The Indian Army has made an interesting pitch to get about $200 billion over the next five years to fulfill its needs for new weapons, equipment and force levels by 2017.
Under its 12th Five-Year Plan pitch, the 1.13-million-strong Indian Army has sought the amount to from the government to improve its combat ratio against both China and Pakistan, apart from upgrade military infrastructure along the borders with these two traditional rival nations and to ensure its troops have the best of battle equipment and plugging of gaps in critical fighting arms, including night vision capabilities and an attack helicopters fleet, according to Defence ministry sources.
Of course, this is just a bid by the Indian Army and these proposals will have to be approved by the finance ministry, which vets and then doles out funds to other ministries of the government after reassessing the requirements projected by them. And, as it the practice till date, the finance ministry is expected to provide only 60 per cent of the projected amount or about $120 billion for the Indian Army for 2012-17.
For 2012-13, the Indian Army has already got a budgetary allocation of over $19 billion out of the $38 billion annual Defence budget and will be spending about $4.5 billion of its allocation towards capital acquisition of new equipment and weapons.
And soon after taking over, the new army chief, Gen. Bikram Singh, has held meetings with Defence Minister AK Antony, to get approvals for some of the key requirements such as 1,300 bullet proof vehicles at a recent meeting.
These are follow up meetings that Antony has with army top brass since April this year following then army chief Gen. VK Singh's letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on gaps in Defence preparedness in artillery, aviation, air Defence, night-fighting, ATGMs (anti-tank guided missiles) and specialized tank and rifle ammunition got leaked into the public domain, painting a grim picture of what's happened during the 11th five-year plan between 2007 and 2012.
The Indian Army has already projected a requirement of about $8 billion to bridge the existing gaps in its weapons and equipment inventory and is now seeking help from the Defence ministry to fast-track its procurements.
Among the key projects for the 12th Plan will be the raising of a new mountain strike corps, with two special divisions for high altitude warfare, at a cost of over $12 billion, having its headquarters at Panagarh in West Bengal and the divisions headquartered at Zakama in Nagaland and Missamari in Assam.
The capability development along borders with Pakistan and China has been pegged at over $5 billion, which over and above the progressing infrastructure projects under the Kolkata-based Eastern Army Command covering the northeastern states for $2 billion, which is expected to be completed by the end of the 12th plan.
To provide the troops night vision capability, the army will spend about $8 billion on its mechanised forces that have about 3,000 tanks and 2,000 infantry combat vehicles in their inventory, and on its infantry men.
On the army aviation front, Gen. Bikram Singh has already held discussions with Antony on the force's need for at least one attack chopper squadron for each of the 10 pivot corps and at least two squadrons for each of the three strike corps, apart from a squadron each of reconnaissance and tactical support helicopters. That apart, the army also wants each of its command headquarters to have a flight of five or six fixed-wing transport planes for tactical airlift of troops and equipment in times of need.