Talks between IAF Chief and French Air Force Chief
Talks were held between Chief of Air Staff Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria and General Phillipe Lavigne, Chief of Staff of French Air and Space Force (FASF) to expand cooperation between the two sides. Indian Air Force (IAF) chief Bhadauria is on a five day visit to France. The two chiefs noted the steady growth of operational exchanges between the two forces.
India’s first Kilo-class submarine will retire this year
The Indian Navy is planning to decommission INS Sindhudhvaj, India’s first Kilo-class submarine this year. This move will commence the phasing out of a class of boats that have formed the backbone of the Navy’s underseas fleet for around three decades. The decommissioning ceremony which was to be held in April has been delayed by two months for want of clearances from the defence ministry. In 1987, the Sindhudhvaj was acquired from the Soviet Union. Between 1986 and 1991 India acquired eight such submarines and two more between 1998 and 2000 from Russian Federation. They were the first submarines of Indian Navy with the capability of firing anti-ship and land attack cruise missiles from beneath the surface. One unit INS Sindhurakshak was lost in an accident in 2013 and the Sindhuvir was handed over to the Myanmar navy last year. With its retirement, the navy’s submarine arms will fall to 14 units of which seven are in the Kilo-class. Project 877 EKMs that includes world’s commonly visible conventional submarines was dubbed as the ‘Kilo’ class by North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Currently, 62 units of such class are in service across nine navies in the world. The Kilo class submarines are being replaced by the French Scorpene submarines being manufactured under licence by the Mazgaon Dock Shipbuilders Limited. So far three submarines of the Kalvari class have been inducted with the third INS Karanj being commissioned on March 11 this year. The three others Vela, Vagir and Vagsheer will be commissioned by 2023. Inspite of induction of all these submarines Navy will remain short of its target of a force of 24 conventional submarines. The highest number Navy achieved was in 1995 when it had 20 submarines. Since then, more submarines number of retirements have outstripped the number of acquisitions. In a decade of 2021 and 2030, Navy’s fleet will stagnate. This is when Navy is facing multiple challenges emanating from China in the Indian Ocean Region. No major acquisition proposal has been approved in recent times. Rather, Navy is turning its focus towards future conventional submarines- the Project 75 ‘India’ boats that will be manufactured by an Indian firm in partnership with a foreign Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM). Thus India will be able to make its own conventional submarines. Project 75 hasn’t delivered a single unit yet. Certain legal issues are delaying the project and even if it moves swiftly it will take at least eight years before a new submarine joins the fleet. Three kilo class submarines are going through a second medium refit (MR) at a Russian Shipyard. An MR is usually done only once in a submarine’s 30 year life. The second refit adds an additional decade to the submarine hull and takes it to around 40 years. These MRs were initiated five years ago to upgrade the existing fleet as new acquisitions were not in sight then. This will enable the submarines to serve through the lost decade (2021-2030).
India offers help to Vietnam in warship building
India offered to help Vietnam by all its defence and other shipyards in construction and maintenance of warships. India has already assured assistance to Vietnam in modernizing and training its armed forces. According to defence secretary, the mission for self-reliant India is not just inward looking but it aims to build defence products in the country and offer quality products to the whole world especially friendly nations. Indian shipbuilding has matured and gained enough expertise. Indian shipyards have welcomed the proposal to work with Vietnamese shipyards for construction, repair and maintenance of ships. These discussions were a part of the webinar on “India-Vietnam defence cooperation”. Defence cooperation is an essential component of the “comprehensive strategic partnership” between the two countries. India has also offered the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile and Akash surface-to-air missile defence systems to the Vietnam. Both India and Vietnam have agreed to move ahead in mutual cooperation to tackle together the aggressive behavior of China.
95% Army personnel get first dose
Almost the entire serving army has been administered first dose of vaccine to fight against COVID-19 virus. It has been reported that more than 95% of the personnel of 13 lakh strong Indian Army has got the first dose while over 52% have been administered the second jab. With the cases rising across the country, army hospitals are also packed with the COVID-19 patients with the patient count including both the serving personnel and their dependents. Army is not facing any shortage of vaccine and is achieving maximum numbers in the shortest time possible although the vaccination drive was a major challenge for the army to cover such a vast number of personnel. This is because not everyone is available at the same time as some may be on leave or absent due to other reasons. For the troops in forward locations stringent protocols are being followed. 14-day quarantine period or a negative report is necessary for the personnel before boarding a service aircraft. Same is the case with the other two forces. In the Indian Navy, over 90% of the personnel have been given the first dose and nearly 70% have got second inoculation as well. As a precautionary measure, the Army has reduced physical attendance in office and is holding most of the meetings through video conferencing. In the budget session it was reported that 32000 Indian Army personnel were affected by COVID with 0.24 % cases being fatal. But these figures were before the recent spike in cases and numbers could have risen due to surge of the new mutants now.