NEW DELHI: It will take the 15-lakh strong Indian armed forces another couple of years to become “fully fighting fit” with “optimal” stockpiles of ammunition, spares and reserves for “short and intense wars” under the Rs 23,700 crore worth of deals inked over the last 10 months, say sources.
But this does not mean the Army, Navy and IAF cannot effectively take on any adversary, if the need arises, in the interim period in as gung-ho a manner as ever. The armed forces continue to maintain “high operational readiness” all along the 778-km Line of Control with Pakistan amid fierce cross-border shelling duels as well as the 4,057-km Line of Actual Control with China, where rival troops remain locked in a tense but non aggressive face-off near the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction.
The crippling shortages in ammunition stockpiles or the war wastage reserves (WWR) came to the fore once again on Friday, with the latest CAG report tabled in Parliament holding “no significant improvement” had taken place to plug the critical deficiencies in availability and quality of ammunition supplied by the Ordnance Factory Board since March 2013.
Conducting a follow-up audit to its May 2015 report on the dismal state of “ammunition management in the Army”, the audit watchdog held the stocks of 121 (80%) of the 152 types of ammunition were below the authorization level required for 40 days of “intensive fighting” as per WWR norms.
“Further, availability of 83 (55%) types of ammunition was below the MARL (minimum acceptable risk level of ammunition stocks for 20 days) and 61 (40%) types were at a critical level (less than 10 days). Availability of high-calibre ammunition for tanks and artillery are in a more alarming state. Moreover, in the absence of fuses, 83% of the high-calibre ammunition currently held by Army is not in a state to be used operationally,” it added.
But the CAG report does not take into account the flurry of contracts for ammunition and spares inked by Army (19 deals worth Rs 12,000 crore), IAF (43 deals for over Rs 9,200 crore) and Navy (37 deals for over Rs 2,500 core) under emergency revenue financial powers granted to them after the terror attack at Uri in September last year.
These deliveries from Russia, Israel and others to ensure stockpiles for at least 10 days of “intensive” fighting, however, will take time. The Army, for instance, will get the bulk of its Smerch rockets, Konkurs anti-tank guided missiles, 125mm APFSDS (armour-piercing fin-stabilised discarding sabot) ammunition for its T-90S and T-72 tanks and the like by March 2019, with the rest coming by early-2020.
Deliveries to plug critical shortages in submarines, fighters, howitzers and helicopters will also take some time. The IAF, for instance, will get 36 Rafale fighters, armed with a wide array of missile and laser-guided munitions, in the 2019-2022 timeframe under the Rs 59,000 crore deal inked with France last September.
The 22 Apache attack and 15 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters ordered from the US for Rs 22,000 crore will come between March-July 2019 and March 2020. Similarly, the bulk of the 145 M-777 ultra-light howitzers, which can be swiftly air-lifted to threatened high-altitude areas along the LAC, will arrive from March 2019 to June 2021.
SOURCE & CREDITS: TIMES OF INDIA