Armed forces’ financial powers raised by 5 times

NEW DELHI: The defence ministry has enhanced the financial decision-making powers of the Army, Navy and IAF vice-chiefs “by five times” to ensure the armed forces can build up ammunition stocks and undertake other projects through revenue procurements.

The vice-chiefs will now be able to take decisions up to a limit of Rs 500 crore as the “competent financial authorities” under this greater delegation of financial powers.

“Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman took this step to augment the arms and ammunition reserves of the armed forces and enhance their operational preparedness,” said an MoD official on Thursday.

Incidentally, contracts worth around Rs 20,000 crore for ammunition, spares, engines and other reserves have been finalised over the last two years, mainly with Russia and Israel, to ensure adequate stocks for at least 10 days of “intense war-fighting”, as was earlier reported by TOI.

It was after the terror attack at Uri in September 2016 that the government had been rudely jolted out of its slumber on finding that the armed forces had crippling operational shortages of several different kinds of ammunition.

Though the conventional norm is that the armed forces should have adequate war wastage reserves (WWR) to last 40 days of “intense fighting”, the government decided that as a first step emergency procurements should be undertaken to build stockpiles for at least 10 days.

Under the 19 contracts worth Rs 11,740 crore finalized for the Army, for instance, the force will get Smerch rockets, Konkurs anti-tank guided missiles, 125mm APFSDS (armour-piercing fin-stabilized discarding sabot) ammunition for its T-90S and T-72 tanks and other ammunition in the 2019-2020 timeframe.

The government is also finalizing a Rs 15,000 crore long-term plan + to get the domestic private sector to manufacture seven different types of ammunition to gradually remove the country’s heavy import dependence in this arena.

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