Though the high-power Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), which met here on Monday, did not approve any big ticket procurements for the armed forces, it gave a go-ahead to the procurement of 2,500 hand-held thermal imagers for the Army, and a cadet training ship and two special operations vehicles for the Navy.

Defence Minister A.K. Antony, who chaired the meeting of the DAC, sounded a note of caution by asking the Army, the Navy and the Air Force to ensure that the trial process for testing weapon systems and other equipment like fighter planes and choppers should be absolutely fair and transparent.

The DAC met to discuss the ongoing procurement of 197 light choppers for the Army and the IAF, but did not discuss it in the backdrop of allegations of bribery against a Brigadier, who reportedly sought money in exchange for favouring a foreign manufacturer.

Do not qualify

Agusta Westland did not qualify in the helicopter trials, and finally Eurocopter and Russian firm Kamov are left in the field.

“The Defence Minister asked the three services to adopt fair and transparent manners while carrying out procurements,’’ senior officials in the Ministry said.

The Minister’s statement comes at a time when the Defence Ministry has sought authenticated details from the Italian government on the Rs. 3,500 crore Agusta Westland helicopter contract for the purchase of a dozen helicopters for the use of VVIPs. The contract came under the scanner after allegations of irregularities surfaced.

The Defence Minister told the DAC that the three services should be “very cautious,’’ especially when there was stiff competition among different competitors. The DAC also discussed modernisation of the armed forces and broadly reviewed the progress made so far, official sources said. The DAC meeting was attended by the three Service Chiefs, National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon, the new Minister of State for Defence Bhanwar Jitendra Singh and Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma.

Proposals cleared

The DAC cleared the proposal for the construction of a cadet training ship for the Navy at a total cost of Rs. 480 crore. It will be built by ABG Shipyard, which is headquartered in Mumbai. The shipyard has manufacturing facilities in Dahej and Surat in Gujarat.

The Army’s proposal for procuring 2,500 hand-held thermal imagers, which will boost its surveillance capability during degraded visibility conditions in the operation theatre, was also approved. Such imagers will cost about Rs. 800 crore, sources indicated.

The DAC also cleared proposals for the procurement of 3,000 Light Support Vehicles for the Army at a cost of Rs. 1,500 crore and Special Operations Vessels for the Navy’s Marine Commandos at a cost of Rs. 1,700 crore, sources in the Ministry said.

The Council also okayed proposals for the purchase of Search and Rescue (SAR) equipment for IAF choppers at a cost of Rs. 1,000 crore. Procurement of two Dornier surveillance and transport aircraft by the IAF, from HAL, also got the nod.

This article has been corrected for an editing error.