Outdated and insufficient military hardware has become the Achilles’ heel of the Indian armed forces.
Flagging concerns over long-standing gaps in the country’s defence preparedness, a Parliamentary panel has asked the government to speed up the induction of fighter jets, trainer aircraft, artillery guns, tank ammunition and helicopters for the army’s aviation wing.
In a report tabled in Parliament on Monday, the Standing Committee on Defence expressed shock over how deficiencies in critical capabilities were allowed to linger on, denting the military’s operational readiness.
The panel’s report comes a month after army chief General VK Singh flagged concerns about the weakening capabilities of his force to PM Manmohan Singh in a leaked letter. The chief had enumerated poor night fighting capabilities, shortage of tank ammunition, obsolete air defence systems and ill-equipped Special Forces as the main areas of worry.The committee expressed concern over "the huge gap" between the required and existing combat squadrons of the IAF. "The gap would be to the extent of 11 squadrons (190 fighters) during the Twelfth Plan (2012-2017)…The country will reach the requisite level of 42 squadrons by the end of the Fourteenth Plan (2027)," the panel noted in its report, asking the government to fast track acquisitions.
The panel asked the government to make sure the IAF inducted the Swiss Pilatus PC-7 Mark-II planes by December 2013 “at any cost” to make up for the crippling shortage of trainer aircraft.
The report revealed that the problems of scarcity of tank ammunition were compounded due to the blacklisting of Israeli Military Industries.
Deploring the shortage of artillery guns — the army hasn’t inducted new guns after the Bofors scandal erupted in the late 1980s — the committee said the government should “at least now” take the “desired initiatives” to fill the gaps.