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Indian Army chief hopes artillery guns will be delivered soon

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The M777 155mm light-weight towed howitzer has been offered to India by the US.

NEW DELHI (PTI): Noting that the acquisition of artillery guns has been stung by "snakes in a game where there were no ladders" delaying the process, Indian Army Chief General V K Singh has hoped that the guns will soon be delivered to the Army.

The Indian Army has not been able to induct even a single gun for its artillery after the Bofors gun deal scam in the late 1980s.

"The procurement game is a version of snakes and ladder where there is no ladder but only snakes, and if the snakes bite you somewhere, the whole thing comes back to zero," Gen Singh said when reminded of his promise last year of inducting at least one type of gun in the last calendar year.

He was referring to cases such as that of M-777 Ultra Light Howitzers (ULH) which was referred to the Law Ministry.

"This time it is not the snake which has bitten us, but there is certain problem area that came up, certain committee was made and certain things were referred to the Law Ministry," Gen Singh said.

Queried whether the guns will be delivered to the Indian Army or not, Gen Singh said, "I am hopeful it will come and the procedure that we have put in place will also ensure that both indigenous (guns) as well as what we are acquiring (through FMS route) will be in place."

He said that the Army has devised a way to ensure that such problems do not occur in future.

"We have put in place a very comprehensive and a very well thought out plan by which both indigenous development, certain amount of acquisition and certain amount of joint ventures have been meshed together. So that in years to come we get out of this type of the problem," he said.

Replying to a question on acquisitions made by the Army during his tenure, Gen V K Singh said more than 70 per cent of allotted budget has been used this year and the force disbursed more than 100 per cent of the allocated money last year.

"Last year, it was for the first time that the Army spent more than 100 per cent of its budget because of the measures which we have initiated. This year we have already done almost 70 per cent of our budget," Gen Singh said.

"We have a large number of items in the pipeline and if these fructify, we may reach about Rs 5,000 crore worth. If for some reason (this does not happen), then we will come to Rs 2500 crore in terms of acquisition," he said.

"We have taken care of our surveillance system both in the ground and the aerial-based ones. We have taken care of ensuring that some of our critical deficiencies which were affecting us operationally have gone forward. We have signed things for removing our night blindness," the Army chief said.

He further added that the Army has gone forward on the decision support system and a large number of items are at a stage where they will get signed now.

"You are aware that whole process of acquisition from the time that you start looking at it takes about 34 months. (But) If something happens, which can include letter written by somebody, the whole thing comes back to zero and you re-start," he said.

Denying any issue with the Ministry, he said the matters get delayed because of various reasons.

"There are no problems as such with the Ministry. The processes are such that at times things get delayed for various reasons. At times things get stuck because of the way we put up our case and because of various other things which come as inputs to the Ministry," he said.

Replying to a question on transformation studies carried out by Army, he said sub-committees were formed to find ways for implementing the studies and barring a few, most of the suggestions have been put in place.

He also listed the transformation process in the Army Headquarters and reorganisation of formations as his biggest achievements in the service.

He said the existing verticals in the AHQ have been integrated to ensure smooth functioning and more such exercise will take place in future.

The Army Chief said it has been proposed to create an aviation brigade at all the Corps which will help in rapid mobilisation of troops.

He said the force had recently practised operations with aviation brigades during the Operation Sudarshan Shakti.

General Singh said the brigade will have a mix of choppers for various roles and it will be raised in coming years to support the troops.

IAF and Army had struck a discordant note on the issue with the latter maintaining that the rotary wing support is essential for faster movement and deployment of troops.

Praising the Arjun Main Battle Tank (MBT), Gen Singh said, "It is a good tank and the issues with it would be corrected in the Mark-II and III versions."

On Dhruv helicopter, he said the issues are with its serviceability and the Defence Ministry has been informed about it.

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