One major concern haunting military planners and the Indian government for years is the failed policies to induct Bullet Proof Jackets (BPJs) which are needed to better protect the soldiers of the Army. Even though multiple programs have been launched by the Ministry of Defence (MoD), little headway has been made over the years.
In a recent report tabled before the Parliament, the ‘Standing Committee on Defence’ has come down heavily on the MoD for repeatedly failing to meet even the basic requirement of the army. The current BPJs in service with the army are extremely overweight and are fast pacing towards their retirement.
The army to guard its infantry men has stated an exigent need for at least 350,000 lightweight, modular and advanced BPJs. These highly improvised jackets are key to protect men from taking hits to head, neck, chest, groin and torso region.
The standing committee in its report has noted that the army is yet to receive even the 186,138 BPJs that were to be procured under the 11th Army plan. Cheers had sprung through the ranks of the army when the government in December, 2012 floated a RFP for procurement of BPJs through Capital route.
Following elaborate trials, the army in March, 2015 rejected all the samples provided by multiple vendors. The army attributed the failure of these systems to the lack of technological and manufacturing expertise at the manufacturers end.
MoD in April, 2016, yet again floated another RFP under the Army’s GSQR No. 1438 for procuring BPJs. The RFP has already cleared the TEC phase and evaluative trials of the BPJs are expected to commence by the month-end. The committee has now asked the ministry to expedite the procurement process in an effort to meet the requirements of the army.
The committee has further directed the ministry to make away with loopholes and deficiencies in the procurement system. The committee has attributed the delay in procurement to the repeated amendments in GSQR by the end user – the army. It has further directed the army to well define the requisite trial objectives for the procurement of BPJs.
Concurrently, MoD is procuring 50,000 BPJs through ‘revenue route’ under an INR 140 Crore deal with Tata Advanced Materials Limited (TAML) to meet the exigent need of the army. Forces have already received the first batch of the 50,000 BPJs and the rest are to be delivered by April, 2017.
With the need for these basic equipments increase, the ministry should effectively make use of technical expertise that exists within the country. Manufacturers such as TAML and MKU have emerged as leaders in manufacturing of bullet proof vests. While TAML has supplied extensively to Indian and Asian forces, MKU has been extensively catering to European markets.
DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation), India’s leading defence technology provider, has developed its own light weight bullet proof vests which have successfully completed Stage – 1 and 2 trials. The prototypes in the coming months are expected to be supplied to the army for evaluative trials.
It is critical that the ministry without further delay meets the crucial yet basic demands of the army to boost its preparedness levels.
© Karthik Kakoor