingent which came into Red Flag having trained extensively for the exercises not only back home but also at the Mountain Home Air Force base in the US.

Contrary to unsolicited remarks by certain serving US personnel not directly linked to day to day operations at the exercises … the Indian Air Force and its Su-30s more than made a mark during their stint in the United States.For starters … not a single Sukhoi 30 MKI fighter was `shot down’ in close air combat missions at the Mountain Home air base. In fact, none of the Sukhois were even close to being shot down in the 10 odd one on one sorties which were planned for the first two days of the exercises at Mountain Home. These one on one engagements featured USAF jets such as the F-15 and F-16 in close air engagements against the Su-30 MKI. The majority of the kills claimed in these engagements were granted to the Indian Air Force with the remainder of these being no-results. Indian Air Force Sukhois did use their famed thrust vectoring in these one on one engagements. Contrary to what may have been reported elsewhere … the Su-30 has a rate of turn of more than 35 degrees when operating in the thrust vector mode. In certain circumstances, this goes up substantially.

By the time the exercises at Mountain Home had matured … the Indian Air Force had graduated to large formation exercises which featured dozens of jets in the sky. In one of these exercises … the blue forces, of which the Indian Air Force was a part … shot down more than 21 of the enemy jets. Most of these `kills’ have been credited to the Indian Air Force.

By the time the Indian Air Force was ready for Red Flag, the contingent had successfully worked up using the crawl, walk, run principle. At Red Flag though, they found themselves at a substantial disadvantage vis a vis the other participants since they were not networked with AWACS and other platforms in the same manner in which USAF or other participating jets were. In fact, Indian Air Force Sukhois were not even linked to one another using their Russian built data links since American authorities had asked for specifics of the system before it was cleared to operate in US airspace. The IAF, quite naturally, felt that this would compromise a classified system onboard and decided to go on with the missions without the use of data links between the Sukhois.Neither was the Indian Air Force allowed to use chaff or flares, essential decoys to escape incoming missiles which had been fired by enemy jets. This was because the US FAA had visibility and pollution related concerns in the event that these were used in what is dense, busy air space in the Las Vegas region.

The Red Flag exercises themselves were based on large force engagements and did not see the Indian Air Force deploy thrust vectoring at all on any of the Sukhoi 30 jets not that this was required since the engagements were at long ranges.Though it is true that there were 4-5 incidents of fratricides involving the Indian Air Force at Red Flag … it is important to point out the following:In the debriefs that followed the exercises … responsibility for the fratricides were always put on the fighter controllers not the pilots. Its also important to point that unlike in Mountain Home, none of the Indian Air Force’s own fighter controllers were allowed to participate since there was classified equipment at Nellis used for monitoring the exercises. The lack of adequate controlling and the fact that Nellis fighter controllers often had problems understanding Indian accents (they had problems understanding French accents as well) resulted in a lack of adequate controlling in situations. Whats more … given the fact that the availability of AWACS was often low … the bulk of fratricides took place on days when the AWACS jet was not deployed. Whats important to remember though is that US participants in these exercises had a similar number of fratricides despite being fully linked in with data links and the latest IFF systems.

So was the Indian Air Force invincible at Red Flag. In a word … no. So yes, there were certainly days in which several Sukhoi jets were shot down. And there were others when they shot down many opposing jets. Ultimately though … the success of the Indian Air Force at Red Flag lay in the fact that they could meet their mission objectives as well, if not better, than any other participant. Despite the hot weather conditions, the IAF had a 95 per cent mission launch ratio, far better than some of the participants. And no one went into the exercises thinking the score line would be a perfect one in favour of the IAF. In fact … the IAF went into these exercises with an open mind and with full admiration of the world beating range at Nellis with an unmatched system of calibrating engagement results.Perhaps the most encouraging part of these exercises comes from the fact that the Indian Air Force’s young pilots … learnt from their mistakes, analysed, appreciated and came back strong. Mistakes were not repeated. In fact … the missions where the IAF did not fare well turned out to be immense learning experiences. At the end of the exercises … its more than clear that the IAF’s Su-30s were more than a match for the variants of the jets participating at the Red Flag exercises. Considering the fact that the central sensor of the Sukhoi, its radar … held up just fine in training mode …despite the barrage of electronic jamming augurs well for the Indian Air Force.

As for its young pilots … these are skills and experiences that they will take back to their squadrons … experiences which will be passed on to a whole new set of pilots who will come into the next set of exercises that much wiser.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

6thPC: Update on Lt Gen and HAG+

In the early November meeting between the three chiefs and Expenditure Secretary Sushama Nath, it is learnt that the chiefs kicked of the topic on the Lieutenant General pay scale by indicating that the status of a Lt Gen had remained completely inert for the last three decades, despite that the fact that Heads of Police had been constantly upgraded with each passing Pay Commission. 

At this point, it is learnt that the Expenditure Secretary placed on record that neither the 6thPC nor the government resolution had altered the existing position or status of the Lt Gen rank in relation to the DGP rank. A presentation was then made by the services side to illustrate the "constant erosion of status":
  • III CPC 
    (i) Police head in each state an IG, equal to a Maj Gen
    (ii) All Lt Gens were superior to head of police in the state

  • IV CPC
    (i) Created posts of DG Police in larger states with pay scales equal to a Lt Gen
    (ii) Also, ex-cadre posts of Addl DG Police were created in the scale of IG Police

  • V CPC
    (i) Encadred Addl DG Police and granted the same scale as a Lt Gen
    (ii) Also upgraded DG Police to a superior scale, that is, of Rs 24,050-26,000
    (iii) Smaller states granted posts of DG Police in higher scales
    (iv) Group of Officers was referred the issue of "restoration of status of Lt Gen", who referred the matter to the government

  • AVSC
    The Ajai Vikram Singh Committee also recommended extension of scale of DGP to Lt Gen

  • VI CPC
    (i) Services demand for restoration of status equation with DG Police not addressed by the CPC
    (ii) IPS demand for creation of posts of Spl DG Police was also not accepted

  • Government Resolution
    (i) One DGP per state however, placed in the apex scale of Rs 80,000 (fixed) with status of Secretary
    (ii) All of ther DGPs given a new higher scale of HAG+
This marked the end of the presentation. At this point, it is learnt that Army chief General Deepak Kapoor spoke about the "adverse impact" of the lower status of Lt Gens, particularly in areas where the Army was deployed in the counter-insurgency role, such as J&K and the North East -- areas where Corps Commanders are required to head unified command structures. It was also apparently indicated that the existing position of the Warrant of Precedence was that of Lt Gen in article 24, whereas the DGPs of state and central Paramilitary forces placed at a lower article 25.

At this juncture, the Expenditure Secretary is understood to have suggested that in future, officers would stagnate at the top of the scale in PB-4 long before their promotion to the three-star rank. In response, the chiefs indicated that a similar stagnation would also occur in the civil services -- and this could not from any angle be taken as a reason  for denying Lt Gens the HAG+ scale. General Kapoor  is understood to have re-emphasised at this point once more that the issue was not of monetary gains, but about status, particularly in the coordination of operations in J&K and the North East.

LiveFist Column: Preamble, Gamble, Scramble

By
AIR MARSHAL
Sharad Y Savur (Retd)
Former AOC-in-C
SOUTHERN AIR COMMAND

Let’s start with the Preamble. Many of us have perused the following and most of the Armed Forces (serving, retired, wise, foolish, knowledgeable and ignorant) have got it engraved in their hearts and minds after the Committee of Secretaries (CoS) made a mockery of a Govt constituted 6th Central Pay Commission and a fool of the GoI. The website reads that “Government constituted the Sixth Central Pay Commission vide Resolution No. 5/2/2006-E.III (A) dated October 5, 2006”. Its Terms of Reference were:

A. To examine the principles, the date of effect thereof that should govern the structure of pay, allowances and other facilities/benefits whether in cash or in kind to the following categories of employees -- Central Government employees -– industrial and non-industrial; Personnel belonging to the All India Services; Personnel belonging to the Defence Forces; Personnel of the Union Territories; Officers and employees of the Indian Audit and Accounts Department; and Members of the regulatory bodies (excluding the RBI) set up under Acts of Parliament.

B. To transform the Central Government Organisations into modern, professional and citizen-friendly entities that is dedicated to the service of the people.

C. To work out a comprehensive pay package for the categories of Central Government employees mentioned at (A) above that is suitably linked to promoting efficiency, productivity and economy through rationalization of structures, organizations, systems and processes within the Government, with a view to leveraging economy, accountability, responsibility, transparency, assimilation of technology and discipline.

D. To harmonize the functioning of the Central Government Organisations with the demands of the emerging global economic scenario. This would also take in account, among other relevant factors, the totality of benefits available to the employees, need of rationalization and simplification, thereof, the prevailing pay structure and retirement benefits available under the Central Public Sector Undertakings, the economic conditions in the country, the need to observe fiscal prudence in the management of the economy, the resources of the Central Government and the demands thereon on account of economic and social development, defence, national security and the global economic scenario, and the impact upon the finances of the States if the recommendations are adopted by the States.

E. To examine the principles which should govern the structure of pension, death-cum-retirement gratuity, family pension and other terminal or recurring benefits having financial implications to the present and former Central Government employees appointed before January 1, 2004.

F. To make recommendations with respect to the general principles,financial parameters and conditions which should govern payment of bonus and the desirability and feasibility of introducing Productivity Linked Incentive Scheme in place of the existing ad hoc bonus scheme in various Departments and to recommend specific formulae for determining the productivity index and other related parameters.

G. To examine desirability and the need to sanction any interim relief till the time the recommendations of the Commission are made and accepted by the Government.

An Additional Terms of Reference through a subsequent Resolution No.5/2/2006-E.III.(A) dated 8th August, 2007, the terms of reference were to include the officers and employees of the Supreme Court.

Came March 2008 and the SCPC (or 6th CPC) published its recommendations. Two things happened – the 6th CPC wound up and its Secretary became the Secretary in the Min of Finance. Presumably, the Gamble.

It was known that the recommendations of the 6th CPC would be sent to the Cabinet Secretary for processing. Again two things happened – the Cab Secy, a busy man even otherwise, delegated the work to a Committee of Secretaries (CoS) and the Govt got busy ensuring its own longevity by seeking to push through the Indo-US nuclear deal, making political deals of its own. Presumably, the omnipresent Secretary in the avatar of the Secretary, Expenditure sensed her opportunity. The scene - she already knows what is in the 600 odd pages report of the 6th CPC. So, the CoS entrusts the entire work to her.

Presumably, she knew that most Secretaries have enough in their hands (no pun) and on their minds than to peruse those pages. She also must have presumed that as long as P4 ( power, pelf, prestige and position) of the IAS was enhanced, there would be no questions asked and all signatures would be appended on the dotted lines.

Presumably, the gamble is that those slighted/downgraded would either be too busy fighting the insurgents or the terrorists (on behalf of the Central Police Organisations (CPOs) or undoing the negligence of the IAS in that cutely worded expression ‘aid to civil power’ (please note the terms coined by the IAS).

Presumably but unfortunately, the CoS, even the Secretary Expenditure, forgot something important. It was only in the days of the British Raj that Commissions in the Armed Forces were sold to those who could pay or bestowed on those whom the British favoured. It was not some professional organization – trained, responsible and accountable. CoS also forgot that the soldiers, sailors and airmen today are signifiethercantly better educated than they were 50 years ago. CoS also forgot, presumably in their blinkered pursuit of power at any cost, that the Chiefs of Army, Navy and Air Force always cooperate with each other in times of war. And this was war – of principles, for fairplay, for justice.

The gamble back-fired. Now, the Scramble.

The Govt won its battle in Parliament and the PM needed to blow his trumpet. Someone might have told him that showing the victory sign to TV cameras outside Parliament House was not adequate (“Sir, more than half of India cannot and does not own a TV set”). So from the ramparts of the Red Fort, Dr Manmohan Singh announced, amongst other things, that the recommendations of the Pay Commission have been approved by the Govt.

Maybe his PS was not aware of the facts. Semantics or grammatical or factual error that remains uncorrected till date is that the Govt approved the recommendations of the CoS. Technically, the recommendations of the 6th CPC were not accepted because many were overturned by the CoS. Many out there in the ether world must be muttering to themselves – we knew that this guy was an idiot, now does he have to prove it? But today’s mountain waves in the cybersphere (that’s not Bushism) prove me right!

If the Govt wanted the amendments recommended by the CoS to be incorporated then it should have re-convened the 6th CPC and asked it to re-examine and amend the recommendations. But the 6th CPC was wound up. So the nation has something but it is a hybrid – some recommendations of the 6th CPC and the rest changes made by the CoS to benefit themselves at the cost of everyone else – IPS, CPOs, IDAS, MES, AFHQS et al.

Which brings me to two questions – how can the recommendations of a legally constituted and gazetted 6th CPC be overturned or amended by the CoS? Can you imagine the Supreme Court’s judgment being amended by prison authorities?

The Armed Forces protested, but they did not stage a coup. That had been already done by the IAS led bureaucracy when a Cabinet Secretary, a super-bureaucrat, was set up in the 1970s, (but that and other things in another blog post).

Some learned and erudite gentleman, made editorial observations that appeared to draw inspiration from these rumours. He used the example of setting up war memorials as his respect for the Armed Forces. How ironical that a living issue was compared to dead heroes! How much is being done for war widows, their children, even disabled veterans could have been a better example and even my cynical heart would have missed a beat.

In their true role as the guardians of the Sovereignty of India’s borders, seas and skies, the Armed Forces paid yet another tribute to the Father of the Nation (the supreme apostle of non-violence, non-cooperation and protestor on behalf of the oppressed) who lost his life for the Nation. The Chiefs of the Armed Forces (embodiment of violence?) took lessons from Mahatma Gandhi.

The Armed Forces Chiefs followed the chain of command and communications in expressing their opinions substantiated with proof backed by lucid and logical arguments. They informed the Raksha Mantri. He took up their case.

To believe that RM was either incompetent (as that editor made it out to be) or ignorant is to write the ridiculous. AK Antony is trusted enough to discipline errant Congressmen and women. So would he, as RM, have acquiesced to what the Chiefs were doing if they were wrong?

Temporarily blinded by their “brilliance” and bereft of that invincibility in the glare of TV cameras, the bureaucracy now scrambles to save itself in the way it knows how. It spreads rumours or inspired leaks that the Chiefs had disobeyed the Govt.

How and what did the Chiefs disobey? MoD had not released orders for implementing the recommendations of the CoS and not even the recommendations of the 6th CPC. So what were the Chiefs disobeying? Have they not read that there are sections in the Armed Forces Acts that one can represent against illegal orders? Did the IAS expect the Armed Forces to believe that the CoS recommendations are those of the 6th CPC?

Are the Central Police Organizations (CPOs) really casting their lines and fishing in troubled waters? Or is that another Nathism? The Armed Forces don’t say that the IAS got this, so give us the same. The Armed Forces say loudly, clearly “DON’T OVERTURN THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE 6th CPC AND SUPPLANT IT WITH Nathism”. Jai Hind.

(Air Marshal Savur retired in 2006 as AOC-in-C, Southern Air Command. A decorated transport pilot, Air Marshal Savur has flown several VIPs, including former PMs Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. He now lives and works near Bangalore.)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

6thPC: Update on placing of Lt Col in PB-4

In the early November meeting between Expenditure Secretary Sushama Nath and the three service chiefs, a presentation was made by the services side stressing on the "historical equations" between a Lt Col and NFSG pay scales back from the 3rdPC. It was also indicated during the presentation that fitment for Lt Cols given by the 6thPC was equal to S-25 and higher than S-24 scales, based on existing scales.

The chiefs pointed to the iniquity thereby introduced between Lt Col and Superintendent Engineers and Commandants in the Paramilitary Forces since the latter had a pre-revised scale of Rs 14,300-18,300 as against a Lt Col who had a pre-revised scale of Rs 15,100-18,700. The chiefs made it a point to emphasise that Lt Cols, though superior in scales, are "functionally on par with Supdt Engrs". Therefore, they said, there was no reason why a Lt Col must not be accomodated in Payband-4, especially when civil counterparts with inferior scales had been moved into that payband.

Army chief General Deepak Kapoor and Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta then spoke about the "functional problems" in the Army apropos Assam Rifles and Central Paramiliary Forces, and between the Navy and the Coast Guard respectively with regard to command and control issues. They pointed out that as civil officers who were inferior in pay scales to Lt Col, they had been granted higher pay band and grades pay than a Lt Col and, in fact, equal to a Colonel.

Once the presentation was finished, Expenditure Secretary Sushama Nath said that the arugments about Rank Pay discussed earlier "equally apply in this case". She also said that the services viewpoint on Rank Pay would be conveyed to Pranab Mukherjee.

Next, she mentioned that were standing objections from the Paramilitary Forces against placing Lt Cols in PB-4. According to sources, Army chief General Deepak Kapoor almost lost his cool at this stage. With visible irritation, he is understood to have said that such an attitude was negative and the Paramiltiary forces had no business commenting on the legitimate requirements of the armed forces. Mentioning the "incorrect and misleading" equation of Lt Col with Second-in-Command of the CPMFs, Gen Kapoor further stressed that replacement scales had to be determined on pre-revised scales as had been done by successive pay commissions and not based on appointments/ranks/posts/badges of rank etc. This part of the meeting was rounded off with Admiral Mehta saying that there was no option before the government but to place Lt Cols in PB-4.

Photo by Shiv Aroor / LiveFist / Pranab Mukherjee and then COAS Gen JJ Singh in Pokhran, 2005

Friday, November 14, 2008

6thPC: Update on Military Service Pay (MSP)

In the early November meeting (see previous post) between Expenditure Secretary Sushama Nath and the three service chiefs, Ms Nath stated that "rank pay now forms part of the MSP". The chiefs, backed by DG (MP&PS) Lt Gen VK Chaturvedi, Chairman PARC Rear Admiral S.A. O'Leary and ACAS Accounts Air Vice Mshl Baldev Singh argued that Military Service Pay (MSP) was meant to be "compensation for the intangible disadvantages of military life experienced by Services personnel over their entire career". They further added that MSP was a new pay element, and was totally de-linked from the pre-revised pay structure. It was because of this that no arrears had been paid on the MSP, the chiefs indicated, and therefore for the bureaucracy to use it "as an edge or as a replacement of rank pay" was incorrect.

According to sources, Ms Nath then indicated that "all ranks are beneficiaries of MSP". The Chiefs told her that in the case of a Lt Col, even considering MSP, his total emoluments were lower by roughly Rs 5,000 in comparison to a civil officer who was drawing les than him in the pre-revised payscale regime.

At this point, Gen Deepak Kapoor emphasised that their concerns stretched beyond the monetary benefits that were implied. He said it was primarily "a question of status and esteem". He added that if rank pay was to be withdrawn, it should be merged back into scale where it originally belonged and nowhere else. He indicated that using MSP as compensation implied nullifying the intended benefits of the revised pay scales.

P.S. In response to one of the commenters -- it's true that pensionary benefits for PBORs have been reinstated, so it's down to three core armed forces demands. All three continue to hang fire. Watch Headlines Today and stay tuned for updates.

6thPC: Update on the Rank Pay showdown

At the beginning of this month, the three Chiefs met with Expenditure Secretary Sushama Nath to discuss the four core demands of the armed forces. Nath later briefed Pranab Mukherjee on this meeting.

Anyway, during the meeting between Nath and the three chiefs, the definition of Rank Pay came up. She indicated that there had been a Cabinet decision in 2000 which stated that Rank Pay did not form part of Basic Pay. In response, the Chiefs told her that if such a decision had indeed been taken, then the affected party, i.e. the services, were neither consulted nor made a party to the decision. And that even if such a decision had been taken, the Services Instructions issued by the MoD were not amended, adding that amendment of Service Instructions was a mandatory requirement, since it involved restructuring of the pay of service officers.

The contents of the GoI letter of 2000 (which Nath was referring to) with regard to Rank Pay were scrutinised during the meeting. It emerged that the contents of the letter were "entirely in consonance" with what the Chiefs were saying. The 2000 letter says "Rank Pay will be taken into account for determining their entitlements to such of those financial benefits, concessions, etc, including retirement benefits as are directly related to the basic pay or their pay scales."

Will be reporting more about this meeting on my channel shortly. Timings will be posted ahead.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Photos: INS Tabar saves MV Jag Arnav from pirate action!



Photos Courtesy Indian Navy

Photos: Indian Navy prays for INS Vikramaditya (last resort!)

The Sevmash shipyard's publicist Anastasia Nikitinskaya writes about a function at the shipyard yesterday. Hilarious language: 

The Indians asked God for happy fortune for the aircraft-carrier which is soon going to be launched. One of the most important stages of repair and re-equipment of
Vikramaditya cruiser (former Admiral Gorshkov) is coming to the end. The Sevmash specialists are getting ready to undock the ship, all the works required already finished. The representatives of the Indian Navy WOT, held a ceremony before the operation starts, with prayers offered up to Lord Ganesha. It is the first time for Sevmash: lamps, fragrant sticks, fruit and flowers were put near the Ship, for Ganesha to be gracious to the aircraft carrier and to those serving onboard. Instead of the traditional bottle of champagne, a coconut was broken against the ship board, and all the guests were treated with fruits.

"We hope that this beautiful and reliable ship will serve for a long time for the greater glory of friendship between Russia and India," said Sevmash Director General Nikolay Kalistratov. "But in the first place our leaders are to come to an agreement and find the means to carry the work to its conclusion." The Ship is getting ready for launching, and in the picture which was given to the Indian colleagues as a keepsake the aircraft-carrier is already furrowing the seas.

That last comment by the Sevmash Director is hilarious. Trust the Russians to be all sombre and ironic even at a felicitation ritual! Some nerve. Oh well, here's hoping the coconut does its job.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Photos: K-15 programme's Shourya test-fired

A successful land-configured launch under DRDO's K-15 SLBM programme took place today as DRDO today conducted a test of what it described as a "new state-of-the-art canisterised surface-to-surface missile" Shourya with a range of 650-km. Sources however have said that the land-configured test was a continuation of the previous four tests from underwater stabilised launchers conducted over 2007 and this year.

The DRDO has termed as "successful" the flight-test of the missile system from the Interim Test Range (ITR) at Balasore in Orissa at 11.25 this morning. DRDO indicated in a statement that "this developmental flight trial of the Shourya missile system is a part of the ongoing technology development work undertaken by the DRDO." In other words, the classified K-15 submarine launched ballistic missile programme which DRDO cannot talk about, which is why the recent underwater tests from underwater pontoon-stabilised launchers were not publicised.

According to DRDO, "The Shourya missile has a unique feature of simplicity of operation and maintenance. It can be easily handled, transported and stored within the canister for longer shelf life [a la SLBM]. The high manoeuvrability of the missile makes it less vulnerable to available anti-missile defence systems."

Congratulations to the entire K-15 team!

Photos Courtesy DRDO

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Photos: Air India One


That's Air India-1, the one the PM flies abroad in. Phone photos, so don't jump down my throat for quality.

The PM's Answer

Wasn't expecting much of an answer from the PM, but I put the question to him nevertheless on the return flight from Qatar at dawn today. I asked him if his government had any plans of addressing the clear and present disenchantment in the armed forces over the 6th Pay Commission. He said, "I have constituted a committee under Shri Pranab Mukherjee, which also includes the Defence Minister. The committee is looking into it."

Monday, November 10, 2008

A minute for the 21 who died

Amidst all the parochial clamour about "no Indian casualties" and how India will now pay more for the submarine, there's still the terrible tragedy of 21 Russian sailors and technicians who died a painful death inside Chakra. A minute for them, if you please.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Off to the Gulf

Leaving for a three-day trip to Oman and Qatar as part of the Prime Minister's press entourage. Among a lot else, Dr Singh is expected to sign a defence and maritime security cooperation agreement with Qatar during the visit. If the opportunity presents itself on the return flight -- and it's unlikely that it will -- I will try asking the PM whether the government plans to do anything at all about the 6th Pay Commission mess. Will try posting about the pact with Doha from there. Otherwise, next post Tuesday. Have a slick weekend...

Thursday, November 06, 2008

6thPC Update: Veterans to meet Yechury, Pranab, Antony

A delegation of ex-Servicemen will meet CPI(M) politburo member Sitaram Yechury tomorrow (November 7) at noon at AKG Bhavan to brief him about the overall concerns serving and retired officers of the armed forces have over the entire 6th Pay Commission imbroglio. UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, who seems to be a little wary about associating too directly with veterans so close to the elections (is she afraid they'll manage to extract a promise from her?) has had Tourism Minister Ambika Soni be the pointsperson for all interactions. Through Soni, the UPA chairperson has recommended that the delegation also meet the Group of Ministers (instituted in September to look into the anomalies in the 6th Pay Commission as set forth by the services chiefs) members Pranab Mukherjee and AK Antony on November 11.

Had the pleasure of meeting Lt Gen Raj Kadyan this evening after a long time -- he was in our studios for a discussion on the Lt Col Srikant Purohit arrest issue.

EXCLUSIVE Photos: The NAL Saras on October 25

Last batch of photos from the October 25 HAL air display. The controversial Saras.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

EXCLUSIVE Photos: The HAL-built Hawk AJT on October 25

Tomorrow: Exclusive photos of the NAL Saras to wrap up the October 25 air show photo series. I realise there's been a slight overkill of photo posts, but I don't think anyone's really complaining. Another update on the 6th Pay Commission tomorrow.

EXCLUSIVE Photos: The Intermediate Jet Trainer on Oct 25