Taking the first step to end the post-Bofors freeze on acquisition of much-needed artillery guns for the Army, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), under new Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, on Saturday cleared a proposal to procure 814 mounted-gun systems for the artillery arm.
The guns will be bought for Rs 15,750 crore under ‘buy and make’ category of the defence procurement procedures — this means that the first 100 guns will be bought off the shelf from an original equipment manufacturer and the remaining 714 will be manufactured in India.
The green signal from Parrikar in his very first meeting of the DAC is crucial given that the artillery arm of the Army is in dire need of gun systems of different kinds.
Procurement stalled in the aftermath of the Bofors scandal and a series of decisions by previous governments, including blacklisting of foreign gun manufacturers for alleged wrongdoings.
Saturday’s decision will be followed by responses from Indian/Indo-foreign joint ventures.
“Acquisition of 814 pieces of 155 mm x 52 calibre mounted gun system has been cleared at Rs 15,750 crore. It will be procured under ‘buy and make-in-India’ programme. The first 100 will be purchased off the shelf and the rest would be manufactured in India,” a Defence ministry official said.
The DAC deferred decisions on two important Indian Air Force programmes — the procurement of 56 transport aircraft to replace Avros (a joint venture between Tata and Airbus has resulted in a single-vendor situation) and the proposal to consider acquisition of additional 106 Swiss Pilatus basic trainer aircraft. “Both programmes were discussed, but more information was sought on both projects. The projects have yet not been cleared, but are likely to be considered in subsequent DAC meetings,” the official said.
The DAC, however, gave the nod to revise payment terms in an ongoing IAF programme called the Integrated Air Command and Control System (IACCS). The go-ahead for payment of Rs 7,160 crore for this programme will now ensure that payments to Bharat Electronics Limited, Ghaziabad are made on the basis of “milestones” as against the earlier agreed mode of percentage-payments based on stages of completion.
The IACCS will come up in two phases. According to officials, while five nodes involving ground and air based systems, communication and control systems, air defence systems are already functional, the remaining four nodes will complete the network and ensure connectivity even with island territories. The programme, once completed, will enhance IAF capability to respond to aerial threats.
In line with the government’s make-in-India policy, the meeting discussed refinement of “make” procedures under the defence procurement procedures to make them more attractive to Indian investors. Officials said these will be discussed and refined.