A Defence Ministry ban on the corruption-tainted Tatra trucks has badly hit the Indian armed forces’ critical projects, including the Akash surface-to-air missile, BrahMos supersonic cruise missile and the Pinaka artillery rockets programmes .
The decision not to procure even spares for the 7,983 all-terrain high-mobility trucks which form four per cent of the total vehicle fleet of the Army, is also adversely impacting their serviceability.
“Critical equipment induction may be delayed till the Tatra trucks matter is resolved. This is the flip side of relying on a single source for our requirement,” an Army officer told Express here.
It was after then Army Chief General V K Singh claimed that a retired Lieutenant General had offered `14-crore bribe for clearing a tranche of 600 Tatra trucks that the ministry stopped all procurement of the trucks and its spares, manufactured by BEML under a licence from a Czech firm.
Defence Minister A K Antony on Monday told Parliament that “at present there is no further procurement of Tatra trucks and their spare parts”. He refused to give details of the ongoing projects involving these trucks.
However, several key projects of the armed forces and the DRDO rely on Tatra trucks.
The Army alone immediately needs 1,600-odd heavy motor vehicles. The force needs at least 60 vehicles immediately for its Swathi 40-km-range Weapon Locating Radars produced by the public sector Bharat Electronics Limited and 100 trucks for the DRDO-developed 40-km Pinaka multi-barrel artillery rockets and 40 vehicles for BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles.
On DRDO’s behalf, the government has already been cautioned of the delays in several critical projects in view of the ban on Tatra trucks’ purchase by its Chief Controller of Research and Development (Armament and Combat Engineering) S Sundaresh in an October letter to Antony. DRDO estimates there could be a delay of three or four years in the ongoing projects even if alternative trucks are identified in about a year or two.