ISLAMABAD : The Indian Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) is expected to deliberate and decide on quite a few major defence deals.
In the reckoning are government-to-government deals between India and the United States on howitzers and drones.
Interestingly, with the overarching shadow of the vexed Bofors howitzers scam, India has not bought this critical piece of equipment since the mid-1980s. If okayed, this deal will come with a sweetener: with state-of-the art howitzers now much more mobile and user-friendly, this will come in handy in the hostile terrain of the Himalayas where the Army has to be on guard against both Pakistan and China.
Another key piece of equipment that can be cleared is the Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV), prevalent restrictions on which have been lifted after India became a member of the Missile Technology Control Regime.
The Predator and the Reaper are the most well-known US drones after their big ‘kill’ numbers in Iraq and the Af-Pak region.
While maritime reconnaissance may be the cited Indian aim, the top echelons of government will have to decide where they may be put to use, given the collateral damage that UCAVs can inflict.
The Navy’s wish-list is a fairly long one too: specialised vessels for the MARCOS commandos are in the wish list.
Also the mini-submarines and approvals for equipping the Delhi and Talwar class of destroyers and frigates with Brahmos missiles are also among others.
Russian S400 Triumph missile defence systems are also being looked at for the Air Force. In all, a massive Rs 70,000 crore spend is being envisaged.
High on the agenda is a proposal to acquire a new fleet of armed drone for the Indian Air Force , which will expand its options for punitive cross-border action in response to terror. While a $400 million proposal for acquiring armed Heron TP drones from Israel was given a quiet go ahead last year, the deal is yet to be inked.
India may now also have the option to purchase US-made Predator armed drones after its recent entry into the Missile Technology Control Regime.
Another major Air Force acquisition plan to be discussed is the $6.1-billion purchase of S-400 air defence system from Russia that is seen as a game-changer for the region. The S-400, which is also being procured by China, has a range of over 300 km and an ability to even target aircraft flying deep in enemy territory.
The Air Force is also expected to push for its plans to acquire the Indo-Israeli long-range surface-to-air missile.
A long-pending proposal to equip two Boeing 777 VVIP aircraft that are being transferred from Air India with missile avoidance systems is also to be discussed.
On the Army front, some clarity is expected on the $700-million plan to purchase M777 ultra-light howitzers under a foreign military sales deal with the US.
Another Army plan that has been in the works since 2010 to replace its long - retired short-range carbines is also to be discussed. The Army wants to import 44,600 carbines and only one of the three competitors — Israeli IWI — has qualified after field trials.
A decision could also be taken on the long-running 'short-range surface-to-air missile' project of the Army to purchase an agile missile shield for forward moving forces. While the Israeli Spyder system has qualified, the decision has to be taken on whether to continue with the acquisition or replace it with the indigenous Akash missile system.
A range of Navy vessels that have to be bought are also to be discussed as the validity of their necessity is expiring shortly. Among these are six new-generation missile vessels expected to cost over Rs13,000 crore and a new range of fleet support vessels that could cost as much as Rs10,000 crore.