Forces losing edge due to ageing weaponry

Forces losing edge due to ageing weaponry

Parliament panel recommends five-year cool-off period after retirement for service officers

Aiming to prevent lobbying for arms companies by an increasing community of recently retired senior armed forces officers, a Parliamentary panel on Monday suggested a five-year cool off period for the officers after retirement before they join private sector.

Defence Minister A K Antony meets Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence Satpal Maharaj at Parliament in New Delhi on Monday during the ongoing budget session. PTI

In its report tabled in Parliament on Monday, the Standing Committee on Defence suggested that the government should ask officers of the rank of brigadier and above (and its equivalent in the Indian Air Force and Navy) not to join the private sector for five years after their retirement.

Deposing before the House panel, defence secretary Shashikant Sharma last month stated that in the past, post-retirement cool off period for service officers was two years, which subsequently had been reduced to one year. Sharma, however, did not explain the rationale behind the reduction.

Noting that some retired defence officers work for the private sector and act as middlemen for defence procurement, the Committee urged the defence ministry to take “urgent initiatives” to implement the five-year gap before officers are allowed to take up assignment in the private sector.

Foreign arms manufacturers often recruit retired service officers as local help as they do not know the functioning of Indian government. Retired officials help companies work around the obstacles set up by the bureaucracy and bag lucrative contracts often using the old boys’ network.

Military procurement

The officers, however, remain anonymous most of the time. Lt Gen Tejinder Singh, former chief of Defence Intelligence Agency, is an exception as his name was revealed by the Army Chief Gen V K Singh as a middleman two months ago. The accused retired officer has since dragged the Army Chief to court for defamation.

Recognising the complexities of military procurement with only a handful of companies making weapons, the panel recommended prior vetting by the Central Vigilance Commission in case of contracts with a tainted company, which has been blacklisted by the government.

Procurement of L-70 anti-aircraft guns as well as certain types of tank ammunition hit a roadblock after the defence ministry blacklisted Rhinemetals Air Defence in Zurich and Israel Military Industries which made those weapons respectively.

To fast pace military procurement, the panel suggested increasing the delegation of financial power of the three service chiefs from the existing Rs 50 crore to Rs 150 or 200 crore. This will be of particular help to the Army where the acquisitions are smaller.

The panel flagged critical shortages in equipment and ammunition needed to maintain the Army and Air Force’s edge. It saide that the Army faces a shortage of 18 Cheetah, one Chetak, 76 Advance Light Helicopter and 60 Advance Light Helicopter with weapon system.

The IAF at the moment has 34 fighter squadrons instead of the sanctioned 42. Bulk of the fighter aircraft is 30 years old. Out of 946 MiG aircraft, as many as 476 aircraft had met with accidents.

As for the trainer aircraft, out of 434 trainers, including HPT-32 (fleet grounded), Kiran and Hawks, only 255 are available. Except the Hawks, the remaining training aircraft are very old – HPT-32 having completed 28 years and Kiran 39 years.

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