Be transparent in weapons deals, Antony to service chiefs
Antony's message to the chiefs came amid latest bribery allegations in the proposed purchase of 197 light choppers.
New Delhi: Defence Minister AK Antony on Monday cautioned the three services chiefs to be "transparent" in the process of weapon trials and procurement as he cleared proposals worth around Rs 6,000 crore for the Armed Forces. Antony's message to the chiefs came amid latest bribery allegations in the proposed purchase of 197 light choppers. At the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) meeting, the Ministry cleared proposals for procurement of 3,000 Light Support Vehicles (LSVs) for the Army at a cost of Rs 1,500 crore and Special Operations Vessels (SOVs) for the Marine Commandos of the Navy at a cost of Rs 1,700 crore, Defence Ministry sources said.
The meeting also cleared proposals for purchase of Search and Rescue (SAR) equipment for IAF choppers at a cost of Rs 1,000 crore, 3,000 Hand-held Thermal Imagers (HHTIs) for the Army at Rs 800 crore and a Cadet Training Ship for the Navy at Rs 480 crore which will be built by private sector ABG Shipyard, they said. The DAC, which is the top decision-making body of the Defence Ministry, also cleared an IAF proposal to procure two Dornier surveillance and transport aircraft from the HAL.
The meeting, which was convened to discuss the ongoing procurement of 197 light choppers for the Army and IAF, decided to defer the matter in the backdrop of allegations against a Brigadier for seeking Rs 25 crore bribe for favouring a foreign vendor Agusta Westland. "The Defence Minister asked the three Services to adopt fair and transparent manners while carrying out procurements," Defence Ministry officials said. The deal has been under the scanner in the recent past as there have been anonymous complaints against the helicopters fielded by the two rivals Eurocopter and Russian Kamov. Agusta Westland was rejected by the trial team on the basis of its chopper's non-compliance with the tender
The Ministry is also seeking details from Italy over its investigations in the VVIP chopper deal in the allegations of payments of kickbacks to secure the deal. Under the proposal for purchasing the LSVs for the Army, 1,500 vehicles are planned to be procured to replace existing vehicles such as the Maruti Gypsy and Mahindra Jeeps. The Army wants more rugged vehicles for the troops who are deployed in areas such as Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast where the force is fighting insurgency and actively engaged in counter terrorist operations, Defence Ministry officials said.
Under the procurement for two Special operations Vessels (SOVs) for the Navy, the Government is planning to provide more robust capabilities to the Marine Commando Force(MARCOS). The vessels, which would be built at the Hindustan Shipyard Limited, would provide the MARCOS to carry out special operations such as harbour intervention and mine-laying in enemy areas, they said.
The SOVs are like mini-submarines which can accommodate a small detachment of armed MARCOS commandos. The meeting also cleared proposals for procuring equipment worth Rs 1,000 crore for buying search and rescue equipment for the choppers of the IAF and the Army, they said. A proposal for procuring chemical, biological and nuclear warfare equipment for the Army was also cleared at the meeting.