The shortcomings in the acquisition process of the Indian Air Force (IAF) and Indian Navy via the Defence Ministry have been pointed out by the latest report by India’s audit watchdog, Comptroller and Audit General (CAG). The latest CAG report points out the considerable loss to India and the various programmes that suffered setback including the acquisition process of Russian MiG-29K fighters, Israeli Aerostat radars and other air defence equipment for the Indian Armed Forces.
The CAG report on defence services has blamed the Indian Navy for purchasing 16 MiG-29K aircraft without finalising contract for an accompanying weapons system. The contract for the 16 MiG-29 K for $ 756.65 million in 2004 going through without finalizing the weapons packages led to the delivery of six jets without any weapons in December 2009. Following that, five more MiG-29Ks were delivered in May 2011. Moreover, the $ 21.77 million contract for 40 BVR (beyond visual range) missiles for MiG-29Ks were concluded without consulting the IAF, which has found them to be unsatisfactory. The BVR missiles also lacked serviceability, claims the IAF.
On the other hand, the CAG report has criticized the IAF regarding the acquisition of crucial air defence surveillance systems, namely Israeli EL/M-2083 aerostat radars. The IAF has been criticized for the ‘bad’ decision it took in the purchasing the two Aerostat systems aimed at beefing up air surveillance at a cost of $ 150.22 million. Lacking any trained personnel for these platforms, one of the Aerostats crashed in May 2009 and the cost of its repair has been to the tune of $ 67.11 million. Also, by the time the damaged aerostat is made operational again, 80 per cent of its prescribed life will be over.
Besides the radars issues, the IAF was also criticized for incurring wasteful expenditure of over half a million dollars on the procurement of flare cartridges to be used on its fleet of MiG aircraft. Roughly 19,500 flares exhausted their shelf life of seven years by 2009 and were redundant thereafter. Similarly, the Defence Ministry has also come under criticism regarding the acquisition of critical air defence surveillance systems, like low-level transportable radars (LLTRs). The process was plagued with delays at every stage in the pre-contract finalization process despite that fact that they were identified for acquisition thirty years ago. The delay in acquiring LLTR’s has made the country more vulnerable due to lack of air defence cover against low-flying threats.
The CAG report has clearly stated that the flawed approach of the IAF and Indian Navy along with the lack of foresight of the Indian Defence Ministry has led to weaponless Russian MiG-29K, damaged Israeli Aerostat radars and huge delays in acquiring air defence equipment for India, thereby leading to huge losses and becoming detrimental to the defence capabilities of the country.