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Defence ministry blocks Navy’s ‘unrealistic’ five-year acquisition plan

The plan has been sent back for pruning, because it would double India’s defence budget. Top Navy officials meet new minister Sitharaman to brief her.

An elaborate plan drawn up by the Indian Navy to acquire new warships, aircraft, submarines and special equipment over the next five years has met with disapproval from the defence ministry. Officials have termed it ‘unrealistic’, given projected national growth and spending power.

The five-year plan, which was submitted earlier this year by Navy HQ to the defence ministry, would have ended up more than doubling the Indian defence budget for capital acquisition, which currently stands at Rs 86,529 crore.

Sources told ThePrint that the plan – which includes acquisition of new aircraft carrier-borne fighter jets – is unlikely to be cleared in the current form, as it would put a great burden on the exchequer, and would leave little money for the Army and the Air Force, which too have major acquisition projects coming up. This is why the Navy has been asked to alter the plan

India presently spends 12.2 per cent of its annual budget on the defence forces, excluding a pension bill that has increased rapidly after the implementation of the One Rank One Pension policy. In the current financial year, the pension bill has, in fact, surpassed money allocated for capital acquisitions of the armed forces.

New minister, new hope ::

Sources said the Navy’s top brass briefed defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman on the five-year plan in her first few days in office, with a request for clearances.

Another plan, to build a new aircraft carrier named Vishal, has also been moved again. This plan had been nixed by previous defence minister Manohar Parrikar last year, because it had been deemed too expensive. The project is estimated to cost a whopping Rs 1.35 lakh crore at the approval stage, a projection that is likely to go up with time.

India already has a joint working group with the US for this aircraft carrier, and the Navy wants to try its luck with the new minister.

Other major acquisitions ::

The Navy has several other major acquisitions coming up, the biggest being the plan to make six new conventionally-powered submarines under the Project 75I plan, which is expected to cost over Rs 60,000 crore.

Besides this, the Navy plans to acquire 57 new fighter jets for operation on the existing INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier, and the INS Vikrant, which is currently under construction in Kochi.

In addition, the procurement process for new landing platform docks, minesweepers, shallow water craft and frigates is ongoing.

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