The government on Thursday emphasised that the process of modernising the armed forces was on track, with the Defence Ministry expecting to spend over Rs.54,824 crore on capital acquisition earmarked in the total budget of Rs.1,41,703 crore for the current financial year.
The Ministry said the expenditure for acquisitions had increased substantially over the last five years and it was expected to cross Rs.1,78,000 crore, compared to Rs.62,672 crore in 1999-2004.
In 2008-09, the Ministry spent Rs.41,000 crore that included Rs.13,424 crore for aircraft and Rs.4,000 crore for naval fleet and Rs.4,400 crore for land and accommodation for married personnel.
Major achievements in the process in 2009 included the launch of the first indigenously developed nuclear powered submarine, INS Arihant, and the commissioning of INS Airavat, the third Landing Ship Tank designed for amphibious operations.
For the Indian Air Force, the induction of first of the three Airborne Warning and Control System was a development described as a force multiplier.
Radar and Aerostat acquisitions came along as did the modern business jets for ferrying VVIPs complete with self-protection suites.
Providing a broad overview of the work of the Ministry, Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar said the process included procuring advanced jet trainers and advanced light helicopters for the forces in a year when acquisitions were put on fast track in the wake of the November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.
Effect of inflation
Interestingly, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence, in its recent report, commented that while comparing data of different years, the rate of inflation should also be taken into account, since defence budget as percentage of the overall government spending and GDP were true indicators of its growth.
Mr. Kumar said the accent on modernisation remained a constant process.
While some work was done, some were in progress and some more were yet to be done. At no point could it be said that modernisation had come to a halt.
Acknowledging that no procurement was done for the Army’s demand for a field gun after the 1987 Bofors purchase, Mr. Kumar said the government recently allowed trials of 155 mm towed guns after getting the permission from the Central Vigilance Commission and the Law Ministry since it involved a firm from whom purchases were put on hold.
He mentioned that the trials process itself was both long and important since in the case of field guns, it is held on a particular day to test its efficacy in hot weather and cold weather. “If you miss the day, the trial date goes back.”
As for the requirement of ultra-light howitzers that has been held up after the dealing with Singapore Technologies was put on hold following a CBI inquiry, the Ministry said the option of foreign military sales was being explored.