As the Narendra Modi government pushes for more indigenous systems in the military, this week the Ministry of Defence will undertake a review of several foreign procurement projects, some of which are almost in their final stages. Sources in the defence and security establishment told ThePrint that over 10 items are up for review by the Defence Procurement Board (DPB), including a deal with Russia for Kamov helicopters for the Army and Navy, as well as heavyweight torpedoes for Scorpene submarines.
The move is part of the defence ministry’s review of all procurement under the ‘Buy (Global)’ category to push for ‘Atmanirbhar’ products in the critical sector that has been dominated by foreign purchases. Under this category, procurement is made directly from a foreign Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM). While defence services were earlier asked to prepare a list of procurement plans from abroad that could be replaced by indigenous items, sources said all projects are under review, including those in final stages. A review does not mean cancellation, they clarified.
The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), headed by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, had on 14 January decided to scrap a coast guard project for the procurement of 14 helicopters from abroad, besides all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and short-range missiles.
One of the key projects under review is heavyweight torpedoes for the Navy’s Scorpene submarines, which are currently using Russian-made torpedoes that have been given a life extension. According to the original plan, the Indian Navy was to procure ‘Black Shark’ torpedoes from Italian firm WASS, owned by the AgustaWestland chopper scam-tainted Italian firm Finmeccanica, which had rebranded itself as ‘Leonardo’ a few years ago.
The plan was that the Navy’s immediate requirement of heavyweight torpedoes would be met by foreign procurement, while the long-term, larger requirement would be fulfilled through the indigenous manufacturing route. However, the deal got cancelled in 2016, and a new proposal was initiated. Sources said the Services are to decide if there is an alternate project available, adding that the torpedoes will most likely be procured from abroad since there is no functional indigenous alternative as of now.
Another key procurement under review is of Kamov helicopters, which is most likely to be shelved in favour of the indigenous product manufactured by state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). This is going to be big in terms of monetary value as the cumulative figure of this deal (including Army and Navy requirements) is over Rs 20,000 crore, sources said.
As reported earlier by ThePrint, this renewed focus by the defence ministry could have a ripple effect on the Navy’s plan to acquire new utility helicopters through strategic partnership as HAL may also enter the fray. The programme otherwise was to be a collaboration between a foreign player and an Indian private firm. Other deals under review this week include procurement of general-purpose machine guns, expendable aerial and anti-submarine warfare targets, etc.