New Delhi: The CNN-IBN report on Indian Army's critical ammunition has shocked the Parliamentary defence panel. The members of the panel now want to summon Army Chief General VK Singh next week to explain.
General Singh had listed some of the critical deficiencies in ammunition and equipment in a letter to the Prime Minister that was later leaked. A CNN-IBN investigation shows that the problem could be much worse than imagined. In some cases, ammunition for just 10 days of war is left.
Reacting to the report, member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence and Shiromani Akali Dal Rajya Sabha member Naresh Gujral said, "This is absolutely shocking. We had no idea that this was the state of affairs." Talking to IBN18 Editor-in-Chief Rajdeep Sardesai, Gujral added, "I made a request to the Chairman in a Standing Committee meeting that we should summon the Army Chief and ask him because whatever is coming out in public domain is absolutely startling and shocking and it is something which causes great concern in our minds."
However, Former Director General, Infantry, Lt Gen (Retired) Shankar Prasad said it was the responsibility of the Defence Ministry and not the Army Chief. "Let me please put it very clearly. The defence of India is the responsibility of the Ministry of Defence, just as the internal security is the responsibility of the Ministry of Home Affairs so if the defence's preparedness is lacking today, please call the Defence Ministry official and the minister to the Parliamentary board rather than to summon the Army Chief," he said.
Army has repeatedly made a presentation to the political top brass that war reserves are below critical level. The presentation, a copy of which is with CNN-IBN, shows how the Army doesn't have sufficient reserve of certain ammunition in case there is war.
Among the list of critical imported ammunition that will last for just 10 days in case of conflict is key mainstay 125 mm tank ammunition called the Fin Stabilized Armoured Piercing. Reserves for it in 2009 were just for 5.85 days. However, 16000 more rounds are under procurement from Russia, which are yet to arrive.
The 122 mm high energy reduce charge used by the artillery will last for just 1.27 days if there is a full-scale war. The procurement has once again been re-tendered.
Imported items aside, the ones being manufactured by indigenous Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) are no better. Once again there is a list of ammunition that is stocked for less than 10 days of war.
According to the presentation in June 2008 the 120 mm Mortar Bomb was available for just 7.43 days of war. The government is still struggling with a fresh tender.
Ammunition for the 155 mm illuminating gun is available for just 4.65 days of conflict. The OFB is yet to make up this deficiency. The 155 mm SMK, smoke ammunition will last for 6.29 days.
There is a realisation that the deficiency for this smoke ammunition is likely not to be fulfilled since the OFB in an year manufactures ammunition that will last for just about 1.85 days of war. As if the shortage was not worrying enough a large amount of ammunition provided by the Ordnance Factory Boards have been found dud and faulty.
In 2008 as the document shows more than 86,000 rounds of 125 mm ammunition was found faulty, in many cases causing injury.
The ammunition for the basic INSAS rifle has been found faulty to the tune of more than 137 lakh rounds.
Till recently the government maintained war reserves for just 30 days of conflict. In the face of that number too much of the ammunition is at a hopeless level. War reserves for certain ammunition have also declined mainly because of the blacklisting of certain firms by the government. Sadly the depleting war reserves are only lately getting some attention.
A majority of India's air defence is also obsolete. A vast majority of the Air Defence guns are also of World War II vintage and the the Indian Army has admitted that 97 per cent of them are obsolete. In a clear message, the Directorate General of Air Defence pressed the panic button. It told the top brass that its air defence capabilities are hollow.
CNN-IBN has the details of the presentation and the facts are shocking. The network, set up to protect the Army field formations and vital installations from air attack, has been called vintage and obsolete.
- Army ammunition level critical, can fight for just 10 days
- 97 per cent of India's air defence guns are obsolete