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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

The woes of the Indian military

News Analysis |

The Indian Army will place an order for only 250,000 modern assault rifles — just a third of its total requirement — driven by budgetary constraints and the need to speed up deliveries, a person with knowledge of the matter said.

The 1.3 million-strong military pruned its original requirement for 800,000 rifles, which would have cost $2.5 billion, to prioritize spending on advancing the purchase of more up-to-date equipment, the person said, asking not to be identified as the information is not yet public.

The defense force has 450,000 infantry troopers, of whom only half go into the battle ground and they use the rifle as their primary weapon. The rest are support soldiers, the person said.  The moves are part of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s $250 billion push to modernize India’s armed forces, as the infantry continue to face the brunt of deadly attacks in disputed border areas such as Kashmir and the Northeast.

Read more: Indian Army Chief says India has an option of Surgical Strikes against Pakistan

Plans to buy new equipment from overseas have been held back by bureaucratic delays and the military’s desire to balance the needs of its troops against efforts to build equipment domestically under Modi’s ‘Make in India’ program, a key plank in his drive to boost local manufacturing.

During the 1999 Kargil War, the INSAS rifles were used in the high altitudes of the Himalayas. There were complaints of jamming – the magazines cracking due to the cold and the rifle going into automatic mode when it was set for three-round bursts.

There was also a problem of oil being sprayed into the eye of the operator. Some injuries during firing practice were also reported. In 2001, the 1B1 variant was introduced to solve the problems regarding the rifle’s reliability back in the Kargil War, but it opened up other problems such as broken magazines.

Similar complaints were also received from the Nepalese Army. In August 2005, after 43 soldiers were killed in a clash with the Maoists, a Nepalese Army spokesman called the rifle ‘substandard’ and stated that their counter-insurgency operation would have been more efficient with better weapons.

In November 2014, the CRPF requested to drop the INSAS as their standard rifle due to problems with reliability. The Director General of CRPF Dilip Trivedi said that the INSAS jams more frequently compared to the AK-47 and the X-95.

Also the Indian Army has decided to drastically cut down its supplies from state-owned ordnance factories. This move is to ensure that the money spent is instead used to procure adequate stock of critical ammunition and spares for a short intense war.

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Ordnance factories’ products supplied to army will be brought down from 94 to 50% as the Centre has not provided additional funds for emergency procurements of ammunition and spares. But supplies such as clothing (combat dress, berets, belts, shoes) to soldiers will be hit due to the move. Soldiers will have to spend their own money to buy uniforms and other clothes from civilian markets. Even spares for certain vehicles will suffer.

The army is working on three major projects to build this stock and requires funds worth thousands of crores.

The Centre has not provided these funds and the army has been forced to dig into its own minimal budget to cater to these requirements, officials dealing with the matter told the media.

Read more: Indian army camp comes under attack

Meanwhile, An Indian Air Force Jaguar aircraft crashed on Tuesday around 10.30 am in Gujarat’s Kutch region, according to reports. The IAF Jaguar was on a routine training mission from Jamnagar.

The pilot, according to ANI, lost his life in the crash. A court of inquiry has been ordered to investigate the cause of the accident. The plane’s debris was strewn far and wide on the outskirts of the village, locals said.

The incident comes months after an IAF helicopter crashed in Assam’s Majuli island, killing two pilots. Two Indian Air Force pilots were killed in a crash in Majuli in February, minutes after their micro-light aircraft took off on a routine sortie, Defense Ministry officials had said. The aircraft crashed in the river island, soon after taking off from the Jorhat air base.

The IAF Jaguar aircraft was on a routine training mission from Jamnagar. A Court of Inquiry has been ordered to investigate the cause of the accident.

An IAF spokesperson said the aircraft met with the accident at around 10.30 am. “The pilot, Air Commodore Sanjay Chauhan, sustained fatal injuries during the crash,” the spokesperson said.

The aircraft that crashed is a Jaguar of the Indian Air Force. Jaguar is a twin-engine, single seat-er deep penetration strike aircraft of Anglo-French origin. It has the maximum speed of 1350 km /hr (Mach 1.3). It has two 30mm guns and can carry two R-350 Magic CCMs (overwing) along with 4750 kg of external stores (bombs/fuel).