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Indian Army decides to go big on indigenisation of critical spares

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NEW DELHI (PTI): With delays in import of critical equipment severely affecting its combat readiness, the Indian Army has decided to fast-track indigenisation of key components and spares for battle tanks and other military systems.

The Ordnance Factory Board, an umbrella body of 41 ordnance factories, has decided to bring down import of spares and components from current 60 per cent annually to 30 per cent in the next three years, a senior Army official said.

The Master General of the Ordnance (MGO), responsible for artillery and other key military supplies to frontline bases, has also started extensive talks with leading Indian defence firms to evolve a strategy for indigenisation of key spares and components of tanks and other weapons systems.

The MGO and OFB procure spares worth over Rs 10,000 crore annually, the official said.

It has been a long-standing grievance of armed forces that supply of critical spares and equipment from Russia takes a long-time, affecting maintenance of military systems procured from that country. Russia has been a major supplier of military platforms to India.

The decision to go for indigenisation of spares is part of the government's overall approach to enhance battle readiness of the 1.3 million strong Army after a thorough review found "gaps" in its operational preparedness.

The official said the Army plans to involve micro, small and medium enterprises to produce smaller parts of the weapons systems. Extensive discussions were already held with around 80 MSMEs. A policy document finalising the roadmap is likely to be issued in the next couple of weeks.

The initiative to go for indigenous production of spares is in sync with defence ministry's policy to cut import bill on defence and promote the domestic industry.

Earlier this month, the government had empowered the Vice Chief of Army to directly procure ammunition and spares to maintain readiness for short duration "intense wars".

The full financial powers was given to the Army after an internal review found that optimum level of "war stores" were not being maintained.

The Army has been pressing the government for ensuring speedy procurement of key military platforms citing evolving security challenges.

In April, top Army Commanders had brain-stormed over the prevailing security scenario as well as external threats facing the country and decided to enhance combat effectiveness.

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