INDIA has approved the procurement of weapons and equipment worth 228 billion rupees (RM13.3 billion) to bolster its armed forces.
Among them are six additional Poseidon-8I long-range patrol aircraft to be procured from the United States for its Navy; and additional indigenous Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft for the Indian Air Force (IAF).
The procurements were approved in a defence council meeting chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.
The IAF currently operates three Israeli Phalcon AWACS and three smaller indigenous Netra Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) systems mounted on Embraer aircraft.
India’s military felt a shortage of these systems during the aerial engagement with the Pakistan Air Force in Kashmir, a day after the Balakot air strikes in February.
According to The Hindu newspaper, these platforms would provide on-board command and control and early warning, which would assist the IAF in achieving effective air space dominance in the least possible time.
The new systems are likely to be mounted on Airbus aircrafts.
In sharp contrast, Pakistan already has seven such aircraft, including Chinese Karakoram Eagle ZDK-03 and Swedish Saab-2000, with another three on the way.
Pakistan has effectively used such aircraft during the aerial skirmishes along the Line of Control in Kashmir, a day after the Balakot bombing.
The committee also approved the indigenous design, development and manufacture of thermal imaging night sights for assault rifles, and these will be made by private industry and used by troops deployed on the front lines.
It also approved the procurement of twin-engine heavy helicopters for the Coast Guard.
The Times of India said that the proposal effectively slashes the Navy’s long-standing request to acquire 10 Poseidon-8I “submarine-hunting” aircraft amidst a severe fund crunch being faced by the armed forces.
The Times of India also said that the cash-strapped armed forces have been directed to curtail their operational requirements due to budgetary constraints.
The Indian Navy currently has eight Poseidons at the naval air station INS Rajali in Arakkonam, Tamil Nadu; while the next four are slated for delivery by 2021-2022.
Defence officials said that the 14 helicopters approved for the Coast Guard will help the force undertake missions to prevent maritime terrorism, infiltration of terrorists by sea routes, as well as search and rescue operations.
The Coast Guard’s earlier attempt to get such choppers, equipped with requisite weather-cum-surveillance radars, electro-optical/infrared devices, rescue hoists and the like, was scrapped amid allegations of wrongdoings and leak of classified information.