The defence ministry has approved projects worth thousands of crores to sharpen the fighting capability of its tanks and infantry combat vehicles, amid the national auditor revealing gaping holes in the military’s battle readiness.
The projects approved include ammunition for more than 1,500 Russian-origin BMP-2/2K infantry combat vehicles, top-end missiles for 3,000 T-90/T-72 tanks and lakhs of rounds for L-70 air defence guns, officials said. The ministry’s department of defence production (DDP) gave the green light to the programmes on July 10.
Documents with HT show that the army requires nine lakh rounds of advanced 30 mm ammunition for the BMPs that can be fired from the existing gun without any design modifications. Each round could cost up to Rs 15,000, according to the army’s estimates.
The DDP approved the purchase of 3,000 third-generation missiles for the army’s tank fleet, with a maximum effective range of 8 km and shelf life of five years under field conditions.
The army’s operational and technical parameters state the new missile should have a “hit probability greater than 90% on a standard NATO tank.” The army’s proposal says, “As the design of the existing INVAR missile has been optimized both in terms of range and depth of penetration, it is imperative to upgrade to next generation missiles with enhanced capability.”
The army’s T-90 fleet will be equipped with ‘armoured fighting vehicle protection and counter measure system’ at a cost of around Rs 2,500 crore. These enhanced protection measures deflect or destroy threats from guided missiles, rocket propelled grenades and rockets. Army officials said the systems would significantly enhance the survivability of tank crews in combat.
The approvals have been granted under the ‘Make’ category of acquisition in the Defence Procurement Procedure 2016 that lays down that only Indian vendors are eligible for the projects.
The T-90 fleet will be equipped with 1,200-1,500 HP modular engines “to cater for high battle field agility.” The army has a requirement for 2,011 such engines with each likely to cost Rs 5 crore.
Another significant project cleared relates to buying 3.3 lakh rounds of ammunition for the L-70 air defence gun systems over the next 12 years. The army’s proposal said, “With increase in air threat envelope and multiplicity of threat platforms, there’s a requirement to enhance the lethality and accuracy of the present ammunition of L-70 gun.”
The defence ministry has sought Rs 20,000 crore from the government to accelerate the military’s modernisation. Also, in July, the Centre bestowed sweeping financial powers on the army to meet critical deficiencies in ammunition, spares and different types of armament following a security review conducted after last year’s Uri terror strike.