Defence ministry approves procurement of Rs 15,935 cr of ammunition; move comes after repeated delays, cancellations

Three days after Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militants stormed an Indian Army camp in Jammu and Kashmir, the Central government has approved the procurement of ammunition worth Rs 15,935 crore, including the purchase of 7.40 lakh assault rifles, 5,719 sniper rifles and light machine guns to bolster the strength of the armed forces.

The rifles will be produced in India under the 'Buy and Make (Indian)' category through the State-run Ordnance Factory Board as well as the private sector.

In a statement, the ministry said an "essential quantity" of Light Machine Guns (LMGs) will be through the "fast track" route at an estimated cost of over Rs 1,819 crore, primarily to meet the operational requirement of the troops deployed on the borders.

This follows a concerted effort by the defence ministry to upgrade the weaponry used by the Indian armed forces. In the last one month, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), the defence ministry's highest decision-making body on procurement, has fast-tracked procurement of rifles, carbines and LMGs to equip soldiers on the borders with modern and more effective equipment.

The DAC also approved procurement of 5,719 sniper rifles for the armed forces at an estimated cost of Rs 982 crore, the ministry said.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The sniper rifles will be bought under the 'Buy Global' category, the ammunition for these weapons will be initially procured and subsequently manufactured in India.

The ministry said to enhance the anti-submarine warfare capabilities of Indian Navy, the DAC also approved the procurement of Advanced Torpedo Decoy Systems (ATDS) for the Indian Navy at a cost of Rs 850 crore.

The 'Mareech' system has been developed indigenously by Defence Research and Development Organisation and has successfully completed extensive trial evaluations.

"The 'Mareech' systems will be produced by Bharat Electronics Limited, Bengaluru at an estimated cost of Rs 850 crore," the ministry said.

Cancelled defence procurement deals

The move is especially important for the country because the defence ministry had cancelled a $500 million deal with Israel just last month. The deal was overdeveloping 'Spike' anti-tank guided missiles, and the company didn't give any reason for the cancellation of the deal.

Spike, in use by 26 countries around the world, is said to have been selected by India after a long and rigorous process and after complying with all the defence procurement regulations.

Ishai David, a spokesman for the Rafael Advance Defence Systems Ltd, told PTI, "Rafael regrets the decision and remains committed to cooperating with the Indian Ministry of Defence and to its strategy of continuing to work in India, an important market, as it has for more than two decades, to provide India with the most advanced and innovative systems."

A few months prior to this, India had also decided against purchasing machine guns from the Israel Weapon Industries company. As reported by The Times of India in August last year, the defence ministry had "retracted" the tender or RFP (request for proposal) for the 7.62 mm calibre LMGs on the grounds that it had become a "single-vendor situation" with only Israeli Weapon Industries (IWI) left in the fray.

The defence ministry had similarly scrapped a tender issued in 2010 for 44,618 close-quarter battle carbines, in which too, IWI had emerged as "resultant single-vendor" over Italian firm Beretta, amid allegations of irregularities and political intrigue, The Times of India had reported.

And in 2016, the army was forced to relaunch its hunt for a new-generation 7.62 x 51mm assault rifles to replace the old glitch-prone 5.56mm INSAS (Indian small arms system) rifles, a separate report on The Times of India said.

Revealing details of the earlier bid, the article said similar bids over the last decade were all scrapped due to corruption scandals, "unrealistic technical requirements" and change in calibre of the desired guns.

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Updated Date: Feb 14, 2018 15:45:40 IST

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