In an effort to sustain the tempo of modernisation and operational preparedness, the Defence Ministry has enhanced the financial powers of the Vice Chiefs of three Services from `100 crore to `500 crore for procuring arms and ammunition. This will enable the armed forces to increase the reserves of arms and ammunition.
The decision comes in the backdrop of critical shortages of these items and the Comptroller and Auditor General(CAG) pointing out in one of its report tabled in Parliament that the Army does not have the adequate reserves for fighting an intense ten-day war. The shortage ranges from bullets, rifles, shells for artillery, rockets and other related ammunition for the three Services.
To speed up the process of filling these gaps in reserves, the Ministry on Thursday announced the decision to delegate greater financial decision-making powers to three Vice Chiefs in order to expedite the decision making process involved in the revenue procurements of the Armed Forces.
With the new delegation, the Vice Chiefs will be able to exercise financial powers up to five times more than the existing powers with an enhanced ceiling of `500 crore. This is likely to give another fillip to the capacity of the three Armed Forces. Officials said Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has taken this important decision to augment the arms and ammunition reserves of the Armed Forces to enhance their operational preparedness.
Procurement through revenue route is an ongoing process unlike capital procurements for which the Defence Acquisition Council(DAC) and the Cabinet Committee on Security(CCS) has to give an approval before the contracts are inked.
The enhanced powers to the Vice Chiefs will enable them to take decisions on their own as earlier they had to seek the Defence Ministry approval for procurements over `100 crores, sources said. Moreover, the armed forces can now buy various items ranging from rifles to ammunition for tanks, artillery, fighter jets and warships on a faster pace.
Meanwhile, Sitharaman on Friday will take part in the induction ceremony of M-777 ultra light howitzers and K-9 artillery guns at Artillery Centre, Deolali, Maharashtra. Four M-777 guns and ten K-9 long range artillery guns will be inducted on Friday. Incidentally, these two artillery guns are the first to be inducted after nearly three decades since the Bofors scandal stalled artillery modernisation.
India had inked a contract for 100 Vajra K-9 Tself propelled guns of 155mm caliber with a striking range of 28-38 km range in 2017 for `4,300 crores. The next lot of 40 guns will come in November next year and remaining lot of 50 guns in 2020, officials said. This gun will be deployed in the plains and can fire three rounds in 30 seconds, 15 rounds in three minutes in intense firing mode and 60 rounds in 60 minutes in the sustained firing mode. These guns are manufactured under Buy Global procedure of India in a joint venture and will have up to 50 per cent local content under a joint venture between Larsen and Tourbo and South Korea’s Hanwha Techwin.
As regards the M-777, the Army is procuring these howitzers through the foreign military sale(FMS) route from the US. The total contract is for 145 guns worth over `5,000 crores to be deployed in the mountains for the newly raised Strike Corps to fight China. The gun has a strike range of 30 kms and can be airlifted through helicopters and aircraft to remote and inaccessible forward posts located on the Line of Actual Control(LAC) facing China. The contract was inked in November 2016. The BAE systems manufactures these howitzers.
While the first lot of four will be inducted on Friday, from June next year starts the next batch arrives and then on in phases. The induction rate is expected to be five guns per month till complete consignment is received by mid 2021. Made of titanium, each gun weighs 4,000 kg making its transportable by helicopters and aircraft.