The Defence Ministry’s insensitivity towards the requirements of the Indian Army has been once again exposed as the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence revealed the bleak state of India’s military preparedness. In the report tabled in the Parliament, the committee has strongly recommended immediate attention on the issue of shortage of armaments with the Army at various fronts.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee’s report only corroborates the Army Chief’s concern which was the lack of army-aviation, tank ammunition and artillery for the army. Despite the Defence Minister trashing all reports concerning critical shortages in the army as rumours and the Annual Defence Report 2011-12 painting a bright picture of the Indian Army and its capabilities, the cat is finally out of the bag.
The Committee’s report has indicated that there are huge gaps between the sanctioned and existing aircraft with the Army Aviation. As per the report, the Indian Army is short of 155 helicopters. As for the existing Cheetah/Chetak helicopters which are used for maintenance at high-altitude forward bases, these are also reaching obsolescence and need replacement. However, no new choppers are in sight for the army as the tender for 197 helicopters was scrapped in 2007 and the new tender is about to meet the same fate. The report stated that there is shortage of 18 Cheetah, 1 Chetak, 76 Advance Light Helicopter (ALH) and 60 Advance Light Helicopter (Weapons Systems Integrated) with Army Aviation.
Regarding the issue of tank ammunition and artillery, the committee has agreed with the Indian Army Chief’s contention and the critical shortage in this area. Following the blacklisting of the Israeli Military Industries (IMI), the problem has become magnified. There has been major depletion in the Indian Army’s armoured piercing tank ammunition following the blacklisting of the Israeli Firm IMI. The army was relying on IMI for its ammunition after the state-run Ordnance Factory Board’s ammunition failed to pass the trials.
The Committee has also remarked on the issue of artillery guns stating that the upgradation of the Bofors 155mm guns has taken a long time and several years have passed after the transfer of technology. The Committee was appalled to see such a deficiency of gun systems in the army and how the military preparedness is being compromised in the country. Currently, OFB has been handed over the project.
While three new defence deals pertaining to sub-machine guns, thermal imagers and target designators for the Indian Army have been signed to boost the surveillance and firepower capabilities, these deals are barely significant compared to the mega deals for the Air Force and the Navy. Hence, fast-tracking of procurements for the Indian Army must be top priority, the report added.