The defence ministry on Monday cleared a proposal to buy 262 missiles from Israel to arm the Barak-I anti-missile defence systems fitted on the navy’s frontline warships, a critical acquisition that was hanging fire for several years as the Central Bureau of Investigation was probing the 2006 Barak kickbacks case.
The navy was running low on Barak missiles.
The defence acquisition council (DAC), headed by defence minister AK Antony, cleared the Rs 880-crore missile deal at a time when the CBI has admitted that case will be closed due to lack of evidence, as reported by HT on Sunday.
Israel has said no Israeli firm paid bribes to any Indian individual or firm to bag the deal 13 years ago.
The 2006 FIR mentioned former defence minister George Fernandes and ex-navy chief Sushil Kumar, apart from unidentified officials of the Israel Aircraft Industries Limited. Fernandes and Kumar had rejected any wrongdoing.
Barely four months before the 2014 elections, the DAC also kicked off the process to buy deep-submergence rescue vehicles (DSRV) to save lives of sailors in the event of a submarine disaster, more than three months after INS Sindhurakshak exploded and sank in a Mumbai harbour killing 18 naval personnel.
The DAC’s acceptance of necessity (AON) --- the first step in making a military purchase --- for buying two DSRVs worth Rs 1,500 crore comes more than 15 years after the navy projected a demand for submarine rescue equipment.
The Sindhurakshak disaster had underlined the desperate state of the navy’s rescue capabilities if a tragedy were to strike on the high seas. The tragedy lent fresh urgency to buy DSRVs, a senior official said.
The DAC also agreed to a navy proposal to buy 16 anti-submarine warfare (ASW) shallow watercraft, a capability expected to cost the country more than Rs 13,440 crore. These vessels will help the navy detect and decimate underwater threats.
It will, however, take the navy four to five years to induct the DSRVs and the ASW shallow water assets, following the existing procurement procedure.
The DAC also cleared a Rs 300-crore proposal to equip the army with 40 and the navy with one advanced light helicopters.