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New Delhi: The government has approved a proposal for the indigenous development of Airborne Warning and Control System (Awacs) aircraft by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the project is slated to be completed by 2020, Defence Minister A K Antony told the Lower House (Lok Sabha) yesterday.
“To leverage the experience and expertise gained in the design and development of Airborne Early Warning and Control Systems, a project proposal for indigenous development of Awacs (India) by DRDO has been approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security on February 12, 2013. The development of Awacs (India) is envisaged to be completed in 84 months from the date of formal sanction of the Programme,” Antony said during Question Hour.
He said three Awacs aircraft were in use by the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the government would procure more such planes.
He said the Awacs were meant as force multipliers for specific area cover and not for surveillance of the entire space of our country. “All three Awacs are part of Network Centric Operations and are able to provide adequate coverage of specified areas in net Centric Operations. Enhancement of airborne surveillance and command and control capabilities of the IAF is sought to be achieved through procurement of additional Awacs,” he said.
Answering another query, he said modernisation of IAF was a continuous process based on threat perception, operational challenges, technological changes and available resources.
The minister said the IAF’s modernisation was progressing as per the Long Term Integrated Perspective Plan (LTIPP 2012-2027) and Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP). He said it takes two to three years to complete various stages of procurement and conclude the contract according to DPP.
Referring to proposed acquisition of 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft, the minister said contract negotiations were in progress with M/s Dassault Aviation, France.
He said DPP provides an effective framework for expeditious procurement for modernisation and to keep the armed forces in a state of operational readiness to meet any eventuality.
The minister also said India plans to draft new arms procurement procedures in the wake of a corruption scandal involving Italian helicopters — just two years after the rules were last overhauled.
The redrafting could mean fresh delays to India’s ambitious programme of arming its million-plus military with latest hardware, experts say.
“Within a few months, we are going to change the defence procurement procedure again,” Antony told parliament.
The procurement policy was last revised in 2011.
India, which is currently negotiating a $120bn deal for 126 French Rafale fighter jets, already faces complaints from overseas arms vendors of long delays in handing out military contracts.
India last month began an inquiry into the purchase of 12 AgustaWestland helicopters for VIPs in 2010. Italian authorities have arrested the chief executive of AgustaWestland’s parent company, Finmeccanica.
India has put payments to Finmeccanica on hold and asked it to say whether any terms of the contract and of an “integrity pact” were violated in securing the deal to supply the 12 helicopters.
Finmeccanica and its chief executive Giuseppe Orsi have denied that any bribes were paid to clinch the $748m contract for the British-built helicopters.
Antony told parliament that India was compelled to import hardware for its technology-starved military “because of the operational necessity of the services”.
India imports more than 70 percent of its armaments mainly from Britain, France, Russia, Israel and the United States.
Local production would be the “ultimate solution to the scourge of corruption”, the defence minister told the lower house of parliament.
India’s arms acquisition policies, first put in place in 2001, were aimed at “expediting decision-making” and simplifying contracts, according to the defence ministry.Agencies