Tarmak007 -- A bold blog on Indian defence

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

At 80, AVM Ajit Lamba (Retd) wants to keep flying like a bird

By Anantha Krishnan M 
What do Indian Air Force (IAF) daredevil pilots do when they grow old? How do they celebrate their birthdays, especially when they turn 80? Do they still have the courage, will and passion to fly when the age is on their wrong side? 
Well, you might just find the right answers in this report! OneIndia was at one of the popular flying spots in Bengaluru to capture a very rare flight of a very special man. 
Always found a way to fly: Air Vice Marshal Ajit Lamba (Retd) always did something different on his birthdays. This time, on turning 80, he had his flight-plan well in advance. 
You are at Jakkur airstrip, on way to the Kempegowda International Airport. It’s around 8 am and was definitely one of those days you would still want to hide under a blanket. 
The foggy morning skies of Bengaluru did not dent the birthday boy’s spirit as he waited in hope. The scheduled take-off at 8.30 had to be deferred, but he was confident that the skies would soon be clear. 
Had flown over 100 types of aircraft: “Most birthdays I have flown and my family is well aware of what I am up to. I had initial plans to fly the Hansa of National Aerospace Laboratories, but couldn’t get the aircraft on time. I rang up Ashok and he said come over,” says Ajit Lamba, who was the former Commandant of Aircraft and Systems Testing Establishment of IAF. 
And, at the stroke of 10 am, he along with his long-time friend Wg Cdr Ashok Mehta (Retd) took off on their Red Barron X-Air Microlight. 
Ajit Lamba is probably among the few pilots of IAF who had flown all types of aircraft. He even owned a microlight named Pegasus, which was a birthday gift from his wife when had turned 70. 
“You know I might have flown over 100 different types of aircraft of IAF. Not the latest assets that came in the last couple of years. From fighters, trainers, transport planes and helicopters…Those were great days…” he says, while attending to phone calls from his friends and relatives, who had called to wish him on his birthday. 
Sold his plane for want of parking space: “I had to sell that to a friend in Coorg due to lack of parking facility in Bengaluru. So, I flew one day to Coorg and sold it to him,” says the veteran pilot. 
Even at 80, he keeps his flying licence updated and clears all the mandatory medical tests without fail, as per the DGCA requirements. 
Ajit Lamba joined the IAF in 1953 and he was commissioned two years later. He retired in 1991 after serving for 38 years. He has logged over 7000 hours of flying while in service. 
Does a touch-and-go at Jakkur: At Jakkur, Ajit Lamba flew for 15 minutes and did one touch-and-go. “On these microlite’s you can’t do much. It’s non-aerobatic. The idea was to get airborne. And, it’s very safe up there. Safer than driving,” he says. 
While in the IAF, he had one ejection from the Gnat and over half-a-dozen engine-off landings. 
“I keep praying to God to keep me fit. Flying once in a while, a game of golf, a glass of beer, family, books and travel… What else this old man needs to do?” he laughs, as we wind up the interview session. 
I often dream of flying without a plane: He has a word of praise for Tejas as well. “It is a fabulous aircraft. Just that it needs to be produced in large numbers. If I was the IAF Chief, I would have ordered 200 aircraft straightaway,” he adds. 
He says he has started dreaming often flying without a plane. 
“Not sure what that means. But I see these dreams very often. It’s a great feeling to fly like a bird. And, I want to keep flying…,” says Ajit Lamba, one of the fittest and youngest pilots of Bengaluru.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Why is India so reluctant to celebrate Tejas success?

By Anantha Krishnan M 
Warning: This is a biased piece! 
I am willfully breaking one of the thumb rules in Journalism, which says: never take any sides when you report. So you have a choice of not reading it, considering it is one-sided! I am frank. Honestly! 
Straight to the point. 
Why did the Indian media, politicians and the military minds sideline one of the historic events being scripted post-Independence? The Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas flew for the first time outside Indian skies when it participated at the fourth edition of Bahrain International Air Show (BIAS-2016) from January 21-23, 2016. 
It was eight minutes of history that was worth a live telecast, considering it was happening for the first time ever. After all, we are a nation that’s so obsessed with records. Considering that Tejas flew all the way from Bangalore to Jamnagar. Then to Muscat and finally to the Sakhir Airbase in Bahrain! It was an event worth chasing. Shocking that even Doordarshan too didn’t have any live shots. Not even borrowed. 
This was for the first time that a home-grown Indian fighter jet flew at an international event, outside India. First time the largest military importer in the world exhibited a 4+something-fighter-jet on a foreign land alongside some of the best known names. 
As a biased journalist, supporting India’s defence programmes, I woke up with great interest for almost a week, three days ahead of the show and on all three days during the show and the day after the show (3+3+1 = 7 days) hoping to read something in the newspapers. My heart would have skipped a beat if it was reported on the front pages, but even the left-side obituary pages too never had anything mentioned on Tejas. 
Even news channels had bigger things to report. On the Day-1 of the show, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal grabbed all the prime time slots visiting Hyderabad’s Central University. 
Day-2 Breaking News was the National Investigation Agency (NIA) arresting a number of terror suspects across India. 
Day-3 was completely grabbed by Netaji files being declassified by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 
And as I write this piece, two days after the BIAS-2016, French President Hollande has already landed in India and he will be our guest during the Republic Day. But, with Hollande in India, it was but natural for the Rafales to make news. 
So, media had other things to chase and a desi metal bird flying for eight minutes each on three days is not worth reporting. And, even if someone did report, they might have no news sense like me. Or they might be biased, like me. 
And then, what about our Breaking News Mantris? 
A tweet from PM Modi would have definitely lifted the spirits of Team Tejas. It would have cost the exchequer nothing. After all a tweet is a tweet is a tweet! And, it’s sweet when it comes from the handle of your PM. 
If the PM was busy, even External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who visited BIAS-2016 on the last day, could have tweeted. The MEA handle did tweet a photo of Sushma watching the Sarangs fly. But Sarangs flying is no breaking news and they have been flying all over the world since 2004. But, Sushma can’t be blamed as Tejas might have finished its quota of flying by the time she reached the venue. Sorry Tejas; seeing is believing! 
What about Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, the man who was responsible to make Tejas cross the Indian border. One statement from Ministry of Defence, after the historic flight, would have been ideal. But it never came. 
Why did the Indian Air Force (IAF) keep quiet? Well, what to say! Tejas is not yet IAF’s. They have just got one aircraft (SP-1) and they have been waiting. And, waiting. And, waiting… They have their share of concerns before Tejas Squadron takes shape. Still, one comment from the Chief: “Well done,” would have meant a lot. 
Interestingly, DRDO tweeted quoting Parrikar on the last day of the show, which said: “RM (Raksha Mantri) at NCC Republic Day camp said, as per my primary reports #LCA Tejas has been appreciated by many other countries.” 
There were press releases from IAF, MoD and HAL ahead of the show on India’s participation at BIAS-2016. Surprisingly, nothing after Tejas scripting history. What’s the big deal? After all it was a demonstration and not any war! 
Fact is, 24-minutes of historic three-day Tejas’ demonstrations did not find many takers in India, barring some biased journalists making noise! These journalists must be crazy. 
So, who is to be blamed? Well, who else now, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) which failed to send their JF-17 Thunders. As per the earlier plan they were to come, to be parked alongside Tejas and Typhoons on the same bay. The media was all warmed up for the Tejas-Thunder ‘duel.’ 
But, with Thunder missing what will the lightning bird Tejas do? Just not done, PAF! Be there, next time. 
So, what would have made headlines and prime time news hour? A tyre burst of Tejas in Bahrain. May be mosquitoes inside the cockpit! Yes. I got it. 
Sorry Tejas, you proved your mettle. But, we ignored you. 
It was a treat watching you. We are proud of you. 
Take a bow. 
Welcome back home, heroes. 
Blue Skies and Happy Landings! 
©Swarajya http://swarajyamag.com/

Saturday, January 23, 2016

When a doctor went on a shooting spree in Bahrain...

Dr Sujit Menon
Above photos are taken by Dr Sujit Menon, a general and laparoscopic surgeon working with King Hamad University Hospital​, Bahrain. He was at the Bahrain International Air Show 2016 on Day-2 and captured these images using his Nikon D700 camera, with 80-400 mm lens.
Dr Sujit, an avid Tarmak007 follower, has been following the LCA programme since the first test flight in 2001.
"It was a matter of pride for me to see a product of the Indian defence enterprise participate and compete with the giants of the aerospace industry on the same stage and come out in flying colours... The show itself was amazing, very well organized and a treat to attend. The aerial display by Tejas was awesome and spectacular and was well received by the audience," he says. He tweets at https://twitter.com/drsujitmenon
Thank You, Dr Sujit

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