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Govt sets June 2018 target to meet Indian Army’s ammunition shortage

Indian Army sources say as things stand, just building stocks of all types of ammunition to last 10 days could cost about Rs 20,000 crore.

india Updated: Nov 15, 2017 23:00 IST
Rahul Singh
Rahul Singh
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Indian Army,Indian Army ammunition shortage,Nirmala Sitharaman
Indian Army chief Gen Bipin Singh Rawat at a seminar Future Armoured Vehicles India 2017 at the DRDO Bhawan in New Delhi on Wednesday.(PTI)

India has set June 2018 as its target for meeting critical shortage of ammunition held by the army — a deficiency that limits the force’s ability to fight prolonged wars — a top ministry official said.

Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman has asked the army to implement its road map for building up the ammunition stock to “optimal levels” , the official told Hindustan Times on Wednesday.

The army is authorised to stockpile ammunition for 40 days of intense fighting, known as war wastage reserves (WWR) in military parlance. In case that is not possible for all types of ammunition, the requirement for WWR to last for at least 20 days was made mandatory by the government two decades ago.

While the official did not specify if the “optimal” levels that the minister referred to translated into 40 days, 30 days or 20 days, several army officers HT spoke to said the force would be comfortable with ammunition stocks that can last for at least 20 days of intense fighting.

Army sources said that as things stand, just building stocks of all types of ammunition to last 10 days could cost about Rs 20,000 crore.

“The government has shown its intent to improve the situation but funds will have to be made available to fill the gaps,” the sources said.

Though it was not clear how much money was being allocated, and where it would be taken from, the Centre in July bestowed sweeping financial powers to the army to meet deficiencies in ammunition and spares following a security review conducted in response to last year’s terror strike in Uri.

The army has been struggling to meet its ammunition targets , and a string of reports have exposed chinks in the armoury. A July 2017 report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) revealed that almost 40% of the ammunition stockpile in September 2016 would not even last for 10 days.

Only 20% of WWR holding was sufficient for 40 days, the CAG said after an audit that covered 152 types of ammunition, ranging from that for smalls arms, artillery guns and tanks to infantry combat vehicles.

In 2013, the defence ministry approved a plan to build WWR for 20 days by March 2015 with instructions that the remaining deficiency be made up by March 2019. “We are still nowhere close to our target. Building WWR that can last for 10 to 20 days will be a good beginning,” said former northern army commander Lieutenant General DS Hooda (retd).

The shortage has been attributed to disregard of government policy, delay in placing orders, suppliers missing deadlines, and quality issues.

“We have set the ball rolling to improve our ammunition holding. But let’s be clear about one thing that no military can claim to have 100% ammunition for all types of weapons to fight long wars,” said an officer. “Huge costs are involved as ammunition has shelf life.”

Another senior army officer suggested it would be a good idea to review the army’s operational strategies to find out if such a large WWR was needed at all. As per the government’s operational directive, the force should hold enough ammunition for 30 days of intense fighting and 30 days of normal fighting (or 40 days of intense fighting).

“In this day and age, are we really going to fight a 60-day war?” he asked.

First Published: Nov 15, 2017 22:59 IST