Speed Up Defence Procurement Process

Published: 26th March 2016 04:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 25th March 2016 10:54 PM   |  A+A-

The Indian Air Force (IAF) recently admitted that it could not fight simultaneously on two fronts. This is not the first time it has expressed this view. In 2009, it had told the government it did not have the capacity to do so. Of course, it did not mean that the IAF would remain a mute spectator on one front while fighting on the other. It was merely the IAF’s way of reminding the government of the urgent need to strengthen its fleet of aircraft.

While talking to the media, Air Marshal BS Dhanoa has only reiterated the IAF’s stand. What he implied was that there has been no material change in the situation since 2009. In fact, there has been some deterioration with the IAF forced to retire some aircraft. Unfortunately, the previous government sat tight on the proposals made by the armed forces, perhaps, because the then defence minister did not want any scandal in his ministry, scared as he was of  defence purchases. The result is there for all to see — the IAF’s squadron strength is down to 33 from the stipulated strength of 42. The US decision to supply F-16 aircraft to Pakistan has further complicated the situation for India. Since it is not in the strategic interest to specify the exact requirements, the Air Marshal has not given such details except stating that the IAF urgently needs Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) fighters.

The government is aware of not only the need but also the urgency of it. Defence purchases are time-consuming for a variety of reasons and no government would like to cut short the process for fear of a scam. It was in this context that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on a visit to France, signed a government-to-government deal on purchase of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft. The deal is yet to be finalised. The IAF also expects the home-developed Tejas aircraft and under-development Indo-Russian joint fighter aircraft to add to its fleet in due course. All this will take time. Since time is of the essence in defence procurement, the government would do well to speed up the process and also ensure the Make in India drive in the sector takes off. In this context, the DRDO’s role assumes significance.


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