The parliamentary panel on defence has suggested that the government build capabilities to face any challenge, including the worst scenario of a two-front war, and asked it to allocate funds towards it. It also underscored the need to fast-track procurement of ammunition for the Army considering that the situation is critical.

“The committee members are alarmed over the way the deficiencies have been allowed to persist leading to criticality in the Army aviation and ammunition … all the issues confronting delay in procurement should be dealt with to put the procurement procedures on a fast-track mode and with decentralisation of financial powers. The issue of critical gaps should be addressed without any further delay and also within the stipulated timeframe,” the panel said in its latest report to Parliament.

This observation by the Standing Committee on Defence came while examining the Demands for Grants for this financial year and also in the backdrop of the letter of Army Chief General V.K. Singh to the Prime Minister drawing attention to problems in defence preparedness.

The Army Chief had flagged a few areas of concern — tanks do not have critical ammunition, and air defence having obsolete guns. The committee disapproved of the way the deficiency of the gun system has been allowed to reach to the criticality.

It strongly recommended that at least now the Ministry take the initiative and put procurements on the fast-track mode. The committee had sought to know the reasons behind delay in upgrading the Bofors field guns even after the government had paid for transfer of technology.

The report mentions “huge gaps” between the sanctioned and the existing machines with Army Aviation, pointing to the shortage of 19 Cheetah/Chetak helicopters, 76 Advanced Light Helicopters and 60 Advance Light Helicopter (Weapons Systems Integrated). Recently, the government appointed a committee to resolve the issue since there are differences between the Army and the IAF over Army Aviation.

On the Air Force, the House committee noted with concern the huge gap between the required and existing strengths of Squadrons that would rise to 11 during the 12 Plan (2012-17). At present, the IAF has 34 fighter squadrons against the sanctioned strength of 42 and would be further reduced to 31. The IAF plan envisages 45 squadrons by 2032.

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