'Replacement of Army's Chetak choppers delayed inordinately'
New Delhi: A former top Army officer has criticised the government for delays in acquiring replacements for Chetak and Cheetah helicopters, terming the acquisition process as "unreasonably sluggish".
"While concepts and doctrine formulation do receive reasonable attention and thus have a contemporary flavour, the process of acquisition of weapon and support systems continue to be unreasonably sluggish," former Director General Artillery, Lt Gen Vinay Shankar, has said.
"Take for instance, the acquisition of the replacements for the outdated Cheetah and Chetak helicopters. The case was initiated before the turn of the last century. The order for the first batch of 197 helicopters is yet to be placed.
"Unless the procurement process is streamlined and made time-bound, India's defence capability will remain woefully inadequate. Revising procedures every year to make them more rigorous is inexcusable escapism," Shankar said in an article in the latest issue of 'Indian Defence Review'.
Strongly defending the army's plans to strengthen its aviation corps, he attacked the Indian Air Force for "resisting" the government's approval of the army's decision to acquire attack helicopters.
He said the approval to buy attack choppers was the outcome of "decades of dialogue, representations, haggling and persistence. The resistance by the IAF was unrelenting, bitter and just as forceful as it was against the setting up of the Army Aviation Corps." Referring to the Air-Land Battle concept, the former artillery chief said this required allocation of adequate aviation resources and capability at the operational and tactical levels.
"Such resources must be integral to the force structures. From the Indian Army's point of view, this principle regrettably has not been observed. Consequently, the Indian Army's combat capability has been avoidably circumscribed. This lacuna must be addressed on priority," Shankar said.
Maintaining that acquisition plans must take into account several complex considerations including the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) inventory and planned acquisitions, he said "it would be terribly wasteful if the acquisition plans of these platforms are not coordinated with extreme care."
As the global arms industry concentrated on selling systems that have a broadly universal application, the former army officer said, the Indian defence industry must -- either on its own or in collaboration -- concentrate on a range of systems that will enhance force capability in the mountains of Kashmir and the Northeast.