Short on Firepower

In its second report, the CAG has criticized the MoD for its lack of storing functioning ammunition

Aditya Kakkar

The ministry of defence (MoD) issued tenders for eight types of ammunition in March 2017 with details of the project shared with potential vendors.

In its second report, the CAG has criticized the MoD for its lack of storing functioning ammunition
Ammunition by Nexter Munitions - ©Nexter

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has been rightfully scathing in its critique of the MoD’s inability to procure and store functioning ammunition for the Indian defence forces. The CAG’s second report on ammunition shortages came out this year on July 21 while the first one came in the year 2015.

The CAG report says that while War Wastage Reserve (WWR) stocks of some of the critical items have improved such as explosives and demolition items, the ammunition for Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFV) and Artillery ammunition “meant for sustaining superior fire-power were under critical level”. The previous government had come up with a plan called the ‘Ammunition Road Map’ to rapidly add to ammunition stocks by 2015. The report, however, observes that “despite a lapse of more than three years, from March 2013, no significant improvement in availability of WWR ammunition was noticed”.

The stock of 61 types of ammunition, out of a total of 152 types of critical ammunition, is available for 10 days. Only the stocks of 20 per cent of the armoury, 31 types of ammunition, were found to be satisfactory. The Indian military is required to hold enough ammunition to fight a short intense war of 20 days while earlier, it was required to have store supplies, spares and ammunition to fight a 40-day intense war. In 1999 the WWR was scaled down to 20 days, given the changes in modern warfare.

The availability of high-calibre ammunitions for tanks and artillery meant to sustain fire-power in a cross-border war “are in more alarming state”. The report also pointed that the deficiency of fuzes, fitted to an artillery shell just before firing, had declined from 89 per cent in 2013 by six percentage points. This means the army still can’t use 83 per cent of ammunition for tanks and artillery. The audit findings came days after the government gave the army's Vice Chief Lt General Sarath Chand to directly procure 46 types of ammunition to fight short and “intense wars” without going to the defence ministry. The step had been taken to make up for the major gap in the availability of critical arms and ammunitions required for an intense war of 10-15 days. The ammunition and spares shortfall was revealed in an internal audit that the Indian Army conducted after the Uri attack. Also, the government had last year cleared emergency procurement of weaponry worth Rs 20,000 crores after the attack but the exact data on ammunition procurement is opaque.

The CAG has also observed that because of shortage of ammunition, the Army Head Quarters had imposed ‘restriction’ on training. It says in 2016, of the 24 types of ammunition required for training, only three were available for more than five days for training activity and the availability of as much as 88 per cent of ammunition was far below requirement. “Majority of training ammunition, 77 to 88 per cent, remained critical”.

The MoD on the behest of the Indian Army issued tenders for eight types of ammunition in March 2017, with complete details of the project shared with potential vendors. According to a number of media reports, bidding dates for the tender have been extended at least six times, with the latest extension given till 11 January 2018. The tender has also been mired in controversy, given that foreign firms blacklisted in India have been allowed a backdoor entry as they can be ‘technology partners’ with Indian companies. The plan to involve the private sector in manufacturing the eight types of ammunition was cleared by the then defence minister Manohar Parrikar in late 2016, with final approvals coming in January this year. The tenders that have been issued include rounds of 30 mm HET, BMCS 125 mm FSAPDS, 122 mm HE ER Rocket, 40 mm MGL & UBGL, 23 mm HEI/APIT, 30 mm VOG, and electrical fuzes for the artillery.

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