Fortnightly Review & Analysis – Defense, National Security and Terrorism (Vol 1 Issue I)

(June 16-30, 2016)


India to Purchase 145 Ultra-Light Howitzer Guns From US

The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) headed by the Defence Minister Mr Manohar Parrikar decided on 25 Jun 2016 to purchase 145 Ultra-Light Howitzer guns from the United States. It has been decided that India will buy 155 mm M777 ULH guns at a cost of about $750 million.

The gun-maker, BAE has already tied up with India's Mahindra Group for the deal. As envisaged in the deal, the OEM will supply 25 guns in a ready to use condition while the rest will be assembled and tested at Mahindra’s facility in India.

The delivery schedule mandates for 18 guns to be delivered within 18 months from the signing of contract with another 36 guns being delivered in the next 12 months thereafter. All the remaining guns will be delivered by June 2020.

A major advantage of the ULH gun is that, unlike the transportation problems posed by traditional guns on account of their high turning radius, the ULH can be slung on helicopters and transported, thus, making it the perfect gun for use in mountains. Hence, these guns are largely meant to equip the upcoming Mountain Strike Corps which has been under raising since 2013. As is well known, the Mountain Strike Corps is being raised to defend India's border with China.

OFB to produce Dhanush Guns

In a related development, the DAC has tasked the Ordnance Factory Board (Jabalpur) to indigenously manufacture eighteen 155 mm 45 caliber guns which go by the name of Dhanush.

The testing of the indigenously manufactured Dhanush is already under way with the final lap of test starting in the near future. The Indian Army needs 155 mm howitzers to replace its aging Bofors cannons that were procured in 1987. The Dhanush gun is believed to be largely built on the Bofors FH-77B/39 gun technology. However, the Dhanush boasts of several improvements such as a longer range of 38 km as against the 27km of the Bofors and the ability to automatically change its targeting system to adapt to changes in ammunition and atmospheric pressures.

While the purchase of the ULH and the indigenously manufactured Dhanush gun are steps in the right direction, they appear to be mere drops in the ocean as the Indian Army presently needs about 2,800 to 3,000 155 mm guns to replace/reinforce its aging inventory of 155mm guns.

Government Announces 100 % FDI in Defence Sector

The Government of India has now permitted foreign investment beyond 49% through the government approval route, in cases resulting in access to modern technology in the country. The condition of access to ‘state-of-art’ technology in the country has been done away with. The earlier FDI regime permitted 49% FDI participation in the equity of a company under automatic route while FDI above 49% was permitted through Government approval on case to case basis, wherever it was likely to result in access to modern and ‘state-of-art’ technology in the country. The FDI limit for defence sector has also been made applicable to manufacturing of Small Arms & Ammunitions covered under Arms Act 1959.

The earlier regime necessitated foreign firms to form joint ventures with an Indian partner for marketing their products in India. With the new regime, these firms have the option of creating Indian subsidiaries for their products. It will also allow them to take advantage of the Buy (Indian- IDDM) clause in the new Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) 2016. Consequently modern technology, hitherto available only in foreign markets, is likely to find its place in the Indian defence sector. This creates exciting new possibilities for the Indian defence forces, which are desperately seeking to modernize their combat capabilities. While the availability of modern technology is welcome, this move could also result in existent Indian players being edged out from their niche corners by major foreign players. It is the smaller companies that are likely to be affected by such moves while the larger players may continue with their operations. All in all, this move is likely to increase competition in the fledgling defence sector and may lead to some mergers & acquisitions in the near future.

This policy could also provide the much needed impetus to build a base for India as an exporter of defence products, an area which has been neglected till date. Considering India’s emergence as a regional power, especially in the IOR, it is important that this sector be developed to suit emerging requirements of countries in this neighborhood. The recent developments in the export of Brahmos missiles and the Varunastra torpedo need to be built upon so that dependency of countries in the neighbourhood for critical defence needs on extra-regional powers is progressively reduced.

The new FDI policy should provide the much needed boost for the defence manufacturing sector. However, its real impact on the modernization of our defence forces will rest on improving the efficiency of the Government defence acquisition mechanism, which is still being overhauled. The Government should also provide safeguards to protect indigenous developments which have already added an array of modern capabilities to our defence forces at a fraction of the costs of the world market. The overriding concern should be that of ‘Make in India’ and not ‘Made in India’ for the country to achieve the desired level of self-sufficiency in this vital sector.

India tests Medium-Range Surface-to-Air Missile (MRSAM)

A Medium-Range Surface-to-Air Missile (MRSAM) was successfully launched on 30th June from the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur, Odisha. The system includes a multi-functional surveillance and threat alert radar (MFSTAR) for tracking, detection and guidance of the missile, mobile launchers, a combat management system and power supply. The missile has been developed jointly by the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) with participation from Indian private companies like BEL, L&T, BDL, and Tata group. The MRSAM system is designed to provide reliable air defense at medium ranges up to 70 km. It is capable of intercepting incoming aerial threats like supersonic aircraft and missiles against sensitive targets. This is the first test launch of LRSAM.

Though the missile is among the finest SAMs in the world, a report by Air Marshal M Matheswaran, submitted in April 2014 had pointed out that IAI remains the design authority for the complete system. “IAI is doing the role of supplier and the DRDO is the buyer, which is contrary to the DRDO’s role of design agency,” it said. It had also said that the intellectual property rights remain with the design authority.

The Matheswaran report also points out that in 2003, a decision was taken to allow the services to meet their operational requirements of surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) till 2010 by acquiring these through the “buy global” route due to the development of the indigenous Akash and Trishul missile systems being delayed. At this juncture the DRDO stepped in and proposed joint development with Israel. Subsequently, the DRDO and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) started development of a Long Range SAM (LRSAM) for the Navy in 2005. In 2007, they also started work on developing a Medium Range SAM (MRSAM) for the IAF under a separate contract. The above report brings out that the LRSAM & MRSAM are incidentally the same missile.

International Terrorism

Istanbul Bomb Blast

Three suicide bombers attacked the Istanbul Airport on 28 June, killING 44 people, including 19 foreigners. The attackers not only blew themselves up but also fired on the civilians before their final act. A Turkish government official reported that the bombers were Russian, Uzbek and Kyrgyz nationals. As a matter of fact, there are foreign fighters in Daesh from Russia, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, and this will raise the suspicion on Daesh’s involvement. While in the past Turkey had witnessed several terror attacks, this was considered to be one the “deadliest and high-profile in a string of killings and explosions that have shaken the country this year”. Although Daesh has not claimed direct responsibility for this carnage, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed this Sunni-outfit for such a brazen attack and called on the international community to intensify the “global fight against terrorism”. While the direct role of Daesh is yet to be ascertained, the conspicuous silence maintained by it, so far, has aroused serious discussion. This is particularly on its strategy or tactic at this stage when it is facing continuous offensive military campaigns from different regional and international coalition forces. A debate which has started in the political, military-strategic and academic circuits is the likely attempt of Daesh to “sow domestic suspicion” by refraining from claiming responsibility for this major attack. If its role is confirmed, Turkey will likely begin a full-scale war on this organisation. The Istanbul-incident should be a strong message to every country which is fighting Daesh-connected activities in some form or the other. This should also dispel the growing perception that the outfit is losing its vigour to strike. It is likely that such ‘retaliatory attacks’ will occur again, as a result, security-military and intelligence agencies should remain alert throughout.

Terror Strikes Bangladesh

On July 1, around 9:20 pm (BST) a group of 7 well armed terrorists stormed into the popular Holey Artisan Bakery/restaurant in the up scale suburb of Gulshan in the heart of Dhaka. They took the staff and customers hostage even though a few, managed to quietly escape through the back door They seemed fairly well trained, certainly well briefed and rehearsed in that they quickly secured the front door, asked staff to switch off the lights and covered CCTV cameras with clothes. In the process, they had taken 33 hostages comprising some locals and more foreigners.

The hostage takers had no demands to make and therefore no negotiations to participate in. They simply kept slitting throats through the night! In the process, they killed 20 hostages comprising 9 Italians, 7 Japanese,2 Bangladeshis, 1 American and a 19 year young Indian girl who had come from Berkley USA to spend her holidays with parents.

After over 10 hrs of high drama and intense tension, the final storming of the restaurant by the Special Forces took place in the morning of Saturday. Six terrorists were killed and significantly one was captured alive. 13 hostages including some Indians, Japanese and 2 Sri Lankans were rescued.

Condemning the incident, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said "It was an extremely heinous act. What kind of Muslims are these people? They don't have any religion. “ International community was quick to rally behind Sheikh Hasina’s government. Indian Prime Minister Modi spoke to her and condemned the ' despicable act’. President Pranab Mukherjee also sent message of sympathy and support. US President wanted to be kept briefed while State Department expressed abiding solidarity with the people of Bangladesh in their fight against terrorism. In a statement, EU also expressed similar sentiments. His Holiness Pope Francis described the senseless violence as an offence against God and humanity.

The government has recognised the phenomenon of rapidly increasing radicalisation in the country and has also initiated measures to deal with the same at different levels. But the virus is growing rapidly and it seems Bangladesh has not yet reached a definitive conclusion on the identity of forces or groups behind the killing of secular, progressive campaigners. After each such incident, including the latest one, a couple of well identified radical extremist such as Jama'at ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), or Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), also called Ansar Bangla or Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent(AQIS) or ISIS claim responsibility for the event. On this occasion ISIS claimed direct responsibility. However, government immediately countered this and held home grown terrorists responsible.

For the present, pending results of the investigation, one would like to go by the government view that the despicable incident was the handiwork of ‘home grown’ terrorists. None the less, the incident needs to be viewed as a significant shift in the agenda and modus operandi of the terrorists. Their agenda does not seem to be limited to keeping the ruling dispensation on the edge. It is likely to be much more sinister with long term objective of promoting radical Islam in the country and beyond; certainly impacting India. (Extract from a detailed report earlier uploaded on the VIF website)

Terror-module Busted in Hyderabad (India)

In a major crackdown, on 29 June, the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) in collaboration with the Hyderabad Police in Telangana busted a “terror module” which is suspected to be connected with Daesh. During the swoop, five Muslim youths were arrested, followed by the detention of six from different locations of the old city in Hyderabad. A couple of these youths have technical and management backgrounds. The NIA also recovered from them weapons, ammunition, explosive-related chemicals and a sum of 15 lakh rupees. According to NIA officials, this module was under its watch for over four months. The initial investigation revealed the plans of these suspects to carry out attacks in malls, other public places, markets, government buildings, prominent persons, etc. The recovery of triacetone triperoxide (TATP), a lethal explosive chemical, which the Daesh suicide bombers had used in Paris and Brussels, from one of the arrestees’ basement apartment, is alarming. This would have triggered the first use of TATP in India. It is now under further investigation whether the module was planning a suicide attack in the country. Along with the concerns of Muslim youths supporting the outfit ideologically within the country and departing to fight in Syria/Iraq, it is worrisome to discover such highly motivated individuals with access to weapons, explosive-related materials and financial source.

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