The Narendra Modi government's push for modernizing India's 1.3-million armed forces continues unabated, with the Defense Acquisition Council (DAC) clearing about 20 pending proposals worth nearly Rs.30,000 crore (Rs.300 Billion/$4.7 Billion) at a marathon meeting on July 14, 2015 evening.
Among the items on agenda that were given the green signal include a waiver to American aerospace firm Boeing's offsets proposals for supplying four P-8I Poseidon long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft worth Rs.4,380 crore (Rs.43.8 Billion/$690 Million) to the Navy, and for issuing of a tender worth Rs.16,900 crore (Rs.169 Billion/$2.7 Billion) to buy new air defense guns for the Army.
Since the Modi government took office in May 2014, the Defense Ministry - first under Arun Jaitley and later under Manohar Parrikar - have so far cleared acquisition proposals worth Rs.350,000 crore (Rs.3500 Billion/$55 Billion). This includes the decision taken by Modi-led Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) to build six nuclear-powered submarines and seven Shivalik-class follow-on frigates for the Navy. However, the criticism against the Modi government defense modernization efforts is that it is yet to sign a majority of the deals that it cleared in the DAC and CCS meets.
Here is a quick low down on some of the acqusition proposals that got a go-ahead during the meeting chaired by Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar and attended by the Armed Forces chiefs and Defense Ministry Secretaries:
1. Indian Army's bid to acquire 428 anti-aircraft guns worth Rs.16,900 crore (Rs.169 Billion/$2.7 Billion) got the go-ahead. The proposal was accorded the Acceptance of Necessity (AoN, as it is called). Now, a tender (Request for Proposals in defense parlance) will be issued soon. The new air defense guns so procured will replace the ageing Swedish Zu and erstwhile Soviet L-70 23-mm guns to keep the Indian skies safer from enemy aircraft, helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles and such threats. This will be under the 'Buy and Make' category of the Defense Procurement Procedure or DPP-2013.
2. The Army's proposal for upgrading its T-1 electronic warfare system for one of its 14 fighting corps got the nod. It will be a 'Buy Indian' procurement and the system will be bought from state-owned Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL). Now, the Army will sign the contract worth Rs.265 crore (Rs.2.65 Billion/$42 Billion) for this system.
3. The land forces also got itself a nice multi-spectrum camoflage nets that can protect its assets such as its tanks, guns, communication system and such against visual, thermal and radar signatures. The Rs.310-crore (Rs.3.1 Billion/$49 Billion) worth proposal is to buy 14,000 nets. This will be bought from an Indian firm after a tender. The DAC accorded AoN for this proposal.
4. This will be a very important procurement to keep India's ageing artillery guns booming in case of a war. The approval was given for buying 350,000 bi-modular charge systems for the Army's 155-mm artillery guns. This is a repeat order, under an option clause that India will now enforce. This order goes to French firm Nexter under the 'Buy Global' category. This order makes Nexter richer by Rs.580 crore (Rs.5.8 Billion/$910 million). Remember, the troubles India has had in getting two Ordnance Factories for manufacturing the bi-modular charges in Nalanda after sraeli Military Industries (IMI), originally chosen to execute the project, got blacklisted, now resulting in cost escalation?
5. The Indian Air Force is the lead agency to buy 110 microlight aircraft for training of National Cadet Corps (NCC) air wing cadets. The DAC nod was given to buy these aircraft from Slovenian company Pipistrel Aircraft. No cost was given for this procurement by the Defense Ministry official, who briefed the media on the DAC decisions late on July 14 evening. However, the interesting sub-text to this procurement is that the IAF and the Indian Navy too have bought these planes, under this deal. For what, one wonders though. For fun rides, Arming India takes a guess. The DAC approval was for breaking up the entire deal for 194 microlight aircraft into two. The IAF has got 72 of these aircraft and another 12 has gone to the Navy. That makes it 84 aircraft for the two armed forces. The NCC order for 110 planes is the second part of the deal. Basically, the DAC nod is to enable staggering of the plane deliveries by the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM).
6. The IAF is also soon buying simulators for its fleet of French-origin Mirage-2000 combat aircraft. The DAC gave its nod for the purchase, for which a tender will soon be issued. No cost was given for this procurement by the Defense Ministry official. Aren't these aircraft already going through a costly upgrade program, worth $2.4 billion to the nation's exchequer, staggered over a decade?
7. There were more Army and IAF proposals, though these were very minor in nature, according to the Defense Ministry official. Arming India will soon try and get the details on those procurements too for the benefit of the discerning readers.
8. Coming to the Indian Navy's proposals, the major one is the procurement of four Boeing P-8I spy planes at a cost of Rs.4,380 crore (Rs.43.8 Billion/$690 Million). Now, the contract signing will happen soon for these planes. The nod, actually, was a waiver of "some deviations" found in the offsets proposals made by Boeing for this procurement. Incidentally, the same kind of waiver was given to the previously procured eight P-8I planes too in the year 2009. The deliveries of these eight is scheduled to be completed this year.
9. The Navy's fleet of three Delhi-class indigenous Destroyers and three Talwar-class Russia-built Frigates will get new weapons and sensors suite "as and when they go for a mid-life upgrade" at a cost of Rs.2,900 crore (Rs.29 Billion/$456 Million). Under this upgrade program, these six warships will get its air defense weapons changed, new Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAMs) and radars. Fregat M2EM radars from the Russian firm Concern Morinformsystem-Agat JSC will replace the existing radars.
10. The Navy will soon get a training facility for its Indo-Russian BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles at its Electrical Training Establishment at INS Valsura in Jamnagar, Gujarat. The DAC gave its nod for setting up of the facility at a cost of Rs.30 crore (Rs.300 Million/$4.8 Million)
11. The erstwhile Soviet-origin Kora class of guided missile corvettes of the Navy will get new Air and Missile Defence 2D Radars (AMDR 2D) radars that will replace the ageing radars. Six such vessels will benefit at a cost of Rs.440 crore (Rs.4.4 Billion/$70 Million).
12. The three Delhi-class of indigenous Destroyers will get a new communication system backbone Gigabit Ethernet Ships Data Network (GbeSDN) for Rs.260 crore (Rs.2.6 Billion/$41 million) to replace the existing 1990s-era data backbone, for sensors and weapons, based on Optic Fiber Cables. The new system will gather and send all critical mission data to the ship's commanders for a seamless decision-making during operations.
13. Indian Navy's 23 smaller combat vessels such as missile boats, Landing Ship Tanks (LSTs), Naval Offshore Patrol Vessels (NOPVs) and such will get new Combat Management Systems at a cost of Rs.624 crore (Rs.6.24 Billion/$100 Million).
14. Indian Navy's Russian-origin MiG-29K combat planes and the Hawk Advanced Jet Trainers will be fitted with the Air Combat Manoeuvering Instruction System pods at a cost of Rs.200 crore (Rs.2 Billion/$32 Million).
15. The access to all Indian Navy establishments, warships and bases would now be controlled through a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) system and for implementing this project, the DAC approved a cost of Rs.400 crore (Rs.4 Billion/$63 Million).