Thursday, September 4, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Govt clears 8000-cr Hawk deal
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 3
Hawk deal The Government today cleared some of the long-pending decisions on weapons acquisition, including the purchase of 66 Advanced Jet Trainers (AJTs) for the Indian Air Force (IAF) and further modernising the existing lethal ‘Ghatak Platoon’.

The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), which met here this morning under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee deliberated for over two hours on how to make the Indian armed forces more lethal, specially keeping in mind the present security scenario prevailing in the country. The CCS cleared decisions for acquiring weapons worth more than Rs 16,000 crore.

The meeting was also attended by Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, Defence Minister George Fernandes, External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha, Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission K.C. Pant and Cabinet Secretary Kamal Pande. Senior officers from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and from the armed forces were also present.

Besides deciding to purchase the Hawk AJTs from British Aerospace (BAe), the government also cleared the acquisition of five executive jets for VVIP travel from a Brazilian company Ambraer, electronic warfare systems for the navy and modern weapons, communications and night vision devices for the Army.

These would include the best available weapons, communication and night vision devices for the ‘Ghatak Platoon’. It was also decided to create specialised units to detect and counter the improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

This was done keeping in mind the prevailing situation in the country specially in the terrorist-infested Jammu and Kashmir and the North-East.

Defence Secretary Ajay Prasad who had attended the CCS meeting, addressed the mediapersons later in the evening. He said that almost Rs 3000 crore would be spent over a period of next few years to provide the ‘Ghatak Platoon’, which is based on the most modern and lethal Delta Force of the USA with lethal fire power.

The already existing platoon, which has been carved out from various units of the Army for counter-terrorist activities and deep penetration into enemy territory, would also be provided with the state-of-the-art communication equipment and night vision capability through hand-held thermal imagers.

All these deals had been pending long with the MoD which had been waiting for a formal nod of the CCS. These decisions also became important from the point of view of the forthcoming visit of the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as most of these equipments were expected to be bought from Israel.

Mr Prasad further said that besides the ‘Ghatak Platoon’, some other platoons of the Army would also be provided with the much needed modern equipment. These would be the specialised Infantry Battalions of the Army.

The specialised units for detecting and countering the IEDs would be created from the Corps of Engineers, Rashtriya Rifles and other infantry battalions. Mr Prasad said that these would be trained to handle and respond to the challenges posed by the terrorists.

The government would spend Rs 290 crores over the next two years to equip these units with the latest weapons and other equipments. The equipment which would be provided to these units would be partly indigenous and partly imported.

Mr Prasad further said that the other important decision taken was to purchase the Shipborne Electronic Warfare Systems for the Navy. Although he refused to say on how many ships would this equipment be fitted but said that it would be purchased from Israel’s Rafael company at a cost of $ 105 million.

But he added that the deal was not expected to be inked during the visit of the Israeli Prime Minister. the equipment would be available to the Navy over the next few months.

India was expected to buy just a small number of Electronic Warfare Systems as by the second half of next year the indigenously produced systems would also be ready for user trials.

The equipment would help the naval ships to not only locate the approaching enemy ships but also take counter measures electronically to confuse any approaching missiles.

Mr Prasad said the AJT deal would cost the government Rs 8,000 crore. Out of the 66 ‘Hawk-115’ trainers 24 would be bought in ‘fly-away’ condition and rest 42 manufactured under license at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) at Bangalore.

As many as 230 MiGs have crashed since 1990 that led to dubbing of the aircraft as ‘flying coffins’.

The decision to acquire AJTs ‘fulfils one of the long-standing needs of the Indian Air Force’, he said, adding that each aircraft would cost approximately Rs 85 crore.

The Defence Secretary said the total package of Rs 8,000 crore included the cost of training of pilots, cost of transfer of technology, creation of infrastructure facilities, the licence fee and the cost of production of the aircraft by HAL.

While the delivery of the aircraft would begin within 35 months of signing of the contract, all the 66 AJTs were expected to be available to the IAF before the end of six years, Mr Prasad said.

India would be the third biggest customer for Hawks closely following in the footsteps of the British Royal Air Force and the South African Air Force which had orderded the trainers during the last two months.

Hawk was in worldwide operation with 800 plus aircraft in use by 17 customers and 22 armed forces and the trainers had generated over 1.5 million flight hours in experience.

Since it would take at least two years for the first batch of the Hawks to be delivered to India, discussions had already been held for a smooth transition to enable the IAF to begin obtaining the benefits of the acquisition as early as possible, the sources said.

They said these included training of IAF pilots at Boscombe Down at the Empire Test Pilots School in upgraded Hawks Mk53s to be loaned by the British Aerospace Systems.

Lack of an AJT had more recently been slated as one of the major causes for rising MiG crashes in the Indian Air Force — whose fighter pilots were being trained on the MiG-21 which is considered a difficult aircraft to fly.

India, which has the world’s fourth-largest airforce, began scouring the global arms bazaar for advanced jet trainers in 1983 with an initial aim of picking up 66 units at a base price of $ 1.63 billion for the total package.

Two companies were short-listed in 1999 for the deal — the French Dassault with its fixed-wing Alphajet and the British Aerospace with its Hawk. Following the stoppage of manufacture of the Alphajet, the choice had been reduced to the Hawk alone.

Besides, the Defence Secretary pointed out that as many as 17 countries were using the BAe-made Hawk.

However, recently there were reports that the British Aerospace had bribed officials in several countries to secure sales contracts. Besides, there also were doubts regarding the Royal Air Force opting for the Hawk.

The Indian Defence Ministry, following these reports, had sought further clarifications from the British Government.

The clearance of the AJT deal, it is understood, was placed before the CCS only after satisfactory clarifications had been received from London.


India should develop MCA, says expert
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 3
India should work towards developing the Medium Combat Aircraft (MCA), Chief Designer of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Dr Kota Harinarayana said here today.

“It will cost us about Rs 200 crore to purchase the Mirage-2000 we need to replace our ageing Jaguars and Mirages. This sum can be utilised to develop the MCA,” Mr Harinaryana said while making a presentation on “Indian Aviation — Present and Future Directions” at the Eighth India International Civil and Defence Equipment and Systems Exhibition and Conference (IICDES)-2003 here.

He said advanced fighters could be developed indigenously and that would reduce the need for purchasing fighter aircraft from abroad.

“The proposed plane will feature the latest “Fifth Generation” features, such as stealth, super-cruise ability, thrust-vector ability, integrated flight and engineering control systems, and nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) protection,” he said, adding that some of these already feature in the LCA.

The MCA is primarily being projected as a replacement for the British Jaguar and Mirage-2000 the IAF flies, which will be phased out by 2015. Optimised for strike missions, it is envisaged as a complement to the LCA and Su-30MKI as India’s leading combat planes.

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