The Special Forces (SF) operatives, who took part in the surgical strikes across the Line of Control (LoC) to destroy seven terrorist launch pads 11 days ago, used weapons that should have been replaced with modern options following Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s instructions last June.
But the delay in implementing the procurement, estimated to be in the range of Rs 180 crore, meant that these para commandos had to make do with old-generation weapons during the strikes on September 29 — 15 months after Parrikar had ordered that the modernisation should proceed on a “fast-track basis”.jwplayer p5b06dul-xe0BVfqu]
According to officials, the modernisation proposal was flagged by the Army during a presentation made to Parrikar following the cross-border operation in Myanmar by the 21 SF battalion last June, days after the attack in Manipur by suspected NSCN-K militants that killed 18 soldiers.
An Army officer told The Indian Express that the idea “was to procure certain weapons urgently for the SF if another Myanmar-like operation was to be carried out”.
For instance, if the modernisation plan had fructified, the para commandos of 4 SF and 9 SF battalions, who conducted the surgical strikes last month, would have used a more modern and lightweight rocket-launcher instead of the three-decade-old Carl Gustav 84-mm version.
The proposal for SF modernisation was prepared by the Military Operations directorate, after consultations with the Special Forces Training School, SF battalions and other stakeholders. It involves buying six types of weapons: 1,200 modern personal automatic rifles, 36 sniper rifles, 36 automatic GPMGs (General Purpose Machine Guns), 24 lightweight rocket-launchers, 24 shotguns and 500 pistols. All the weapons, to be equipped with day and night sights, would have to be imported.
“None of our SF battalions has a GPMG, which has been authorised for us. We are either using MMGs (Medium Machine Guns) like the infantry battalions or PIKA guns. The Tavor rifle that we use is 5.56mm, whereas we need a 7.62mm weapon for anti-terrorist operations. We also have a restriction on ammunition for training. There is a shortage of underwater diving equipment and free-fall parachutes,” said an official.
“For example, we need 12,000 free-fall parachutes but have only 400-odd whose shelf life is about to get over. The OFB (Ordnance Factory Board) has not been able to make them, and a dozen parachutes have been bought from the Army Commanders’ Special Powers Fund,” he said.
Army officials dealing with the SF said that even this proposal is a short-term measure to overcome urgent gaps and does not ameliorate the poor equipment state of the forces. Officials said that instead of identifying specific makes of these weapons, qualitative requirements had been finalised so that the identified weapons could be procured without going through the standard four-year procurement process.
According to officials, the defence ministry decided to process the proposal after the new Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) was promulgated this June. But the process hasn’t been initiated by the Army so far.
Defence ministry sources said that they “wanted to use the SF equipment as a test-case for fast-track procurement under the new DPP. The new DPP has been notified in June, and this case will move on a fast-track basis. We are hoping to get a proposal from the Army soon.”
When contacted by The Indian Express, the Army headquarters and the Ministry of Defence declined to comment. Sources in the Army said that this case is one of the many modernisation plans and is in the final stages of preparation.
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