Deja vu: CAG Report Echoes VK Singh’s Complaints From 3 years Ago

The CAG has slammed the Defense Ministry for the woeful lack of preparedness in the armed forces.

Updated
India
3 min read
IAF light combat aircraft “Tejas” taxies on the tarmac during the “Aero India 2015” (Photo: Reuters)

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General VK Singh (Courtesy: Facebook.com/GeneralVKSingh)
General VK Singh (Courtesy: Facebook.com/GeneralVKSingh)

In 2012, just two months before he retired, General VK Singh wrote a letter to PM Manmohan Singh highlighting the paucity of arms and ammunition.

The General wrote:

The state of the major (fighting) arms i.e. Mechanised Forces, Artillery, Air Defence, Infantry and Special Forces, as well as the Engineers and Signals, is indeed alarming.

More than three years later on Saturday, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) slammed the Defence Ministry for its woeful lack of preparedness in the armed forces. The CAG’s annual report, tabled in Parliament on Friday, chided the government for the shortfall in ammunition as well as the shortcomings in the Tejas Mark-I LAF, India’s indigenously produced fighter plane.

Production of military hardware has been one of the major components of Modi’s Make in India plan. Yes, big ticket defence deals like the acquisition of the Rafale fighter jets go a long way. But what about the ammunition and equipment we can and should be producing at home?

Guns Without Bullets

Shortage in ammunition has been a persistent problem for the army. To address this, Army Headquarters had set a minimum threshold or MARL (Minimum Acceptable Risk Level) of 20 days stock to be maintained in 1999. Fifteen years later, the target still hasn’t been achieved. Basically, this means that if a war goes on for more than twenty days, our soldiers are at the front with useless guns.

Our current stock of bullets will run out in 20 days in case of a war. (Photo: iStock)
Our current stock of bullets will run out in 20 days in case of a war. (Photo: iStock)

The problem is twofold. On the one hand, there are manufacturing defects, on the other hand repairable ammunition has been lying by the wayside because the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) seems to be unable to provide the components required for repairs

Overall serviceability state of the ammunition revealed that 17.5 per cent of total quantity of ammunition held was lying in segregated, repairable and unserviceable condition (March 2013). During the period covered in audit, ammunition worth Rs 3,578 crore was lying in segregated condition, due to delay in timely investigation. Further ammunition worth Rs 2,109 crore was lying in repairable condition due to routine failure of OFB in supply of repair components.
– CAG Report

No Lift-off for Tejas

The Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) project has been in the works for over three decades. And we still haven’t come close to getting it right. According to the report, the Mark-I version of the plane faces “53 significant shortfalls which have reduced its operational capabilities as well as survivability”.

The Tejas also doesn’t have a ‘trainer model’ which adversely affects pilot training.

The CAG also noted that it was due to the delay in the manufacture and supply of LCA that IAF had to go for alternative temporary measures such as upgrading its MIG BIS, MiG-29, Jaguar, and Mirage aircraft at a cost of Rs 20,037 crore and revise the phasing out of MiG-21s.

If the new government really is serious about strengthening India’s defence architecture, we need more than warehouses filled with ammunition that can’t be used and a plane 30 years in the making that doesn’t work.

(With PTI inputs)

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