9 yrs after nod, MoD signs bulletproof jacket deal

Procurement for the Army at a cost of Rs 639 crore

The defence ministry on Monday awarded a Rs 639 crore contract to an Indian company to buy 1,86,138 bulletproof jackets for army soldiers fighting the insurgents in Jammu and Kashmir and the North East.

The deal was inked almost nine years after it was first approved by former defence minister A K Antony in 2009.

The contract was awarded to Delhi-based defence manufacturer SMPP Pvt Ltd, which claims the supply would start in the "next few months" and complete the delivery within three years.

"These ergonomically designed bulletproof jackets have modular parts, providing flexibility to soldiers deployed in different operational situations ranging from long distance patrolling to high-risk room intervention scenarios. The new jackets will provide 360-degree protection to the soldier in combat, including protection from latest hard steel core bullets," the Army said in a statement.

A soldier wearing the jacket would not only remain secured from all sides, but he could even choose to add protection of throat and groin as per the combat need, the company stated in a statement.

Over the years, the defence ministry's failure to buy the life-saving gears has attracted sharp criticism from the parliamentary standing committee on defence.

In a 2015 report, the panel asked the MoD to come out of the slumber and purchase the jackets as the shelf life of the existing jackets was about to expire.

Last month, in yet another report, the panel said, "The issue of non-availability of bulletproof jackets has been consistently taken up by the committee in the last five years. Unfortunately, however, tangible results are yet to be seen."

In December 2014, Manohar Parrikar, who succeeded Antony in the defence ministry, ordered an emergency purchase of 50,000 bulletproof jackets. Those jackets, however, had a different set of specifications (GSQR 878) and purchased through the revenue route.

The pending deal of buying 1.86 lakh bullet-proof jackets with another set of specifications (GSQR 1438) was done through a "capital route" after extensive trials carried out by the Army.

"The bulletproof jackets have Boron Carbide Ceramic that is the lightest material for ballistic protection. This makes SMPP bullet-proof jackets the best of the class ballistic protection jacket and will be able to provide ballistic protection at the lowest possible weight," S C Kansal, SMPP chairman and managing director, said.

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