Govt Speeds Up ₹3,547cr Buy For Frontline Troops

Thirteen years after the Army first asked for new-generation assault rifles and close-quarter battle (CQB) carbines, there is finally some hope for humble infantry soldiers. At least for the ones deployed on the borders with China and Pakistan.

The Nirmala Sitharamanled defence acquisitions council (DAC) cleared the fast-track procurement (FTP) of 72,400 assault rifles and 93,895 carbines for Rs 3,547 crore from the global market on Tuesday.

These limited emergency purchases, which come after repeated scrapping of projects due to graft allegations or unrealistic technical parameters as well as a woeful lack of indigenous options for well over a decade, are to be subsequently followed by separate, larger ‘Make in India’ projects.

The DAC also simplified guidelines to encourage participation of the private sector in design and production of weapon systems to bolster the floundering domestic defence-industrial base.

No major ‘Make in India’ project has actually kicked off in the last three-four years, with at least six mega projects worth over Rs 3.5 lakh crore stuck without actual contracts being inked, as was earlier reported by TOI.Picture

“The MoD will now accept suo motu proposals from the industry, while allowing startups to develop military equipment. The minimum qualifications to participate in defence projects have also been relaxed by removing conditions related to credit rating and reducing the financial net worth required,” an official said.

All vendors meeting the relaxed criteria will be allowed to participate in the prototype development process instead of the earlier restriction on only two shortlisted companies.

Army chief General Bipin Rawat also acknowledges his entire force cannot be equipped with top-notch weapons. “The hi-tech rifles, for instance, will be only for infantry battalions deployed on the front. The bulk will have to come through the indigenous route, ordnance factories or private industry,” he said.

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SIPRI DATA Russia accounted for 68% of India’s arms import during 2012-16 as compared to 14% from the US & 7.2% from Israel

Russia and India are taking steps to address the perceived drift in their relations. High level visits are continuing. Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov visited Delhi earlier this month for Russia-India-China trilateral meeting. Russia’s deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin is visiting India on Saturday for a high level comprehensive review of Indo-Russian relations. While both sides have taken steps to diversify bilateral relations, the most substantive part of the strategic partnership still remains the military-technical cooperation.

The Indo-Russian Governmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation (IRGCMTC) is the apex institution for reviewing and guiding the military technical cooperation between the two countries in entirety. Jointly headed by the deputy prime minister on the Russian side and the defence minister on the Indian side, it is supported by two working groups and seven sub groups. In the recent past, the two sides have concluded agreements on the supply of S-400 air defence system, construction of frigates and the manufacture of KA-226T helicopters. An Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) on the manufacturing of Russian KA-226T helicopters through the joint venture route under ‘Make in India’ programme has also been signed. As per the IGA, 60 helicopters will be manufactured in Russia and 140 in India.

Despite the diversification in India’s defence procurements, Russia remains and will remain a critical supplier of defence equipment to India for a long time. According to SIPRI, Russia accounted for 68% of India’s arms import during 2012-16 as compared to 14% from the US and 7.2% from Israel. While these figure are based on estimates by SIPRI, they capture the trend reasonably well.

The nature of bilateral defence cooperation between the two countries has undergone positive change in the recent years. There is now a greater emphasis on joint design, development and production of high-technology military equipment. The production of Brahmos cruise missile by an Indo-Russian joint venture (JV) company Brahmos Pvt Ltd is an example of successful Indo-Russian joint R&D and production. The JV has an authorized capital of $250 million with Indian equity share of 50.5% and Russian share of 49.5%. The highly potent cruise missile can be fired from ships, submarines, aircraft and land. On November 22, the air version of Brahmos was tested from SU-30 MKI fighter aircraft.

The Indo-Russian defence cooperation is not without problems. The Russians are anxiously watching India’s diversification efforts. The 2007 Inter-Governmental Agreement on joint development and co-production of the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) has made little progress. There appear to be some misgivings about the project on the Indian side. According to media reports, the Indo-Russian joint venture to manufacture a medium airlift military transport aircraft has not made progress. The delays in the procurement of spare parts from Russian manufactures and the high prices is a perennially sore issue for Indian consumers.

Yet, there is considerable untapped potential in Indo-Russian defence cooperation. New ideas should be tried out. Can, for instance, Russia help in the further improvement of India’s indigenously developed light combat aircraft, Tejas? Can the two sides cooperate on manufacturing submarines? Despite setbacks in some areas, fresh avenues for cooperation are worth exploring.

Time is ripe to involve Indian private sector companies into Indo-Russian defence joint ventures. The ‘Make in India’ programme can be leveraged to do so. Two major military-industrial conferences of Indian companies and Russian OEMs have been held in Delhi and Moscow in 2017. The conferences discussed life cycle support to Russian platforms and how the buyer-seller relationship can be transformed into a partnership for the joint production of advanced defence systems. The Russian side showed interest in forming joint ventures to localize manufacturing spare parts in India.

India and Russia are strategic partners of long standing. The defence relationship should not be limited to the narrow technical aspects only. Fortunately, the scope of Indo-Russian defence cooperation has been widened to include high level military exchanges and joint exercises between the armed forces of two countries. Joint naval exercise were held in Russia’s Far-East in 2016 and between the ground forces of the two countries in Rajasthan in 2015. For the first time, joint tri-service INDRA exercises were held in Vladivostok in October 2017. Though belated, these are welcome developments. The Indian navy with Russian help can also gain some experience in operating in the Arctic Sea. Deeper defence and security cooperation with Russia is good for India as it enhances India’s strategic choices. The scepticism about Russia, prevalent in a section of Indian strategic circles, is unwarranted.

BOOST TO DEFENCE By joining Wassenaar, India has joined a global regime of nations that produce advanced capabilities

The 23rd Wassenaar Plenary session held in Vienna on December 6-7, chaired by Permanent Representative of France to the UN Jean-Louis Falconi, concluded with the admission of India into the club of Participating States (PSs). This important decision confirmed India’s progress in meeting membership criteria.

The Wassenaar Arrangement has been established in 1996 to contribute to regional and international security and stability, by promoting transparency and greater responsibility in transfers of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies. The PSs are the world’s leading producers of advanced military capability, most of whom are industrial and technology partners with the US and its defence industries.

The PSs have agreed to maintain national export controls on items included in the Wassanaar Arrangement control lists (wassenaar.org/). These controls are implemented via national legislation and are guided by agreed-to best practices and guidelines.

All PSs have agreed to report on transfers and denials of specified controlled items to destinations outside the Arrangement, and to exchange information on sensitive dual-use goods and technologies. The Wassenaar Arrangement organisation seeks to complement other multilateral control regimes such as the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). Accordingly, it pursues regular technical-level dialogue with these regimes to optimise national expertise and avoid duplication.

By joining Wassenaar, India has joined a global regime of nations that produce advanced capabilities and agree to prevent the transfer of military equipment that they develop and produce to terrorist groups and organisations, as well as to individual terrorists. Most PSs and their domestic industries contribute to the US military-industrial complex as partners with US industries. These partnerships are critical in advancing our development and production of cutting edge capabilities.

Having in place government policies and procedures, such as those agreed to within this regime, enable industrial relationships. India will soon see the benefit of its membership in relation to enhancing its indigenous defence research and manufacturing efforts.

Notably, as a member of the PSs, further progress on the levels of US technology that can be shared with India, and India’s ability to be a significant defence exporter, will be seen. The Government of India should be commended on this transformational development, which can be seen as a crucial building block for to the enhancement of India’s indigenous defence manufacturing goals.US industry looks forward to advancing industrial partnerships with India’s defence sector.

‘Despite Threats From China & Pak, Hardly Any Funds Given’

New Delhi: A parliamentary committee has slammed the government for simply not doing enough to ensure military modernisation despite India being confronted with a clear and present “collusive threat” from China and Pakistan.

The Indian armed forces continue to grapple with critical operational deficiencies on several fronts, ranging from submarines, fighter jets, howitzers and helicopters, to even basic gear like new-generation assault rifles, machine guns, bulletproof jackets and helmets.

But the Army, Navy and IAF hardly got any funds to undertake concrete modernisation in the 2017-18 Budget, with the Rs 2.74 lakh crore defence outlay working out to just 1.56% of the projected GDP, the lowest such figure since the 1962 war with China.

The parliamentary standing committee on defence chaired by Major General B C Khanduri (Retd), in two reports tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, criticised the government for neither providing adequate funds for proper military modernisation, nor fast-tracking defence procurements to plug operational gaps.

Overall, the Army, Navy and IAF just got 60%, 67% and 54% of the funds they had sought for modernisation this fiscal. The committee expressed concern over the “adverse and cascading effect that the deficiency of funds” would have on their operational preparedness.

To make matters worse, the defence ministry (MoD) continues to flounder to properly plan and spend even the allocated funds. “Underutilisation of funds highlights the loopholes in the planning and budgetary exercise undertaken by the MoD. Also, persistent failure to utilise the allocated funds has contributed to reduction in the MoD’s budget allocations by the finance ministry,” said the panel.

The persisting critical operational gaps have adversely affected the country’s defence preparedness. At least 45 fighter squadrons (18-21 jets in each), for instance, are required by the IAF to tackle the two-front scenario. But it’s making do with just 33, which will go down to 19 by 2027, and 16 by 2032 due to retirement of older jets.

The Rs 59,000 crore contract inked for 36 French Rafale fighters in September 2016 in itself will do little to arrest this alarming drawdown. “The issue of depletion in squadron strength has been taken up repeatedly by the committee over the years. However, no concrete measures seem to have been taken (till now),” said the panel.

The Navy, in turn, has just 13 conventional dieselelectric submarines, only half of them operational at any given time since they are 17 to 32 years old, apart, of course, from the newly-commissioned INS Kalvari.

Moreover, the force has a shortage of 61multi-role copters needed on warships to detect, track and destroy enemy submarines, as well as at least a dozen minesweepers. “It is disheartening to find out that repeated delays have become an inherent part and parcel of ship-building projects,” it said.

 

Defence Plans Worth Rs 3.5 Lakh Cr Stuck
Bureaucratic bottlenecks, long-winded procedures, commercial and technical wranglings, coupled with the lack of requisite political push and followthrough, have ensured that no major “Make in India“ project in defence has actually kicked off in the last three years.Stock-taking of half-adozen mega projects, collectively worth over Rs 3.5 lakh crore, shows they remain stuck at different stages without the final contracts being inked. They range from future infantry combat vehicles (FICVs), light utility helicopters and Naval multi-role choppers to new-generation stealth submarines, mine counter-measure vessels (MCMVs) and fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA).

The initial request for information (RFI) for another major `Make in India’ project, to manufacture 114 single-engine fighters in a second production line after indigenous Tejas light combat aircraft, of course, is also about to be issued. But though the Gripen-E (Sweden) and F-16 (US) jets are already in a dogfight to bag the estimated Rs 1 lakh crore contract, it’ll take years for indigenous production to take off.

Defence ministry (MoD) officials contend minister Nirmala Sitharaman is holding meetings of the defence acquisitions council every fortnight, as also reviewing projects on a case-to-case basis, in a bid to break the bureaucratic and other logjams.

“These are big complex projects for a country which cannot even manufacture specialised ammunition. They will take some time,“ said a senior official. Some steps have indeed been taken to boost the private sector’s role in defence production through “strategic partnership“ and other policies, besides according top priority to “indigenous design, development and manufacturing (IDDM)“ category in the Defence Procurement Procedure.

But India is still far away from reducing its strategically-vulnerable dependence on foreign military hardware and software. PM Modi’s talk of defence as the cornerstone of his “Make in India“ thrust is also yet to translate into concrete reality .

The Rs 60,000 crore FICV project (see graphic), first approved in October 2009, for instance, remains deadlocked over whether two or all the five Indian private firms in the fray, apart from the Ordnance Factories Board, be asked to design and build prototypes.

“Sitharaman is holding meetings to break the FICV logjam… It will be resolved soon,“ said an official. Mean while, the Army’s plan to induct 835 FICVs by 2017, with another 1,479 coming by 2022, has gone for a complete toss.

Similarly , the Rs 32,000 crore contract to manufacture 12 MCMVs at the Goa Shipyard in collaboration with South Korean shipyard Kangnam is yet to be inked despite a renewed push from Manohar Parrikar when he was defence minister in February 2015. “Negotiations are stuck because Kangnam wants deviations from the initial tender,“ said a source.

The FGFA project with Russia to co-develop and coproduce an Indian variant of its Sukhoi T-50 fighter, in turn, has taken a steep nose-dive after the IAF raised doubts about its stealth capabilities, engine performance, high cost and delivery time-frame.

Under a 2010 pact, India and Russia conducted preliminary design work worth $295 million, but the final R&D and production contract has been hanging fire since then. It will take around $25 billion to make 127 such single-seat jets in India. “It will have to be a top political decision whether to go in for the FGFA project or junk it,“ said a source.

Another project with Russia, the Rs 6,500 crore plan to manufacture 200 Kamov-226T light utility helicopters, is also in the doldrums despite an inter-governmental agreement in 2015. “The joint venture has been set up. But the request for proposal is yet to be issued to the JV to submit its techno-commercial offer,“ said the source.

The government is contemplating a system to facilitate domestic defence manufacturing by speeding up the issue of industrial licences needed to start production. Under the proposed procedure, licences would be “deemed approved“ if the home ministry’s security clearance is not given within a “reasonable“ amount of time.In addition, in keeping with the `Make in India’ initiative, the defence ministry has asked the Defence Research & Development Organisation to create a “master list“ of its technologies that can be commercialised and given to private Indian industri es for manufacturing and export, besides looking at tax concessions for domestic producers. The ministry will ensure that bureaucratic hurdles are cleared in important acquisitions, including `Make in India’ projects.

Government sources said most of these issues were discussed during an interaction on Saturday between defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) representatives, where the matter of delays in the issue of licences was raised.

If the requisite clearance isn’t obtained for two months or more, then defence ministry officials will try and resolve the matter with home minister Rajnath Singh, the sources said.

The Modern Sub Machine Carbine (MSMC) is possibly the only weapon designed, developed and manufactured in India with a cult following among gamers across the world. The futuristic looking carbine-a compact weapon that fires smaller calibre rounds than an assault rifle-clearly caught the attention of the designers of Call of Duty. Since 2012, players of the franchise’s Black Ops II have had the DRDO-designed MSMC as one among five carbine options.

Weapons free. Photo: Maneesh Agnihotri

No one is quite sure how the virtual version of the weapon showed up in American-produced pop culture. The actual weapon’s history, however, is somewhat chequered. It was developed by DRDO’s Pune-based Armaments Research and Development Establishment after the Army announced a contest in 2006 to replace all of its obsolete World War II era 9 mm carbines. The 5.56 mm MSMC has a 30-round magazine and can fire upto 900 rounds per minute. An indigenously-made holographic sight with an inbuilt red-dot laser pointer allows for accurate aiming up to the weapon’s 200 metre effective range, making it ideal for use in confined urban spaces. The weapon is produced by state-owned ordnance factories and is close to meeting the army’s rigorous testing standards.

As the DRDO-OFB combine wait for the Army order, they have decided to offer the carbine to the police and paramilitary forces. Their optimism is not unfounded. Police forces are looking to modernise WWII era weapon inventories. Imports are not just expensive, but also subject to controls by host nations- German manufacturer Heckler and Koch has repeatedly cited human rights violations by Indian security forces as reason to deny exports.

The Chhattisgarh police became the first to order the weapon this year-640 of them-with similar orders expected from the Madhya Pradesh, Delhi and Meghalaya police. India’s paramilitary forces are another potential buyer. Its designers estimate the firearm has the potential to replace nearly 400,000 obsolete weapons, an order worth over Rs 45,000 crore (including ammunition).

“We have the production capacity to make around 35,000 such carbines each year,” says H.R. Dixit, general manager, Small Arms Factory (SAF), Kanpur. This Indian carbine’s transition from virtual to real could prove to be a potential game changer.

IN REVAMP MODE Move to also rebalance defence expenditure; this will be the first such exercise since Independence and will involve restructuring British era systems
The Centre has approved major reforms for the Indian Army aimed at enhancing combat capabilities and rebalancing defence expenditure. This will be the first such exercise since Independence and will involve restructuring British era systems. Posts of 57,000 officers, soldiers and civilians will be restructured and the Army would have state of art regimen and better logistic support units after the overhaul.There will be major changes to optimise signal establishments that handle the Army’s communication networks, restructuring repair echelons, redeploying ordnance echelons, better utilisation of transport echelons and closure of military farms and Army postal establishments in peace locations.

“These reforms will be completed by December 31, 2019. Restructuring by the Indian Army is aimed at enhancing combat capability in a manner that the officersJCOsORs will be used for improving operational preparedness and civilians will be redeployed in different wings of the Armed Forces for improving efficiency ,“ a defence ministry statement said. The savings can be utilised for overcoming deficiencies in combat arms, especially for officer cadre.For example, additional vacancies for commissioning officers in combat units like infantry , artillery, armour and mechanised infantry will be allotted to overcome these deficiencies. This way the `teeth to tail’ ratio (combat units to administrative + logistics ratio) would improve.

“The concept of warfare and logistics has changed over time, with modern mechanised forces and induction of new equipment in the Army. So this major reform was required,“ said a defence analyst. Due to this change in concept, there will be several redundant logistic units.

For instance, the signal regiments have undergone change due to change in electronic warfare. The development is similar for air support and logistics elements.

Moreover, the Army does not need elements such as military farms anymore, a British era concept that supplied fresh milk to Army units, due to the availability of packaged milk now. Similarly, the Army postal service is not required in peace stations as most official communications are sent by email over the Army Wireless Area Network. With the reforms, redundant ele ments will be remo ved and state of art regimen, such as for signals, can co me up. And techno logy will reduce the requirement of manpower.

 

The defence mini stry had constitu ted a committee un der Lt Gen DB She katkar to recom mend measures for enhancing combat capability and rebalancing defence expenditure of the armed forces. The aim was to increase teeth to tail ratio and have a judicious balance. The committee had submitted its report last December.Ninety-nine recommendations were sent to the armed forces for implementing the plan. Defence minister Arun Jaitley has approved 65 of the recommendations for implementation now.

In yet another major blow to the Army’s modernisation plans, the procurement plan for over 44,000 light machine guns (LMGs) for its humble foot soldiers in the infantry has been scrapped by the defence ministry.

This is the third such project, after the cases for new assault rifles and close-quarter battle carbines, to be junked over the last two years. This once again shows that often in race to acquire big weapon systems like tanks and howitzers, desperate need to equip soldiers with basic infantry weapons, bullet-proof jackets, webbing and ballistic helmets often fall by the wayside.

Sources said the defence ministry had “retracted” the tender or RFP (request for proposal) for the 7.62mm calibre LMGs on the ground that it had become a “single-vendor situation” with only the Israeli Weapon Industries (IWI) left in the fray after protracted field trials from December 2015 to February 2017.

The mega “Buy and Make” procurement plan involved an initial direct purchase of around 4,400 LMGs from a foreign armament company, followed by a tie-up with the Ordnance factory Board with transfer of technology for large-scale indigenous production. The entire project would have cost an estimated Rs 13,000 crore.

The dumping of the project comes after MoD late last year also scrapped tender issued in 2010 for 44,618 close-quarter battle carbines, in which too IWI had emerged as “resultant single-vendor” over Italian firm Beretta, amid allegations of irregularities and political intrigue.
Last September, the Army was also forced to re-launch its global hunt for around two lakh new-generation 7.62mm x 51mm assault rifles after similar bids over last decade were scrapped due to corruption scandals, unrealistic technical requirements and change in calibre of the desired guns, as was first reported by TOI.

The last RFP for the assault rifles was scrapped in May 2015 because of the Army’s overambitious experiment to induct rifles with interchangeable barrels, with a 5.56x45mm primary barrel for conventional warfare and a 7.62x39mm secondary one for counter-terrorism. “The three cases spell big trouble for the Infantry, which has been grappling with outdated basic weapons and lack of proper bullet-proof jackets for long. Given the long-winded defence procurement procedure, it will years for the new guns to be inducted,” said a source.

Defence ministry has delegated “substantial“ financial powers to the three defence services for carrying out perimeter security of sensitive military installations. This has been done to expedite the decision making process in the modernisation of the airbases and defence installations. The development comes a few days after the ministry delegated the Indian Army’s Vice Chief Sarath Chand of full financial powers to procure critical ammunition and spares to maintain an optimum level to be able to fight a short intense war. The army is facing critical deficiencies in its ammunition and spares.In relation to the fresh development, the ministry issued a statement on Thursday stating, “In an unprecedented move, the MoD has decided to delegate substantial financial powers to the armed forces for undertaking works for perimeter security of sensitive military installations. This has been done primarily to expedite the decision making process involved in the modernisation of the security apparatus of airbases and defence installations.“

The statement also said that the Vice-Chiefs of the three Services have been empowered to place orders, procure equipment and carry out civil works without further seeking approvals of the MoD.

The financial delegation rep resents a significant jump in the powers currently exercised by the services.