Par panel slams govt for ammunition shortage

New Delhi: After Gen V K Singh pointed out critical shortage of tank ammunition in a letter to the Prime Minister, a Parliamentary panel today pulled up the Government saying it was alarmed over the way deficiencies were allowed to continue leading to such a situation.

In its report tabled today, the Standing Committee on Defence said the Army representatives have also revealed that problems of shortage of tank ammunition surfaced after blacklisting of Israeli firm IMI, which was recently barred from doing any business in Indian defence sector.

"The Committee (members) are alarmed over the way deficiencies have been allowed to persist leading to criticality in ammunition in the country," the report said. The panel asked the Government to ensure that all confronting issues regarding acquisitions should be addressed immediately and desired allocations for procurements should be made available to the Army. "All the issues confronting delay in procurement should be dealt to put the procurement procedures on fast track mode. The issue of critical gaps should be addressed without any further delay and also within the stipulated time-frame," it said.

The Committee pointed out that other areas affecting the preparedness of the Army were its requirements for artillery guns and aerial assets for the Army Aviation Corps. "The Committee disapprove the way deficiency of gun systems has been allowed to reach criticality. While deploring the situation, the Committee recommend that at least now the desired initiatives should be taken by the Defence Ministry and the Government," the report stated.

The Army Chief had written a letter to the Prime Minister highlighting the shortage of ammunition for tanks and 97 per cent obsolescence in air defence system. The Committee said it fails to understand how the Army would be able to address the issue of critical shortages or armaments. It said the Defence Ministry and the Army have informed it that after the contract for ammunition with the IMI Limited fell through, alternative ways of procuring them are being looked at. The report said Army Vice Chief Lt Gen S K Singh had informed it that "it was for another ammunition AMK 339. Because we could not get through this route for this 339, 16,000 rounds have been immediately imported and they have been made available to us."

"So, we can fire a different type of ammunition if that AFCC (a type of ammunition) is not there. 66,000 rounds are at the CNC (contract negotiations) stage. Actions have been taken to make up what we could not get through the DRDO route simultaneously," the Army Vice Chief had informed the panel. The Committee was informed that "total tank ammunition is 67 per cent. In overall, it is about 40 per cent, which has been the holding. In other cases like Infantry ammunition we are all right, that is about 70 per cent. In Artillery, the problem is with one item that is the electronic fuse."

On the shortage of aerial assets in the Army, the Committee said, "There are huge gaps between the sanctioned and existing machines with the Army Aviation." The report said if the sanctioned and existing strength in the aerial arm of the Army is compared, "There is shortage of 18 Cheetah, 1 Chetak, 76 ALH Dhruv and 60 ALH (Weapon Systems Integrated) with Army Aviation".