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Lockheed Martin says offer to build F-16s in India stands firms

NEW DELHI, Feb 28: At a time when the government seems disinterested to pursue plans to locally produce single-engine fighters in collaboration with a global defence contractor, US military contractor Lockheed Martin on Wednesday said its offer to build F-16 jets in India “stands firm”.

“We haven’t heard anything officially from the government and continue to pursue opportunities to build F-16s under the Make in India framework,” said Vivek Lall, Lockheed vice-president (strategy and business development). India is preparing to launch a fresh hunt for fighter aircraft to sharpen the combat edge of the Indian Air Force that is grappling with a shortage of warplanes, Hindustan Times had reported last week. However, there has been no official announcement.

Lall refused to comment on whether the F-35 stealth fighter was being offered to India, saying it was “a government-to-government conversation.” He, however, said “technology improvements” would continue to flow between the single-engine F-16 and F-35 at the fraction of the cost to F-16 operators. He also said that almost half of the F-16 supply chain was common with the F-35.

Lockheed and Swedish firm Saab are the only two companies exploring opportunities to build F-16s and Gripens in India under the single-engine programme.

Making a renewed pitch for the F-16, Lall said the “exclusive production” of the planes in India represented a significant opportunity to further defence diplomacy as 25 global air forces operated over 3,000 F-16 jets. He said the production of F-16s could begin in India within three years of a deal.

“F-16 production opportunities currently total around 400 (Indian requirement included) in central Europe, South America, Mediterranean and Asia,” he said. What if the government announces it will float a new global tender or take the government-to-government route to buy new jets? “We will still be in that competition. We are here for the long term,” Lall added.

The earlier plan was to pursue two separate projects under the Make in India initiative to build single-engine and twin-engine planes in the country. However, both these plans had not taken off.

The count of the IAF’s fighter squadrons has reduced to 32 compared to an optimum strength of 42-plus units required to fight a two-front war.

India had floated a global tender for 126 planes more than a decade ago but it stood cancelled after Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared in April 2015 that India would buy 36 Rafale jets from France under a government-to-government deal.

Anti-tank missile Nag successfully tested; ready for induction into army

NEW DELHI, Feb 28: The Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) Nag was successfully flight-tested in desert conditions against two tank targets at different ranges and timings, paving the way for its induction into the Army, official sources said on Wednesday.

The third-generation fire-and-forget ATGM has been developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

“The flight tests on Tuesday once again proved its capability. With these tests, its developmental trials have been completed and it is now ready for induction,” an official release said.

Director general (Missiles and Strategic Systems) Dr G Satheesh Reddy said with the successful test flights, technologies pertaining to the ATGM to engage targets in different conditions have been established.

DRDO chairman S Christopher congratulated the Nag team for the achievement.

Chinese warships turn around as Indian Navy continues heavy deployment around Maldives

NEW DELHI, Feb 20: A Chinese warship flotilla that had entered the Indian Ocean, reportedly heading for the Maldives Islands, has turned around and returned to the South China Sea, say highly credible Indian Navy sources.

On Tuesday, Reuters quoted Chinese website to report that eleven Chinese warships had entered the Indian Ocean “amid a constitutional crisis in the tiny tropical island chain of the Maldives now under a state of emergency”, clearly suggesting gunboat diplomacy at work.

However, Indian Navy sources say that, while a Chinese flotilla, including a destroyer and a frigate, had indeed crossed into the Indian Ocean through the Sunda Strait, it turned around and returned to the South China Sea through the Lombok Strait.

The four straits of Malacca, Sunda, Lombok and Ombai Wetar are used by China’s People’s Liberation Army (Navy), or PLA(N), to cross between their bases in the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean.

That leaves the PLA(N) with three warships in the vicinity -- its routine deployment in the Gulf of Aden for anti-piracy escort duties. In addition to this “28th Anti-Piracy Escort Force” (APEF), as the three-vessel task force is called, three more PLA(N) warships that had formed the 27th APEF are currently visiting African ports.

The Indian Navy, meanwhile, continues maintaining a heavy presence of battle-ready warships in the Arabian Sea, including many close to the Maldives.

According to a navy announcement last Wednesday, “A tri-service maritime exercise, codenamed ‘Paschim Lehar’, commenced on the Western seaboard on 12 Feb[ruary 20]18. This exercise includes the participation of a large number of ships, submarines and aircraft from the Western Naval Command of the Indian Navy.”

The announcement also revealed the presence of “Eastern Naval Command, Indian Army, Indian Air Force and the Indian Coast Guard [units that are] also participating to build interoperability.”

In all, India has over 40 ships and submarines deployed in Exercise Paschim Lehar, and a similar number of combat aircraft.

If further signalling were needed of the ready availability of Indian military power, the Navy also announced that army amphibious forces – specialist units used to assault and capture island targets – were also participating in the on-going exercise.

Contacted for comments, an Indian Navy spokesperson stated: “This is a routine training exercise that is taking place. It will last for a month.”

In simple strategic terms, India’s proximity to the Maldives lets it project far greater force around the archipelago than the PLA(N), for significantly longer durations.

The on-going constitutional crisis in the Maldives is a contest for influence between the pro-China President Abdulla Yameen, and his pro-India predecessor, Mohamed Nasheed, who is currently in exile in Sri Lanka.

New Delhi is concerned that the Maldives is gravitating into Beijing’s orbit, with Yameen signing up for the Belt and Road Initiative. There is worry that China could eventually build a naval base here.

Yameen has allowed Beijing to invest in a major port project in the Maldives. That prompted Nasheed to state that China was “buying up the Maldives”.

Yameen has responded with a political crackdown. After the Supreme Court ordered the release of jailed opposition members earlier this month, Yameen declared a 10-day state of emergency on February 5.

On Monday, Yameen sought parliamentary approval to extend the emergency for 30 days.
However, in a press release on Tuesday, the Ministry of External Affairs tweeted: “It is our expectation that the Government of Maldives will not be seeking the extension of the State of Emergency and resume the political process with immediate effect.”

India 'successfully' test-fires Agni-5 ballistic missile with range over 5,000 km

NEW DELHI, Jan 18: India successfully test-fired on Thursday its nuclear capable surface-to-surface ballistic missile Agni-5 — the most advanced missile in the Agni series with a strike range of over 5000 kms — from a test range off the Odisha coast.

The user associate test-flight of the missile has further boosted indigenous missile capabilities and deterrence strength of the country.

All radars, tracking systems and range stations monitored the flight performance, defence sources said.

Describing the trial as “fully successful”, the sources said, the sophisticated missile travelled for 19 minutes and covered 4,900 km.

The sleek missile was test-fired from a canister launcher, mounted on a mobile platform, at about 9.54 am from No. 4 launch pad of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) in Abdul Kalam Island, earlier known as Wheeler Island, they said.

After four successful developmental trials, this was the first user associate test of Agni-5 missile, the sources added.

Agni-5 is the most advanced missile in the Agni series with new technologies incorporated in it in terms of navigation and guidance, warhead and engine. It has a range of over 5000 km.

“The redundant Navigation systems, very high accuracy Ring Laser Gyro based Inertial Navigation System (RINS) and the most modern and accurate Micro Navigation System (MINS) had ensured the missile reached the target point within few metres of accuracy.

“The high speed on board computer and fault tolerant software along with robust and reliable bus guided the missile flawlessly,” said an official of Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO).

The missile is so programmed that after reaching the peak of its trajectory it will turn towards Earth to continue its journey towards the intended target with an increased speed due to the attraction of the earth’s gravitational pull, he said.

Its path is precisely directed by the advanced on-board computer and inertial navigation system, the official added.

The first two successful flights of Agni-5 in 2012 and 2013 were in open configuration.

The third, fourth and Thursday’s launch from a canister, integrated with a mobile sophisticated launcher, were in its deliverable configuration that enables launch of the missile with a very short preparation time as compared to an open configuration.

It also has advantages of higher reliability, longer shelf life, less maintenance and enhanced mobility.

India has at present in its armoury of Agni series, Agni-1 with 700 km range, Agni-2 with 2000 km range, Agni-3 and Agni-4 with 2500 km to more than 3500km range.

The first test of Agni-5 was conducted on April 19, 2012, the second on September 15, 2013, the third on January 31, 2015 and fourth trial on December 26, 2016 from the same base.

Pakistan continuing practice of putting out coerced statements: India on Jadhav video

NEW DELHI: India slammed Pakistan on Thursday for releasing another "confessional" video of imprisoned Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav and called the stunt an exercise in state propaganda which lacks any credibility.

"This does not come as a surprise. Pakistan is simply continuing its practice of putting out coerced statements on video. It is time for them to realize that such propagandistic exercises simply carry no credibility," the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.

The Pakistan Foreign Office had earlier released a video in which Jadhav is seen confessing that he was a commissioned officer of the Indian Navy and that the diplomat who was accompanying his family for a meeting on December 25 had yelled at his mother. India questioned the veracity of Jadhav's statement and charged that he was forced to admit all this by his Pakistani captors.

"The absurdity of a captive under duress certifying his own welfare while mouthing allegations of his captors clearly merits no comment," said the MEA.

In the purported video, Jadhav said, "I saw fear in her (mother's) eyes, the Indian diplomat was shouting at my mother the moment she stepped out. I saw him shouting, yelling at her. This [meeting] was a positive gesture, so that she [my mother] could be happy and I could be happy."

However, it was not clear how Jadhav saw the diplomat shouting at his mother once she stepped out. The diplomat accompanying Jadhav's family was J P Singh, India's Deputy High Commissioner in Islamabad.

Jadhav's so-called "confessional" video was released days after New Delhi had hit out at Islamabad for violating the terms laid out for the Indian national's meeting with his wife and mother. Pakistani media heckled the two ladies, while state officials asked them to remove their bangles, bindi and mangalsutra and even confiscated his wife's footwear.

Taking a stern line, India warned Pakistan against violating Jadhav's rights and grant him consular access.

India has cancelled $500 million defence deal, says Israeli arms firm

JERUSALEM, Jan 3: A top Israeli arms firm has confirmed that India cancelled a $500 million deal to develop Spike anti-tank guided missiles and expressed "regret" over the decision just ahead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's first visit to the country.

"Rafael has now received an official notification from India's Ministry of Defence concerning the cancellation of the Spike deal," Ishai David, a spokesman for the Rafael Advance Defence Systems Ltd, said here.

Spike, in use by 26 countries around the world, is said to have been selected by India after a long and rigorous process and after complying with all the defence procurement regulations.

"It should be emphasised that the cancellation was made prior to the signing of the contract and despite Rafael's compliance with all the demands," the company said in a statement.

"Rafael regrets the decision and remains committed to cooperating with the Indian Ministry of Defence and to its strategy of continuing to work in India, an important market, as it has for more than two decades, to provide India with the most advanced and innovative systems," it added.

The company did not give a reason for the cancellation of the deal.

The cancellation comes days before Netanyahu's four-day visit to India starting January 14 and is likely to be taken up for discussion. Rafael's CEO would also be accompanying Netanyahu.

The company recently inaugurated its facilities in Hyderabad where the project was to be executed but company sources said that it is "designed to accommodate a number of other projects Rafael is engaged in with its Indian partners".

As per the original proposal, India had planned to acquire the ATGMs for the Army at a cost of $500 million.

The defence ministry has been strongly pushing for transfer of technology in procuring various weapons and other platforms from foreign defence majors as part of its broad policy initiative to encourage domestic defence industry.

Official sources in New Delhi had earlier indicated that the proposal to acquire the missile system faced hurdles when Israeli side apparently expressed reservations in ensuring full transfer of technology as per the provisions of the 'Make in India' initiative.


Army Commandos Kill 3 Pak Soldiers Across Line of Control
India creates world record by successfully test firing BrahMos from Su-30 fighter jet



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