The government on Tuesday approved the revival of an old project to replace the existing obsolete air defence artillery guns of the Army worth Rs 16,900 crore, even as decks were cleared for acquisition of another four P-8I long-range maritime patrol aircraft for the Navy for Rs 4,380 crore.
The defence acquisitions council (DAC), chaired by defence minister Manohar Parrikar, gave the nod to pending projects worth over Rs 30,000 crore in all. They ranged from warship combat management systems and artillery bimodular charge systems to multi-spectrum camouflage nets and microlights for NCC cadets.
But the two main takeaways were the air defence guns and P-8I aircraft. The Army has for long been grappling with the L-70 and Zu-23mm guns, which are of the vintage of 1960s and 1970s.
Incidentally, General (retd) VK Singh, now a minister of state in the Modi government, had highlighted the problem as the Army chief in 2012 in a letter to the then PM Manmohan Singh. A shocking 97% of the existing air defence systems were obsolete, he had held.
The DAC on Tuesday "revalidated" the "acceptance of validity" for the Rs 16,900 crore proposal to acquire an initial 428 air defence guns under a "Buy & Make India" project. Private sector players like Tatas, Punj Llyod and Bharat Forge have shown interest in the project, which will now see a tender being floated for import of an initial lot of the guns with the rest to be made in India in a joint venture with the foreign collaborator. The acquisition of the four more P-8I aircraft, in turn, will be a follow-on deal to the $2.1 billion contract for eight such planes, which was inked with Boeing in 2009, as reported by TOI earlier.
The Navy has already inducted seven of the eight original P-8Is, which are based at the Arakkonam naval air station in Tamil Nadu to keep a close watch over the Indian Ocean. The radar-packed planes are armed with deadly Harpoon Block-II missiles, MK-54 lightweight torpedoes, rockets and depth charges to take on enemy warships and submarines. TOI