Report here: http://bit.ly/1IzrcxO
Thursday, May 14, 2015
Saturday, May 9, 2015
Nepal has come in terms to the mighty blow from nature. India has shown the world its ability to mobilize massive resources to help a friendly nation. The media has probably shown how even a natural calamity can be reported with the same fanfare as a football match! And, the armed forces have again demonstrated their ability to do their job, as per the brief, sans any noise.
In this exclusive feature report, OneIndia gained access into the minds of a few Indian Air Force (IAF) pilots who are still undertaking relief operations in various parts of Nepal.
They had only one condition. “Do not put our names and ranks. We are the IAF here to help our brothers and sisters.”
After minor communication glitches owing to hostile weather, the hotline between Kathmandu and Bengaluru was established. A senior Indian Air Force (IAF) official at the Head Quarters in New Delhi ensured that boys were on talking mode.
“It’s all clear? Shall we start,” I asked. “Roger. Go ahead,” came the reply. And probably some first-time accounts of Operation Maitri began to unfold.
Hours after Nepal was ripped apart by the devastating quake, six IAF Mi17s and Mi17V5s were airborne. They had a night halt at Gorakhpur and next day they landed at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu.
The entire operational group had around 80 people consisting of pilots, tech team, ground liasoning staff and a Task Force Commander. This team had been stationed in Nepal for the last two weeks.
Villagers present ‘sacred scarf’ as gift to pilots: The villagers, who have now become familiar with the pilots, easily identify them every time a helicopter lands with relief materials.
“For the villagers we are all Captains. The moment they spot us, the people start screaming Captain! Captain! They have presented us with their ‘sacred scarf’ which is normally tied at the highest point in a village to know the wind pattern,” says a pilot flying the Mi17V5.
According to him, the villagers believe that anyone who is a saviour to their nation is saviour to them as well.
“At Satyadevi village in Milanche district, a young village secretary was the first to honour us with the sacred scarf. When we landed there, he (secretary) travelled with us to show the village. We gave away our ration including biscuits and water,” says the pilot.
The IAF crew said that the children in most villages were very curious to see the helicopter. “We were moved by their discipline. No messing around. They were all very organized and the village heads ensured that there was no chaos,” says another pilot.
In Lukla village, the crew spotted a stranded tourist team. “Initially, we did not know that they were Indians. Later were told that they came from Maharashtra. They were closer to the Everest Base Camp. Lukla has one of the10 difficult airfields in the world. It was another challenge for us,” recalls another pilot.
Villagers wait for pilots with garlands: They said in some areas the moment they landed, the villagers were ready with garlands.
“Some have become familiar with our names as we have done multiple sorties to their areas. We have been told by the locals that they are offering prayers every day in our names. Honestly, these are first-time experiences for us,” an officer said.
They said operating choppers in the Himalayan ranges can be very dangerous. “The terrain is an unforgiving one. A lot of coordination is required while setting out on a mission here. The co-pilot has a tough task on hand in guiding and even the flight gunner (also known as the loader) plays a pivotal role,” he says.
Most pilots parted with their ration as well: During the initial days of Operation Maitri, every pilot parted with their ration seeing the plight of the people.
“During the initial few days after the quake there was severe water scarcity. This was mainly due to pipeline bursts and other damages. So, we parted with our water as well. Things have improved now,” says another officer.
When asked about the most striking moments of their rescue operations so far, the crew said that it was during shifting the dead bodies.
“In one instance in Langtang Valley we were carrying the bodies of six trekkers and they were all mixed nationals. Some could not be identified. We saw a severed half of one body as the other half was missing. In the IAF we are taught to be mentally tough. We felt sad but we had a job on hand. Another sortie to be undertaken,” recalls a crew member.
Not affected by the anti-Indian rant: When asked whether the anti-Indian rant in Nepal has had any effect on their mission, the IAF crew said that their missions kept them focused.
“We came to know from our family members back home about these issues. We do not bother about what’s appearing in the media. We have a job on hand and we are all so focused,” says an officer.
Most of the members had slept only for four to five hours during the initial days of operation. The crew members also recall the services of the Army Aviation flying the Dhruvs in Pokhara.
Nepalese Army got home-cooked food for IAF pilots: When asked about the role played by the Nepalese Army, the IAF men were univocal in their responses.
“We never felt that we are in another country. We were all touched by the gesture of the Nepalese Army when they got us home-cooked food during the initial days. We all sat together and ate. They also assisted us with digital images so that we become familiar with the terrain,” says a pilot.
Finally, when one of the members reminded this Correspondent about their next mission, hence signaling that the interview should be wound up, the last question was fired.
What will be the one key take-away of Operation Maitri? “Well, not one may be two. First, the experience of undertaking missions under extreme hostile conditions. And, second, the warmth of the people. Their love,” a soft-spoken voice on the other side said.
When the hotline snapped, it was overcast in Bengaluru. Apparently, in Kathmandu as well!
This report first appeared on OneIndia
Bengaluru, May 08: The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on Friday came down heavily on the progress of India’s home-grown Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas programme.
In its report ‘Design, Development, Manufacture and Induction of Light Combat Aircraft,’ tabled in Parliament today, the CAG says Tejas Mk-1 has many shortfalls and electronics warfare (EW) limitations.
It says both the Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) and Final Operational Clearance (FOC) versions of has shortfalls in meeting the engine thrust. Other parameters with concerns are weight of the aircraft, fuel capacity, pilot protection from front against 7.62 mm bullets etc.
“The self-protection jammer which was originally to be fitted on LCA Mark-I is now planned to be fitted on LCA Mark-II. Thus the 40 LCA Mark-I would be provided only with Radar Warning Receiver (RWR) Tarang-1B and deficient of self-protection jammer, thus limiting its electronic warfare capabilities,” the report says.
The report says with these shortfalls the IAF would be constrained to use 40 LCA Mk-I aircraft with limited operational capabilities.
LCA Mk-2 will fulfil ASR: “The LCA Mark-II being developed by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) is expected to meet the Air Staff Requirement (ASR),” the report says.
The report went on to add that the delays in identification, replacement and addition of weapons by IAF and their integration as per IAF requirement, to make the aircraft contemporary, also added to the worries.
“In addition, there have been delays in completion of work packages by various work centres, which indicated ineffective monitoring of the project by the Ministry of Defence,” says the report.
HAL delayed augmenting production capacity: Taking on Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), the report says that the company delayed setting up of a production facility which had the capacity of manufacturing eight LCAs per annum.
“The delay in production capacity augmentation had impacted the formation of LCA Squadrons. Further, there has been delay in the manufacture and supply of series production aircraft due to delayed LCA development,” says the report.
The 63-page report is signed by Rajiv Kumar Pandey, Principal Director of Audit (Air Force) and counter-signed by Shashi Kant Sharma, the CAG of India.
It further says that the delay in Tejas induction has forced the IAF to upgrade MiG Bis, MiG-29, Mirage-2000 and Jaguar aircraft at a cost of Rs 20,037 crore and revise phasing out of MiG-21 to ensure credible combat potential.
“LCA was crucial for maintaining the operational preparedness of IAF in order to overcome the drawdown of squadron strength permanently. The LCA programme needs to be expeditiously completed to cater to the needs of the defence forces so as to avoid import of the fighter aircraft of this class and to ensure self-reliance in the long run,” the report adds.
Sub-systems developed with imported components: Banging ADA further, the report says that though the makers claimed achieving 70 per cent indigenisation, half of these sub-systems were developed with imported electronic components and accessories etc.
“The LCA programme suffered major setbacks in the indigenous development of Kaveri engine, Multi-Mode Radar, self-protection jammer, etc. The proposal for indigenous development of 109 LRUs was pending approval since February 2014,” it says.
Chinese article says Tejas ‘fighter of tomorrow’: Interestingly, the CAG report on LCA shortfalls comes days after a Chinese termed Tejas a fighter of the future. The Chinese report in Sina's Chinese-language military portal, has already going viral on social media sites.
The article has compared the abilities of Tejas and the FC-1 Xiaolong/JF-17 Thunder jointly developed China and Pakistan.
The article has compared the features of both fighter, including the aerodynamic configuration, inlet design, materials, propulsion systems, avionics and flight control systems, flight control systems and combat ability.
In conclusion, the Chinese article terms Tejas as a light multirole fighter ‘fit for the 21st century.’
“The Xiaolong is a third-generation model designed for the international market. The use of off-the-shelf materials not only cuts costs but also reduces risks in the design process and improves the reliability of the aircraft. This will not make it the best aircraft, but rather a standard, cheap and reliable model for air-to-air combat. In summation, the Xiaolong is the aircraft of today and the Tejas is the aircraft of tomorrow,” says the Chinese article.
The show will go on; FOC is the key for us now: When the response to CAG report was sought from a top scientist associated with the project, he first refused to comment saying: “I haven’t seen it.”
When this correspondent read out the key portions of the report, the scientist agreed to comment on condition of not being named.
“We are used to the CAG reports now. The current report was supposed to have reviewed by the Secretary (Department of Defence R&D) and we are not sure whether it was done. What I understand is that the review hasn’t happened and due to deadline pressures the report has been tabled in the Parliament,” the scientist claimed.
When specifically asked whether the report will dampen the spirit of the team engrossed in the FOC activities of Tejas, the scientist said: “One report or any reports in the future cannot stop our scheduled activities. We have come this far and have probably entered the last lap of Tejas Mk-1 development phase. The show will go on.”
To a query on the EW limitations on Tejas Mk-I, as remarked by the CAG report, the scientist said: “Yes, we agree as of now it is not there on Tejas. But that’s not going to weaken the platform. Yes we agree if the EW was there, it would have been more appealing.”
(The above report first went live on OneIndia on May 8, 2015)
Bengaluru, May 08: The Indian Army on Friday conducted the test-firing of the Land Attack Cruise Missile (LACM) version of BrahMos successfully.
Top military sources confirmed to OneIndia that the test-firing of the supersonic missile was conducted around 13:10 hours (IST) from the Car Nicobar region. Today’s launch was the 47th test-firing of the missile.
“The mission was successful and the missile penetrated the target bulls-eye. It was an advanced version of the land-attack cruise missile that was successfully test-fired, revalidating the formidable weapon’s precision strike capability,” an official said.
The land-to-land configuration of BrahMos Block–III version was test launched from a Mobile Autonomous Launcher (MAL).
The missile met all flight parameters including high level maneuvers. “The missile successfully hit the designated land-based target with desired accuracy,” the officials said.
Missile was tested for its full range: The official confirmed that the missile was tested for its full-range of 290 kms. The flight was witnessed by Additional Director General Artillery along with senior officers from the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force.
“Today BrahMos LACM has been tested once again establishing our missile as an incredibly lethal weapon with pin-point accuracy to take on enemy targets anywhere. I congratulate the Indian Army on this successful launch,” Sudhir Mishra, CEO & MD of BrahMos Aerospace said.
Latest test after confusion over last trials: Today’s trial comes almost a month after the confusion over Indian Army’s last test-firing of the BrahMos missile.
On April 9, the Indian Army had claimed the ‘successfully test-firing’ of an advanced version of BrahMos missile from Car Nicobar Island. However, hours after the official announcement, the Army withdrew the statement citing no reasons.
Great coordination ahead of the launch: Sources said that the Indian Army officials had to move all infrastructures to mainland on a C-17 Globemaster ahead of the launch.
“Then to load the missile and integrate it on the MAL. It has been a daunting task for the entire Army team,” sources said.
The launch location of the missile from the Car Nicobar region gains significance as India has keen interest in securing the safety of the nearby Malacca Strait.
The air version of BrahMos is expected to be test-fired Su-30MKI soon. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has already handed over the platform after successfully conducting the ground integration tests.
Thursday, May 7, 2015
Friday, May 1, 2015
|Air Marshal H B Rajaram|
retired on April 30, 2015
By Anantha Krishnan M
Bengaluru, April 30: In the early 70s, a young man and his handful of friends made a habit of cutting and keeping every bit of news that appeared on the Indian Air Force (IAF) in the local dailies.
If any bit of news missed the eye of one in the group, definitely another would have grabbed it. They were the ‘plane boys’ of Hosanagara, a sleepy village, around 30 km from Sagar in Karnataka’s then Shimoga (now Shivamoga) District.
Their biggest dream was to become pilots, if not a job in the IAF that will bring them closer to the flying machines.
Interestingly all of them passionately chased their dreams to support their families and serve the nation.
Among them was young Rajaram, who came from a humble background. His father was a tailor and Rajaram was the eldest of seven siblings in the family. A huge responsibility laid on his shoulders in supporting the family.
Boys were keen on a train journey to Delhi: Soon an IAF advertisement caught the attention of the ‘dream brigade’ and everyone applied.
“It was in 1976. We were eager to travel by train to Delhi to attend the physical tests and interview. A possible visit to Delhi was another reason why we had applied. But when the call letter came, the centre was in Mysore,” recalls Rajaram.
On April 30 (2015), Shivamoga’s Rajaram, now Air Marshal H B Rajaram, will land his IAF flight after 38 years of eventful mission. He will retire after reaching the highest position a non-flying administrative officer can reach in the IAF -- Air Officer-In-Charge, Administration (AOA).
Rajaram got commissioned to the administrative branch of the IAF in 1977. “Prior to this, I had undergone a one-year training as well,” he says, even while ensuring that his boys now undertaking various missions in quake-hit Nepal get everything on a war-footing.
For air warriors, he is a man with a golden heart: To many in the IAF, Rajaram is a man with a golden heart. His liking for people and sports made him a hugely popular figure among the air warriors.
Rajaram did his P-G from University of Mysore and hade even registered for a PhD in Genetics.
“In the earlier part of my career, I had served in the Air Traffic Controller (ATC) for 20 years. To be at the ATC is a strenuous job. I held Category-A. I was an instructor and an Air Force examiner there,” recalls Rajaram during an interview with OneIndia.
As AOA, Rajaram looked after matters relating to Discipline, Accommodation, Accounts, Medical Services, Education, Legal Services, Sports and Adventure.
IPKF mission in 1989 memorable one: When asked about his most memorable missions, he said: “Well, there are many. But, my operational assignment in Sri Lanka during the Indian Peace Keeping Force mission in 1989 was different in many ways. Manning the Vavuniya airport as an ATC under field conditions was very challenging.”
A recipient of Vishisht Seva Medal and Ati Vishisht Seva Medal, Rajaram is an avid badminton player as well.
Strong fundamentals, professional training key: With people his key assets, Rajaram ensured that all his initiatives were focused on men and women in uniform.
“As an administration officer, your fundamentals need to be strong. Hence I focused on professional training. Managing people is a very sensitive issue,” says Rajaram, who will be settling down in Bengaluru.
To another query on the IAF of tomorrow, Rajaram said: “The IAF will be a key strategic force. Our approach today is focused towards professionalism and transformation of IAF into a potent aerospace power.”
Blue skies and happy landings!
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
(Photos: Basani Satheesh KUmar a.k.a. Skyman)
Chennai\Bengaluru, April 22: Ministry of Defence (MoD) lost one of the most vibrant Public Relation Officers (PRO) following the demise of Natesan Andavan, who handled the operations in Chennai.
Andavan was admitted to the intensive care unit of Sundaram Medical Foundation in Chennai after he was first hit by an auto rickshaw and later run over by a two-wheeler on Monday evening.
The incident happened while he was crossing the Poonamallee High Road in Purasawalkam after a routine medical check-up on Monday. He was on a life support system for the last two days.
Natesan (52) is survived by his wife Joy Andavan, News Editor with All India Radio, son Benjoy (MBA student) and daughter Catherine (engineering student). The funeral is scheduled on Tuesday morning at his native Perumuchi village, near Arakkonam, in Tamil Nadu.
Caught the attention of the media at very short time
Andavan joined MoD’s Department of Public Relations (DPR) in 2009 and won the hearts of the media within no time.
“I knew him very closely for the last five years. He always helped us to get insight into many defence stories. He also went the extra mile to educate the media on defence matters. He was always available to us and never gave any excuses,” says Dennis S Jesudasan, Special Correspondent, The Hindu, Chennai.
“At the end of the day, Andavan knew the deadline pressures of the media,” says Dennis, who has Space and Defence beats under his belt.
Echoing the same sentiments of Dennis was S Anandan, Special Correspondent (Defence) with The Hindu, Kochi.
“He was very fine human being and very helpful. He was with me during the naval Exercise MILAN in the Andamans a couple of years back. He was the polite face of MoD’s PR set up, yet effective. He exactly knew the needs of the media and had a very gentle way of executing his work,” says Anandan.
According to S Anil, Chief of Bureau, The New Indian Express, Thiruvananthapuram, Andavan was a matured soul.
“His interest in Journalism was immense and he did a Defence Correspondents’ Course (DCC) with us in 2009. I saw a very simple soul in him and he was very enthusiastic in learning new areas of interest. His sudden demise is a huge loss to the media fraternity,” says Anil.
He made an impact, says Manohar Parrikar
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar was among the early birds to mourn the death of Andavan on Monday.
Expressing shock and grief at the untimely demise Andavan, Parrikar said Andavan was a professional communicator who excelled in every aspect of journalism and public relations.
“He made a definite impact among the media fraternity. My heart goes out to the bereaved family at this critical moment in their lives,” Parikkar said.
MoD Spokesperson Sitanshu Kar said Andavan was a amiable personality with an abiding interest in defence related issues.
“He was a great colleague who was very quiet and profound as well. He was extremely meticulous in his job. He turned around the Chennai zone into one of the most active PR hubs for MoD. We had some concerns with the Chennai office before he took over in 2009. But Andvan restored the image of DPR within short time,” Kar told OneIndia over the phone from Delhi.
According to Group Capt T K Singha, Chief PRO (Defence), Kolkata, Andavan was a very endearing person, unassuming but very keen to learn defence matters.
“He was a great team mate. Even journalists from Kolkata who met him at Port Blair for Exercise MILAN are shocked to hear of his sad passing away. MoD will surely miss his services,” says Singha, former Spokesperson of Indian Air Force and a prolific writer.
“In Andvan’s demise, the Armed Forces lost a very passionate soul,” adds Singha.
MoD sharpshooter ‘Skyman Satish’ is orphaned now
Basani Satish Kumar a.k.a Skyman, a senior photo officer with MoD, said that he is orphaned with the demise of Andavan.
Satish, one of the most-sought-after photographers of MoD, had been working with Andavan for the last five years.
“He always did his homework before dealing with the media. He always wanted to be abreast of the happenings in Indian armed forces. He was a great football fan as well and life will be different for all us from now on,” says Satish.
The Regional PRO Office of MOD in Chennai is situated inside the Secretariat Complex.
Madhu Nair, an active official with the Regional PRO Office in Bengaluru said that Andavan always took the media into confidence while handling sensitive issues. “It was a great learning curve for all of us whenever we had opportunity to work with him,” says Madhu.
FDAJB mourns the demise of a helping soul
The Forum of Defence and Aerospace Journalists, Bengaluru (FDAJB), an active network of media personnel, condoled the sudden demise of Andavan.
“It will be difficult for MoD to replace Andavan. His passion levels, keenness to help journalists and down-to-earth nature made him different from other PROs. His short tenure in Bengaluru (holding additional charge) gave an opportunity to the forum members to see his working style from close quarters. He will be missed,” FDAJB said in a statement.
Andavan played a key role during the visit of some of FDAJB members to the Tri-Service Command in Andamans in 2010.
“He was a very upright officer and very accommodating person. He was not the typical uptight defence PRO. His interactions were always with the aim of keeping the relationship alive rather than for the sake of a story,” says Chethan Kumar, Principal Correspondent, The Times of India, Bengaluru.
You will be missed Natesan Andavan!
Your work will definitely inspire many Defence PROs of tomorrow.
(This obit first appeared on OneIndia)