Tarmak007 -- A bold blog on Indian defence

Saturday, February 16, 2019

LCH packs a punch with induction at striking distance

By Anantha Krishnan M 

Bengaluru: The Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) is at striking distance from being inducted into the Services. The designers and test crew at the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (LTD) vouch for the chopper’s might with four prototypes having completed the pre-induction trials as mandated by the users – the Indian Air Force (IAF) and Indian Army. 
During a recent visit to the Rotary Wing Research and Design Centre (RWRDC) of HAL, Onmanorama was briefed by the officials about the future flightpath of the combat chopper programme. 
The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) had cleared the proposal to induct initial batch of 15 LCHs. Notwithstanding the final orders to formally come, HAL had gone ahead and began the process of manufacturing the limited series production (LSP) platforms. 
Of the 15 LSPs, 10 are for the IAF and the remaining five for the Indian Army. There’s an additional projection of 65 LCHs for the IAF and 97 for the Indian Army. The LSP of LCHs was launched in August 2017 by Arun Jaitley, when he was holding the additional portfolio of Defence. 
Post completion of all trials, HAL officials now say that they are confident of LCH becoming one of the most resourceful and potent chopper for high-altitude missions. The programme has already got the Initial Operational Clearance (IOC). 
The officials said that during firing trials, the chopper performed excellently meeting accuracy requirements. 
“This is the first attack helicopter with us which has aerial combat capabilities. A moving UAV can be taken on easily with an air-to-air missile or with the front gun. This was a capability gap the Services had and LCH will fill it now,” an official said. 
Seven LSP platforms are at various stages of manufacturing at the assembly hangars of HAL now.
Full report, here: https://bit.ly/2SQqHL9

Monday, February 11, 2019

Mirage 2000 crash | IAF misses josh box Abby & problem-solver Sidd

Charles Elwood Chuck Yeager, the legendary Experimental Test Pilot (ETP or TP) and the first man ever to break the sound barrier, once said about the risks and aftermath of military flying.
“You don’t concentrate on risks. You concentrate on results. No risk is too great to prevent the necessary job from getting done,” he had said.
May be the two young TPs of Indian Air Force (IAF) -- Sqn Ldr Samir Abrol and Sqn Ldr Siddhartha Negi – martyred in the Feb 1 Mirage 200o I/TI crash in Bengaluru, too were hardcore devotees of Chuck Yeager, now 95.
And, they probably knew that they will have to risk their lives and may be hailed as martyrs, if they fell for their motherland during the call of duty.
Onmanorama dives into the lives of Sqn Ldr Abrol, fondly called as Abby and Sqn Ldr Negi, who is Sid to his friends, to find out more about them as investigators carefully stitch together the evidence to find out the reasons behind the crash.
Full report, here: https://bit.ly/2WUMzEk

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Plane Carnival promises to be bigger and better this time

By Anantha Krishnan M

It is that time of the year in the Garden City when the traffic over the skies normally beats the one beneath. That season when winter hands over the baton to its summer sibling. And, it’s the time when the scent of ATF engulfs the city, reminding one of its deep history of ‘things with wings.’
Preparations for Aero India 2019 have reached the last lap at Air Force Station Yelahanka, which is around 16 km from the heart of Bengaluru City. 
The 12th edition of ‘Plane Carnival’ is set to take off on February 20, painting the skyline over Bengaluru with snazzy machines of different shapes, sizes and capabilities. 
This year’s show is key to the NDA government, for it will give it a platform to submit its report card on Make in India in Defence ahead of the 2019 elections. 
For Indian Air Force (IAF), it is yet another opportunity to showcase its ability to host a show of such magnitude sans any skirmishes. 
For Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), now caught up in financial instabilities, the show is a golden opportunity to remind the aviation fraternity that they cannot be written off any time in the near future.  For the Karnataka government, the show will be a testimony to the fact that the city is tailor-made for Aero India, offering everything that such a massive event demands. 
For AFS Yelahanka, yet again an occasion to showcase its might probably as the only plug-and-play base in India, with specific infrastructure in place, built exclusively for the air show over the years. And, for the plane devotees, it’s carnival time once again, something they look forward to once every other February. Read full report, here: https://bit.ly/2Beezt8

Sunday, January 27, 2019

R-Day Special | Fashion hails honour as 'sharpshooter' Pravin captures India's heroes

On the night of 26/11 when terrorists struck Mumbai, Pravin Talan was fighting another battle — to take his ill mother to a doctor. Mumbai had shut down soon after the first shots were fired. There was uncertainty everywhere. “There was chaos all over, and my mother’s face had turned ashen – with fear and shock. My mother isn’t the kind who gets scared easily, and certainly not because of bombs and bullets. I knew it had to be something else,” recalls Pravin. Amidst his highflying ‘shoot-at-sight’ missions, Pravin Talan, one of the most sought-after fashion photographers shared some insights into his latest assignment capturing the best and ‘beastly’ side of the Blacks Cats of the National Security Guard. As reported in Onmanorama’s Republic Day special, the pictorial tribute by NSG to the martyrs of 26/11, shot by Pravin, has gone viral. (Read the full report, here: https://bit.ly/2Ui5re9)

R-Day Special | NSG's pictorial tribute to 26/11 Martyrs is awesome

Pravin Talan, the photographer
who shot these stunning images.
The National Security Guard (NSG) has paid tributes to its martyrs in a striking fashion. To honour its martyrs during the 10th anniversary of the Mumbai terror attacks, the elite force hired a ‘sharpshooter’ -- Pravil Talan -- a leading fashion photographer.
The result is a stunning calendar released for the Year 2019. It is in great demand among the security forces, and many even in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) are finding it difficult to lay their hands on a copy.
As an organization NSG has always shied away from being too much in the public eye, and its men are an enigma and a shadowy mystery. 
“There has always been a curiosity among the youth of the nation to know more about NSG, who they are, how they train and what they do. This calendar gives a glimpse into the high level of training and capabilities of an NSG commando. As they are of members of a ‘Zero-error world-class-force’ the photographs had to live up to that image,” said an MHA official via email, in response to queries from Onmanorama. (Read the full report, here: https://bit.ly/2UfMHMA)

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Locked on to future, AFS Sulur emerging as IAF’s key base

By Anantha Krishnan M 

Welcome to Air Force Station (AFS) Sulur! An airbase locked on to future. And, tipped as the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) most critical base in years to come. When Onmanorama visited AFS Sulur, the base was abuzz with a series of upgradation works. From runway to ATC tower to new hangars, it for a while looked like a massive stadium getting ready for a big game. And, those who have flown in know how significant this game is going to be for the IAF in the future. He said the modern infrastructure accretion that was created to house the Tejas has changed the erstwhile skyline at Sulur making its transformation markedly profound. Read full story: bit.ly/2RDxg3X

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Army Day Special | Colonel who lost a leg says 'my foot' and runs triathlons

His left leg was blown away from ankle after he stepped on to an anti-personnel mine unknowingly. The head of the tibia bone was missing with the fibula completely exposed. A small sliver of the heal was hanging with the skin, which he cut away with a new shaving blade taken from a soldier. On the occasion of the 71st Army Day being observed across the nation today, Onmanorama brings you this inspiring story of Col Gaurav, who is currently officer-in-charge of the Army Paralympic Sports Node (APSN) of the Indian Army based out of Pune.
Read the full report here: http://bit.do/ArmyDaySpecial   

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Manu Awati - Young Man & The Sea

Pic: Padmaja Parulkar
By Commodore Srikant B Kesnur
Manohar Prahlad Awati is a legend in the Indian Navy and, arguably, across the entire military fraternity. A retired Vice Admiral who hung his uniform in 1983, he continues to be an awe-inspiring figure and a sterling example 34 years later. Today, 07 Sep 2017, as he celebrates his 90th birthday, is a welcome occasion to raise a toast to one of the icons of our times.
It is easy to understand why he makes an immediate impression. Over six feet tall and well built, he is the epitome of good looks. His snow-white beard and bushy eyebrows, erect carriage and dapper dressing, booming voice and twinkling eyes add to the flamboyance quotient. Add to this, he is a wonderful raconteur with an incredible memory and ability to remember incidents long past in vivid detail. You are often intimidated in his presence but guaranteed never to get bored.
A Google search will give all the details of an illustrious career. Joining Navy in 1945, early training in Britian, a specialist in Communication, commands of many ships including Tir, Betwa, Kamorta and Mysore. He was also at various times head of the Signal School Kochi, an instructor at DSSC Wellington and Commandant of National Defence Academy, Pune.
A war hero, he was awarded the Vir Chakra for command of Kamorta and P 31 (sqn cdr 31 Patrol Vessel Squadron) in 1971 war. In fact, he was, along with VAdm Krishnan and Capt Swaraj Prakash (CO Vikrant), among the small Naval Contingent in Dacca that accepted the surrender of Pakistan armed forces. (The .38 Webley pistol he got in surrender from a Pak Navy officer finds a proud place in the NDA museum). A couple of years down the line he was entrusted with the Command of Mysore, after that ship had witnessed an unfortunate mutiny, to restore normalcy and morale. Sure enough, he did it.
He commanded the Western Fleet in the late seventies and was the last Fleet Cdr to fly his flag on the erstwhile INS Delhi, thus underlining his own umbilical connection with that ship where he had served earlier as her Signals and Communications Officer ( SCO) and the time-space continuum in the Navy. He went to Delhi to serve as the Chief of Personnel in the 3-star rank before returning to Mumbai to head the Western Naval Command in Mar 1981 as the Flag Officer Commanding in Chief ( FOCinC). He retired in Mar 1983, as a 55 year old, when Mrs Gandhi (possibly somewhat unexpectedly) chose VAdm Stan Dawson, the FOC-in-C South to succeed Ronnie Pereira as the Navy Chief. He declined an offer to head the Garden Reach Ship Building in Kolkota preferring to let his other pursuits gain traction.
All this though is a matter of detail that will perhaps fit into the CV of some other Admirals too. Manu Awati's life is worth reading about because of the many offbeat things he would do or the impression he would make by his sheer presence. There are several stories and anecdotes in this regard. Take the tale of his commuting to work every day in a horse driven carriage ( loaned from Rashtrapati Bhavan) when he was the Chief Of Personnel in Delhi. The clackety-clack of the carriage and a handsome navy officer in white uniform atop it attracted a lot of attention thereby annoying the Prime Minister Mrs G who told Ronnie to ask Manu to desist. When I asked Manu Sir why, he tongue in cheek replied: "Maybe she did not want attention to go to anybody else." Or take the story of his striding down the streets of Basra on a white steed in full riding gear when on an overseas deployment as Fleet Commander West. VAdm Bangara who related this anecdote talks of how the local populace thought he was royalty descended into town. Or the story of how he landed in the middle of the football field in a helicopter when he was the Chief Guest even as the organisers were waiting for him at the entrance to the stadium. Or his flying his flag on a blue ensign ship. He was simultaneously a traditional-minded Admiral (it is said he never missed a single colours ceremony on the Flag Ship when he was Fleet Cdr) and at the same time hugely unconventional and bold.
It is this same combination of qualities along with amazing energy he took with him to pursue other passions when he retired. While most other military men decide to fade away and tend to their rose gardens, Awati's second innings has been, arguably, even more, luminous than his first one. He has a wide range of interests - maritime history and awareness, ecology and nature conservation, adventure and open ocean sailing, social work and writing, and he has been able to give his 200 per cent to each of these.
Take maritime history for instance. In 1978 after reading a news item in the Times if India bemoaning India's lack of Maritime Awareness he, as the Fleet Cdr, marched into the CinCs office demanding approval and funding to set up the Maritime History Society ( MHS). VAdm Rusi Ghandhy laughed, sanctioned a royal sum of Rs 1000/- but predicted that MHS will not last for more than a year. Today, 40 years old, the MHS has brought out hundreds of scholarly articles, several books, conducted talks and seminars, and done a humongous amount to spread maritime awareness. Much of this owes to Awati's vision, personal goading and constant involvement in MHS and maritime education. Not just that. Along with his friend the eminent academic late Shri Arunachalam, he travelled all over the Indian coast researching on timber built Indian ships. And he has himself written and spoken copiously on maritime history in various forums. Fittingly, he has conferred the lifetime achievement award of the society last year.
Or take his love for nature and ecology. The Admiral has an encyclopedic knowledge of birds, animals and trees. But that's not all. Long ago, when he was Comdt NDA, the Tanzanian Defence Minister ( or was it the President) offered him a job as the Ranger/Conservator of the world-famous Serengeti game reserve and the Ngorongoro forests. He had to refuse that offer, but he has done a great deal otherwise. He is the author of three books on nature and wildlife, Homo Sapiens and Panthera Leo, The Vanishing Indian Tiger and Nature Clubs of India. A friend of the late and great Salim Ali, Manu Awati has also been associated with WWF India if I remember right. And the BNHS. He has also been the head of the Ecological Society of India.
His contributions to Ocean sailing will remain the jewel in the crown of a many-splendoured career. An innate love for the sea and adventure made him think of sailing and yachting as natural modes of expression of a naturally maritime country. He sowed the seed of ocean sailing long ago and the magnificent achievements of Dilip Donde (the first Indian to solo circumnavigate the world), Abhilash Tomy (the first Indian and Asian to solo circumnavigate the world non- stop), Ratnakar Dandekar (the Goa-based builder of these sturdy vessels) spring from the foundation laid by Manu Sir and the hard work he did grooming, facilitating and championing their cause. It is no wonder that these people worship Manu Awati as indeed do the six young women who are set to sail round the world in the next 2 or 3 days on Tarini. Even from his hospital bed last month when he underwent stenting, he had only their trip in mind and if my information is right, he is setting out tomorrow to Goa to meet them and wish them bon voyage. He has himself sailed often and but for his surgery was planning to sail from Goa to Mumbai at the ripe age of 90.
Apart from all this he has been a national level polo player, frequent contributor to innumerable journals and books, the Chairman of the Organising Committee for yachting at the 1982 Asian games in Delhi, recipient of numerous civilian and military awards, Vice President of Blitz publications, Chairman of Tolani shipping, and hold your breath.... model for Digjam suitings. He is also famous as the young officer who received the Colour on behalf of the Navy from the President of India Babu Rajendra Prasad. Further, after retirement, he settled down in Paltan, near Satara, converting a back of beyond place into a small buzzing zone of biodiversity with trees, small dam and an old world style bungalow. Needless to say, he also does a huge amount of social work.
My wife and I have had the personal good fortune of friendship and guidance from this great man and wonderful human being. 'Call me Manu', he would say softly once or twice. I told him I could never bring myself to say that except when I wrote about him. The fact that a man older than my father extends to us the generosity of his warmth was good enough for us.
We first met in NDA, in 1994, when I was Div offr and Mess Secy and he had come as a guest. His sharp memory recollected that he had commented (fortunately kindly) on an article written by me two years before. That started our association. My special memories about him are three different incidents that illustrate different aspects of his persona. The first one happened 20 years ago when he was addressing a gathering on the helo deck of a ship in Mumbai. Several dignitaries before him, much younger than him, used the mike to speak. When his turn came, he disdainfully moved the mikes away and in his loud baritone asked if people could hear him at the back. That small gesture said a lot about his flamboyant personality and communication skills. The second happened ten years ago in Seychelles when I was the Defence Attache there. I was at the Commonwealth wargraves cemetery and came across a rather scrawny and somewhat pathetic looking old man who looked like he was in the salvation army. But there was some dignity to him and speaking to him i realised he was among the few locals who had fought in the World War 2. On learning that I was in the Indian Navy he got all excited and said " 30 years ago there were some ships and one Admiral from your navy. Tall and flowing beard. Oh what a character. He looked like God". He was referring to Manu Awati's visit as Fleet Cdr in 1977 or 78. The point that Manu could be a brand ambassador for our Navy three decades later illustrates his charisma. And the last incident happened few days ago. I had happened to courier some medicines for Mrs Awati from Mumbai. He not only wrote an email of profuse thanks but the moment we met in Mumbai (when he was hospitalized) he insisted in paying me back the Rs 58/- expenditure incurred, not letting either himself or me be at peace till the money was accepted. That illustrates his humility and correctness with which he leads his life.
Now listen to the strangest paradoxes in his life. First, his love for sea and yearning for it is despite the fact that he was thoroughly seasick. This is something akin to a person having mountain sickness always coming back to climb more mountains. Second, despite his vast knowledge and erudition and scholarship, he has been denied doctorates and fellowships because he is only a matriculate. He joined Dufferin right after that and continues to have no degree against his name. He is not considered literate enough but is a scholar and seeker in the true sense of the word.
To borrow a quote that Shakespeare said of Cleopatra, one can say of Manu that "Age does not wither nor custom stale his infinite variety." Today, at 90, Manohar Prahlad Awati is either India's oldest young man or youngest old man. The secret of his good health is that he still sleeps at 8 pm, gets up at 4 am, exercises, eats in moderation and above all remains actively engaged in many things. To use his phrase "he has many irons in the fire and they all tend to heat up at the same time".
More than anything else Awati is a true renaissance man. Like Tagore in politics, Satyajit Ray in cinema, Raja Ramanna in Science, Manu Awati's eclectic range of passions and pursuits mark him as a truly remarkable man of our times. India is lucky to have someone like him and the Indian Navy proud of this national treasure. The young man and his love for sea is indeed stuff of legend. They don't make people like him anymore.
Happy Birthday, Sir. May you go onto score a century!

(The above piece is the tribute by the writer to VAdm Manu Awati, last year, on his 90th birthday. This was before the successful Navika Sagar Parikrama - another one of his pioneering initiatives and another feather in his cap. The piece is reproduced with permission from Indian Navy.)

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Video report | Meet Sarangs, IAF’s synchrony masters of the skies

What the team always looks forward to, are those 15 minutes of thrilling aerial ballet, where the human spirit challenges the limits of the machine and the end product is an exhilarating exhibition of precision, symmetry, synchronization, and dare-devilry. Each time those 15 minutes come to an end, the team asks for more and waits until the next time we get an opportunity to Tango and enthrall the audience. This spirit is the very elixir of the team.
Read the full report, here: https://bit.ly/2A01409

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