The Government has cleared a proposal to procure 66,000 Mango anti-tank shells from Russia to equip its tanks including T-90 main battle tanks comprising armoured regiments which were facing shortage of this critical ammunition.
Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), headed by the Prime Minister, gave the go-ahead to this proposal and the deal is likely to be signed in the next few days, officials said here on Monday. The deal also entails Russia transferring technology to the Indian ordnance factories which will manufacture this specialised ammunition within the country.
The Defence Ministry has also decided to have joint ventures with Russian manufactures to produce this category of ammunition in India like in the case of rockets for Smerch multi-barrel rocket launcher systems, they said.
Critical shortage of tank ammunition was first highlighted by then Army Chief General V K Singh in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in March two years back. The Army Chief had pointed out that only three to four days of this particular ammunition was left in the inventory of the armoured regiments.
The Army had also informed the Standing Committee on Defence about the shortage and how the situation had worsened by the recent blacklisting of its supplier Israeli Military Industry (IMI).
VK Singh had also listed shortage of ammunition for infantry units, poor capability to fight war during night as tanks and troops lacked sufficient numbers of night vision devices and lack of high-quality of weapons for Special Forces.
At present, the Army does not have ammunition to fight a conventional war for more than 20 days even though war wastage reserves or additional ammunition should be sufficient to fight for at least 40 to 45 days.
While the Army has initiated several steps to address critical shortage, the force is likely to fill this huge gap only by 2019 besides 50 per cent war wastage reserve and three years of training ammunition by 2015. This will entail a budgetary support of Rs 19,250 crore.
The new Government will take a call on this aspect as the war wastage reserve will go up after the raising of the Mountain Strike Corps to counter China gathers momentum. Its raising started in January and recruitment of more than 45,000 troops besides procurement of ammunition, artillery guns and helicopters will take seven years.