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Acute Weapons & Ammo Shortage: WHITHER NATIONAL SECURITY By Dr PK Vasudeva, 25 March, 2014 Print E-mail

Defence Notes

New Delhi, 25 March 2014

Acute Weapons & Ammo Shortage


By Dr PK Vasudeva

India’s Armed Forces are the world’s third largest military force with strength of over 1.18 million personnel consisting of four professional uniformed services: Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard. Along-with several paramilitary organisations (Assam Rifles and Special Frontier Force) and various inter-service institutions such as Strategic Forces Command which are the largest forces to take care of national security. With the Rashtrapati as the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.

The primary mission of the armed forces is to ensure national security and unity, defending the nation from external aggression and threats, and maintaining peace and security within its borders. It conducts humanitarian rescue operations during natural calamities and other disturbances, like Operation Surya Hope, and can also be requisitioned by the Government to cope with internal threats.

Unfortunately, today, the Army is fast running out of ammunition for tanks and air defence units, artillery batteries and infantry small arm weapons. Worse, soldiers are facing a serious crunch with weapons and ammunition shortage. Whereby, former Army Chief Gen V K Singh was forced to bring this to the Prime Minister’s notice when he failed to move the Defence Ministry.

However, present Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh is tight-lipped on weapons and ammunition shortages. But a simple calculation reveals that at present, India might not have enough ammunition reserves to sustain a full-fledged war even for 20 days. A highly serious issue vis-à-vis national security.

Scandalously, overturning the laid down norms whereby war wastage reserves (WWR) should be adequate for 40 days of intense fighting, with 21 days earmarked for ammunition with shorter shelf life. Yet, according to the Army Chief if there is proper budgetary support for a new ammunition roadmap, the Army should have 50 per cent WWR and three years of training ammunition by next year which is expected to reach 100 per cent WWR only by 2019.


Undeniably, the huge shortages are adversely impacting both operational readiness and training, wherein the 1.18-million strong Indian Army is desperate that the new Government actively supports its new ammunition roadmap of around Rs 19,250 crore, both in terms of fund allocations and timelines.


Add to this, the shortage of 14,500 junior officers in the Army is another matter of grave concern which is affecting the soldiers’ morale. This becomes all the more crucial since the Army has kick-started the raising of the new XVII Mountain Strike Corps, which will come into full force with over 90,000 soldiers over the next 7 years.

Importantly, this would add some much-needed teeth to India’s deterrence posture against China. Alongside it would see the raising of 32 new infantry battalions, apart from armoured, artillery, air defence units and other mechanized units.

On the one hand, almost none of the Forces critical modernization projects for new howitzers, helicopters, anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) or air defence guns have materialised till date. Topped by operational hollowness or "critical" deficiencies in ammunition and fuses for existing weapon systems which officers have built up over the last decade.

Notably, there is a glaring mismatch between operational and training requirements vis-à-vis budget allocations, imports and the woe sum inadequate production capacity of our 39 ordnance factories.

Pertinently, the Army holds ammunition, which is both costly and has a shelf life at three levels. The "first line" of operational and training ammunition is held at the battalion level in the shape of "on weapon and unit reserves", the "second line" is with higher formations like brigades and divisions and finally, there is the WWR, held in a dispersed manner.

This is not all. The share of the defence budget in the GDP for 2013-14 is low at 1.79 per cent instead this should be at least 3 per cent. Think. The current years (2013-14) defence budget is Rs 203672.12 crores, a major part of which is the revenue budget with only Rs 86740.71 crores allotted for capital acquisitions.

In fact, the 15-year Long Term Integrated Perspective Plan (LTIPP) for 2012-27, approved by the Defence Acquisition Council along with the 12th Five-Year Plan, is based on the assumption of allocations to defence at 3 per cent of the GDP. 

At the same time, there are large orders which are pending while modernization and enhancements plans approved require substantial amounts for capitalisation of the Armed Forces in 2014-15. Moreover, with 90 to 95 per cent committed liabilities, approximately Rs 8000 to 10,000 crores will be available at the present level for new schemes of capital acquisitions.

Arguably, year after year Parliament’s Committee on Defence has observed this anomaly and asked the Defence Ministry to correct the same but alas, to no avail. Clearly, the Ministry’s hands are tied unless it gets a substantial hike given that it is unable to create a cushion for new schemes.

In 2014-15, at least Rs 20,000-25,000 crores would be necessary for new schemes in the pipeline such as the medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) contract for Rafael, attack and heavy lift helicopters, 145 light artillery howitzers and technology agreement for the fifth generation fighter aircraft to name a few. In addition approximately Rs 7,000-10,000 crores would be taken away by the new Mountain Strike Corps being raised in Ranchi.

This would envisage a defence budget of Rs 235000-240000 crores, an increase by 15-18 per cent.  In case, the present ratio of revenue to capital budget is taken into account, the allotment to the latter might for the first time cross Rs 100,000 crores for capital acquisitions in 2014-15, touching US $ 17 billion to make the Armed Forces battle worthy. However, the deficiencies in ammunition must be completed within the shortest possible time, say a month. ---- INFA

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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