Rs 9,000-cr weapons acquisition plan cleared

Rs 9,000-cr weapons acquisition plan cleared

Defence Minister A K Antony on Monday cleared acquisitions of military hardware worth more than Rs 9,000 crore besides approving a Rs 2,900 crore infrastructure package to modernise 37 airfields and five armament depots.

The defence ministry’s shopping list – cleared at a meeting of the defence acquisition council – includes night vision instruments for the infantry and armoured vehicle light machine guns for the troops and 250 Israeli Spice air-to-surface missile for IAF fighters.

Under pressure from his cabinet colleague and Industry Minister Praful Patel, Antony, however, postponed the decision on the purchase of 56 transport aircraft for replacing IAF’s Avro fleet as the defence ministry is yet to decide whether the Rs 12,000 crore tender would be opened to the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

Initially, HAL was kept at bay because the defence ministry encouraged creation of an alternate aircraft manufacturing base in the private sector. Foreign companies were encouraged to respond to the tender with an Indian partner to fulfil this underlying objective.

After Patel batted for HAL and claimed the public sector unit was denied a level playing field, Antony ordered a review. With the DAC postponing the issue, the matter remains an open-ended one. The procurement council has also not taken any decision on the purchase of M777 ultra-light weight howitzer from the US as well as Rs 5,400 crore deal for Navy to buy 16 multi-role helicopters and a Rs 12,000 crore contract to acquire four large landing platform docks for the Navy.

The projects cleared by the DAC include modernisation of 37 new airfields at a cost of Rs 1,125 crore as per the Modernisation of Air Field Infrastructure (MAFI)-Phase 2 project, to be implemented by Tata Power (SED). In the first phase 30 air fields of IAF was upgraded at a cost Rs 1,220 crore.

In addition to the IAF airstrips, airfields of the Army, Navy, Coast Guard and intelligence agencies will also be upgraded. Besides improving the runways, the project would envisage installing automated air traffic management, surveillance radar, precision approach radars, ultra high-frequency ground-to-air radio sets and an automatic direction finder systems.

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