Sunday, 10 May 2015

Count your Casings: India out of Ammo

With mounting pressure on the Indian AirForce to induct more fighter planes to bring the country’s air defence capabilities to its full complement and to replace aging fighters that are killing off pilots even in times of peace, a new report by the CAG now claims that India can fight a war for only twenty days before it goes bankrupt on ammunition, leaving artillery battalions silent and soldiers scrambling to stab the enemy in hand to hand combat.

The CAG has slammed the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft for being only 35% indigenous, which means that 65% of its parts are sourced from other countries. So much for the Indian aircraft industry! The state of air defence seems to be much worse considering that the induction of the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (PAK-FA) is some time away and those are also being developed in Russia. The government has had to make rushed deals with foreign governments like France for quick induction of fighter aircraft at a higher price because Indian red tape can’t be avoided even in such dire circumstances.

The constant costly upgrades to the older Russian MiG and Sukhoi planes which should already have been decommissioned are eating into the defence budget. And still, the news of constant crashes due to malfunctions and burnouts resulting in the deaths of pilots and civilians are a stark reminder that India is playing a dangerous game with its sovereignty what with the threat of border incursions and artillery fire being regular events along its lines of control and disputed areas.

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On the ground, there isn’t enough ordnance to last for more than 20 days while the official requirement is that ammunition reserves should last for 40 days of intense warfare. Apart from that, all kinds of ammo required for the different types of weaponry also aren’t available. Apart from the snail pace at which production is in India, the procurement of the same is so slow that it cannot catch up with operational requirement till the year 2019.

Only the Indian Navy seems to made progress that is quite remarkable in light of the failures of the other two services. The INS Arihant submarine completed India’s nuclear triad. A stealth warship INS Shivalik, an indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant and the commissioning of a naval base in Gujarat have multiplied the force of the nation’s armada. The Indian navy also proved itself immensely capable of operating in a highly volatile conflict zone by evacuating civilians from Yemen.

However, the lack of ammunition for all the defence equipment the country possesses is a serious threat to national security. What is the point of a gun without bullets? Firing blanks won’t help chase out intruders, they’ll only serve to fool people who watch Hollywood movies.

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