Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Second User trial of Agni III next month

In a bid to make the 3000-km range nuclear capable ballistic missile Agni-III fully operational, Indian Army is readying for the second user associate trial of the weapon from a defence base off the Odisha coast next month.

Preparation is on at the Wheeler Island test facility from where the missile has been scheduled to be test-fired in a real time situation on December 18. This will be sixth test of the missile which defence sources said, was all set to go for bulk production after the trial.

After four developmental trials in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2010, this ‘China Specific’ missile was inducted in the Armed Forces in June 2011. While the maiden trial of the missile was a failure, on the rest three occasions, the missile performed as expected. Its first user trial on September 21 last year was also a copy book success.

While the Strategic Forces Command (SFC), a specially raised missile-handling unit of the Indian Army will carry out the test, DRDO will provide all logistic support to track and monitor the missile’s flight path. The test will reconfirm the technical parameters set for the user associate launch and check the Army’s readiness to use it.

A defence scientist said the missile had been successfully test-fired four times in last six years making it full proof proven missile. “The technologies incorporated in the missile system and software have also performed as expected. After a couple of more user associate trials, the missile will be made fully operational,” he said.

After Agni-III trial, the DRDO has scheduled to conduct third trial of 4000-km range Agni-IV. Even as India adopts a clear-cut ‘no-first-use’ doctrine, it has an active credible nuclear deterrence and is well capable of its own defence with weapons like Agni series missiles, interceptors capable of destroying enemy missiles in both exo and endo atmospheric region, submarine and ship launched ballistic missiles besides a few short range and medium range surface-to-surface and air-to-air missiles.

Agni III is expected to be the mainstay of India’s nuclear deterrence programme when fully operational by providing the country with strategic second-strike capability.

India to acquire 15 US-2i aircraft from Japan after defence minister’s visit

India’s plan to acquire at least 15 US-2i amphibious aircraft for its Navy from Japan is expected to fructify when the defence minister of Japan arrives in India next month.

Speaking to FE, a senior officer said, “Soon after the Emperor of Japan’s visit is over, Itsunori Onodera, the defence minister of Japan, will visit India to explore the potential for cooperation between the defence and aviation industries between the two countries, as well as to figure out the mechanism and modalities for the acquisition of the aircraft by the Indian Navy.” Also, Onodera will also be seeking confirmation from India on cooperation in dealing with the issue of piracy in the Indian Ocean.

India has reportedly clarified that it is reviewing the Special Chemicals, Organisms, Materials, Equipment and Technologies (SCOMET), thereby placing the Shinmaywa US-2i as a dual civilian-and-military item. India has accepted the high cost of the aircraft to build up the strategic partnership.

The two sides had set up a joint working group to decide the terms of the cooperation of the US-2i amphibious aircraft when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had visited Tokyo in May this year, and could possibly include joint production, operation and training on the US-2i amphibious aircraft. The Indian Navy earlier issued a request for information (RFI) for the aircraft. Canada’s Bombardier, Japan’s ShinMaywa and Russia’s Beriev had offered their aircraft to meet the requirements.

India to strengthen Andaman and Nicobar Command

As the race for the Indian Ocean region heats up with India, China and the United States trying to dominate the region, South Block is all set to hand over the controls of the Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC) - India's strategic outpost in the Bay of Bengal - to the Indian Navy.

The ANC was set up 13 years ago following the Kargil Committee report, partly to buy peace among the three services and partly to ensure that all three gear up to operate from the region. The command was rotated among the three services - Army, Navy, and Indian Air Force.

But after 13 years, there is a growing realization that the required infrastructure at ANC hasn't come up because of lack of focus and appreciation of requirements of the Navy. The Navy, too, has officially written to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) stating that development of the ANC is not satisfactory.

"Some key infrastructure needs to come up immediately if the Navy is expected to operate with ease on the Eastern and Western board of Malacca Strait. Unfortunately, these haven't been addressed. The fact that the command has been rotated among the three services has added to this delay" a senior Navy official told.

For instance, in 2012, the Navy operationalised INS Baaz, an airbase at Campbell Bay at the very northern tip of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. It overlooks the Malacca Strait through which the crucial Sea Lane of Communication (SLOC) connecting China to the rest of the world passes through. Although the naval airbase is in operation, efforts to increase the runway and turn INS Baaz into full-fledged air base hasn't materialised yet.

Similarly, the Navy wants bigger fuel, ordnance and storage dumps. But in the last 13 years, plans to make the ANC a forward outpost of India capable of repairing, equipping and launching ships and aircrafts for missions hasn't come up.

"Can ANC handle and equip a fleet if required?" a senior Navy asked.

With the Navy getting a second aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant, the need to develop a forward operating outpost that can equip, repair and launch an entire fleet becomes all the more important.

Defence Ministry is now likely to move the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) to hand back the Andaman and Nicobar Command to the Navy. It is also likely to press for the additional commands, Special Force Command and Aerospace Command, to be handed over to the Army and the Air Force respectively while the third additional command, Cyber Command, is headed by the three services in rotation.