NEW DELHI:The Indian Army’s proposal to procure unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from a foreign vendor has come under scanner of the Defence Finance Department, after it was noticed that the procurement process was in gross violation of the Defence Procurement Procedures (DPPs) and aimed at benefiting a particular foreign firm.
Army is procuring medium altitude long endurance class of UAVs to have a bird’s eye view on the border areas as an interim measure till Rustom-II UAV of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) begins its serial production.
According to documents, seen by Express, the Defence Finance Department has made serious reservations about the procurement of UAVs from a single vendor.
“Repeat order of UAVs from a particular single vendor, instead of a global tender, is a violation of laid down rules of DPPs,” the Defence Finance Department observed.
During a scrutiny, it noticed that a particular foreign firm has been the sole supplier of UAVs to Indian armed forces since 1998, with over 100 drones sold to Army, Navy and IAF.
“Armed forces are in the process of acquiring at least 70 additional medium altitude long endurance class UAVs on priority and more than 150 in the next 10 years to meet their operational requirements,” an official in the South Block, which also houses the Defence Ministry, said on the condition of anonymity.
Efforts to build such drones indigenously have not made much progress. “Progress is slow on the DRDO front and the existing requirements of defence forces cannot wait indefinitely. As a result, armed forces have to depend on foreign vendors. But it has to be on competitive bidding globally, instead of a single vendor,” the official said.
Some of the officials apprehended that a lobby was taking advantage of the slow pace of indigenous UAVs by pushing for a particular foreign firm. DRDO’s Bengaluru-based Aeronautical Development Establishment is leading the Rustom project and a budget of Rs 1,540 crore has been allocated to develop the Rustom-II in 2011 to match the capabilities of US-built Predator drone.
An insider further said that the particular foreign firm supplying drones has constantly charged exorbitantly for upgrades.
The Army has asked Indian firms for information on a new range of short-range drones that it plans to purchase for its troops, but its tender has been delayed.