As tensions between India and China continue to run high due to the standoff between the two armies at Doklam, strategic missile systems of the Indian Air Force (IAF) for the China border have not been inducted till now, after a delay of four years. This was highlighted in a CAG report presented to Parliament Friday. “Based on the threat perception, Government of India in 2010 had envisaged induction of strategic missile system for the IAF in the ‘S’ sector to create deterrence. This deterrence capability was planned to be put in place between June 2013 and December 2015 in a phased manner,” the report said, adding, “but till date, even after four years this urgently needed capability has not been created and the strategic objective remains unachieved.”
Although the CAG report does not identify the missile, it has been reliably learnt that the missile under consideration is the Surface-to-Air Akash missile which was approved for induction into the IAF by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) in December 2008. Two squadrons of the missile system were commissioned for Pakistan border, in the South-Western Air Command and Western Air Command, in October 2014 and March 2015, respectively.
Developed by the DRDO, Akash missile system was planned to be inducted in the IAF from 1994 to replace the Pichora missile system. A medium-range mobile surface-to-air missile defence system, Akash can target enemy aircraft up to 30 km away, at altitudes of up to 18,000 m.
In 2009, Indian posture in ‘S’ sector — confirmed by sources to be China border in Eastern Air Command — was changed from ‘Dissuasive’ to ‘Deterrence’, the CAG report said, due to build up of large scale military infrastructure by the adversary. In November 2010, the CCS approved procurement and induction of six squadrons of the missiles systems for Eastern Air Command for Rs 3,619.25 crore. These missiles were to be delivered between June 2013 and December 2015, at an interval of six months each, but were only received between April 2014 and June 2016, after a delay of six to 18 months.
In its audit, the CAG found that the missiles supplied by Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) were deficient in quality. 30 per cent of the missiles delivered up to November 2014 failed in the tests – they fell short of the target, had lower than required velocity and there was malfunctioning of critical units. These posed an operational risk during hostilities, the CAG report observed.
More alarmingly, the CAG report said that the missile system was not yet inducted at any of the six locations in Eastern Air Command due to delay in creation of infrastructure at the sites. Blaming the IAF for the delay in creation of the infrastructure, the report noted that this delay led to storage of missiles at alternate facilities, which lacked the required storage conditions. The CAG report found that there was moisture ingress in 71 missiles. The report also castigated the IAF for the reduced life span of missiles and reduced warranty periods due to their non-induction.