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Corruption, Bureaucracy Delay $100B India Buy

Nov. 12, 2012 - 11:57AM   |  
By VIVEK RAGHUVANSHI   |   Comments
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NEW DELHI — India plans to spend more than $100 billion on weapons and equipment in the next five to seven years, but if the military wants to prepare for a possible simultaneous conflict with Pakistan and China, that figure will need to rise to about $150 billion, a senior Indian Army official said.

Forces on the borders with Pakistan and China will need to be increased and better equipped, the official added, especially the mountain troops. He declined to say if any plan is being developed to change the type or quantity of weapons and gear being bought.

The top five procurements for India’s services now cost more than $60 billion, a figure anticipated to increase by at least 20 percent, to $72 billion, because of inflation. Other planned purchases could push the spending figure to more than $150 billion in the next seven to 10 years.

Army: The purchase of a variety of 155mm/.52-caliber artillery guns will continue to be the top priority. All of the field guns in more than 220 artillery regiments are planned to be replaced for more than $8 billion.

Ten years of effort to buy the artillery through open competition have resulted in no purchases, as corruption cases against vendors have impeded procurement.

A program to buy wheeled guns also faces imminent cancellation because one of the competitors, Rheinmetall Air Defence, has been banned from doing business in India for 10 years.

The Army has now ordered a homemade upgraded version of the 155mm/.45-caliber guns by the state-owned Ordnance Factories Board.

The Army is also buying 145 light howitzers from the U.S subsidiary of BAE, which will be deployed along the higher reaches of India’s border with China. Additional purchases are planned.

Air Force: The Air Force is facing a shortage of combat aircraft following the retirement of MiG-23s and replacement of MiG- 21 and -29 aircraft. The service wants to increase its fleet of about 33 squadrons to at least 44 squadrons to retain its edge over Pakistan over the next 10 years. In addition, a variety of radars is needed to keep the air defense systems intact.

The big-ticket program is the Medium Multirole Combat Aircraft (MMRCA), costing more than$12 billion, and beginning induction of the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA), being jointly developed with Russia. The FGFA is worth about $25 billion for the purchase of 250 aircraft.

The first MMRCA delivery will not begin earlier than 2015-2016, by which time the Air Force will have retired 100 more MiG-21s, the bulk of its combat fleet, and 40 more MiG-27s. To compensate, the Air Force plans to upgrade existing aircraft.

France’s Rafale was selected as the preferred aircraft in the MMRCA program, and negotiations are underway over issues pertaining to transfer of technology and offsets. The contract is expected to be finalized before March.

Navy: The Navy is retiring aging Russian warships faster than it is inducting new ones, so the service wants the Defence Ministry to take steps to reach a target of 185 warships by 2017. A Navy official said fleet strength could fall to 120 warships by 2017 from 140 now.

The Navy in 1999 had planned to build 24 submarines by 2022-2023. But so far, not a single submarine has been added, and the first lot of six conventional Scorpene submarines procured from France is behind schedule by more than three years. State-owned Mazagon Docks, where the subs are being built, has been asked to deliver one submarine every six months starting in August 2015. All six have to be commissioned by September 2018.

India’s submarine fleet has dwindled from 21 in the 1980s to 14. Meanwhile, India has leased a Russian nuclear submarine for 10 years, and the homemade nuclear submarine Arihant is expected to be ready for operational use early next year. India plans to build more of the Arihant class.

The Indian Defence Ministry has not yet issued a request for proposals for an additional six submarines, worth around $12 billion, because it has not decided whether to allow domestic shipyards to bid on the program.

The Navy also is acquiring seven stealth frigates at a cost of $7 billion. Mazagon Docks, prime contractor of the project, had invited overseas shipyards to provide modular construction technology.

The project has not been finalized because the only bidder to express interest, a joint Lockheed Martin-Hyundai Industries team, withdrew.

“All defense acquisition programs are behind schedule, some of them by over 10 years because of bureaucratic delays, which affect the combat worthiness of the Indian forces. Structural changes should be made in the purchase processes, which will include a greater role for the Indian forces and specialists hired from outside the Indian Defence Ministry,” said Nitin Mehta, defense analyst. .

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