New Delhi: Finance Minister P Chidambaram will present the Union Budget on Thursday. Given the likelihood of no major increase in defence spending, here is a look at what the priorities of the armed forces are.
After the Rs 14,000 crore cut in defence spending in the last financial year, the buzz is that no major increase is likely in the defence budget for the coming year given that the armed forces have pruned their procurement lists focusing on priority equipment to be acquired.
The Army's priority list includes:
- Replacement of the Bofors artillery with the OFB upgraded 155 mm gun of longer range
- Modern artillery ammunition (bi-modular charges, fuzes etc)
- Assault rifles for Infantry (trials underway)
- Also bullet proof jackets/helmets for CI operations
- Tank ammunition (INVARS missile for T-90 tanks)
The Army also wants to replace its 1960s vintage Cheetah and Chetak helicopters, 60 per cent of which are nearly at the end of their service life.
The Air Force is going the whole hog putting its weight behind every procurement, big or small, insisting that everything is driven by operational necessity. Fighter, transport and helicopter procurement appears to be on track, the gap in air defence and the Avro replacement is probably the focus could be.
For the Navy, the priority list includes acquiring 16 multi-role maritime helicopters and 56 utility helicopters. It also includes minesweepers from South Korea and crucially the new line of conventional submarines under Project 75I.
Defence cuts if any are not expected to hit equipment already contracted for as payment for these will have to be made. In that sense the Air Force and Navy have done well in terms of speeding up procurement of big ticket items. The Army is the laggard here and is paying the price in terms of operational deficiencies.