The operational capabilities of the Indian Army’s mechanised forces could be severely hampered given the state of the BMP infantry fighting vehicles in the Army. The latest report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has brought out that only 53 per cent of these vehicles were available for use by the Army.
The CAG report says that the MoD also accepted that the acute shortage of BMP would have an adverse impact in the 12th Army plan as five more Mechanized Infantry Battalions were planned to be raised.
“The shortfall in production and overhaul of BMP vehicles affected the operational preparedness as only 53 per cent of authorised vehicles were available with Army,” the report says.
The BMP is a Russian origin tracked infantry vehicles which is the mainstay of the Army’s mechanised infantry battalions. These vehicles can carry seven to eight soldiers and are presently manufactured by the Ordnance Factory, Medak. The mechanised infantry battalions form an integral part of the armoured brigades and are expected to be a crucial part of any strike formation of the Army which has to carry the battle into enemy territory.
The CAG report has brought out that the Army has a shortage of 47 per cent in holding of BMP vehicles. The main reason for shortfall was the delay in supply of 389 BMPs by Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) which not only adversely affected the operational preparedness of Mechanised Forces but also entailed a minimum extra liability of Rs 270.97 crore due to cost escalation.
The current production capacity of the Ordnance Factory Medak is 100 BMP vehicles per year, which includes variants of BMP like Carrier Mortar Tracked (CMT), Armoured Ambulance Tracked (AAT), Mine Protected Vehicle (MPV) and Bullet Proof Vehicle. Apart from the Mechanised Infantry, the Corps of Engineers and Corps of Signals of the Indian Army too are authorised for BMP vehicles to provide support elements to combat troops. The CAG report says that against the authorisation of 2,827 BMPs and 323 BMPS respectively, the Mechanised Infantry and the Corps of Engineers are holding 2521 and 170 numbers of vehicles only.
In order to meet the deficiency of BMP vehicles in Mechanised Infantry and Corps of Engineers, the Army HQ placed two indents on Ordnance Factory Medak in 2009 and 2011. Against the indents for 389 numbers of BMPs placed on the OFM in 2009, the delivery for Mechanised Infantry was to be completed by 2011-12 and for Corps of Engineers by 2013-14. The CAG, however, found that only 179 numbers were only delivered till January 2015. Further, against production capacity of 600 BMPs (100 BMPs per year x 6 years) OFB could produce only 265 BMPs during the last six years resulting in shortfall of 55 per cent of assessed capacity and thereby impacted operational preparedness of the Army.
The audit scrutiny of the case further revealed that out of the total number of 2,691 BMPs held, 1,025 numbers of vehicles were due for overhaul up to 2014-15. As a result only 1,666 vehicles were effectively available, which indicates that only 53 per cent of the authorized vehicles were available for use. On being pointed out by audit (September 2012) regarding supply status and impact on operational preparedness of Army due to delay in supply of BMP vehicles, Ministry of Defence/Army HQ replied in November 2012 that the indents were placed considering the urgent operational requirement and acute deficiency within the field units. They further stated that as per the current production capacity of the OFM, six to eight years would be taken to meet the projected requirement as OFM was not dedicated to production of BMP vehicles only.
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