March 3, 2012 10:15:21 pm
Army Chief General V K Singh has written to Defence Minister A K Antony that the war-waging capability of the Army has been seriously degraded with the government dragging its feet on critical procurements and policy measures.
The detailed letter sent last month points out 10 critical issues that the Army has been pushing for the past two years,which need to be addressed urgently to regain the combat edge of the force.
Sources said the letter was followed by a presentation by the Director General of Military Operations to senior defence ministry officials earlier this week,detailing the 10 thrust areas.
Some of the issues raised by the Army are:
n Ammunition: Depleting ammunition reserves and the slow pace of modernisation,especially in areas like artillery and air defence. Several cases of procurement of artillery and armoured ammunition have hit roadblocks due to the blacklisting of firms. Critical purchases of ammunition have been pending for over five years.
n Cyber battalions: The Army has urged the ministry to grant permission for setting up of new cyber battalions of the Territorial Army (TA) to rope in young talent from the private sector. The proposal has been pending for the past two years.
n National Counter Insurgency School (NCIS): Little progress had been made in the establishment of an institute to train and raise specialized troops to take on insurgents. While land had been earmarked in areas affected by the Naxal problem,there has been little progress in setting up of the school that would train paramilitary forces as well as Army troops for counter-insurgency operations. Project has been pending for close to two years.
n T72 tank barrel: The slow procurement process to replace the barrel of the T72 fleet which is the backbone of the Armys armoured might has seriously degraded combat capability. The Army has been trying for the past decade to procure new 125 mm smoothbore barrels for its 1,600 T 72s without success. The procurement was initialized after several indigenously produced barrels burst during firing. An RFP for the replacement remains outstanding.
n Arjun tank: While the ministry has been pushing for larger orders of the indigenous tank for the Army,the letter has pointed to the technical problems in the tank which are standing in the way of bulk orders.
Earlier last year,the Army shared with the defence ministry and the National Security Council its assessment that in case of a full-scale war on the western front,reserves of most critical ammunition would not last even two days.
The ministry is believed to have taken the Army Chiefs letter seriously,prompting the detailed presentation by the DGMO earlier this week. While the ministry has issued some instructions after the presentation,it remains to be seen what can be achieved as the deadline to spend funds earmarked for this financial year approaches rapidly. Sources said that with several critical procurements projects hitting roadblocks,the bulk of the Armys capital budget remains to be spent.
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