As tensions remain high with China over the stand-off in Doklam, the army faces a shortfall of 40 per cent of types ammunition to fight a 10-day long war, as per the stockholding in September 2016. This was brought out in the Compliance Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) which was placed before the parliament on Friday. Stockholding of ammunition which is less than that needed for 10 days of warfighting is considered ‘critical’ and an area of high concern. As of March 2013, 50% of types of ammunition (85 out of 170 types) available was for less than 10 days of warfighting. As of September 2016, 40%, i.e., 61 out of total 152 types of ammunition was still in critical level, the CAG report pointed out.
More alarmingly, there is a deficiency of 83% in the stock of fuzes for the artillery ammunition. Fuze is considered to be the brain of the artillery ammunition which is fitted to the shell just before assembly/ firing. This means that 83% of the high caliber artillery ammunition held with the army cannot be used in an operation.
As per extant government orders, the army is supposed to hold stocks of ammunition for 40 days of intense war fighting. The CAG report shows that as of September 2016, there were enough stocks for only 20%, that 31 out of 152 types of ammunition for a 40-day long war.
In 1999, the Army had introduced the concept of Minimum Acceptable Risk Level (MARL), a bottom line requirement of 20 days of warfighting. This is considered as the minimum inescapable requirement of the ammunition to be maintained at all times to meet operational preparedness. As per the CAG report, the stockholding of 55% types of ammunition (83 out of 152) was below the MARL in September 2016. Nearly 67-72% of high calibre AFV and Arty ammunition, as per the stocks held during March 2014 to September 2016, was below the MARL, the CAG pointed out.
Sources in the army said that following the terror strike at Uri, the ministry had taken a review of the state of ammunition. It had then delegated enhanced financial powers to The Vice-Chief of Army Staff (VCOAS) to fast track the procurement in emergency cases, to bring the stocks of all ammunition up to levels needed for 10 days of warfighting. Contracts worth Rs 11,000 crore for 11 types of ammunition were signed between September 2016 and March 2017.
Earlier this month, the ministry further delegated full financial powers to the VCOAS to procure 46 types of ammunition and 10 types of spares of weapon platforms, required to make up stocks for 10 days of warfighting. Estimated to cost around Rs 40,000 crore, the powers are contingent on the budgetary support available.
Unless the government makes additional allotment for the revenue procurement of the army in the current financial year, it is unlikely to make the full procurement soon. While discussing the budget, the army had told the parliamentary standing committee on defence in March that around Rs. 14000 crore were additionally needed for the regular revenue procurement of the army. “’The current allocation of Budget had an adverse impact on the morale and I only hope that we get our dues so that the national security is not compromised,” the army was quoted saying in the 29th report of the standing committee on defence.
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