Cash crunch, Army lists high-end ammunition it won’t buy
New Delhi :Suffering from a shortage of funds due to limited allocation in the defence budget, the Army has identified certain types of expensive ammunition and spares which it will not be procuring even though their stocks would not be sufficient for even 10 days of war. Taken along with other measures to save funds, this will still leave the Army with an estimated shortfall of 15-25 per cent in critical ammunition.
This issue has been deliberated at the ongoing Army Commanders Conference, chaired by Army Chief General Bipin Rawat. Sources told The Indian Express that the conference is likely to accept the proposal that stocks of certain types of critical ammunition which include Smerch rockets, Konkurs missiles, tank ammunition (APFSDS, Smoke) and influence mines, will have to be less than those needed for 10 days of war fighting.
Smerch is a Soviet-origin Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS), designed to defeat soft and hard-skinned targets, artillery and missile systems; Konkur is Soviet origin standard Anti Tank Guided Missile used by mechanised infantry; Armour Piercing Fin Stabilized Discarding Sabot or APFSDS is the most common type of anti-tank shell used by T-90 main battle tanks, while smoke shells are fired for generating smoke. Influence mines are used to immobilize contemporary battle tanks via an electro-magnetic field.
These ammunition were identified as these are expensive.
While the government mandates the Army to have ammunition and spares for 40 days of intense war fighting, stocks required for 10 days of intense fighting are considered absolutely critical. The critical shortage of ammunition in the Army has been adversely commented upon by the CAG in its report last year.
The Army has also decided, sources said, that instead of spending money on spares for sustaining vintage equipment — such as OSA AK missiles, Tangushka anti-aircraft weapon system, Kraz and ZIL high mobility vehicles — which have low usage, it would invest in capital procurement of new equipment.
During his deposition to the parliamentary standing committee on defence last month, Army Vice Chief Lt General Sarath Chand had gone on record that 68 per cent of the Army’s equipment was of “vintage category”.
“These measures are being recommended to be taken with an aim to optimize our limited budget to ensure making up of critical deficiencies in ammunition in the next 2-3 years. We are hoping for a savings of Rs 600-800 crore in each of the next three financial years by prioritizing our expenditure,” a senior army official told The Indian Express.
“Despite these steps, we will still have a 15-25% shortfall in critical ammunition requirement for which we need additional funds. We are hoping for a supplementary budgetary allocation this year,” the official added.
Sources said while Army Headquarters, in the last two financial years, spent Rs 11,000 crore under emergency procurement of ammunition and another Rs 15,000 crore for making up the shortfall in stocks needed for 10 days of war fighting, the government had not allocated any additional funds for it.
With routine funds being diverted for these procurements, there has been a shortfall in routine procurement of ammunition and spares as per plan which has aggravated the crisis.
Sources said that the average annual expenditure on ammunition prior to FY 2017-18 used to be Rs 4600-4700 crore. While the government had now delegated powers to the Army Headquarters leading to increased expenditure, it had not made any matching allotment to utilize the powers without impacting routine procurement.
This was also highlighted by the Army Vice Chief during his deposition to the parliamentary standing committee last month. “Allocation of Rs 21,338 crore for modernization is insufficient even to cater for committed payment for 125 ongoing schemes, emergency procurements…,” he had said.