Defence projects worth Rs 80,000 crore were cleared on Saturday by the government, which also decided that six submarines would be made indigenously. The purchase of over 8,000 Israeli anti-tank guided missiles and 12 upgraded Dornier surveillance aircraft was also cleared.
The decisions were taken at a meeting lasting over two hours of the Defence Acquisition Council, chaired by Defence Minister Arun Jaitley and attended by the chiefs of all the three defence services, the DRDO chief and other senior officials.
The bulk of the decisions were in favour of the Navy, that desperately requires upgradation and capability enhancement.
The big-ticket step was the decision to build six submarines in India at a cost of about Rs 50,000 crore rather than sourcing it from outside. The decision is in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ pitch.
The decision will provide relief to the depleting submarine arm of the Navy, which is down to just a handful of operational submarines following accidents involving INS Sindhurakshak and INS Sindhuratna. The target set in 1999 was to have 24 submarines by 2030. The previous UPA government had gone in for six Scorpene submarines and the first is likely to be delivered only in 2016.
The other major decision was to purchase 8,356 Israeli Spike Anti Tank Guided Missile (ATGMs) for the Army’s infantry battalions at Rs 3,200 crore, rather than the American Javelin missile. The Army will also purchase 321 launchers for the missiles.
Incidentally, during his recent visit to India, US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel had made a strong pitch for the Javelin, promising co-development and co-production of the America missile within India. The US claimed it was an unprecedented offer, tailor-made for India.
The 12 Dornier surveillance aircraft with enhanced sensors will be bought from Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd for Rs 1,850 crore. Besides, 362 infantry fighting vehicles will be bought from the Ordinance Factory Board, Medak in West Bengal, for Rs 662 crore.
Sources said a committee will now be formed by the Defence Ministry that will study both public and private shipyards over the next few weeks, for the purpose of building submarines in India. The committee will look at whether a port has the capacity and manpower, apart from meeting other parameters, for the construction of all six submarines there. On the basis of its recommendations, the ministry will issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) to the port.
Apart from the above decisions, the Defence Acquisiton Council cleared for the Army purchase of 1,761 radio relay containers at a cost of Rs 662 crore, building of 363 Armoured Personnel Carriers at Rs 1,800 crore and buying of critical rolling stock, including arms, guns, artillery, at Rs 740 crore.
Besides, the council approved purchase of equipment for special operations of the Navy, which remained classified.
At the meeting, Jaitley said that national security was of paramount concern to the government, and it aimed to address all hurdles and bottlenecks in the procurement process expeditiously so as to ensure that the pace of acquisition was not stymied.
At a recent conference of top commanders of the armed forces, Jaitley had said that the process of military acquisitions, which had slowed down due to “some controversies”, would be speeded up with at least one meeting per month of the Defence Acquisition Council.