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June 30, 2015

Army still to get proper bullet-proof jackets a decade after demand



 
It was way back in October 2009 that the defence acquisitions council had cleared the acquisition of 1,86,138 such bullet-poof jackets.  
Something as basic as proper bullet-proof jackets remains a distant dream for Indian soldiers. The Army is yet to get light-weight modular jackets almost a decade after it first demanded them, and six years after the proposal was cleared by the government.

The new jackets, coupled with proper ballistic helmets, were supposed 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.
It was way back in October 2009 that the defence acquisitions council had cleared the acquisition of 1,86,138 such bullet-poof jackets since the Army was short of that number from its authorized holding of 3,53,765 jackets. Nothing has come out of it till now despite the Army's existing old and bulky jackets, which provide inadequate protection, themselves fast-approaching the end of their shelf-life in a year or so.

Given the operational urgency, defence minister Manohar Parrikar had last year announced the emergency procurement of 50,000 new jackets. But they, too, are yet to materialize. "The selection/procurement process is underway after the government sanction ... It will take at least another six months," said a defence ministry source on Monday.
The bigger case for 1.86 lakh jackets is still at the trial evaluation stage, with six vendors locked in competition. Each jacket's estimated cost was put at around Rs 50,000 when the project was approved, making it a total of around Rs 930 crore. All these jackets were to be inducted by 2012, with another 1.67 lakh jackets to be ordered in the second round.
But revision of technical parameters and re-floating of tenders as well as convoluted defence procurement procedures and politico-bureaucratic apathy have put paid to those plans. Several parliamentary committees have taken an extremely dim view of this "critical shortage" of bullet-proof jackets, slamming the government for "playing with the lives" of soldiers, as reported by TOI earlier.
The modular jackets are meant to provide "graded levels of protection" depending on the mission to be undertaken. The jacket would weigh less than 4 kg — with a trauma pad with all-around soft armour plate including front, sides, back, collar and neck — for low-risk/threat missions.

The jacket would weight 11.5 kg, with hard armour plates for front, rear, sides, upper arms, groin and throat, in turn, for high-risk missions. "The hard armour plates, in conjunction with the soft ones, are meant to withstand six rounds of 7.62mm x 39mm mild steel core ammunition fired from an AK-47 from 10 metres," said the Army.
Incidentally, as reported by TOI earlier, the long-pending quest to acquire new-generation assault rifles for infantry soldiers has also hit a dead-end. The 2011 tender for the new assault rifles with inter-changeable barrels is now likely to be scrapped.
 - TOI

 

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