Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Indian Army Releases RFI for Comprehensive Upgrade of BMP-2/2K

BMP-2 Sarath ICVs at RD 2014

On October 21, 2014  Indian Army released a Request for Information (RfI) from vendors willing to undertake Comprehensive Upgrade of BMP-2/2K, covering Mobility, Fire Power and Survivability. The upgrade will be applied to approximately 2,600 vehicles comprising existing inventory as well as ICVs to be produced in the future.

Foreign vendors are free to compete directly for the procurement.

Firms bidding for the upgrade contract would be required to upgrade one BMP-2/2K for trials on “No Cost No Commitment” basis.

Upgrade proposals would be evaluated by a Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC) to ensure compliance with RFP. The equipment of all TEC cleared vendors would be put through a trial evaluation in India. A staff evaluation would be carried out by SHQ to analyse the result of field evaluation and shortlist the equipment for introduction into service.

Qualitative Requirements (QRs) for Upgrade

The upgrade must not compromise the existing amphibious capability of BMP 2/2K, or their ability to operate in varied climatic and terrain conditions varying from extreme hot desert conditions to extremely cold high altitude regions.

Any increase in weight of the APC due to the upgrade must be compensated by a more powerful engine that fits into the existing engine compartment. There should be no reduction in internal space.

The upgrade is expected to span the following major systems of the ICV:

Engine, Transmission, Gear and suspension system, Cooling system, Weapons system and ammunition, Gunner Sighting (Day and Night), Commander Sighting, Fire Control System (FCS), Anti Tank Guided Missile (ATGM), Level of protection and Maintainability,

The Indian Government had earlier announced that the Indian Army would be upgrading it's entire fleet of approximately 1,900 Infantry Combat Vehicles (ICVs) comprising BMP-2/2K to BMP-2M standard to enhance the fleet's firepower and lethality.

Upgraded ICVs will be fitted with the latest generation Fire Control System, Twin Anti Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) Launchers, 30 mm Automatic Grenade Launchers and Commander's Thermal Imaging Panoramic sights.

In addition, they will feature better observation and surveillance, night-fighting capability and fire control.

They will be powered by a new 380 HP engine to enhance the ICVs’ cross-country mobility, flotation and gradient negotiating capability. Existing BMP-2s which equip the Indian Army’s Mechanized Infantry regiments are powered by 285 HP Russian-origin UTD-20 285 engine, which limits their versatility.

ICVs are used for breaching enemy defenses and transporting troops behind enemy lines while keeping them safe from small arm fire.

IDP Sentinel members can read details about existing offers from competing vendors for upgrade of BMP-2 at the link below.

Infantry Combat Vehicle (ICV) Modernisation (IDP Sentinel)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

HAL, DRDO to Partner in Rustom UAV Project

Rustom-2 MALE UAV at DefExpo-2014

HAL will partner with DRDO in the Rustom-1 and Rustom-2 projects as part of HAL's new focus on UAVs DRDO Chief Chief Avinash Chander told Unmanned magazine in a recent interview.

Earlier in June, 2014, HAL Chief Dr. RK Tyagi announced in a press release that HAL will take-up more activities in Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV) and Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV) business segments.

DRDO Chief Avinash Chander gave the following additional insight into DRDO's efforts at meeting growing UAV requirements of the nation, particularly its armed forces.

  • DRDO is developing a supersonic target drone as a follow-up to Lakshya-2.
  • The Navy has projected a requirement for a 10-t class RUAV. DRDO is developing technology for the RUAV but is yet undecided on whether to convert an existing unmanned platform (like Chetak) to a RUAV, or develop a RUAV from scratch.
  • DRDO is actively working on a solar powered ISR UAV capable of remaining aloft for weeks at a time. It's also developing technology for a solar powered ISR airship capable of remaining on station at an altitude of 50-60 km for months at a stretch.
  • In the future, DRDO plans to pursue development of UAV swarms which theoretically are more resilient and adaptive in performing their tasks.

It maybe noted that HAL is also independently working on a RUAV project in partnership with Israel. The project involves converting a Chetak helicopter into an unmanned air vehicle. The Indian Navy has projected an initial requirement for 8 such helicopters. The order size may eventually grow to 40 aircraft.

The unmanned Chetak uses a flight control system developed by IAI using a Bell Helicopter 206.

The Malat unmanned air systems (UAS) division of IAI is working with HAL on the project under a wider cooperation agreement.

Here is the DRDO Chief's interview with Unammned magazine.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

IAF Operational Failures in Retrospect

Article from the latest issue of Geopolitics
The following is the text of an article written by me in the latest Air Force Day issue of Geopolitics. I felt compelled to share it with my blog readers, because of the (somewhat controversial?) subject matter. I have written one more article in the issue. 

I write regularly for the magazine; perhaps this article will motivate you to occasionally pick a copy from the news stand!

Indian Air Warriors, serving and veterans, are fiercely proud of the Indian Air Force (IAF), and the nation is proud and indebted to the IAF for the selfless service of its personnel.

Operationally, the IAF has an unblemished record, having successfully defended Indian airspace through five post independence wars. Hundreds of IAF personnel have laid down their lives over the years, during operations and while training for operations.

Yet, as many senior IAF officers would readily admit in private, the IAF's operational record hasn't been outstanding. The record has been profusely criticized and questioned in internet debates, though its rare to see a critical discourse in the mainline press. Institutions like the IAF - much like our parents, teachers, and leaders - rise in our esteem even as they fumble and falter in their endeavors - because their cause is noble!

Was the IAF well equipped and trained for the wars in 1965, 1971 and 1999? Was the IAF's performance exemplary during these conflicts? An honest answer to both the questions would have to be - No.

Based on 20 years service in the IAF as a fighter pilot, close tracking of IAF affairs since then and discussions with IAF veterans, I am inclined to believe that the IAF's operational record was non stellar on account of

  • A defensive tactical mindset that led to force imbalance.
  • Lack of Long Term Vision
  • Aversion to steering its projects with HAL and DRDO

Past government and IAF leaders collectively share the blame for what went wrong.

Past Force Imbalance

Like any other air force, the IAF is equipped for both offense and defense. Ideally, the IAF should be able to prevent enemy aircraft from intruding into our airspace, while being able to strike targets within enemy territory at will. Currently, the IAF's MiG-21 variants, MiG-29, Mirage 2000 and Su-30MKI fighters protect our skies, while MiG-27, Jaguar, Su-30MKI and Mirage strike fighters give us the ability to strike the enemy. (Note that aircraft such as Su-30MKI and Mirage-2000 are capable of both AD as well as strike.)

The right mix of AD and strike aircraft (force balance) is dictated by threat perception and war aims.

Post independence, the IAF did very well in acquiring a balanced force with a mix of bombers, fighter bombers and fighters. The IAF acquired B-24 Liberator heavy bombers by refurbishing US WW-2 aircraft abandoned in India. It bought Vampire fighters and fighter bombers from England, becoming the first Asian country to operate jet fighters.

The IAF shaped into a small but effective strike and air defense.

A decade later, in 1957, the IAF started inducting Dassault Mystere IVA, Hawker Hunter and English Electric Canberra, maintaining balance in its strike and defense capability.

The Canberra, which could carry 10,000-lb bomb load in internal bay, providing the IAF the ability to hit the enemy hard.

IAF acquisitions started to become disorientated and aircraft centric, instead of mission centric, in the early 60s. Pure interceptors, like the Folland Gnat and MiG-21 were acquired in large numbers, adding greatly to the inventory but not to the IAF's punch.

The 1965 war caught the IAF in the midst of rapid expansion triggered by the mauling of the Indian Army at the hands of the PLA in 1962. New aircraft were in the process of being inducted and pilot training was being rushed. The IAF was ill prepared for the war and suffered very heavy aircraft losses in the east and didn't do too well in the west.

The late sixties saw the IAF's strike capability diminish as Mystere squadrons started to be phased out. The Marut HF-24 fighter bomber project made fitful progress. An attempt to fill the gap with the Su-7 fighter bombers acquired from Russia proved misguided because the aircraft had a limited bomb load, and and even more limited range!

In the autumn of 1968, the IAF comprised 23 fighter squadrons and three tactical bomber squadrons. Eleven of the 23 fighter squadrons were equipped with MiG-21s and Gnats, both pure interceptors with very limited ranges that made them incapable of performing escort role. The remaining fighter squadrons were equipped with Hunter, Mystere and Marut strike aircraft with limited weapon loads and ranges.

Lacking long range escort fighters and aerial refueling capability, the IAF could not use its Canberra fleet effectively. Their role was confined to sneak night attacks and photo reconnaissance.

Bottom line: Despite possessing an impressive number of combat fighter and bomber squadrons, the IAF failed to deter the PAF's pre-emptive strike on Indian air bases on December 3, 1971. And when the war did break out, the IAF couldn't go out and hit the enemy hard. It confined its operations largely to supporting the Indian Army.

True, the focus of the 1971 war was on liberating Bangladesh, but the IAF's defensive posture following the PAF's pre-emptive strike stemmed more from limitations of its force balance than policy dictated restrain. The Navy, for example, went out and boldly struck Karachi harbor with missile boats in a fine display of purpose and innovation.

From the late sixties to the late eighties, the IAF's force structure got increasingly skewed with more and more MiG-21 variants being inducted. Four Jaguar squadrons acquired in the early eighties were inadequate replacement for the Canberras and Hunters that were bowing out of service.

In the early eighties, the number of MiG-21 variant squadrons in the IAF exceeded 20. Some MiG-21 squadrons were assigned strike role despite the very limited punch of the aircraft.

The IAF's enfeeblement was dramatic, yet no one in the MoD or IAF leadership seemed to notice.

There emerged a complete disconnect between the threat faced by the nation and the IAF's force structure.

The IAF equipped and trained itself to fight in the west even though it was clear that any hostilities would take place in the North along the LOC or LAC.

IAF Jaguars were too underpowered to operate effectively in the mountain valleys along the LAC and LOC. MiG-21 variants lacked the range, weapon load and precision attack capability to effectively engage targets in the harsh mountainous terrain.

The dangerous drift in the IAF's force structure was checked with the induction Mirage-2000s, and to a lesser extent MiG-29s. The inductions proved fortuitous when Kargil happened in 1999. The IAF was shockingly unprepared for the war, much more so than in the earlier wars! There was no reason why that should have been the case!

The Mirage-2000 was the only IAF aircraft that gave a good account of itself during Kargil, and that too after hurried and very expensive acquisition of Precision Guided Munitions (PGMs) from abroad.

What if Kargil hadn't happened? Instead the PLA had made a deep incursion into Arunachal Pradesh? The incursion would have caught the IAF as helpless as it was in 1962, and it's conceivable that by now China would have been inaugurating a rail link between Lhasa and Tawang!

Making Amends

Post Kargil, with the steady accretion of the Su-30MKI fleet,  the IAF started to acquire  a more offensive posture that could deter determined adversaries like Pakistan and China. It will take another decade for the transformation to be complete; in terms of equipment and in terms of mindset.

Why did the IAF not stick with the balanced posture that it started with? Why did it assume such a defensive posture?

There was never a sourcing issue.The country was under no political compulsion to procure its weapons from the Soviet Union, now Russia. Despite periodic strains in Indo-US relations, India always had access to French and British weapons. The IAF could have sourced Mirage-III and Mirage-V fighters from France; Tornados from the UK.

It could even have procured Su-24 Fencer or Tu-22 Blinder from Russia. Both aircraft have impressive weapon loads and the ability to carry stand-off missiles.

I think the answer lies in limited budgets and a quest for numbers over quality.

Ironically, one of the lessons that the IAF had drawn from an analysis of its subpar performance in the 1965 war was the need for quality over quantity. It totally forgot the lesson.
Lack of Long Term Vision

Post independence, the IAF fought four wars in quick success - Kashmir 1947, China 1962, Pakistan 1965, Pakistan 1971 - with no breather to formulate a long term vision.

In the years that followed, successive governments tightly embraced a defensive posture, focused on head butting defense of India's territorial integrity in Kashmir, Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh. The posture defied the lessons of military history - that there is no perfect defense. Bar Lev line, Maginot line and Chittorgarh fort were all breached by enemy grit and determination.

 A defensive posture doesn't deter an enemy as much as it tempts him. An adversary is better dissuaded by a military posture laden with unpredictable consequences for any breach of peace!

In terms of air power, such a posture would have to be based on a formidable strike force combined with long range and endurance AD fighters. Fighters that can defend our skies by remaining airborne for hours, not minutes; and escort our hard hitting strike aircraft deep into enemy territory!

As a result of its defensive posture, IAF aircraft procurements in the decades that followed the 1971 war led to an enfeeblement of its strike capability. The IAF regressed into a tactical air force equipped for just homeland defense and Close Air Support (CAS) of Army operations. Inevitably, the Army and the Navy started to encroach on IAF turf using the logic that the Army would be better able to support ground operations if it controlled CAS assets.

The Indian Navy eased the IAF out of the maritime reconnaissance (MR) role (In the 1960s the IAF operated a squadron of ex-Air India L. 1049G Super Constellations for maritime reconnaissance.) and even suggested that it was better equipped than the IAF for AD of its ports!

Most glaringly, the IAF equipped and trained in total disregard of its responsibility to support Army operations along the LOC and LAC. As a result, Kargil happened.

Aircraft Centric

Since its inception, the IAF has remained an aircraft centric force, while the west has moved on to a weapon and sensor centric planning. The US Navy isn't worried that its F/A-18E/F Super Hornet aircraft would get clobbered by a Su-30M in WVR combat. It looks upon the Super Hornet as a system, not just an aircraft. A system with the range, sensors and weapons to

  1. Penetrate heavily defended airspace by jamming and spoofing enemy radars using its powerful AESA radar.
  2. Identify and attack a Su-30M well before the Su-30M can see it.
  3. Perform a precision attacks against ground target, even moving, from stand-off ranges.

(The Super Hornet is optimized for transonic operations, not WVR combat. It can hit a Su-30M and make a safe getaway staying well out of harm's way throughout the engagement.)

The US Navy considers the Super Hornet the finest long range precision attack platform that is capable of defending itself against any ground or aerial threat. It's a simple, clear and effective vision!

The IAF, which is largely trained for WVR combat and equipped with unguided bombs and unguided rocket, is horrified by the Super Hornet's high wing loading and limited reserve of power. The aircraft's sensors and AESA are of little use without BVR missiles and stand-off PGM.

The limitations of IAF's aircraft centric approach were evident during the Kargil war in 1999. IAF Mirages were capable of operating at high altitudes and delivering laser guided bombs, but the service had not invested in the bombs or the supporting equipment!

Taking Ownership of IAF Projects

A serious shortcoming of the IAF in the past has been the failure to take ownership of its projects with HAL and DRDO.

The IAF did involve itself with both the organizations during their early years. It deputed senior officers to head projects and sit on management boards. Four IAF Chiefs - Aspy Merwan Engineer (1960-1964), Pratap Chandra Lal (1969-1973), Om Prakash Mehra (1973-1976) and Lakshman Mohan Katre (1984-1985) - served with the HAL on deputation before reaching the top. Many senior IAF officers took up senior management assignment in these organization post retirement.

However, the IAF's involvement failed to yield results. HAL and DRDO performance remained as good or bad under IAF leadership as under civil leadership; IAF officers' attempts to push Air Force projects were frustrated by the laid back work culture in these organizations, unionism, and proclivity to inflate claims and fudge figures.

Air warriors across the spectrum were dismayed by HAL/DRDO product shortcomings and poor quality Shoddy HAL workmanship resulted in many accidents and heart wrenching loss of lives.

The IAF's involvement steadily waned to an extent where the service was only deputing junior level pilots and engineers, to test fly aircraft and provide operational inputs for systems under development. The feedback provided by the junior level officer at the end of their deputations to HAL and DRDO was ignored by the IAF as being inconsequential.

The indifference didn't come from any policy change, it was just something that happened.

MoD's apathy allowed the estrangement to grow to an extent where IAF leadership started to look upon HAL as an evil that it had to live with.

It's moot whether the IAF could have handled its relationship with HAL and DROD differently. The bottom line is: The estrangement hurt the IAF and so the IAF shouldn't have let it happen.

One wonders what a vigorous HAL-IAF and DRDO-IAF partnerships could have yielded? Perhaps

  • Laser guided kits for bombs well before the Kargil war?
  • A landing assist system for MiG-21 variants that could have saved hundreds of aircraft and scores of lives lost during landing accidents? (Remember the autothrottle on the SAAB Viggen, an aircraft of similar vintage.)
  • A super-stall prevention system for MiG-21 variant that could have further reduced accidents?
  • A terrain avoidance radar for Jaguar?
  • Modifications of Canberra as tanker?

Looking Ahead

An institution like the Indian Air Force is akin to a citadel that can remain strong despite decades of neglect. However, despite standing strong, a neglected citadel does lose its sheen and glory over the years; a loss that can be very difficult to reverse.

What is encouraging is that the IAF has left its past behind with recent changes in its operational posture, credit for which must go to IAF leaders post the 1999 Kargil war.

Recent acquisitions - Su-30MKIs, Aerial Refuelers, AWACS - and planned procurements  - MMRCA, Tejas LCA, LCA Mk-1, FGFA - will correct the force imbalance. And the IAF is acquiring a long term vision and starting to take ownership of its projects with HAL and DRDO.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Army Tenders for BMP-1 ICV Reengining with Indigenous 400+ HP Automatic Transmission Powerpack

BMP-1 Graphic via Wikipedia
The Indian Army has invited proposals for re-engining its BMP-1 ICVs with an indigenous 400+ HP automatic transmission powerpack.

BMP-1 ICVs are currently powered by the 285 HP UTD-20 engine, which at times is found to be inadequate for cross country mobility, floatation and gradient negotiations.

The laden weight of ICV BMP-I is 13(+2%) Ton and the Army wants the new Powerpack to improve mobility, acceleration and gradient negotiation capability of the ICV without compromising vehicle's floatation capability.

The proposed Powerpack should fit within the existing power pack compartment of BMP-1 without disturbing the ICV's centre of gravity or impairing any of its functional or operational characteristics including floatation. Even the existing final drive location is to be maintained.

The 400+ HP indigenous engine should be diesel fueled, water/liquid cooled, turbo-charged, with at least two PTOs, electronically controlled and should be light
weight for enhanced power to weight ratio. It should be more fuel efficient and should offer extended service intervals. Fuel, lubricants and coolant used should be of the type for which indigenous equivalents are available and preferably of the same grades as those being used by other tracked vehicles in the mechanized forces of the Indian Army. Peak torque of the engine should be over 1200 Nm at 1300-1600 rpm. The engine should incorporate latest technologies with expected life of the engine (MTBO) exceeding 1200 hrs.

Fitted with the new Powerpack, the ICV should be be able to achieve max speed of 65-kph on hard level ground, max mission mode max speed of 20-kph and min speed of 5-kph for 8 hrs. It should be able to negotiate gradients of 35-deg in soft sand/ loose sand/ hard level ground/ marsh land.

Increment in the weight of BMP-I due to integration of the upgraded Powerpack should not exceed 500 kg. It must be ensured that amphibious capability of the BMP-I is not compromised due to the additional weight.

The transmission should be fully automatic and modular in design for easy installation and maintenance. It should preferably have 3 or 4 forward and at least one reverse range (ratio). The steering should be infinitely variable & regenerative type without use of brakes and clutches with pivot turn and dead Engine steering capability. It should have manual over ride facility. Parameter requirements are as under:-

A cruise range of 550-km is required

Infantry Modernization Projects - IDP Sentinel Members Only

Naval Utility Helicopter (NUH) Procurement Moved Under Buy and Make (Indian) Category

Eruocopter  AS565 MB Naval Panther, a military variant of the Dauphin, is a likely contender for the IN's Naval Utility Helicopter project. Photo Credit: Eurocopter
MoD on October 8, 2014 released a RFI for procuring more than 100 Naval Utility Helicopters (NUH) under Buy and Make (Indian) category of the Defense Procurement Policy.

The NUHs will replace the ageing Chetak helicopters in service with the IN and be used for

  1. Search and Rescue.
  2. Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC).
  3. Communication Duties.
  4. Anti-Piracy and Anti-terrorism.
  5. Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR).
  6. Limited Maritime Reconnaissance and Targeting.

The NUH would be procured along with Full Mission Simulators and other associated support equipment.

It may be recalled that on August 7, 2012  MoD had invited tenders 56 Naval Utility Helicopters to replace its fleet of ageing Chetak helicopters.

The RFP was issued to several major helicopter, firms including AgustaWestland, Bell Helicopter, Eurocopter and Russian Helicopters.

Two companies responded to the RFP - Eurocopter AS565 MB Naval Panther, a military variant of the popular Dauphin, and the AgustaWestland AW139.

The earlier procurement has now been halted, with the MoD opting for a fresh round of tendering under the category of 'Buy & Make (Indian)' as stipulated at Para 4(c) and 25 (a) of Chapter I of DPP-2013.

The Buy and Make (India) category involves initial off the shelf purchase from an Indian vendor (including an Indian company forming joint venture/ establishing production arrangement with OEM), followed by licensed production/ indigenous manufacture in the country.

Items supplied off the shelf under the category may not have any indigenous components, but locally manufactured systems are required to have minimum 30% indigenous content on cost basis to begin with,  and eventually 50% indigenous content. (Indigenous content in the total of (i) Basic Cost of Equipment; (ii) Cost of Manufacturers’ Recommended List of Spares; and (iii) Cost of Special Maintenance Tools and Special Test Equipment must be at least 50% of the total contract value. (Reference parts 1(a), 1(c) and 1(d) of “Commercial Offer”, Appendix G to Schedule I of DPP 2013)

Qualitative Requirements

The NUH is required to be twin-engined  with wheeled landing gear and folding rotor blades. It should be capable of operating from ship and ashore and be able to carry weapons in support of its maritime surveillance and targeting capability.

Earlier, HAL expressed its inability to bid against the requirement citing challenges in modifying its Dhruv to feature folding rotor blades.

Recent Navy RFIs (IDP Sentinel Members Only)

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

DRDO Developing Gagan DGPS Based Automatic Take Off and Landing (ATOL) System

Rustom-1 MALE at DefExpo-2012

DRDO plans to carry out flight trials of a DGPS based Automatic Take Off and Landing  (ATOL) System.

Differential Global Positioning System (DGPS) is an enhancement to Global Positioning System that improves GPS location accuracy from the 15-meter nominal to an incredible 10 cm in a well implemented system!

The DRDO developed ATOL system would use Gagan DGPS developed by ISRO and DGCA which is now operational countrywide.

DRDO has equipped a Rutan Long Ez Manned Aircraft (YN7501) with Accord Technologies NexNav GPS-SBAS receiver and a GPS receiver with antenna for the trials which would be conducted at HAL Airport and Kolar Runway.

The Rustom-1 MALE developed by DRDO is basically an unmanned version of the Rutan Long Ez, a home built aircraft with a canard layout designed by Burt Rutan's Rutan Aircraft Factory.

Rustom-1 MALE has roughly the same performance as the Israeli Searcher UAV which is widely used by the Indian Army (IA) and the Indian Air Force (IAF). The IA has told DRDO that it will place orders for Rustom-1 only if the UAV is equipped with an ATOL system, as take-off and landing using an external pilot are accident prone.

DRDO's Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) has initiated procurement of the Cassidian MDR-NES (MLDRF) for fitment on the Rustom-1 to facilitate automated flare-out and landings. The GAGAN DGPS based system will facilitate taxying, take-off and alignment with the runway center line during approach.

ADE has sought vendor assistance in conducting the flight trials spanning around 10 hours through a recently released RFI. The selected vendor will conduct and manage the manned flights so that ADE can focus on the ATOL system performance.

Additional Reading

PLA's Chumar Incursion Ends, But Is All Well Along LAC?

IA-PLA Border Meeting Point
A 20-day stand-off between Indian Army (IA) and PLA toops ended amicably on September 30, 2014.

Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a press release, "On Sept. 30, the frontier defense troops of the two countries completed simultaneous withdrawal according to the steps formulated by the two sides and restored peace and tranquility in the area."

The press release added that the two sides will continue to communicate on issues relating to maintaining peace and tranquility of the border areas through the China-India border consultation and coordination mechanism, In diplomatic parlance, the press release said there are contentious issues still to be resolved, but through talks, not troop deployments.

India's External Affairs Ministry confirmed on Tuesday, September 30, 2014 that both sides "carried out disengagement and redeployment of border troops" on September 26 and 27. The troops were back in positions that they occupied on on September 1, 2014.

“The two sides have also agreed that a meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC) will be convened in India on October 16-17 to discuss various issues pertaining to the maintenance of peace and tranquility in the border areas,” the statement said.

Confounding enough, the stand-off, perhaps the most contentious so far, occurred during Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to India on September 16 through September 18, 2014.

There were actually two stand-offs - in the Chumar and Demchok sectors. The Chumar stand-off was the more serious one, involving hundreds of troops from both sides.

Going by TOI reporting, which was more insightful than reporting by other news outlets, PLA troops entered Indian controlled territory in Chumar on September 10, 2014 after Indian soldiers prevented PLA troops equipped with cranes, bulldozers and other equipment from building a road right up to Chepzi on the LAC.

During flag meetings called to resolve the incursion, PLA commanders said that their troops would withdraw only if Indian troops pulled down a tin shed bunker that they had constructed in what was disputed territory.

The Demchok sector incursion occurred five days before the Chumar faceoff, when Chinese nomads pitched their tents nearly 500-m deep into Indian territory around Ninglung Nullah, to prevent Indian workers from building a water irrigation channel under the NREGA scheme.

A detailed push-by-push / day-by-day account of the Chumar incursion is appended below.

On September 25, 2014 Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj announced that she had met the Chinese foreign minister on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session and the two countries have reached an agreement to withdraw their troops by September 30 to positions that they occupied on September 1. She did not state what else was agreed to during the meeting.

Going by a TOI report, it was India which blinked by agreeing to dismantle the contentious tin shed bunker and agreeing not to build more as a quid-pro-qua for PLA withdrawal.

The TOI report is corroborated by the following circumstantial evidence.

The agreement between the foreign ministers of the two countries entailed restoration of the status as it existed on September 1. Why? According to the Indian press PLA incursion in Chumar started on September 10 and in Demchok around 5 days earlier.

A logical explanation is that there were transgression even before. Why else would the two sides agree to restore status quo ante as on September 1?

Did the earlier transgression(s) involve Indian troops constructing tin sheds / bunkers in disputed territory?

Was the PLA incursion provoked? In Chumar by construction of tin sheds? In Demchok, perhaps by the building of a canal in close proximity of the LAC? After all, an irrigation canal in close proximity of the border does have military significance.

Why does the Army repeatedly build bunkers or cover them with tin sheds?

Yes, I can appreciate that our patrolling troops need every bit of warmth during their overnight rest, but then the structures are construed by the PLA as violation of the agreement not to build any infrastructure in disputed territory. How do patrolling PLA troops manage to survive the chilly nights without shelters?

Surely, this is a matter that can be resolved through discussion or circumvented through better equipment.

If the bunkers / tin sheds constructed by the IA are not in disputed territory, why does the IA repeatedly agree to dismantle them?

I don't know the answers, but I do consider the questions legitimate?

Chumar Incursion: Push by Push Account

(Based on press reports)

On September 10, 2014 Indian soldiers prevented PLA troops equipped with cranes, bulldozers and other equipment from building a road right up to Chepzi on the LAC in the Chumar sector. [via TOI]

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Around 300 Chinese troops entered Indian territory where they were confronted by a group of around 100 soldiers from the Army and the ITBP.  China is constructing a road close to the LAC in the sector and the Indian Army has objected to the constructions since it's perceived to be within Indian territory.

Under an agreement between the two sides, any country indulging in defense construction has to inform the other side.

Initially, it was believed that the PLA was engineering a face off to divert attention of India from the road construction work being undertaken on their side.

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Brigadier level flag meeting at Spanggur Gap failed to resolve the crisis. It was decided to hold a follow-up meeting on Wednesday.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Some of the Chinese troops returned on Tuesday and it was generally expected that the others would also retreat to their side of the perceived LAC.

Two flag meetings were held, but they failed to resolve the imbroglio.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

India and China held two Brigadier level flag meetings at the border personnel meeting point in Chushul to discuss the situation. The flag meetings were inconclusive. The intrusion of Chinese civilians in the Demchok area was also discussed during the meetings.

Fresh Incursion

As many as 100 PLA soldiers arrived from a hillock of Chumar area even as the flag meeting were on, bringing the total number of PLA troops within Indian territory to 350.

The fresh intrusions took place just a few hours ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping's arrival in India on a state visit.

India also rushed some more troops in the area and both sides indulged in repeated banner drill.
Modi Raises Issue with Xi Jinping

In Ahmedabad, Prime Minister Modi reportedly raised the incursion issue with President Xi, who told the Indian leader that the PLA would withdraw within 24 hours. [via TOI]

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Chinese officials accompanying President Xi Jinping told Indian officials on Thursday that PLA troops would withdraw. [source TOI]

Chinese troops started withdrawing from Indian territory in the Chumar area from 9:45pm on Thursday. Indian Army which was present in large number in the area also started simultaneously reducing their presence. 

The Indian Army continued to maintain vigil because after withdrawing from Indian territory PLA troops camped just across the LAC.  [source TOI]
Friday, September 19, 2014

NDTV reported that Chinese troops had started to withdraw on Friday after President Modi took up the incursion with President Xi for the second time on Friday during a restricted level meeting between the two delegations that lasted 3 hours. 

Hours after withdrawing, about 35 PLA soldiers reportedly crossed into Indian territory again and stationed themselves on a hillock. Meanwhile, the 300 PLA soldiers who had withdrawn remained close to LAC. [source PTI]

TOI journalist Rajat Pandit tweeted late Friday that there had been no PLA withdrawal. A print report datelined Saturday said that despite President Xi's assurances, there had been no withdrawal by the PLA. 

The report quoted MoD sources as saying, there was "no change in the ground situation" till Friday evening at Chumar, where around 1,000 soldiers from each side are holding five to six "tactical positions" spread along a 2.5-km front in sub-zero temperatures at an altitude of around 14,500-ft.

"The PLA troops have weaker tactical positions which are difficult to sustain in the sector. They may withdraw after posturing for another day or two to save face. If they do, we will also thin out our troops in the sector to restore status quo ante. Till then, our soldiers will stand firm," said a source.

PLA and Indian troop are positioned between 200-m to 800-m at different points and there is no threat of the situation spiraling out of control. 

A PLA lieutenant inadvertently strayed into Indian positions during the ongoing Chumar faceoff. "He was detained and later handed over to the PLA," said a source.

According to the TOI report, three flag meetings between local military commanders had failed to resolve the deadlock. Two days ago both sides had brought in troop reinforcements and inducted helicopters to airdrop food and supplies for their soldiers and keep a watch around the disputed area.

According to The Indian Express, no PLA withdrawal occurred on Friday as reported in the press, instead opposing troops had "adjusted to logistically convenient” positions within the same area. 

According to The Tribune, Army’s Kiari-based 70 Brigade at Chumar and Demchok has been advised by Army headquarters to hold its existing positions on the high mountain pass named ‘30-R’ and around it till the PLA withdraws across the LAC to its own areas of Chepzi (Zhipuqi-Quebusi).

COAS General Dalbir Singh Suhag met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and presented all options to him. Senior Army officers briefed officials at the MoD.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

PLA troops were still occupying six to seven tactical positions in the Chumar sector

Indian forces had to make a tactical retreat 2-km into Indian territory at one of the eight places of standoff in Chumar in the face of heavy Chinese troop presence. [source TOI]

The 35-odd PLA soldiers who had intruded into Indian territory on Friday remained put for the second consecutive day, with Chinese helicopters air dropping food packets for them. 

Additionally, over 50 Chinese troops entered the Chumar area on Saturday at a point different from Friday's intrusion. 

The Chinese soldiers immediately alighted from the vehicles and positioned themselves barely 100-m away from the Indian Army, which had decided not to withdraw completely from the region even after the Chinese PLA had returned on their own to their side on Thursday night.

As a result of the fresh intrusions, the Indian Army halted its cautious withdrawal and started pitching their tents again for possible stand-off.

Around 100 PLA troops are estimated around Point 30-R, a post in Chumar that the PLA frequents because the Indian Army maintains an observation post which dominates the line of actual control (LAC) and gives advantage to India in keeping a vigil on the Chinese activity deep across the border. [source PTI]

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The PTI reported that PLA troops, who had arrived on Saturday, started pitching seven tents on Sunday well within the Indian territory, ignoring warnings by the Indian Army to vacate the area.

The TOI reported that till Sunday evening around 1,000 PLA troops were still occupying six to seven tactical positions in the Chumar sector.

"Some of them often re-position themselves for better logistics. A few return to their administrative bases in the rear for the night, and then come back in the morning. It's a well-planned operation by PLA, which has never set up camps in the area before," a source told the TOI.

Over 1,000 Indian troops are keeping a close watch on the PLA soldiers, creating a situation that is "fluid but not tense" since such cat-and-mouse games are common place in the sector.

The Army and ITBP have intensified patrolling along the entire LAC and 15 battalions earmarked for defense of the sector have been put on high alert.  

According to the TOI, "there are four battalions each under the 70 Brigade at Kiari and the 114 Brigade at Tangtse, as also five units of the Ladakh Scouts. The 14 Corps at Leh, which looks after the Kargil sector as well as eastern Ladakh, also has the 81 Brigade as "a reserve formation", which can swiftly be deployed towards Kargil or eastern Ladakh when required."
Monday, September 22, 2014

The TOI revealed that Indian forces had to make a tactical retreat 2-km into Indian territory at one of the eight places of standoff in Chumar three days ago in the face of aggressive and heavy Chinese troop buildup. More reinforcements were sent later and troops are now holding position.

Sources told the TOI that the standoff continued as China wasn't ready to cease its road-construction near the border and India was refusing to dismantle structures it has built near the LAC. 

Army chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag has called off is 3-day visit to Bhutan as PLA troops are holding positions despite diplomatic lobbying.

Meanwhile in China

On Monday it was reported that Chinese president Xi Jinping reshuffled the top positions in the People's Liberation Army promoting three generals known to be close to him.

The president also admonished PLA brass at a meeting on Sunday, September 2014 attended by Fang Fenghui, chief of the PLA general staff.

Xinhua news agency carried an official statement that said, "All PLA forces should follow the instructions of President Xi Jinping, also chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), and update their operations to meet new goals and missions set by the CMC."

The statement also talked about the need "to improve the efficiency of military command under new circumstances". Xi also emphasized the need for "streamlining the operational headquarters of all PLA forces" with revised protocols.

"The meeting focused on streamlining the operational headquarters of all PLA forces with information technology and revised several important protocols," the statement said. 

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunyin said on Monday that there was no need to have "unnecessary suspicion" on both sides on the border issue. Leaders of the two countries have "reached an important consensus on politically resolving the border issue through friendly mechanism.

"China and India have sufficient capacity and confidence to maintain peace and tranquility in the boundary areas." [source TOI]

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

PLA Seeks Flag Meeting

On Tuesday, the PLA sought another flag meeting at Spanggur Gap between local military commanders

The PLA wants Indian troops to demolish a recently-built hut at Tible in the Chumar sector. The Indian Army believes the PLA has clearlu violated the 2005 border protocol by attempting to extend the road ahead of Chepzi into the Chumar sector.

"The PLA troops were constructing the road in the disputed area, where soldiers from both sides patrol but do not hold positions. We will not budge from the site till the PLA troops withdraw," a source told the TOI.

"Informal parleys" between the rival troops on the ground are also intermittently taking place. India is in no hurry to concede to the PLA request for a fourth flag meeting.

A top-level group, which includes national security advisor Ajit Doval, Army chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag and representatives from the foreign ministry, intelligence agencies and ITBP, among others, is debating the PLA request.

PM Narendra Modi is expected to be briefed on the face-off on Wednesday. 

Till Tuesday evening, there was no change in the ground situation, tactically or numerically," said a source. 


India issued a demarche to China articulating its concerns over Chumar face-off. [source]

“It is our territory, we will push them back,” minister of state for home affairs Kiren Rijiju said today. 

The demarche — an official document exchanged between governments typically communicating a concern or a protest — was issued both in New Delhi and Beijing over the past two days, a senior foreign ministry official told The Telegraph.
Wednesday, September 24, 2014

According to the Indian Express, Army Officials had yet to respond to the two day old PLA request for a flag meeting because the face-off had already escalated to diplomatic channels. 

The Indian Express also reported that India is going to propose a mutual withdrawal in the next flag meeting, to prevent any escalation on account of the massive troop build-up in the area.

Chinese ambassador Le Yucheng reportedly visited South Block for talks with senior officials of the external affairs ministry. Source told TOI that the ambassador was not "summoned" for lodging of any protest. 

PLA Troops Thin Out at 30-R

Around 150-200 Chinese soldiers pulled back from the 30-R position since Tuesday afternoon.

However, since the withdrawal was partial and PLA intent unclear, Indian troops continued to maintain their dominant positions in the sector. [source]

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Major General level flag meeting, the fourth to resolve the imbroglio, was held at the Spanggur Gap border meeting point. 

An agreement was reached whereby the PLA will not extend the road it was trying to construct in the "disputed area" ahead of Chepzi towards Chumar, and in turn India will demolish the recently-built observation hut at Tible in the sector and refrain from building bunkers there in order to restore the pre-September 10 status quo. 

The two armies worked out the modalities to complete the troop pullbacks by Saturday evening. 

Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj announced that she had met the Chinese foreign minister on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session and the two countries reached an agreement to withdraw their troops by September 30 to positions that they occupied on September 1. She did not state what else was agreed to during the meeting. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

China and India completed the withdrawal of troops from a standoff at the border on Tuesday, September 30, 2014 

Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a press release, "On Sept. 30, the frontier defense troops of the two countries completed simultaneous withdrawal according to the steps formulated by the two sides and restored peace and tranquility in the area." 

The two sides will continue to communicate on issues relating to maintaining peace and tranquility of the border areas through the China-India border consultation and coordination mechanism, the press release added, perhaps hinting that points of contention still existed.

India's External Affairs Ministry confirmed on Tuesday, September 30, 2014 that both sides "carried out disengagement and redeployment of border troops" on September 26 and 27. The troops were back in positions that they occupied on on September 1, 2014.

“The two sides have also agreed that a meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC) will be convened in India on October 16-17 to discuss various issues pertaining to the maintenance of peace and tranquillity in the border areas,” the statement said.

In a flag meeting on Tuesday at the Spanggur Gap, PLA and IA confirmed that both sides had withdrawn as per the plan agreed in the earlier flag meeting.


Chumar is located in J&K, more than 300-km south east of Leh, close to the border of Himachal Pradesh. The area, where heights vary from 12,000 to 15,000 feet, has been a flash point between the two sides with Chinese making several attempts to end India's dominance in the area by claiming it as Chinese territory.  There have been several face-offs in the last two-three years.

Position 30-R in Chumar is a hillock at an altitude of about 14,500-ft which is 30-m higher than its surroundings.