This is the fallout of a growing concern towards a necessity for a rejig and replacement of our armed forces’ old war weapon systems to counter the China-Pak military-nuclear nexus as well as China’s ‘String of Pearls’ strategy in Indian Ocean Region (IOR). Since China and Pakistan are potential threats to the nation’s geographical integrity and sovereignty, our armed forces need to be well equipped and equally balanced to counter any nefarious designs by our hostile neighbours.
Over the last 10 years, the weapon systems of the armed forces have seen consistent degradation in terms of poor serviceability, lack of spares and inadequate vendor maintenance back-up leading to a large number of accidents while training in military firing ranges.
The armed forces have resorted to cannibalisation of weapon systems wherein functioning parts of unserviceable aircraft, tanks or guns are used to replace defective ones of other weapon systems of the same kind. Deals for helicopters signed earlier with various foreign firms (as in the case of AgustaWestland) over the last decade had to be scrapped three times due to corruption charges and technical deviations. India’s very own Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has been nowhere near to delivering the indigenous Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) sanctioned as early as February 2009. Such issues have had a severe impact on the overall operational preparedness of the armed forces.
The current drive to gear up the armed forces who are facing unpredictable threats is an important development. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence has acknowledged that the Army’s equipment modernisation programme has been steadily diminishing over the years causing a retrograde effect on the already ageing weapons and equipment of the armed forces. The revolution in military affairs that was envisioned towards the transformation of the armed forces from ‘threat based’ to ‘capability driven’ by 2020, repeatedly took a back seat by the ‘process-obsessed’ Ministry of Defence (MoD) bureaucracy. This forced a rethink by the incumbent government to initiate fast paced action towards modernisation of defence equipment.
Therefore, over the last couple of years, India’s defence preparedness received several boosts with significant developments that added sting to the combat power credibility and capability of the armed forces.
As part of the ‘Make In India’ campaign, large defence deals were struck with Russia, USA, France and Israel towards revamping the armed forces. Trials and inductions of indigenous developments also indicate the competitive qualitative productivity of home manufactured defence systems. The new Defence Procurement Policy (DPP) was unveiled on March 27, 2016. Some significant acquisitions were inked with Russia on October 15, 2016, as 60 per cent of the weapon systems is of Russian origin. These include MIG series of fighter aircraft, Sukhoi-30 Mk-I, T-72 and T-90 Tanks, Kilo class submarines, Teg and Talwar class frigates, INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier, to name a few.
The Army inducted the indigenous Akash Air Defence Weapon System (AWS) along with its Weapon Locating Radar system and surface-to-air supersonic missiles. The successful trial of Agni-V, India’s most potent missile with a strike range of over 5,000 km, was conducted in January 2015 at Wheeler’s Island from a canister mounted on road mobile launcher. Five S-400 Triumph Missile Shield Air Defence Systems comprising supersonic and hypersonic missiles capable of destroying hostile aircraft, stealth fighters, missiles and drones at 400 km range were purchased from Russia.
The Air Force received the first batch of upgraded French Mirage-2000 fighter aircraft in April 2015. Hercules C130J, one of India’s biggest defence cargo and tactical transport aircraft, capable of undertaking quick deployment of forces in all weather conditions, was also inducted into service to augment the existing Russian IL-76 fleet. 36 French Rafale fighters with ‘omnirole’ capability were purchased in a multi-billion dollar deal. Ninety-one out of 106 Hawk-132 American advanced jet trainers (that can also be used for ground attack) were purchased and inducted. 200 Kamov class LUHs capable of undertaking reconnaissance, patrol, and disaster relief operations, to replace the ageing Cheetah and Chetak helicopters were purchased from Russia.
The Navy’s indigenously designed P15-B new stealth destroyer INS Visakhapatnam with state-of-the-art weapons, navigation and control systems was launched in 2015. Kalvari, the first of Indian Navy’s Scorpene-class stealth submarines, which had seen a delay of almost four years, was undocked, paving way for the induction of successive submarines of a similar class. Four Grigorivich-class frigates equipped with Brahmos cruise missiles were also purchased. These measures are important because currently, most ships are very old.
Since India is aiming to become one of the fastest growing economies in the world, it becomes prudent for her to gear up her armed forces, and at a fast pace, to face future challenges envisaged from the growing China-Pak military nexus (especially keeping the CPEC in view) to act as a deterrent with a capability to inflict maximum damage on the enemy