NEW DELHI - Faced with "critical shortages" of ammunition and other equipment, India has triggered its Fast Track Purchase (FTP) process to tap the overseas market, bypassing prescribed routine acquisition procedures, according to a Ministry of Defense (MoD) official.

"Small teams constituting senior defense service officials and MoD procurement officials have been sent to Russia and Israel to quickly

purchase a variety of ammunition and other essential requirements," the official added.

Under the FTP route, the [Indian] government buys weapons and equipment already in use by defense forces from readily available vendors, dispensing with field trials and by issuing the so-called "acceptance of necessity" documentation quickly. Approval of AoN is a mandatory requirement for all routine defense procurements.

Acquisitions worth $1 billion will be made on the FTP basis and include a variety of ammunition, limited quantities of assault rifles, thermal-imaging equipment, light machine guns and rocket launchers as well as Anti Tank Guided Missiles (ATGM) to be mounted on helicopters, the MoD official said.

A quick appraisal of Indian defense for its short-term needs was done last month and it was evaluated that ammunition for the Russian made T-72 and T-90 tanks had only two to three days of wartime reserve, the official added.

There is a shortage of armor-piercing, fin-stabilized, discarding-sabot (APFSDS) ammunition and anti-tank rounds, and ammunition for the Russian Sukhoi-30 aircraft and Mi-35 gunships.

After the terrorist attacks at an Indian Army camp at Uri in the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir in September, relations with

neighboring Pakistan have been on the downturn as New Delhi blames Pakistan to be abetting the terrorists.

Late September this year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi reviewed the defense preparedness of the country during a meeting with Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and top military and MoD officials, immediately following the attacks on the army camp by Pakistani militants.

The quick evaluation of India's defense preparedness was a follow-up to these meetings, the MoD official said.

Last year, the autonomous Comptroller Auditor General (CAG) in a critical report said the mandatory War Wastage Reserve of ammunition, which should be 40 days, is only for 10 percent of ammunition, with 90 percent of ammunition types facing shortages.

Citing reasons for delays in routine procurement, Ashwani Sharma, retired Indian Amy Colonel and defense analyst, says, "Though the government is doing enough, the procedures are still very archaic. Revised Defense Procurement Procedures (DPPs) have given a push, but the structure at the apex level needs an overhaul."

An Indian Army official said, "Delays are due to dependence on foreign Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) for procurement of ammunition and bureaucratic procedures."

Currently, the state-owned Ordnance Factories Board is the main source for supply of ammunition to the Indian Army, but the organization has consistently failed to supply the targeted quantities on time.

Private defense companies have now been allowed to produce certain category of ammunition to meet the demand.

Bhupinder Yadav, a retired Indian Army major general and defense analyst says, "Seven types of ammunition have been identified for procurement from private suppliers as part of 'Make in India'. This includes specialist ammunition for tanks and artillery guns, BM-21 charges and electronic fuses for Russian-made Multi Barrel Rocket Launch System GRAD; none of them are currently being manufactured in India. So there lies an opportunity for tie-up between private and foreign companies."

Vivek Raghuvanshi is the India correspondent for Defense News.

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