In its report critical of India’s defence sector, the comptroller and auditor general (CAG) on Friday warned that the Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) Mark-I could prove to be the air force’s Achilles’ heel in battle.
A second CAG report on ammunition management pointed that the army faced a massive ammunition shortage with reserves that would barely last 20 days of intense fighting. The army needs to build up its war wastage reserves for 40 days of intense fighting.
“Stocking of ammunition even at ‘minimum acceptable risk level’ was not ensured, as availability of ammunition as on March 2013 was below this level in respect of 125 out of a total of 170 types of ammunition,” the report pointed out.
Also, in 50% of the total types of ammunition, the holding was “critical” — insufficient for even 10 days of fighting.
The locally-produced fighter, Tejas, given initial operational clearance two years ago, is riddled with 53 “significant shortfalls” that could compromise its survivability in combat, said a CAG report tabled in Parliament.
The 63-page report on the LCA — a project for which Rs 13,390 crore has been sanctioned so far — indicated that LCA Mk-I pilots would be like sitting ducks in battle, vulnerable to fire from 7.62 mm machine guns, specially at the front-end of the aircraft.
There are glaring deficiencies in the warplane’s electronic warfare capabilities that could dim its chances of survival in a hostile environment.
Cautioning against the fighter’s “reduced operational capabilities,” the CAG report stated self-protection jammers could not be fitted on LCA Mk-I due to space constraints and glitches in radar warning receiver had still not been sorted out.
“The IAF would be constrained to use 40 LCA Mk-I aircraft with limited operational capabilities,” the report said. The under-development LCA Mk-II is expected to be packed with several major improvements over its predecessor.
The CAG said delay in the manufacture and supply of the LCA — a project sanctioned in 1983 to replace ageing MiG-21s — had set the IAF back by Rs 20,037 crore as it was forced to opt for temporary measures such as upgrading its existing fighter planes to counter the problem of rapid force depletion.