Sunday, October 11, 2009

India needs to modernise military inventory


By Ritu Sharma

Minister of State for Defence M.M. Pallam Raju has expressed concern at the aging inventory of the Indian armed forces and said its modernisation is on the priority list. With the army’s artillery modernisation plan in a limbo for decades, the air defence of the army becoming obsolete and the navy grounding its Sea Harrier combat jets, Raju said the government was alive to the problem.

“We need to modernise very fast. We have problems, with vendors getting blacklisted. These are setbacks. We are aware of the urgent need for modernisation,” Raju told in an interview. The army has been waiting for 23 years for new artillery guns - a crucial element of its modernisation drive. The wait got longer with the blacklisting of artillery manufacturer Singapore Technology whose howitzer was the frontrunner for a Rs.29 billion ($612 million) order for 140 guns.

Singapore Technology was also a contender for a Rs.80-billion order for 400 155mm/52-calibre towed artillery guns as well as the indigenous manufacture of another 1,100 howitzers through the transfer of technology route. The army had purchased 410 Bofors 155mm howitzers in 1986 but the deal was mired in corruption charges and the name of then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi was dragged in. The Supreme Court eventually found no wrongdoing but the taint stuck to Bofors, as a result of which it was not considered for a new order.

Another area of concern is the air defence set-up - required to protect field formations and vital installations - that is approaching obsolescence. “It (air defence) is one of our shortcomings. We are working on that,” Raju said, when asked about the army and air force’s obsolete air defence system. The L-70 air defence gun, which forms the backbone of the air defence system of the army, has been in use for nearly 44 years.

The air force had purchased Pechora missile units from Russia between 1974 and 1990. Most of the units have become defunct due to aging and lack of support. The navy’s aviation has run into problems, with its fleet of Sea Harrier combat jets grounded. The aircraft have met accidents at an alarming rate. Inducted in 1980s, the navy has been left with only 11 aircraft. “As the fleet ages, problems come up. The Sea Harrier requires to be replaced,” the minister added.

5 comments:

At least Pallam Raju can be selected as Defense Minister who really cares about defense needs .

Defense minister Antony is really a clean man, he is sorting out the real problems. He will do more than we expect in near future.

Begging govt for more cash for very expensive foreign weapons, is wrong. Indians Human Development Index ranking is worse then alot of African countries. Maybe the lazy buggers should make own weapons.

Just go to show how South Asia has failed to look after its people, in contrast to rest of Aisa.

@Anon 10:35

You do realize, that indigenous weapons development and procurement is a much more expensive option and therefore affects the local economy much more?! There is no such thing as an expensive foreign vs. cheap indigenous weapon. This is not about some AK-47s, but complex weapon systems which require a significant technology base.

Unfortunately, Indian Army have been waiting for 23 years for new Artillery Guns, but nothing in sight! DRDO should have developed a new system in this time frame!! I donot understand why MoD, GOI, are not taking private sectors like TATAs, Mahindras, etc, in confidence to develop the Defence Equipments for the country? I am sure if they are allowed to export in the world market, lot of development can take place. India needlessly treats export of Defence Equipment unethical. All Superpowers like US, UK, France, China, Russia, Israel, etc have developed by selling war like equipments to countries like ours.

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