15 Februari 2010
New Delhi. India is set to spend a whopping US$ 200 billion on defence acquisitions over the next 12 years to replace its outdated Soviet-vintage inventory.
According to a study by the India Strategic defence magazine, nearly half of this funding, or $ 100 billion, will go to the Indian Air Force (IAF) which would need to replace more than half of its combat jet fleet as well as the entire transport aircraft and helicopter fleet. The Army needs new guns, tanks, rocket launchers, multi-terrain vehicles while the Navy needs ships, aircraft carriers, an entire new range of submarines including nuclear-propelled and nuclear-armed, and so on.
The Army has the largest requirement of helicopters while the Navy needs both combat jets, helicopters, and a fleet of nearly 100 carrier-borne combat jets.
The details of the study will be published in March but according to a brief report in India Strategic’s DefExpo show daily being published Feb 15, it is not that India has military ambitions but just that more than 70 per cent of the inventory of the Indian Armed Forces is 20-plus years old, and needs to be replaced as well as augmented with the sophistication of modern technology.
There have been few defence deals after the allegations over the acquisition of Bofors in the 1980s, and Russia, which inherited the Soviet military infrastructure, is unable to meet all the requirements. Also, according to official Russian reports, only 10 per cent of the Russian weapons could be described as modern and Russia itself needs to spend heavily on modernization.
All the three Indian Services as well as the Coast Guard and paramilitary organizations also need satellites and net centricity. Plans to acquire surveillance aircraft, lesser in capability though than the IAF’s Phalcon AWACs and the Navy’s P8-I Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft (MMA) are also being worked out by all the three Services.
Pilotless intelligence aircraft (drones) generally called UAVs, including those armed, are also on the top of the list of the three Services.
It may be noted for instance that the only major aircraft to be acquired by the IAF in the last 20 years is the Su 30 MKI, some 280 of which have been ordered in successive follow-on deals, which do not involve fresh tendering and are easy to go through procedurally.
IAF has a plan to build 45 combat squadrons (about 900 aircraft), up from its maximum effective strength of 39.5 squadrons a few years ago. Many of its older aircraft, mostly those of Mig series, have already been phased out due to simple ageing, while some have been upgraded awaiting new acquisitions.
The Armed Forces have repeatedly been telling the government for the last several years, particularly after Pakistan’s intrusion into the Indian side of Kashmir resulting into the 1999 Kargil War that the need to replace the old weapons and systems was paramount. Not much moved.
But the 26/11 attack on Mumbai by Pakistani terrorists, in which scores were brutally killed and wounded, has given a wake up call to India and the authorities are realizing that 24-hour, 360-degree eyes and years and preparedness to meet any attack are a necessity.
That also means increased diplomatic and security cooperation with other countries, and parallel efforts need to be made in that direction also.
Capability and modern weapons are a requirement both for deterrence and to punish an aggressor.