India has been on a spree of cancelling orders for modernization of defense forces. Some of the small ticket items include
- 126 MMRCA Rafale Combat Aircrafts (worth $20 billion, canceled in July 2015)
- 44,000 light machine guns (cancelled last month)
- 65,678 assault rifles (worth $750 million, canceled in June 2015) for Indian Army
- 44,600 carbines ($500 million, cancelled in 2016), for Indian Army
- 204 armored recovery vehicles ($275 million, cancelled May 2017)
- 702 light armored multipurpose vehicles ($190 million, August 2016)
- 98 torpedoes to arm the Indian Navy’s new Scorpene submarines ($200 million, June 2016)
- 16 multi-role helicopters ($300 million, canceled in June 2016 after a decade-long process)
Almost all of the above orders were made after protracted negotiations and reasoning. While no one denies the role of middle men and that of bribes within the system, the fact is that all of the above requirements were placed before government almost a decade ago.
Take Rafale for example – Indian Air Force needed the aircraft in 2001 because its fleet was operating with 39.5 squadrons instead of sanctioned 45.
“The first squadron of 18 new jets will be inducted within five years (by 2012)” Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal F.H. Major had said on Jul 1, 2007.
While the closed door negotiations remain in secret the fact is that on Apr 12, 2015 Times of India was lauding PM for securing 36 Rafale and that “The government has already announced the two new squadrons would be inducted into the IAF in two years”.
Fast forward to March 2017, the defence minister told Lok Sabha Members that “ As per the Inter-Governmental Agreement signed on 23rd September, 2016 with the Government of France for procurement of 36 Rafale Aircraft, the scheduled delivery of these aircraft is from September, 2019 to April, 2022”
So a 21 year long wait for a requirement raised in 2001. And for most part this is still an assurance with no Aircraft added to the IAF inventory. And this while we simultaneously dare both our nuclear armed neighbors who are relentlessly modernizing their forces.
Meanwhile the costs are almost impossible to comprehend. 36 Aircrafts from Rafale are being purchased at 7.8 Billion USD – that puts a cost of around 217 Million USD per aircraft. At the same time government found 126 such aircraft at 23 Billion to be a costly deal (183 Miilion USD per Aircraft).
Irrespective now the government is entertaining an idea of F16 or Gripen to be manufacture in India and to meet out fleets requirements.
The entire idea is based on fantasy assumptions. Air chief marshal Arup Raha has said in Sep 2014 that “the IAF cannot afford any more delays”. Even if government is lightening fast (as compared to the 21 year long – partial fulfillment pipeline with Rafale) the new aircrafts manufactured in India will not see light of date before 2024. In the mean time 14 Squadrons of Mig 21 and Mig 27 would have had completed their lives and would be retired.
This puts need of Indian Air force to be upwards of 200 Aircrafts almost immiduately with fulfillment years (if not decades away).
Dear Prime Minister, when the world knows that you have an immediate defence requirements while being sandwiched with two hostile neighbors , the way is to silently built the manufacturing capability while getting the best deal you can to boost the forces. Make in India needs to start with manufacture of spares for existing inventory. The fact that critical components of almost all our indigenously manufactured Rifles to Tanks are imported (or at least licensed) should tell you were to start. Manufacturing is as much as an art as it science – it takes experience to build capabilities. As for our forces – please equip them before a Sino-Pak coalition calls our bluff