Defence Ministry Extends Emergency Powers To Armed Forces
(This was originally posted in The Print by Amrita Nayak Dutta)
The Defence Ministry has granted yet another extension of the emergency powers, which were accorded to the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force last year, for emergent revenue procurements and works, amid the stand-off with China at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh. According to top defence sources, the emergency powers for revenue procurements —through the fast track procedure —have been extended till 31 August.
Last month, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh-headed Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) had also extended emergency powers of the defence services for capital acquisitions till 31 August 2021. The emergency capital and revenue procurement powers were first extended upto March 2021.
Capital procurement powers pertain to the acquisition of capital assets, weapons/weapon systems and other operationally critical equipment which leads to permanent enhancement of operational capabilities of the defence forces.
Revenue procurement powers relate to the procurement of critical spares and ammunition required to sustain or maintain these assets. “Invoking of emergency powers for both revenue and capital procurement indicates the government’s intent to enhance our fighting and engaging capabilities to the next level and also sustain them through the long term,” a source in the government said.
After the Galwan Valley clash in June last year, the defence ministry had, for the first time, given emergency capital procurement powers to the armed forces to procure weapon systems of upto Rs 300 crore on an urgent basis without further clearances to cut short the long and tedious procurement cycle. Prior to that, emergency powers were granted to the services after the Balakot airstrike in February 2019 and the 2016 Uri surgical strike covered only revenue procurements.
CDS cited operational readiness of armed forces in Ladakh
Top defence sources told ThePrint that before Rajnath Singh approved the extension of the emergency powers, the Chief of Defence Staff, General Bipin Rawat, cited high operational readiness of the forces in Ladakh for the move.
The CDS had noted that it is unlikely that the situation at the LAC will ease anytime soon and that would require the armed forces to be at peak operational readiness in the region, and he thus cited the need for extending the emergency powers both for capital and revenue procurement, the sources added.
In the last one year, India has deployed nearly 50,000 additional troops in the Ladakh region and deployed a large number of ground and air assets for any contingencies.
Spares, HAMMER under emergency powers
Sources said that apart from some major capital purchases, a number of spares and other smaller items will be purchased under the emergency revenue procurement powers.
“Aside from some major capital purchases, there is also a number of spares and other smaller items required to be purchased for maintenance of our assets deployed in the frontlines, its overhauls and refits,” a source said. Some of these emergency revenue procurement powers will also be helpful in building large-scale infrastructure such as roads and bridges in eastern Ladakh.
Among the major capital procurements initiated by the defence ministry are anti-drone systems being procured by the Army which can jam the communication and navigation signals of a rogue drone or spoof it. Defence sources also said that the IAF is planning to buy another lot of HAMMER air-to-ground precision-guided weapon system for its Rafale fighter jets using the emergency powers.
The Highly Agile and Manoeuvrable Munition Extended Range costs around Rs70 lakh and consists of a guidance kit and a range-extension kit fitted on a standard Mk 82 bomb of 250 kg. Other procurements include armour-piercing fin-stabilised discarding sabot (APFSDS) ammunition fired by the T-72 and T-90 main battle tanks, additional Heron drones, loitering munition, Spice Bombs, and Man Portable Air Defence System (MANPADS).