NEW DELHI: India’s infantry lacks even lightweight modular bullet-proof jackets a decade after the demand was first made, according to a report in a news daily.
So what is the problem? Defence ministry sources on Tuesday told the daily said the procurement for 1,86,138 bullet-proof jackets through the ‘capital procurement route’, which was approved by the defence acquisitions council in October 2009, is now on the verge of being scrapped.
These jackets were required to effectively protect the head, neck, chest, groin and sides of soldiers as well as allow them to move with greater agility during counter-insurgency operations.
All these 1.86 lakh jackets, each costing around Rs 50,000, were to be provided by 2012. Another 1.67 lakh jackets were to be ordered in the second round. “But the jackets offered by six vendors have not met the technical parameters or GSQRs (general staff qualitative requirements) laid down by the Army. DRDO laboratory DMSRDE (defence materials research & development establishment), too, has failed to deliver,” said the source.
The ’emergency revenue procurement’ of 50,000 jackets, approved as an operational urgency by defence minister Manohar Parrikar however, has gone ahead. Tata Advanced Materials and MKU have been selected and asked to submit ‘advance samples’ for comprehensive ballistic tests. If they pass, then bulk orders of 25,000 each would be placed on the two firms. These jackets should cost around Rs 25,000 apiece.
But a fresh tender will have to be issued for the 1.86 lakh jackets.
The Indian Army wanted a modular jacket, whose weight could vary depending on the level of protection needed. The jacket was to weigh less than 4-kg for “low threat” missions. For “high threat” missions, the jacket was to weigh up to 11.5 kg with hard armour plates.
The project was cleared in 2009, since the Army then had a shortage of 1.86 lakh jackets. Even the old and bulky jackets currently held by the Army, which offer inadequate protection, are now running out of their shelf-life, says the report.
The hindrances to modern jackets are many. Revision of technical parameters and re-floating of tenders as well as convoluted defence procurement procedures and political apathy and bureaucratic red tape have hindered several modernisation plans of the Army.