A Parliamentary panel has delivered a blistering indictment of the Ministry of Defence’s sluggishness in releasing the international tenders for the purchase of 126 multi-role combat aircraft for the IAF, whose combat power is spiralling downwards. Against the ideal requirement of 44 squadrons, the air force’s fighter squadrons have shrunk to 33.
In its 15th report tabled in Lok Sabha on Saturday, the Standing Committee on Defence has rapped the MoD for its "stereotype reply and delay in issuing the RFP" (request for proposal) to sharpen the IAF’s combat capabilities. It has asked the ministry to strictly adhere to the deadline for induction of new aircraft during the 11th and 12th Plan (2012-17) period.
The MoD has also drawn flak for failing to pin blame for the inordinate delay in the production of Main Battle Tank Arjun. The army has ordered 124 tanks but only 15 have been produced at the Heavy Vehicle Factory in Avadi. The MoD has been asked to do some serious thinking to meet the army’s requirements in time.
The report makes a strong case for the army to be kept out of the counter-terrorism grid to focus on its primary role - defending the frontiers. The panel has asked the MoD to coordinate with the home ministry for raising a new cadre of federal police for handling internal security.
The navy’s inadequate surveillance capabilities have come under the scanner with the report warning that delay in buttressing it can jeopardise security. It also draws attention to security threats emanating from yawning gaps in the country’s radar coverage.
The panel has recommended to the 6th Pay Commission to give a good deal to the armed forces, which are facing a human resource crunch partly attributable to unattractive salaries.
The government has been asked to revise the salaries of pilots immediately to bring about some parity with commercial pilots to arrest the rise in attrition.
Noting that 52 IAF aircraft have crashed during the last four years of which 20 were attributed to human error, the committee has also called for re-designing pilot training.