Tuesday, October 27, 2009

AoA: The Dollars And Cents Of Yudh Abhyas

There's suddenly silence over the spectator's pavilion at the Camp Bundela range in Babina. All eyes trained on two US soldiers 50 feet away, the shape of a portable launcher unmistakable at this proximity. Then with a dull whoosh, a Javelin anti-tank missile not so much blasts as pops out of the launcher. For the most fleeting of moments, the missile falls -- at this moment, the missile is perfectly distinct. You can make out the fins, the shape, everything. Then, before you know it, the missile's motor kicks in and converts the up-until-then discernible missile shape, into a blinding point of light that careens in a flat arc towards its target, a retired Indian tank two kilometers away. About halfway through its trajectory, the missile pops up into a steeper flightpath and comes smashing down on its target. It's always fun waiting for the dull smack of the explosion that reaches you a couple of seconds in waves after you see the blast. It's an impressive demonstration. And just so you never forget the sight, the soldiers fire two more Javelins. Both bang on. No mistakes. A lot of work goes into stuff like this.

Moments after the launch, a US officer, Major Bhatti, starts handing out CDs with photographs and B-roll footage of Javelin launches conducted over the week gone by at Babina. While there's a mad rush for sound-bytes from the US soldiers, I notice two fellows skulking about with the US contingent, who don't look like soldiers from any stretch of imagination. I mean one of them has an enormous belly, and is finding it killing hauling himself up and down the pavilion hillock in the blazing Central Indian sun. He's a guy from Raytheon. There are two others. A guy from Lockheed-Martin, and a third -- who appears to be bossing these two around -- is a senior chap from the Pentagon's Close Combat Project Office, a department that contains, among other things, the Javelin Product Office. As the three executives assist a pair of US soldiers to assemble a Javelin photo-op mount, a young Indian officer asks the Raytheon guy if he has any literature on the missile. Out of his black knapsack comes a stack of custom folders with brochures, a DVD, the stuff you get a expos. If that's not getting into the heart of a sales pitch, I don't know what is. I'd heard that this sort of thing happens, but had never seen it for myself. Come to think of it, I don't remember seeing a Boeing person in Agra at Cope India, but then again, when you've got Ambassador Tim Roemer making an embarrassingly unabashed pitch (in a ceremonial speech no less), you've pretty much got it covered.

Are Indo-US exercises simply about selling weapons? Not entirely, but here's what I suspect. If Washington had to choose between achieving such lofty ideals as "perfect interoperability" with the Indian military on the one hand, and getting the Indians impressed enough to sign on the dotted lines for a gazillion tank-killing missiles on the other, they'd choose the latter any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Ironically, that's precisely what they're probably going to get as far as the C-17 and Javelin are concerned.

As my friend Vishal Thapar of CNN-IBN said in his camera stand-up, "I hate to be the spoilsport, but the possibility of India and the US conducting joint operations under a UN mandate is too remote to consider." That's darn true. So what was Yudh Abhyas all about then? A message to the Chinese maybe? Anything else? Something to think about for sure. The one thing that isn't ambiguous in the slightest is the wheeling-dealing part of it.

I'll end with something that has stuck with me. It's what one Indian Army major, who seemed surprisingly aloof to the general euphoria at Babina on Monday, said to me while the Javelins were being fired. "They are seducing us with their weapons," he said, his eyes carefully following the missile as it whooshed perfectly towards its quarry.


NJS said...

I really happy the way of marketing by US, otherwise it takes even decades to select/purchase these types of weapons.
But Russia is one of the true friend , which we gained more in case of high end tech.
if india don't have any problems in both the sides , no one cares about arms purchase , but india have killer enemies in both the sides .

'some thing is better than nothing'.

Anonymous said...

Don't you think, journalists like you or Mr. Vishal Thapar is doing more harm to India by telling the world about Indo-US Yudh Abhyas. China will be more suspicious of any Indo-US venture, whether it is military, science or history. So I sometime feel that media is crossing its Lakshman rekha.

Today India is facing two big problems: the corruption by politicians and Maoist insurgency. WHy don't you or any other journalists like Mr. Vishal Thapar or Mr. Vishnu Som write about Maoist insurgency- how they plan, how do they get arms, training, where, what and who are their contacts?

Scared! Journalists in India are damn scared LOL!!! They know only to shout in studio. That's why not even a single Indian journalists are respected by the rest of the world. Even some of the journalists from Pakistan get more attention than their counter parts.


Shiv Aroor said...

abhi: it could only take an airhead such as yourself to imagine that all journalists cover everything. in news agencies, we have what are known as beats. vishal, vishnu and i cover the defence beats at our respective stations. just to ensure you get this into that empty head of yours, our stations have reporters who dedicate themselves to covering the maoist insurgency. I can speak for my channel. Reporters from Headlines Today have spent weeks on end among the Naxals and the paramilitary forces in turn reporting on the issue. so the only idiot here who's scared, i'm afraid, is you. today is a good example. my channel, and all the others, focused on the hijacking of a train from orissa by maoists. there are reporters across the country who reported on the incident through the day. come back this blog when you have a brain and a little more knowledge about how the system runs. and let's put down a wager that whatever it is you do doesn't come close to the dangers that journalists routinely put themselves in to report stories. there is no counting the number of indian journalists who have died reporting on the insurgencies in kashmir, the north east and the naxal corridor. and the only reason i'm offering you this explanation is because i truly believe that even dunderheads deserve a chance.

Anonymous said...

you have a wonderful writing style.

Anonymous said...

Shiv, I don't think it's the Chinese. Held close to Pakistan itself is a give away. Some of the objective was taking on terrorists. So they are preparing for the unthinkable, a terrorist take over of Pakistan or WMD's in the hands of terrorist kind of situation.

J said...

Chill Shiv... Wast no time on trolls..
Great post. Loved the last para.

Anonymous said...

Even after buying tons of weapons Taiwan has no guarantee that in their need of hour they will have uncle's support. A nation has to stand up on its own feet.

It is not without any reason that they are praising UPA. Infiltration to the uppermost levels has happened.

Anonymous said...

The infiltration of our top polity began the day Rajiv Gandhi had to share the table in university restaurant with someone while studying in UK because all the other tables were apparently occupied.

Anonymous said...

Is Major Bhatti a PIO?

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 11:54 PM-

Anonymous said...

Why is it that the missile is only being tested for 2Km length, is that the max distance where in a tank can be engaged with this missile??

Simranjit SIngh said...

Hi Shiv Sir

Congratulations, Excellent reporting as always. I completely agree with your views on the intentions of US army. They come here & seduce us (as mentioned by the major), they have brought here practically everything that they knew IA was interested in. But the question is, who is responsible for that ? The answer is IA. Out of all the three armed forces, IA is the only one that takes pride in shamelessly showing off their imported systems. They decided to field T-90's, I mean what was wrong with Arjun. Why 43rd regiment was not considered appropriate. Why didn't they bring DRDO developed Armoured ambulance, NAMICA. After all evacuation was one of the important tasks in this exercise & if US Army can show off their Javelins then we can also show our Nags & NAMICA. Then they blame the goverment. Every year IA gets major chunk of the defence budget & yet they cannot provide even the basic gear to soldiers. They are still wearing those 70's style helmets, heavy BPJ's as is very clear from YA-09 photos. I mean who is stopping them from buying that ? May be they are not getting their commisions from their American/Israeli uncles. Why can't they ask DRDO or Tata or MKU or any other private defence supplier for these things.

Sometimes it becomes so hard to understand that why can't IA take some lessons from IN in indigenisation. I bet if anything happens with China today or even 5 or 10 years down the line, IN will be the one that will kick their asses with DRDO developed equipments while IA will be pleasing their American or Israeli uncles.

The last time I checked it was a joint military exercise but according to every report on YA-09, they were the ones who showed us their weaponry. I haven't seen even a single photo (except for Dhruv's, thanks again to you) of US soldiers inside our T-90 or using our weaponry.

The truth is that this so called ally thing with India is just an eyewash. Where were they during 1971, during Kargil ? Oh yeah, I forgot they were arming their baby Pakistan.
Their only purpose is to sell weapons because India is the only country that is going to spend close to $30 billion in coming years & most importantly the presence of American companies here was almost nil till some years ago. If they really want to help India then why don't they stop selling weapons to Pakistan. And regarding sending message to China. I don't think so, China is more important to them than India and if anything happens between India & China then I think it's time to get out of the illusion that US will help India. They know that they cannot arm China now when it has acheived almost full indigenisation in defence capability. They lost a big opportunity in 1990's by blocking sale of defence equipments to China. So now who better than dumbass Indian forces to expand business.


Anonymous said...

Max range is 2.5 km , if tested for 2.5 km may be chances to loses their orders .

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 3.38 Pm
In Addition to what you said, they were only testing on stationary targets, why not on moving targets??
Is this missile so weak???

Anonymous said...

In Manpad class this missile seems to be best in world , normally most of the vendors / demonstrators will try to do in un moving targets,

India have Milan 2 anti tank from MBDA of france/german, even though milan is best weapon, france is also looking to buy Javelin .