Monday, April 16, 2012

The Facts : About Thoise operation by IL-76

The Facts : About Thoise operation by IL-76
I was then in command of NO44 Sqn. Operation Brass Tacks was at peak and blooming. All Sqdns of the IAF had been moved to their Op locations. So was 44 Sqn moved to Nagpur by mid Jan 1987.

I was called to Air Hq during 3rd week of Jan 1987. Then ACAS (Ops) briefed me that Cat ‘A’ vehicles of the Army (BMP’s) are to be moved to Shyok Valley. Thoise Runway was just 1700 meters at that time: I discussed the matter with the ACAS (ops) and the Dops (T & M). And desired that I would like to make a heptr recee to Thoise.

The recee was done on 27/28 Jan 1987. A Broad white line was marked on the landing R/W to indicate the touchdown point. All touchdowns were to be ensured ± 1 meter of the white line. Any overshoot of white line would have resulted over shoot and the touchdown before the white line would have resulted a touchdown on Kaccha. WAT calculations were done and an empty aircraft (IL-76) landing was carried out on 29 Jan 1987. After that 2 IL-76 were positioned at Chandigarh and I commanded 18-20 sorties in about 4 days time.

Brief details

Date 29-30, 31 Jan & 1 Feb 1987 RW length at TE-1700 meter. Load carried –one BMP in each sortie was carried weighing 13.5 Tonnes.Off loading time at TE-7 minuts.

Spl Note- Every time I landed at Thoise Lt Gen Handoo, then Army Cdr NC, used to bring a cup of tea and a samosa for me and hug me and state “Ashok you have done yeoman service to the Indian Army. At that time IL-76 were operating even at sea level to airfields of 2400 meter length.

Later on IL-76 started regular operations to Thoise when R/W was extended to 2700 meters. I was AOC CG during 1992-1993. Now R/W length at Thoise is 3500 meters. That is the story of Thoise. One of the most satisfying operations, at that time. Senior Tpt Pilots had warned me “don’t be fool hardy. You would kill yourself”. The firsthand account of Thoise operations.

The Facts : 3 Nov 1988 (Op Cactus from the Force commander of the operation)

The Facts : 3 Nov 1988 (Op Cactus from the Force commander of the operation)

I have been reading a lot on opcactus from time to time. But the last few e-mails on the subject have provoked me to put the records straight.
It was on 3 Nov 88,(I was JD ops T & H now re-designated Director) then VCAS (AM NC Suri) called me to his office at 0830 hrs) and asked “what is the availability of Tpt fleet”, I promptly replied 5 IL-76 and 16 An-32’s at Agra and another 14 An-32 could be at Agra by 1300 hrs from Jorhat. He directed to alert the fleet and be ready to launch the ops to Madives. The Indian high commissioner to Maldiev was in the office of the VCAS. VCAS directed me “ to proceed to Army Hq opr room (along with the HC). “I would follow”. By about 0915 hrs VCAS top brass of the Army, MEA officials had arrived. The Op plan was chalked out at Air Hq and Army Hq. A para drop was planned initially. It is not widely known that 3 An-12 aircraft of ARC were already airborne with NSG troopers and stayed put at Nagpur.
A final decision was to be taken by the CCPA (say PM)-Shri Rajeev Gandhi) whether we go in for a police action or Mil intervention. By 1130 hrs all members of the CCPA had assembled in the Army Hq ops room. The wait was for the PM. Who was away to Calcutta and was on his way to Patna. He was informed of the emergency. PM walked into the Army Hq Ops room at 12 PM. He gave go ahead for mil Ops.
I and Brig VP Malik (later on COAS) were briefed by the respective vice chiefs for the ops. I was designated the AB force commander by the VCAS and directed to proceed to Agra and brief the AOC/Sqn Cdr, operating crews on the air borne operations. Indian HC to maldive also accompanied to Agra.
We landed at Agra at 1330 hrs and I immediately briefed all operating crews of 44 Sqn on the overall ops which had been conceived and planned at Air and Army Hq.
Between 2 PM and 5 PM VCAS was calling me up, every 30 mts what is the delay? Delay took place as 6 para troops (the first load) arrived only around 3:30 PM. And the 2 IL-76 aircraft were readied by 5 PM.

AOC (Late Air Cmde NPS Sahota) was away to command Hq. When he arrived, he had serious reservation of the CO 44 Sqn even flying in the 1st aircraft. It was on my insistence that AOC allowed the CO to fly. I had flown the whole mission as the Air borne Cdr from LHS.
The first aircraft had barely 150 troops and 2nd aircraft followed after 10 mts interval. And 3rd aircraft after nearly 5 hrs.
A code word was to be received OH TVM. Which was received. Yes the 1st aircraft landed with lights indicating the R/W and then blinking from time to time, landing was a challenge.
Brig Bulbul Balsara, then Para Bde Cdr (unfortunately he is no more), was the ground forces cdr. Fortunately the ground forces did not face any resistance and fight. The mercenaries had run away on hearing the sound of the landing IL-76 aircraft. As narrated by late Brig Bulbal Balsara. Safety of the President Gayoom was ensured.
In any case the Ops cactus was well conceived and professionally executed.
Spl Note: No information could be available on Male airfield either at army or Air Hq. It was one COL at Army Hq who had visited Maldives as a tourist and made a tourist map available, which was the only information on Male (Hulela)air field.
PS: If any queries on further development and success or failures could be elaborated, contact details are listed.

Crossing The Rubicon Adm SK (Former Naval Chief)

Crossing The Rubicon
Adm SK (Former Naval Chief)

The civilian leadership must show the statecraft to clarify its red lines where the military is concerned
The Fact File
Article published in TOI on 14 April provoked me to come out with the facts of dismissal of Admiral Bhagwat and Sushil Kumar installed the new naval chief on 30 Dec 1998.

Admiral Sushil Kumar former Naval Chief states
“Each time there is a major disagreement between a service chief and the government, the situation turns into a crisis and goes spiraling out of control. It happened in 1998 in the stand-off between defence minister Grorge Fernandes and Navy chief admiral Vishnu Bhagwat. It is happening again with the unsettling row that started with the date of birth controversy of Army Chief General V K Singh.

There were four major players at that time which included Bhagwat himself, Sushil Kumar, Ajeet Kumar (Def secy) and Arvind Dave RAW Chief then.

Admiral Bhagwat- Certain boats, small ships were ferrying some arms, ammunition and equipment for Myanmar rebels, supporting the predemocracy movement in Myanamar. This small flotilla was intercepted by the IN. The Govt wanted them to be released unconditionally. The then naval chief resented and was adamant & rigid. He rebuffed to the order of the Govt. This nearly reached a standoff. Then It was concerning the promotion of a senior naval officer as well as deputation of a senior naval officer to RAW. Which was against the laid down norm of the RAW. These incidents became a sort of a challenge to Adm Bhagwat and he became highly critical of the Def Secy & Raw chief. Not only that he went public on such issues and condemned the bureaucracy called them names. This was another case of standoff. This burnt up environment had started about six months earlier to 30 Dec 1998.

Adm Sushil Kumar-(former naval chief) He was then FOC-in C SNC. He was a contender to be the next naval chief. He had tried his level best to get to the coveted appointment of FOC-in-c WNC. He became a conduit to the then RM. He (SK) was meeting the RM clandestinely to prove himself. He was right person and feeding him (RM) on the misgiving of then naval chief. This carried on about six months prior to the 30 Dec 1998.

The (Def Secy) and the RAW chief - These were the two main players to preface a case against adm Bhagwat & install SK as the new chief. The two bureaucrats were the right persons to see the plan through. It was well known about three months earlier that naval chief is to be sacked. About 15 days earlier, I was tasked (I was then the operational head of ARC-aviation wing of the RAW)” Be ready to move a senior officer from South to Delhi during a night operation”

It is worth mentioning at this stage, I used to play squash and interact with a senior naval officer. He asked me “do you have groups of senior officer, like political patronages”. It was quite surprising and alarming information. Because I hadn’t heard if such groups in the Air Force then and even now, everything has been fair & square.

It is on the evening of 29 Dec 1998 the RAW chief tasked me “move an aircraft by night to cochin for the task”. It should be mentioned here I was not mentioned the name of the senior officer to be airlifted. The aircraft moved on the night of 29 Dec. Since I had the knowledge of the senior officer and for the task I deputed a senior Air Force officer (a deputationist to ARC) as the LO on board this aircraft. The crews were civilian pilots. Air craft was to be positioned before 9:00am on 30 Dec 1998 at Cochin. On 30 Dec I informed the RAW chief, the aircraft is positioned at Cochin and the contact with the senior officer. Further task assigned by the RAW chief was “Deposit this officer by 5 PM (30 Dec 1998) in room no 187 in “South Block”. Our cars are to be used for this task.”

The task was accomplished as directed. At 5:30 PM (30 Dec 1998) Govt had sacked Adm Bhagwat and appointed SK the naval chief.

In his article SK has drawn a parallel between the case of 1998 and present controversy on Gen VK Singh DOB No parallel can be drawn in the two cases. (I have already written on this subject – (Please see my Blog) There are gaps and trust deficit, between the highest echelons of the armed forces & the Govt. May be, we need introspection within us. We have had Army Chiefs like Thimmaya, Sam, Manckshaw, Sundarji, Rodriguez Naval chiefs like Parerra, Tahliyani, Ramdas, Nadkarmi, Air chiefs Latif, Katre, Demis, Polly who stood their grounds well.

It is, we the armed forces, who have to remove: If there is any irrational phobia about the Indian Military establishment posing a challenge to civilian authority. Govt has not been wronged in the two cases; we failed “The Armed Forces”

Gen VK Singh, COAS and the controversies , surrounding him-The fact file.

Gen VK Singh, COAS and the controversies , surrounding him-The fact file.

Gen Singh took over as Army Chief about two years back, A seasoned professional with no nonsense attitude and an utmost honest character. Root route
He took over from Gen Deepak Kapoor who was muddled with “Adarsh Society Scam” and “Sukhna lake” episode. Three Lt Gen rank officers in Sukhna lake episode were indicted. “Sukhna lake” area was under the operational control of EAC, where Gen VK Singh was the Army Cdr prior to being appointed COAS. He was destined & determined to root out corruption from the higher echelons of the army.
It is very prudent out at this stage to recall the days when Gen Roderigues was appointed the COAS in early nineties. His agenda was to root out morally degraded senior officers, where a large no of senior officers were involved with woman, either with brother officer’s wives or the lady officers. He had already identified such senior officers (Brig & above) and asked them to seek voluntary retirement or face the GCM. Nearly a dozen senior officers were made to go home. A message to large fraternity was sent to maintain a good and balanced moral character.
Gen VK Singh lost track of his priority and sole issue became the change of his DOB. At the late stage, this appeared to be unethical and with an ulterior motive. Finally he reached the “Supreme Court and was advised to lay off. He appeared to be a defeated and dejected soldier. This withdrawal gave rize to other issues.
Appointment of DGAR:
Gen VK Singh wanted his man of choice to be appointed to this coveted post. Normally assigned to generals who do not make to Army Cdr (due to residual service criteria) though the appointment enjoys large perks. Govt took their own decision and the appointment was made as per the norms laid down. Gen Singh had to cut a sorry figure and must have felt burnt up.
Foreign trips to Israel & Nepal:
Trip to Israel was cancelled and to Nepal was shortened. Just to refresh the memory right, Moraji Govt had put severe restrictions on the travel of service chiefs to foreign countries. Not only that “Janta Govt” had stopped travel of wives of “Service chiefs even within the country. This restriction was idiosyncratic. As the service chiefs were entitled for a VIP aircraft (from the IAF) dedicated to their travel. These restrictions were lifted by Indira Gandhi when she came back to power. Again severe restrictions were imposed by make shift, “Govt of Deve Gowda” and Gujral. Nothing fishy should be seen by such short term curtailments.
Letter to PM status of the Army
Every service chief towards the fag end of the retirement apprises the govt of the state of the equipment, shortfalls and how these deficiencies would affect the operational preparedness of their arm. However the letter being addressed to the PM rather than the RM, reflected a trust deficit. The more damaging has been the leakage to the press.
Certainly PMO wouldn’t have been a party to this must have been through service Hq. Having known Saiket Datta (with DNA now) for more than a decade now. He was with in “Indian Express Group”, then OUTLOOK for considerable time. Saikat has always believed in capturing such events and news details which can be sensationalized. He has always managed some source or the other to get through to sensitive information.
Movement of Two units during mid Jan.
Movement of units is a very routine exercise in the armed forces. It could be part of the mobility check, ops preparedness or relocating them temporarily. For any such moves the respective command HQ are competent authority It should also be known that para’bde located at Agra is earmarked as a QRF element. They were the one who were allotted and redied to move to “Maledive” on 3 Nov 88. To keep their teeth sharpened such mobility exercise are inescapable essentials.
It is most astonishing and surprising that electronic media (especially Star News) and the print media (DNA & IE) elaborated these issues beyond expectation. It would be desirable that media (Electronic or print) would exercise some restraint rather than engage in sensitizing events to enhance their TRP & reach.