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Rear Admiral Mukul Asthana, NM Takes Over as Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Air)

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Rear Admiral Mukul Asthana, NM has been appointed as the Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Air) at New Delhi. He was commissioned in 1986 in the Executive Branch of the Indian Navy. A graduate of the Naval Academy, he attended the 141 Pilots Course and was awarded wings in Jun 1988, at the Air Force Academy. An experienced pilot, he has flown four types of aircraft and held operational and supervisory assignments in Indian Naval Air Squadrons 551, 550 and 310, the IW Squadron. He attended the Command and Staff Course at the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington in 2000 and the Higher Command Course and the Naval War College, Mumbai in 2009.

He commanded INS Rajali a premier Naval Air Station, from Aug 2009 till Dec 2010. During this period he oversaw the drawing-up and implementation of plans for induction of the state of the art Boeing P8I Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance ASW aircraft. A record number of young pilots also graduated from the Navy’s Helicopter Training School during this period. His staff appointments include Command Aviation Officer at Headquarters Eastern Naval Command Visakhapatnam, Chief Staff Officer (Air) at Headquarters Naval Aviation, Goa and Principal Director Naval Air Staff at the Naval Headquarters, New Delhi. During these assignments, he steadily steered various cases and policies for enhancing and optimising operational, training, and modernisation aspects of Naval Aviation.

His operational sea tenures include the commands of the Missile Corvette INS Nashak during Op Vijay, the Sail Training Ship INS Tarangini during her two world-voyages where the ship imparted the strongest time honoured Naval Core Values to more than 435 IN cadets and 80 foreign trainees, while also representing India and her Navy in 28 foreign ports across four continents. Later, he commanded the 21 Mine Counter Measure Squadron and the Guided Missile Destroyer INS Rana. A keen student of military affairs and naval history, he holds a Master’s in Defence Studies from Madras University, and a Master of Philosophy degree in Strategic Studies from Mumbai University. He has also undergone the National Security Strategic Course at the National Defence College, Dhaka, Bangladesh in 2012.

On elevation to Flag rank in Jan 2016, Rear Admiral Mukul Asthana assumed the duties of Director General Project Varsha at New Delhi, where he was involved with the development of future infrastructure for the Indian Navy. He is a recipient of the prestigious Nausena Medal and commendations by the Chief of the Naval Staff and the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Naval Command. He was also conferred with the Tenzing Norgay National Award by HE the President of India in 2006.

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DEFENCE-SECURITY

Army Foils Attack on J&K Air Force Station

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An attempt by two-three militants to attack a Water Pump House outside Air Force Station at Awantipora in Pulwama District was foiled by alert guards on February 20.

“2-3 (militants) fired and lobbed a grenade at the Air Force Water Pump House Malangpora located outside Air Force Station Awantipora at around 1730 hours today [February 20]. The fire was effectively retaliated by alert sentries,” a Defence Ministry spokesman said.

“The (militants) fled. There is no loss of life or property (in the incident),” the spokesman said, adding searches have been launched to trace the attackers. “The search operation is underway,” the spokesman said.

A Police officer said that Army and Police cordoned off area but militants managed to escape. “No arrests were made so far,” the officer said.

Police and 55 Rashtriya Rifles (RR) of Army cordoned off Narbal village of Pulwama District after reports about the presence of militants in the village on February 20 evening.

As the Security Forces (SFs) laid the cordon, people of the village came out and pelted stones at the SFs who fired in the air to disperse them. They also fired tear smoke to disperse the protesters. The cordon was, however, on when last reports came in.

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AGENTS OF CHANGE

Avani Chaturvedi Creates History for the Indian Air Force

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Flying Officer Avani Chaturvedi becomes the first Indian woman to fly fighter aircraft MiG-21 Bison solo.

Chaturvedi flew a MiG-21 bison in her first training solo sortie, in Jamnagar, Gujarat.

She completed the half-an-hour long solo flight in the Russian-origin jet in the skies over Jamnagar Air Base. “This is a major milestone in training of a fighter pilot and first time an Indian woman has flown a fighter aircraft solo. It demonstrates IAF’s enduring commitment to ‘Nari Shakti’,” IAF spokesperson Wing Commander Anupam Banerjee said.

It is pertinent to mention here that MiG-21 Bison has the highest landing and take-off speed in the world – 340 kmph.

She is one of the three in the first batch of female pilots, besides Bhawana Kanth and Mohana Singh, who were inducted in Indian Air Force fighter squadron on June 18, 2016.

Speaking to news agencies, Air Commodore Prashant Dixit said, “It is a unique achievement for Indian Air Force and the country.”

She is from Rewa district in Madhya Pradesh.  She completed her training at Hyderabad Air Force Academy. She did her schooling from Deoland, a small town in Shahdol district of Madhya Pradesh. Completing her Bachelors in Technology from Banasthali University, Rajasthan in 2014, she passed the Indian Air Force exam.

Chaturvedi is inspired by her brother who is in the Army.

She was declared as the first combat pilot along with two of her cohort, Mohana Singh, and Bhawana Kanth.

Mohana Singh and Bhawana have also completed training to fly a fighter plane and will soon fly fighter planes. All three were given training in January.s inducted into the Indian Air Force fighter squadron on June 18, 2016. They were formally commissioned by then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.

Chaturvedi, who is posted to No. 23 Squadron (Panthers), is from the first batch of three women officers who were commissioned as fighter pilots in the IAF in June 2016. Till last week, she had undertaken flights in twin-seater training jets, accompanied by Qualified Flying Instructors of the IAF. After completing her basic flying training on a Pilatus aircraft at the Air Force Academy, Chaturvedi underwent six months of training on Kiran trainer jets at Hakimpet, which was followed by a year-long training stint on Hawk advanced trainer jets at Bidar Air Base.

Only selected countries, such as Britain, the United States, Israel, and Pakistan, have allowed women in the role of fighter pilots.

It was in October 2015 that the Government took the decision to open the fighter stream for women. Meanwhile, combat roles in the Army and the Navy are still off-limits for women, due to a combination of operational concerns and logistical constraints.

On December 16, 2017, two women from the second batch to enter the fighter stream of the Indian Air Force were commissioned after graduating from the Air Force Academy, Dundigul.

It was only in 1992 that the armed forces began recruiting women to streams, other than the Medical stream. Since 1993, women officers have been inducted into all branches and stream as Short Service Commissioned Officers except in the fighter stream. However, IAF has revised Short Service Commission scheme to induct women into the fighter stream on experimental basis for five years.

The IAF has already selected the next batch of three women trainee pilots for the fighter stream.

 

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DEFENCE-SECURITY

India Test Fires Nuclear Capable Agni-II Missile

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Representational Picture (PIB)

India on February 20 test-fired its medium range nuclear capable Agni-II missile with a strike range of 2,000 km from Abdul Kalam Island off Odisha coast.

The trial of the surface-to-surface missile was conducted from a mobile launcher at the Launch Complex-4 of the Integrated Test Range (ITR).

The Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) has already been inducted into the services and Tuesday’s test was carried out by the Army’s Strategic Forces Command (SFC) with logistic support provided by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), they said.

The 20-mt-long Agni-II ballistic missile has a launch weight of 17 tonnes and can carry a payload of 1,000 kg over a distance of 2,000 km.

The state-of-the-art missile, already a part of the country’s arsenal of strategic deterrence, was launched as a training exercise by the armed forces, a DRDO scientist said. Agni-II, a two-stage missile, equipped with advanced high accuracy navigation system and guided by a unique command and control system was propelled by solid rocket propellant system, he said.

The entire trajectory of the trial was tracked by a battery of sophisticated radars, telemetry observation stations, electro-optic instruments and two naval ships located near the impact point in the down range area of the Bay of Bengal.

Agni-II was developed by the Advanced Systems Laboratory along with other DRDO laboratories and integrated by the Bharat Dynamics Limited, Hyderabad.

The missile is part of the Agni series of missiles which includes the Agni-I with a 700 km range, Agni-III with a 3,000 km range, Agni-IV and Agni-V both having long-range capabilities.

The first prototype of the Agni-II missile was carried out on April 11, 1999, and the last launch was a user’s trial on May 4, 2017.

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