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Glass ceiling is broken in year that gave boost to defence manufacturing


New Delhi: The Make in India initiative got a huge push with Russia agreeing to manufacture upwards of 200 light helicopters in India, a move that once again made it India’s top supplier of military hardware while purchases worth over Rs.2 lakh crore ($30 billion) were also approved.

The year saw a glass ceiling being broken with the Indian Air Force’s decision to allow women into the fighter stream while the Indian Navy submitted a proposal for inducting women as surveillance pilots.

At the same time, going ahead with its new “offensive-defensive” policy, India launched a first-of-its kind surgical operation, attacking terror camps along the India-Myanmar border.

The year also witnessed diversification in India’s defence partners, with the US entering the field prominently in the beginning of the year. France was also in the limelight due to the still-to-be-concluded deal for 36 Rafale combat jets. Russia, however, reemerged as the key partner at the fag end of the year following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit. Russia, accounting for 70 percent of India’s arms imports in the 2010-14 period, will build the Kamov Ka-226 helicopters in India and will also fabricate 12 new nuclear reactors at two sites.

The year began with US President Barack Obama being the chief guest at the Republic Day parade and this was followed by a new Defence Framework Agreement being signed in June.

The two sides also agreed to pursue projects that will offer tangible opportunities for American defence industries to build a partnership with the Indian industries including manufacturing under the Make in India initiative.

On the acquisition front, a Request for Proposal (RFP) was cleared for six more Scorpene submarines under the P75 Project for around Rs.80,000 crore. This will add to the six that are currently being built at Mumbai’s Mazagon Dock Ltd.

The Indian Army got clearance to buy 145 BaE Systems M777 ultra-light howitzers for Rs. 2,900 crore through the Foreign Military Sales route.

This apart, a new Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) gives priority to indigenous products.

The defence ministry has said it has got a “positive response” from both within the country and globally – from countries like Israel, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the US – to the Make in India initiative. Since its launch some 18 months ago, 61 companies have obtained 81 Industrial Licences (ILs) for manufacturing of various defence equipment.

On his part, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar set an ambitious target of achieving 50 percent indigenisation by 2017, and up to 60-70 percent in next five years.

In Parrikar’s words, the mission in expediting defence procurement is also about changing a “mindset of mistrust” that he said developed over the last ten years.

And, in an important step targeting speedy indigenisation, the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) limit was raised from 26 percent to 49 percent through approval route. Proposals above this would be considered on a case-to-case basis.

Also, the defence products list for the purpose of industrial licencing was substantively shortened and notified, as was a defence exports strategy for faster clearances.

Interaction with industry was identified as a key area for pushing the domestic defence sector, and a Make in India website was launched for it, promising replies to queries in three days.

The private sector figured significantly in big-ticket deals.

The fag end of the year saw Boeing and Tata Advanced Systems announcing a joint venture to manufacture aerostructures for aircraft and collaborate on integrated systems while the Anil Ambani-led Reliance Group signed an agreement with Russia’s AlmazAntey to work jointly on a range of air defence missile and radar systems for the Indian defence forces.

As for the western border, 2015 saw a decline in infiltrations to 92 (till September 30) from 264 in 2012 and 221 in 2014.

A number of joint exercises were witnessed. The Indian Army engaged in counter-terrorism and humanitarian aid exercise ‘Hand in Hand’ with China, Indra with Russia, and Yudh Abhyas with the US.

The Indian Air Force participated in Indradhanush-IV with the Royal Air Force and in a drill with the Republic of Singapore Air Force.

The Indian Navy engaged with France in exercise Varuna off Goa, SIMBEX with Singapore, Ausindex with Australia and Malabar with the US and Japan.

Indian Navy vessels also visited several countries for port calls and other engagements with Egypt, Iran, Israel, Japan, the Philippines, Qatar, South Korea, Spain, the UAE and Vietnam.

The defence ministry announced a long-awaited One Rank One Pension (OROP) scheme, which takes 2013 as the base year and takes the average of the upper and lower pensions of a rank to fix new pensions, also protecting those who are above the average. Revisions will take place every five years. The veterans, however, continued their agitation, stating that the government scheme is not true to the definition of OROP. (IANS, Anjali Ojha), (image courtesy: upload.wikimedia.org)

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Operation Meghdoot: Role of Indian Air Force

Indian Air Force backed the Indian Army during Operation Meghdoot by supplying troops and stores

Ensign of Indian Air Force. Wikimedia commons
Ensign of Indian Air Force. Wikimedia commons
  • Operation Meghdoot’s objective was to capture the Siachen Glacier.
  • Indian Army expeditions were going on in the high-altitude region.
  • IAF was tasked with supporting the troops with backup and supplies.

Operation Meghdoot was launched in 1984, it aimed to capture the Siachen Glacier. It was quite a unique operation because of Siachen’s dreaded terrain and unforgiving climate. The mission was a successful one, India gained control over the Siachen Glacier.

India now controls the 70 kilometres long glacier and the three major passes west of it (Sia La, Bilafond La, and Gyong La. Whereas Pakistan controls the area west of Saltoro Ridge. The TIME magazine states, India has control over 1,000 square miles of territory because of its exceptional military operation.

You may also like: 20 Amazing Facts About Indian Navy

Siachen glacier, known as the third pole of the world, is one of the most dreaded places in the world. Mainly due to its temperature and terrain. Wikimedia commons
Siachen glacier, known as the third pole of the world, is one of the most dreaded places in the world. Mainly due to its temperature and terrain. Wikimedia Commons

IAF had played a major role in this operation. It used Il-76, An-12, and An-32 to transport troops and drop supplies to these extremely high altitude battlefields. Following which, Mi-17, Mi-8 and HAL Chetak would carry the same to the east.

IAF’s performance was incredible, taking into account how extreme the temperature and altitude are at Siachen. The operation is a saga which showcased such skill that can never be forgotten.

IAF's uncompromising valour made it possible for the Indian Army to capture the Siachen Glacier. Wikimedia commons
IAF’s uncompromising valour made it possible for the Indian Army to capture the Siachen Glacier. Wikimedia Commons

Role of Indian Air Force

When the first IAF sortie was launched to Siachen on 20th September 1978, Chetak helicopters used to supply stores to the on-ground Indian Army. That’s when a thought occurred to one of the IAF officers “Why not pick their emails for their loved ones back home?” They used to drop a string with a note saying “We are coming back in 10 minutes. Please write your letters and put them in a bag.”

This kind gesture of the Indian Air Force symbolized the brotherhood of ‘men in arms’. It also boosted the morale of Indian Army troops who were leading expeditions on the ‘third pole of the world’.

Also read: All you want to know about the ranks of Indian army

IAF operates from 60 bases across the country. Wikimedia commons
IAF operates from 60 bases across the country. Wikimedia Commons

IAF helicopters used to fly at the height of 16,000 feet, many times, the officers had to take oxygen directly from the pipe. They also had the job of taking injured troops back to base camp. However, it isn’t as simple as it sounds.

Finding the expedition parties in the never-ending desert of ice, then landing the helicopter on the lumps of snow were tasks that required unmistakable skill.

IAF is the fourth most powerful air force in the world. Wikimedia commons
IAF is the fourth most powerful air force in the world. Wikimedia Commons

How IAF operates in Siachen now

Indian Air Force has a far different set of procedures than that of the time of Operation Meghdoot. The operations are scientifically planned and executed meticulously.

  • IL-76s and An-32s supply stores to the men in Leh and Thoise from Chandigarh.
  • Thereafter, Mi-17 helicopters airdrop supplies to the lower level helipads at 17,500 feets.
  • Cheetahs then take over and ferry the supplies to helipads situated at 20,000 feet.