Tarmak007 -- A bold blog on Indian defence

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Maj Sandeep Unnikrishnan inspires soldiers guarding Bumla Pass

By Anantha Krishnan M
TNIE Online
Bumla Pass (Arunachal Pradesh), 06 Feb 2018: “I was in school when Major Sandeep Sir was martyred in Mumbai. I was working in my father’s paper shop. I helped him with collecting old newspapers and later selling them in bulk. I read every bit of news on Major Sandeep Sir. It changed my life. I decided to work hard. My aim was to join the Indian Army,” says a Sepoy, posted at Bumla Pass.
The Sepoy (not naming him) along with other soldiers and officers are part of the 7 Bihar Regiment, now posted at this Sino-India border post, on the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
“Today, I am proud to be in the Indian Army and happy guarding the border. Major Sandeep Sir is my hero. And he will always be,” he adds.
A poster depicting the heroics of martyred NSG commando Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, who belonged to the 7 Bihar Regiment, welcomes visitors at the entrance of Bumla Pass, which is situated at an altitude of 15,200 feet (4,600 metres) above sea level. 
The soldiers manning this sensitive post take pride in being part of the regiment that Major Sandeep once served in.
“He inspires all of us. He is our hero and his brave deeds motivate us all the time,” says a young officer posted here.
Full report here: http://bit.ly/2C0aDtx

Saturday, January 27, 2018

'Intelligent’ Tejas does the ‘talking’; pilots & engineers are not complaining

By Anantha Krishnan M
TNIE Online Exclusive
Bengaluru, 27 Jan 2018: Close to one-and-a-half-years after the first Light Combat Aircraft Tejas joined the Indian Air Force (IAF) fleet officially, the No 45 Sqn Flying Daggers that flies the desi bird is now ready for bigger operational challenges.
Raised in Bengaluru on July 1, 2016, the Flying Daggers are a now formidable combat air unit with a bunch of young pilots who sleeps, eats and breathes Tejas.
During an interaction granted to this Correspondent, it was evident that the boys are confident of the machine that they operate, its abilities and the possibilities it offers in future. In fact, they call Tejas an ‘intelligent talking plane’.
The Flying Daggers are now under the operational control of Southern Air Command (SAC), headquartered at Thiruvananthapuram through the Aircraft and Systems Testing Establishment (ASTE) located at Bengaluru.

An upclose with Flying Daggers | Tejas Talking

Presenting to you #TejasTalking, one of the most comprehensive films on Indian Air Force's Tejas pilots. In this 55-minute film, specially made on the occasion of Republic Day 2018, we get you an up-close with the team members of No 45 Sqn, Flying Daggers, who operate the Light Combat Aircraft, Tejas.
#TejasTalking is a part of #ProjectHamaraHeroes from the hangars of Inspired Indian Foundation®, launched in January 2018. Under this pilot mission, IIF aims to capture inspiring stories from the Indian armed forces and the scientific fraternity.
 It is an independently-funded mission, with no commercial angle.

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Thursday, December 28, 2017

NAL bailed out BrahMos ALCM when Russians asked for the Moon

By Anantha Krishnan M
Bengaluru, Dec 28: India rightly celebrated ‘BrahMostav’ of a different kind when the frontline striker Sukhoi Su-30MKI fired a modified BrahMos supersonic cruise missile for the first time recently.
The feat of a Su-30 MKI, piloted by Wg Cdr Prashant Nair taking off from Kalaikunda Air Force Station on November 22, 2017, carrying the 2.5-tonne Brahmos missile and returning to the base after piercing the target in less than an hour, has already found a place in the history books.
But there’s a missing link to this piece of inspiring military history.
One name that missed out the pressers and headlines prominently was National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), a leading laboratory under Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR), based out of Bengaluru.
It was NAL who bailed out the BrahMos Aerospace during 2013-14 period, when the greedy Russians were asking for the moon to conduct a series of wind-tunnel tests ahead of the actual integration of the BrahMos Air Launch Cruise Missile (ALCM) on to Su-30MKI.
Military sources now confirm to Mathrubhumi that the Russians demanded ‘exorbitant charges’ to carry out these tests, a first-time experience even for them, since India was the first country to integrate a supersonic cruise missile on to fighter jet.
The Russians are said to have quoted over Rs 1300 crore with no commitment on transfer of technology. The Indian team, consisting of members from BrahMos, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and the Indian Air Force (IAF), then turned to NAL for help.
NAL, with their extensive knowledge of carrying out wind-tunnel experiments for various national military and space missions, accepted the challenge and delivered the test results at 120th the cost of what the Russians had sought for.

How NAL executed the challenging task

For NAL, it was a first-time-experience to undertake drop test of stores from a Su-30MKI aircraft model. At their 1.5m low-speed wind tunnel, using Froude Scaling principles, the scientists carried out tests at low speeds of (M<0.3).
A Su-30 MKI model, the largest aircraft model, was designed, fabricated and commissioned at a record time at NAL’s National Trisonic Aerodynamic Facilities (NTAF). [A trisonic wind tunnel is capable of testing flight vehicles at subsonic, transonic and supersonic speed ranges].
The study provided the ideal conditions for the stores release at actual flight Mach numbers including the deflection setting angles for the fore and aft fins.
The software developed allowed tracking of the time-resolved displacement, velocity, acceleration and Euler angles. The composite image of the missile was recorded at four different instances along the trajectory.
NAL used appropriately scaled models of Su-30MKI and BrahMos missile for testing in low speed and high speed wind tunnels. Aerodynamic loads on the isolated missile loads were measured in the 2-ft wind tunnel and the same model was attached to the aircraft model.
Later, the aerodynamic loads on the complete configuration was determined in the 4-ft wind tunnel simulating flight Mach number range of 0.55 to 1.2 conditions at various angles of attack and sideslip to ascertain installation effects, store load in carriage position and in aircraft interference flow-field.

Store separation critical for airborne missions

Those associated with the ALCM mission from the early days say that the store separation of the weapon is the critical milestone for any airborne weapon program.
Highly specialized and complex tests such as ‘Dynamically Similar Tests’ or ‘Drop tests’ were conducted for the first time in India at the Experimental Aerodynamics Division of NAL.
In ‘Drop tests’ the missile model is dropped in the wind tunnel simulating aircraft speed, altitude and other parameters and separation trajectories are analysed. These tests were crucial for getting clearance for the BrahMos separation trials.
The wind tunnel tests were conducted in phases in 4-ft and 2 ft trisonic wind tunnels of NTAF. For the store separation tests, grid studies were carried out in 4-ft trisonic wind tunnel in NTAF to see the effect of BrahMos on the Su-30MKI aircraft model in carriage position. 
The team also undertook air-intake studies to study whether the presence of the missile affects the performance of the air-intakes of the Su-30MKI. NAL was also involved in the crucial task of envelope expansion of the aircraft with the launcher, developed by BrahMos Aerospace Thiruvananthapuram Ltd.
When cross-checked, the complete test results even surprised the Russians who acknowledged that NAL findings were better and more accurate than what they had derived at.
NAL’s wind tunnel results matched very well with the results of the actual flight data. The capabilities developed are now being applied to other airborne weapon integration programmes.
The path-breaking tests fetched NAL the Best Laboratory Award in 2014 from BrahMos, presented by former President Dr A P J Abdul Kalam. Interestingly, India has named the hypersonic version of BrahMos after Dr Kalam. @Mathrubhumi

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Upgraded Saras PT1N all set for maiden flight in Jan

By Anantha Krishnan M
Bengaluru, Dec 26: National Aeronautics Laboratories (NAL), a frontline wing under Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) here, is ready to put the upgraded prototype of Saras on its maiden flight.
The Saras PT1N (New), a 14-seater passenger plane, is expected to have its first flight after completing one more high speed taxi trial (HSTT).
Military sources confirm to Mathrubhumi that the first flight will be about 20-25 minutes.
Two Test Pilots and one Flight Test Engineer, who are empanelled to the PT1N project from Indian Air Force’s Aircraft and Systems Testing Establishment (ASTE), will be onboard the maiden mission.
The first flight could be any time during the first/second week of January 2018.
What separates the PT1N now from the maiden flight are a SRB (Safety Review Board) and one final HSTT.
A young team of around 40 scientists and engineers, with an average age of 40 years, have been toiling hard for the last nine months to ensure Saras does what it is meant to be doing -- flying.
The project had virtually hit a dead end after the March 2009 crash of PT-2 martyring three ASTE crew onboard. The subsequent crash probe, lack of confidence among users, want of funds and political will further dented the project.
The aircraft was grounded for close to three years (2013-2016) barring namesake EGRs to keep the power-plant in good shape.
The resurgence of Saras project as PT1N has now given hope for India’s foray into making 14/19-seater passenger turboprops, with China, Russia, Poland, Indonesia and United States have already gone some distance.
In the new avatar as PT1N, it boasts of many upgraded features, following a gap analysis undertaken last year.

A close look at what PT1N looks like

* The control forces have been significantly reduced.
* The nacelle design (for engine mount) has been made optimal.
* Environmental control systems, cabin pressurization systems have been modified.
* Automatic avionics stall warning system included.
* Linear flap track and trim taps on elevator modified. 
* Rudder area enhanced for better controllability. 
* Flight test instrumentation modified.
* Electrical systems modified to reduce voltage losses.
* Air data system has been provided with the nose boom for redundancy.
Apart from above modification on the aircraft, the following additional safety measures have also been ensured by the team.
* Complete borosopic inspection of the aircraft to eliminate any doubts about corrosion. 
* Computer-based failure analysis of engine, elevator jamming and ailerons power adequacy. 
* Simulator upgraded to the high-fidelity.

The NAL-ASTE combine’s primary objective with PT-1N is to evaluate all systems, including design and performance parameters. The inputs collected from PT1N’s initial flights (expected to be around 20-30 in the next six months), will be then used to freeze the design, paving way for the production version.

India’s 19-seater dream will be Saras Mk-2

PT-IN flight data will inspire NAL to prepare the DPR (detail project report) for India’s much-awaited 19-seater passenger plane – Saras Mk2.
The Saras Mk2 will have additional five more seats and a toilet as compared to the PT1N. It will also have gen-next avionics and glass cockpit, autopilot and other features any modern passenger turboprop could boast off.
The Saras Mk2 with reduced weight (around 700 kg compared to PT1N) will have an AUW (all up-weight) of roughly around 7.4 to 7.5 ton and will likely to run on MRF tyres.
Sources confirm that NAL plans to have both military and passenger version for the 19-seater. They hope to encash on the CEMILAC-DGCA’s certification model used in ALH, to save time.
As of now, two production variants are planned while the third one will be a fatigue test specimen (FTS) – all estimated to costing around Rs 700 crore.
In the last one year, NAL put some of its best workforce behind the Saras project with many slogging it out day and night.
Insiders say only less than Rs 5 core has been spent in the last one year for Saras PT-IN, thanks to lean management philosophy, optimum usage of resources and constant monitoring.
With CSIR backing the project after some hiccups, Saras is sure to be India’s star in 2018 with IAF offering all support to the desi mission once again. CSIR DG Dr Girish Sahni’s push for the Saras PT1N/19-seater, and the Udan mantra of Govt of India also have come as a blessing for team NAL.
Subject to the Cabinet Committee on Security approval, the detail design of the first limited series production (LSP) variant of Saras-Mk-2 should begin in 2019 followed by certification and demonstration flights by 2021. In short, in three years NAL will have its handful with Saras once again back on the radar. @Mathrubhumi 

Monday, December 18, 2017

Her father's daughter: An inspiring story from INA Ezhimala

After the Passing out Parade, father and daughter together.

By Cmde Srikant Kesnur

A few days ago, the Indian Naval Academy at Ezhimala, in southern India, celebrated one more course passing out parade with the usual pomp, precision and show. There were several stirring stories as young boys and girls, officer cadets, were commissioned as officers and began their naval journey. 
Amidst those stirring stories was a heart-warming tale of a family, and for the purpose of this piece, a father and daughter. It is not an extraordinary tale, not a trailblazing or news-making one, yet it is, to use that phrase again, heart-warming and life-affirming. 
The father first. Master Chief Petty Officer First Class (MCPO 1) Umesh Chandra Dhaundiyal is the senior most Sailor in my unit and the in-charge of maintenance, administration and host of other matters.
He has risen to this position by the dint of his hard work, perseverance and dedicated service of more than 30 years in the Navy, mostly at sea. In fact, the last ship he served on as the Master Chief Boatswains Mate (MCBM) - the key sailor of the ship - bagged the most spirited ship trophy, a tribute to him, as much to his Captain. In my unit of very few sailors, he slogs with the josh and enthusiasm of a newcomer while using all the wisdom of his years. In short, a gem of a person and a professional. 
The Dhaundiyals are like any conventional middle-class Indian family. Thrifty, resourceful, hardworking, a tad conservative and traditional. They believe in making the best of their surroundings. It is perhaps because of the father's background. Growing up in a small village in Pauri Garhwal, 120 km from Dehra Dun, he lost both his parents while in high school and came up the hard way. It is quite likely that the mother grew up similarly. Thus, honest middle-class values and virtues became their leitmotif. 
The selfie together after the POP.
The daughter now. Kamini Dhaundiyal did her schooling at Navy Children Schools in Mumbai & Vizag. A topper in school she bagged trophies for "Best Girl" and overall excellence in her matriculation. She graduated in electrical & electronic engineering with 94% marks from GITAM University, Visakhapatnam in 2016. She landed a job in campus selection for the prestigious IT major Accenture, where she worked for 7 months. 
However, not quite enthused with her corporate career and motivated by a strong urge to join the Navy, she took the plunge and appeared for the first ever Services Selection Board (SSB) conducted for women entry to INA and was among the 5 out of 167 selected. She was selected for Naval Armament cadre. She was in a dilemma; she preferred logistics to handling ordnance.
About a month later, she appeared for her second SSB at a different centre and was selected again. This speaks volumes about her confidence because most would be happy to clear the selection once. She did it at two different centres. As her father says matter-of-factly "she worked very hard at her job while also preparing for SSB". At the Naval Academy, she was awarded the prize for best performance in seamanship and she stood third overall in order of academics merit. From all accounts, she is a good sportsperson too. 
Posing in front of the Mess, a day before the POP.
The story goes a little further. His son Abhishek Dhaundiyal, younger to Kamini, too has joined Naval Academy in Jan 17 training to become an Executive officer. He also studied in NCS Vizag. He also excelled in academics as well as in sports. He also was awarded the same Trophy for best academics overall in 2014. He is very good in football and table tennis, where he represented NCS Vizag in south zone state level junior table tennis championship. He too went through two SSBs, one for NDA and other for Naval Academy and having cleared both, opted for the latter. He will be commissioned as an officer three years down the line. 
So in short, when the Dhaundiyals landed in the Naval Academy a fortnight ago, they were a family in which the father had reached the highest sailors’ rank and the daughter was being commissioned as an officer in the navy and the son awaiting his turn in the line three years hence. I am sure Master Sahab (as we refer to our Senior sailors) would have been a very proud man when his daughter pipped her stripes and entered the rarefied world of Navy officers. 
For me, this little story offers several fascinating nuggets. This is not one of a kind, but it is uncommon. For one, it is a story of aspiration and ambition. It is also about realising it in the best possible way, which is through hard work, grit, determination, and perseverance - qualities that we see often in our sailors. But it is also much more than that. 
It is about social mobility in a time of social transition and how navy enables that access. It is about the success of Navy schools which in a span of just about two decades are amongst the best you can get. And these schools are the handiwork, almost entirely, of the naval community. It is about the Mothers who are often not given due credit, including here. The mothers/wives in the navy have an onerous 'unpaid' task. They look after home and hearth with men away sailing or on duty more than half the time. Mostly from the hinterland, many of our sailors' wives begin life in a big city having to adjust and adapt at several levels. They do so magnificently. As mothers, they are often silent but always solid, stoic, supportive of their husbands' and (later) children’s' career endeavours. It is not the perfect world that the libertarians may want, but it is of slow and steady progress to modernity and cosmopolitanism. 
Siblings in Service.
It is about daughters expressing themselves. And fathers, overcoming entrenched patriarchies of tradition, encouraging them to do so. It is about chipping away at the glass ceilings; it is about creative disruption in small doses in the country's social fabric, a vindication of the beti padhao campaign. And it is indeed about the fine naval ecosystem that makes this generational transformation possible. As Master Sahab says gratefully "My wife and I are very happy that we can be in touch with the Navy long after my retirement". 
But, above all, this is a story of a father and a daughter. Do see this accompanying photo. It conveys so much emotion. Happiness, pride, resolve, expectation, excitement. From now on when Master Chief Dhaundiyal salutes his daughter Sub Lieutenant Kamini it will be with heart-swelling pride. And when she returns his salute, it will be with the same pride and gratitude. On the eve of the Navy Day and in a week when we honour our Armed Forces veterans, the Dhaundiyal duo are the perfect poster people of a nation and navy that tells several good stories. May we have more like them.

(The author -- Cmde Srikant Kesnur – is a serving Indian Navy officer with more than 31 years experience in operations, leadership, diplomacy, training and administration. He has commanded two front line warships and been in other important assignments. He has many academic accomplishments and has been the lead writer and Chief Editor of eight books for the Indian Navy. He has also written numerous other articles for professional journals and periodicals.

Tejas platforms till SP-12 to enter equipping stage soon

By Anantha Krishnan M

Bengaluru, Dec 17: Amidst the ongoing ‘controversy and confusion’ over whether the Indian Air Force (IAF) is keen to go ahead with the home-grown Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas programme beyond the first and second blocks of 20 each, the sixth series production variant from the hangars of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) took to the skies for the first time sans any fanfare, recently.
The maiden flight of SP-7, the sixth out of the total 20 to be delivered in the Initial Operational Clearance (ICO) standards, took place on December 12 at the HAL airport here, with zero snags being reported by the pilot after completing the Profile-1 of the flight envelope.
Tejas SP-7 was piloted by Gp Capt K K Venugopal (Retd). With this, the IAF No 45 Squadron (Flying Daggers) would soon have half-a-dozon of Tejas platforms to operate with. Currently being raised in Bengaluru, the No 45 Squadron will eventually move to Air Force Station Sulur, near Coimbatore.
IAF is ramping up its infrastructure at AFS Sulur with modern hangars being reading to accommodate Tejas 16 fighters and four trainers, part of the first block of delivery from HAL.
SP-5 from Kiran hangar will join the party soon: The fifth Tejas series production platform SP-5, being built at the second production line established at the Aircraft Division by HAL, too will have its maiden flight soon. HAL converted the erstwhile Kiran hangar to set up this additional production line, which boasts of producing three aircraft per year, when fully operational. 
V Sridharan, who retired as the Executive Director of LCA Division recently, says that Tejas platforms up to SP-10 are currently under equipping in Final Assembly Hangar.
“Very soon they will be followed by SP-11 and SP-12. Kudos to the entire Team of Tejas involved in the manufacturing activities for their untiring efforts in making this possible despite adverse criticism in the last three years, both in terms of quality and quantity,” says Sridharan.
Frequent modifications a concern: Interestingly, he says that the even after delivering six series production platforms by HAL, the Standard of Preparation (Build to Print Documents) have not been frozen, despite the IOC nod in December 2013.
“The introduction of more than 270 modifications after accordance of IOC, in the name of concurrent engineering is a potential source of introducing uncertainties during the production phase. This can affect time-lines on a regular basis. These changes even warrant design and manufacturing of new parts which results in delays. All these changes are introduced towards envisaged performance and system improvements as per the requirements of IAF,” says Sridharan, who has been credited with establishing the new LCA Division. 
He says the LCA Division developed ICY (interchangeability) tools for all 147 panels and for 830 pipelines out of 934 pipelines within the build of first seven SP Tejas aircraft itself.
“This is a huge shift compared to any other projects in HAL, that too at such short span of time after the release of RSD (Release of Service Documents). Even now, only concept of replaceable pipes is existing in other projects. LCA has gone far ahead in the area of ICY compliance through the dedicated efforts of its tooling department,” claims Sridharan.
Outsourced all major structural modules: He says HAL, in an effort to further augment the production capacity, has outsourced all the major structural modules to private partners, including sub-assemblies, role equipment, pipelines, sheet metal part electrical looms and panels.
“This would enhance the production rate to 16 per year from the year 2019 onwards apart from developing an eco-system for manufacturing of a 4.5 generation fighter aircraft in India. This is likely to materialize by mid-2018 and thereafter, HAL would further be able to ramp up the production rate to 20 aircraft-plus every year,” adds Sridharan.
On the Final Operational Clearance (FOC) front, sources at Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) say that the programme will complete all tasks mandated within 2018.
“There are only few more crucial test points to be achieved. Then there could be additional requirements. Hopefully, the FOC should be in place in the third quarter of 2018,” says a top scientist.
Currently, Tejas LSP-8 is optimising flight profiles with the in-flight refueling probe (IFR). The air-to-air refueling trials will begin early 2018. Four Tejas variants recently undertook night attack missions for the first time, as per the FOC schedule. @Mathrubhumi

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Inspiring Villages | Kuttappai, C/o Kanjippadam: He missed out being in IAF, but fell in love with the oar…

By Anantha Krishnan M

“I was born on December 30, 1945 at Chambakkulam. I have passed SSLC (10th grade) and my dream was to join the Indian Air Force (IAF),” says Kuttappai a.k.a Antony Koorippurackal Joseph. 
He sits placidly in his kothumbu vallam (a small, narrow boat), in one corner of which is piled a heap of fish — the day’s catch. 
Chambakkulam is a village in Kerala’s Kuttanadu region, known for its beautiful backwaters, lush greenery and paddy fields. And Kuttappai is something of a household name in the area. He seems to know everyone, and everyone seems to know him. 
Not surprising perhaps, since he rows up and down the Pookaitha river (a tributary of the Pampa meandering here), selling fish from morning to evening every day.
Buttonholed when he is returning from the early morning fish auction in the nearby by Alappuzha market, Kuttappai is initially wary, and not very enthusiastic about a media interview.
But a little cajoling is all it takes to make him loquacious. He drops his air of reserve and decides he’s comfortable being interviewed. “Not that I was worried… I anyway keep talking about myself and my dreams to tourists who visit Kanjippadam (another Kuttanadu village). I like meeting people and chatting with them. Even the small waves of this Pookaitha river and the cool breeze across Kanjippadam probably know bits and pieces of my story,” says Kuttappai lyrically. “But when I realized that you are a journalist, I wasn’t sure what to speak,” he says, suddenly bashful again.
Kuttappai alternates between impassive silence and eloquence. 
He is mildly curious but mostly impassive when told that he is being interviewed for this new series — Inspiring Villages — capturing stories of people, places in the hinterland and their passion.
His boat is anchored at the private jetty belonging to the Green Palace Resort in Kanjippadam, the help of whose staff Mathrubhumi had to take to cajole the 72-year-old fisherman to talk freely about himself.
Kuttappai, born to farmer parents and youngest of seven siblings, wasn’t initially comfortable when he realised that he was speaking to an aerospace journalist. And with good reason too: it was as if his past was catching up with him…

A lie cost him his dream job in IAF: Memories come flooding back. In 1966, at the age of 21, Kuttappai, along with four friends boarded a train to (the then) Bangalore to attend an IAF recruitment drive. At the selection centre, he cleared all the medical and physical tests.
“Just before the interview, our agent Mohammed Ali told us that when the officer asks us about our age we must say 19 and not 21. We were not aware of the rules and we trusted Ali,” recalls Kuttappai, his voice cracking. 
The officer, a Punjabi, grew suspicious after he lied about his age. “I think Ali had tampered with even our attested marks-sheets… The officer informed the police, but we somehow managed to escape from there. But the story didn’t end there. Back home, we received several letters from the government and finally, we were barred from attending any government interviews for five years,” says Kuttappai. The feeling of betrayal still hurts. 
He says he lives with great regret even now for having lost the opportunity to serve in the IAF. His parents were terribly upset too, he recalls.

“When I see my friends, when I meet people working in the IAF, I have a deep sense of regret for not making it… But, I am happy I did not lose my focus. I took to fishing, and I am happy that in the last 40 years of being a fisherman there hasn’t been a dull day. God has been kind to me,” he adds.
His four daughters are all educated and married, and working in the Gulf.

A visit to INS Vikrant triggered his passion: Kuttappai says he was a volleyball player and represented his school in many tournaments.
During a trip to the Southern Naval Command in Kochi, their team was taken onboard INS Vikrant (now decommissioned). It was there that he saw a plane for the first time and was absolutely fascinated by it. The fascination has remained undiminished till today.
“With a 32-33 inches chest and being about 5.6 feet tall, I was among the fit boys in Kanjippadam. I saw a plane for first time in my life on INS Vikrant. We were taken around the ship by the officers. I think I fell in love with the plane instantly. The wings, the propeller… everything attracted me,” he says. His bleary eyes shine at that memory. It was then that he had decided that he wanted to join the IAF.
Even today, he is enthralled as he watches flights taking off and landing at Nedumbasserry Airport near Kochi whenever he goes there to see off or receive his daughters.

His love for English is infectious: Kuttappai discloses a little bashfully, that he loves speaking English. He has been fascinated by the language right from childhood.
“At the back of a fish truck, I once noticed a painted English sentence: ‘Obedience is better than sacrifice.’ I wasn’t sure about the meaning and so I asked the lorry owner. He wasn’t sure either. Then I asked the driver, and he didn’t know either. I kept asking around. My search for the meaning finally ended with a man in our locality, who people said was suffering from some mental imbalance. But he cleared my doubt. From then on I learnt as many English words as I could,” says Kuttappai, who rows up and down the Pookaitha river selling fish from morning to evening.
Most of his customers are clueless about English. Indeed, they have no need to learn the language, he concedes. 
“When I speak English, people laugh at me,” he admits ruefully. And then gets defensive: “To catch, to sell, to buy or to cook fish you don’t need to know English. But what’s wrong in learning it?”
His wife Annamma Anthony (54), also loves English, he claims. However, she hasn’t done much to learn the language, he confides, a little disappointed.

A very popular fisherman in Kanjippadam: Apparently Kuttappai is as popular as Kerala’s yesteryear football hero I M Vijayan, in every household of Kanjippadam.
“I have heard about this fisherman and he even met me once. I understand he is a very hard working soul,” says Fr Peter Mathirappilly, the Vicar of Holy Cross Church in Vaisyambhagom, a village near Kanjippadam.
Gigi Thomas, Managing Director of Green Palace Resort, who regularly buys fish from Kuttappai, has a soft corner for him, having known him from childhood. 
“He is a man with integrity. He is not greedy, and does his job with great passion. Kuttappai has carried me around when I was a kid and even given me boat rides during my school days,” says Gigi, who is also a former Kerala hockey player.
But the best compliment comes from Sabu Thomas, who is a manager with the same resort.
“Kuttappai is the soul of Kuttanadu. We can’t match his energy levels, despite his advancing age. His presence brings warmth. He is probably the guardian of Kanjippadam,” says Sabu, who interacts with Kuttappai on a daily basis.

Youngsters are talented, but look for shortcuts…: So, finally, when asked for his views on the current generation and their ability to take on challenges, Kuttappai’s face falls. Most of them lack depth, he says.
“Youngsters these days don’t have the patience to understand things. They seek shortcuts for everything in life. Unless you have patience, unless you have the knowledge, it is difficult to achieve any results. But who listens?”
But Kuttappai also sees a bright spot: “But today’s youngsters have many talents. May God bless them all,” he adds.
Incidentally, Kuttappai’s nephew Saji Thomas is a recipient of the Arjuna Award in rowing.
When he is gifted a miniature model of the Light Combat Aircraft Tejas, Kuttappai looks at it keenly for a while before putting it into his pocket with a grin. 
As he rows away, there is a look of satisfaction on his face. After all, he is now the owner of a Tejas!

(Inspiring Villages is a series that seeks to capture stories of ordinary people, places and passion.  @writetake )

Saturday, November 18, 2017

40 years after plane crash, surviving crew member visits site near Jorhat in Assam

Wg Cdr Raveendran (Retd), 3rd from left with friends at the crash site on November 4, 2017. 
By Anantha Krishnan M
Forty years after a Tu-124 (V-643) Pushpak carrying the then Prime Minister Morarji Desai crashed at Takela Gaon village in Assam (enroute to Jorhat from Delhi), an air warrior who survived the accident visited the site along with few friends recently.
Exhibiting great presence of mind to evacuate those injured, including the PM, was a 28-year-old under trainee flight engineer Flt Lt P K Raveendran. Now, 68, and a retired Wing Commander from the Indian Air Force, Mathrubhumi caught up with the air warrior on his return from the crash site.
Tighten your seat belts and enjoy this narrative feature in the company of Wg Cdr Raveendran (Retd).
Friday, November 4, 1977. Welcome to the prestigious Air Head Quarters Communication Squadron. Here, the best of transport crew consisting of highly qualified and experienced pilots, navigators, flight engineers and flight signalers are normally handpicked for this special task.
Crashed plane Tu-124B (Image: BR)
As usual the crew room was abuzz with activities, each proudly wearing Comn Sqn badge that features Pegasus, the legendary winged divine stallion with the inscription ‘Sevaaur Suraksha’ (Service and Security). 
The VIP of the day to fly on Tu-124 (V-643) Pushpak was Morarji Desai. The take-off was planned at 17:15 hrs, to drop the PM at Jorhat and return to Delhi by night. The crew members were: Wg Cdr Clarence Joseph D’lima (Captain), Sqn Ldr Mathew Cyriac (Co-pilot),Wg Cdr Joginder Singh (Navigator), Sqn Ldr V V S Sunkar (Flight Engineer), Flt Lt O P Arora (Flight Signaler) and Flt Lt P K Raveendran (U/T Flight Engineer).
“The empty (with no VIP) return leg justified my presence on-board as an under-trainee Flight Engineer. As a conscientious under-trainee, I followed Sunkar Sir to the Pushpak positioned in the VIP bay and then around the aircraft watching him meticulously carrying out the external checks and then cabin and cockpit checks. By the time we finished with the checks, Clarie ir walked in and I still remember his golden words responsible for keeping me alive till this day. May his soul rest in peace,” recalls Wg Cdr Raveendran (Retd), while sharing the incident to Mathrubhumi. 
According to Ravi, the flight was uneventful and proceeded with clockwork precision till the
The letter written by PM
Morarji Desai after the crash.
crew started the descent to the Jorhat airfield. 
“It was cloudy all around and quite bumpy and I figured that Clairie Sir was going in for a straight in approach and landing on the runway 04. The first sign of trouble came when I heard the pitch of the Soloviev D20-P turbofan engines noise increasing, as Clairie Sir opened power to initiate a ‘go-around’. Soon, through the patches of low clouds, I could spot the Jorhat runway, quickly vanishing below the aircraft. Clairie Sir decided to do a ‘timed circuit’ to reposition the aircraft for a second approach,” he recalls. In other words, the plane was in some trouble.
None of the crew seated behind could spot anything outside as it was well past local sunset time and pitch dark all around. Ravi says he could sense from the engine sound that the Pushpak was on finals. 
“I couldn’t see anything outside. Suddenly through the starboard wing flap slots, I saw the bright landing light on the right undercarriage bay wall in the process of being extended. Oh my God! Trees! Yes trees it was. The Puspak hit the ground with a heavy thud, skidded some distance and came to a halt, right engine still blazing away. Immediately after the impact, cabin lights had gone off,” says the former air warrior, hailing from Vadakara in Kerala’s Kozhikode district. 
Garnering courage, Ravi says he shouted asking everyone to come out, through the rear exit, which was by then opened by Sgt Iyer.
A letter from the CM's Secretariat.
“In the faint reflection of the right engine tailpipe blaze, I could see ghost-like figures trying to open their seat belts and scrambling towards the rear door. As we helped the passengers exit the aircraft the blaze from the right engine suddenly stopped, and it was all quiet and dark,” he said.
Owing to the impact, the nose portion of the aircraft was twisted and bent downwards with no access to the cockpit. 
“I shouted the names of my fellow crew members one by one, hoping against hope that I would hear a response. I thought the entire crew may be trapped inside, unconscious; and I was consciously trying not to think of the worst. Dejected, I walked all the way back and jumped out of the rear door, onto the slushy ground below,” says Ravi, who served the IAF for over 20 years. He was later with the Light Combat Aircraft programme for another 20 years.
He said the whole place was reeking of ATF splashed all around. The crew had to request the villagers who approached with burning country torches to keep a safe distance, to prevent the possible risk of fire.
Later, the ground crew and fellow passengers escorted the PM to a near village. The others on the entourage were his son Kanti Bhai Desai, Director of IB John Lobo and Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister P K Thungon. 
Wg Cdr Raveendran (Retd).
Taking a ride in a rickety Jhonga, and a bicycle, though injured, he reached the Jorhat Air Force Station and broke the news that the PM’s aircraft has crash-landed and while the PM was safe, the fate of the cockpit crew was unknown. He said the hospitality and helpful demeanor of the people of the North-East facilitated the rescue operations.
“My mind was still on the crew trapped in the cockpit and I was hoping to hear the news of them rescued; but that was not to be. Through the night, terrible news of bodies recovered from the crash site kept coming in and by early morning next day the count had reached five which sealed the hope of any surviving cockpit crew. The impact of the nose landing gear with a tree ripped open the cockpit floor through which the crew fell out and their bodies were found scattered on the crash site. I felt sad and miserable and the question kept popping up in my mind ‘why He spared me’; and shed silent tears for my dear departed colleagues,” adds Ravi.
Wg Cdr Raveendran (Retd) with one
of the villagers who sheltred the
PM and team in 1977.
The veteran FTE says that during the Court of Inquiry (CoI), the members mainly focused on his actions with regard to rescue operations, post the accident. Later he came to know that the CoI had recommended his name for gallantry award ‘Shaurya Chakra’ which he received from President Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy on January 26, 1979.
“And to visit the crash site 40 years later on November 4, 2017, it was an emotional moment for me. I was fortunate to walk out of the ill-fated Tu-124 and sit with you today to share the story. I am thankful to my friends who accompanied me to the crash site in Takela Gaon village, including Wg Cdr U K Palat, SC (Retd), Jayaprakashan Ambali and K M Divakaran. The IAF and local administration too extended all help for this very special visit,” adds Ravi.
The team also visited the house that gave shelter to PM Desai and others. Appreciation letters from PM and others are still kept in good condition by the villagers. Ravi was also honored with a Gomocha (a small piece of cloth which is a symbol of Assamese culture) by the lady of the house. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

India all set to test-fire BrahMos missile from Su-30MKI

By Anantha Krishnan M
Bengaluru, Nov 13: India is all set to create history with the maiden test-firing of BrahMos cruise missile from a Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter any time soon. This will be the first ever test-firing of a supersonic cruise missile in the world from a frontline fighter against a target.
Military sources confirmed to Mathrubhumi that preparations have been on in full swing at one of the air bases in the eastern sector. Two Sukhois with modified bellies have been readied for the job, while one will be on a stand-by.
The launch crew consisting of scientists, engineers, technicians, designers and pilots from the Indian Air Force (IAF), BrahMos Aerospace and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) have been active at the air base for the last one week.
It can be confirmed that all pre-flight tests have been concluded and weather-permitting the first BrahMos missile will be fired against a temporary target being set at the Bay of Bengal.
Software fine-tuned to perfection: BrahMos officials were unavailable for any comments. A team from BrahMos is said to be attending the Dubai Air Show. 
Speaking to the media at Dubai on Sunday, Alexander Maksichev, BrahMos Joint Managing Director too confirmed that the first test-firing of the missile could take place towards the end of November.
However, Mathrubhumi can confirm that the maiden live firing of the 2.4-ton air-to-ground missile might take place within the next one week.
Last year in June, a Su-30MKI undertook the first flight with BrahMos onboard at HAL’s Nasik Division with a modified belly and desi launcher.
The first demonstration flight had lasted for 58-minute demonstration flight carrying the supersonic cruise missile. The maiden profile of missile in an airborne role was technically called as a ‘Mass Dimensional’ one.
Since then several flights were tests (separation trials or dummy missile drop tests) were conducted during ‘technological missile profile,’ testing various parameters and different modes. In the last one year, the technical team fine-tuned the software based on the data collected from various tests.
The upcoming firing of BrahMos will be in its full profile. BrahMos air variant will enable the IAF to penetrate deep inside the enemy territory and destroy vital installations from stand-off ranges.
Once inducted, IAF will become the only air force in the world in possession of a supersonic cruise missile system. 
Former IAF Chief Arup Raha delighted: Reacting to the news of the impending test, former Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha (Retd) told Mathrubhumi that BrahMos will give a major boost to the capability enhancement of IAF.
“I am delighted that finally the programme is inching closer to its goal. It is a huge indigenous step strengthening our strategic capabilities. It propels IAF’s strike capabilities by many folds. BrahMos on Sukhoi strengthens our stand-off capability in a dense environment,” the former IAF chief said from Calcutta.
He said with Su-30MKI features coupled with BrahMos’ supersonic cruise abilities, the IAF will become a formidable force in the region. It was during his time that the programme got a major fillip with HAL tasked to modify two Su-30MKI platforms.
“More aircraft from the existing inventory can be modified and even the new ones too can be integrated with BrahMos. I am happy that the programme has come to such an advanced stage. I shall wait for the big news now,” ACM Raha (Retd) said.

Propelled by HAL’s young blood, HTT-40 ready for critical stall & spin tests

By Anantha Krishnan M

Bengaluru, Nov 12: Two prototypes (PT-1 & PT-2) of the Basic Trainer Aircraft HTT-40 from the hangars of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) are ready for the crucial stall and spin tests.
Since Aero India 2017, the young team from HAL’s Aircraft Research and Design Centre (ARDC) were reading both platforms for the stall and spin tests, which had given enough nightmares for the erstwhile HJT-36 (Sitara) project.
Mathrubhumi can now confirm that the design and manufacture of the anti-spin gantry truss has been completed and they have been already integrated on to both prototypes.
The aircraft has already started the flight-testing with the spin gantry and will start the stall and spin tests in shortly.
The truss installation has been a significantly complicated process for the designers and engineers as it had to be installed at the rear part of the aircraft extending it away from the rudder. This has been done ensuring that the rudder doesn’t get obstructed as the parachute is being deployed.
The ASPS (anti-spin parachute system) is a mandatory requirement for undertaking spin tests. The ASPS will be used to arrest the spin manoeuvre, if the aircraft fails to control the spin.
The spin gantry has been imported from American firm Airborne Systems. Insiders say that it has been delivered in a record time of three months as against a cycle time of three years which was taken for earlier projects.
Wind tunnel testing results encouraging: The truss structure is a complicated welded entity, which has tested the nerves of the ARDC team.
“We have done enough wind tunnel model testing and the results are encouraging. The stall and spin characteristics results have further boosted the morale of the team,” says an official.
The designers have been taking an extremely cautious approach keeping in mind the challenges it had thrown for the HJT-36 programme.
The ARDC team has done extensive simulation analyses before arriving at the current configuration.
Both prototypes have completed more than 120 flights, ticking off other test points ahead of the ultimate test.
The certifying agency CEMILAC, which is doubling up as a co-designer in the HTT-40 project, seems to be having a positive bearing on the project. The target set for achieving certification is December 2018.
Interestingly, HAL’s head T S Raju have been playing the mentor’s role for the team, and letting them know on many occasions that the HTT-40 is a project owned by the youngsters of the company.
Parrikar’s backing inspired ARDC team: Former Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar is a huge fan of the HTT-40 project, and has taken immense interest in patting the young team from time to time.
Parrikar had expressed confidence during the first official flight of PT-1 in June 2016 that the young team would deliver an aircraft as per the needs of the user.
With his successor Nirmala Seetharaman expected to visit HAL and DRDO labs in Bengaluru shortly, the ARDC team is leaving no stone unturned to catch the attention of the ‘minister on the move.’
The HTT-40 had stolen the limelight during Aero India 2017 with its 36-year-old Deputy Project Manager Prashant Singh Bhadoria and his team being the most-sought-after-souls at the show.
Started with HAL’s internal funding of Rs 500 crore, the HTT-40 project got the ahead for detailed design in August 2013. The detailed design was completed in 21 months (May 2015) and the BTA PT-I had its maiden flight (unofficial) in May 2016 and PT-2 in May 2017.
As reported by Mathrubhumi earlier, another prototype (PT-3) with optimised design\ reduced weight and a weaponised variant (PT-4) are expected to fly out from the ARDC hangars in future.

Monday, October 2, 2017

2nd G Santha Teacher Memorial Journalism Award for Rajeev Mishra of Rajasthan Patrika

By Anantha Krishnan M

Bengaluru, Oct 2: Rajeev Kumar Mishra (45), a Chief Sub-Editor with the Bengaluru edition of Rajasthan Patrika, has been selected for the 2nd G Santha Teacher Memorial Journalism Award 2017. The award has been instituted by Inspired Indian Foundation (IIF), a writers’ movement spearheading silent missions for unsung heroes.

The award will be presented on October 11 in Bengaluru, during the 2nd Guru Kalam Memorial Lecture being organised by IIF in association with Abdul Kalam International Foundation (AKIF), Rameswaram. 
The award carries a specially-crafted crystal memento, a certificate of appreciation and Rs 10,000 in cash. The awardee will be onboard IIF’s national missions as a special invitee for the next one year.
Rekha Satheesh, a Senior Chief Sub-Editor with The New Indian Express, Kochi, was the first recipient of the G. Santha Teacher Memorial Journalism Award last year.
Unique selection process: This year, the jury selected Rajeev Mishra from a list of six journalists across India shortlisted from various streams. Seven members of IIF, a representative of AKIF and a relative of late G Santha teacher constituted this year’s jury.
"This year too we had a tough task in picking one from the shortlisted six journalists. Finally, it was Rajeev Mishra's consistent commitment to the reader as a writer that helped us in choosing him for this prestigious award. We found his writing well-researched, sans any sensationalism," says Dr Kota Harinarayana, Mentor of IIF.
IIF began the process of shortlisting the nominees in January this year. Once the final list of candidates was drawn up, a confidential report from their Editors was sought to measure some of their performance parameters. 
“Our endeavor is to recognize electronic, print and wire media journalists, from both reporting and desk, who make invaluable contributions to their profession. We seek the opinion of readers/viewers as well, while short-listing the awardees. Next year, the award will be given to a television journalist,” says Sindhu A, National Coordinator, IIF.
Consistent & committed writer: Rajeev has been covering all beats — ranging from politics, crime, sports, business, science and technology, to space and defence — often doubling up as a deskperson-cum-reporter. His specials on India’s space programmes ensured that the non-English-reading segments benefitted immensely, especially in the non-metro cities. 
Hailing from Siwan district in Bihar, Rajeev has been a journalist for the last 13 years. Born to farmer-parents, he was a casual announcer with All India Radio in Jamshedpur before starting his career with Dainik Uditwani in 2004.
Later, he moved on to Lokmat Samachar before joining Rajasthan Patrika in 2008. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Vardhaman Mahaveer Open University, Kota, Rajasthan. He is married to Nisha Mishra and blessed with a daughter and son.
Reacting to the news of his winning the award, Rajeev says that his responsibility as a journalist has increased with the honour. “It’s a matter of pride for me. I dedicate this award to my newspaper and all its readers. I am delighted that my selection was done by highly revered jury members,” says Rajeev. (rajeevnmishra@gmail.com | Twitter: @rajeevmishra25)

About late Santha teacher: Born to scholar parents in 1942, G. Shantha (my mother) was a post-graduate in English literature and hailed from Thalavadi in Kerala’s Alappuzha district. She first taught English in colleges (Seethalakshmi Ramaswami College, Trichy, Tamil Nadu and Devasom Board College, Thalayolaparambu, Kerala) before settling down at Mahatma High School for Girls, Chennithala, Kerala. She passed away at the age of 65 on 17 February 2007, following a heart attack. She went the extra mile in spreading the essence of English literature among rural children, even after her retirement. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Making of the fearless few: Inside Parachute Regiment Training Centre

Bengaluru: “Courage isn’t the absence of fear. It is the ability to overcome fear that makes you special. The earlier you will, the better solider you become. The focus of our training here is to make the young recruit fearless at the earliest,” says Lt Col Manish Sharma, General Staff Officer (Training), whose job is to coordinate and monitor the training conducted at the Parachute Regiment Training Centre (PRTC).
During a visit to the PRTC facilities here recently, the young recruits exhibited glimpses of their breathtaking skills from their rigorous training modules.
“We continuously work on building the confidence of the recruits in their training and their own abilities as well. The tests like ‘confidence walk’ and ‘fan jump’ further build on the confidence of the recruits,” says Lt Col Manish, who conducted the media around. 
He said formalised motivation training sessions are also conducted wherein case studies on operations undertaken by the units are explained.
Who can become a paratrooper? Any serving soldier who is a volunteer and under 28 years of age (30 years in case of officers) and is in medically fit condition can apply to be a paratrooper. 
The recruit will then undergo a probation-cum-selection-training of 90 days. During this training he is tested physically, mentally and emotionally.
“The physical tests besides the routine PT include basic tests of PPT (Physical Proficiency Test) and BPET (Battle Practice Efficiency Test) with superior standards and speed marches of 10, 20, 30 and 40 km with 23.5 kg of load,” says Lt Col Manish, a recipient of Sena Medal. 
Post successful completion, the recruit has to undergo a Basic Parachute Descent course at Paratroopers’ Training School in Agra where he undergoes five combat static line jumps from a height of 1250 feet. Upon finishing this curriculum successfully, he becomes a paratrooper.
When asked what makes the paratroopers different from the rest of the forces, the young officer quoted from the legendary Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery of United Kingdom. @Mathrubhumi

Read full report here: http://bit.ly/2fybwkI

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