The operational capabilities of Indian Army mechanized forces could be severely hampered considering the state of BMP infantry fighting vehicles in the army. The Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) latest report found that only 53% of these vehicles were available for use by the military.
The CAG report states that the Ministry of Defense also accepted that the acute shortage of BMPs would negatively impact the 12th Army’s plan, as five more mechanized infantry battalions were to be raised.
“The shortfall in production and overhaul of BMP vehicles affected operational readiness as only 53% of authorized vehicles were available with the military,” the report said.
The BMP is a tracked infantry vehicle of Russian origin that is the mainstay of the army’s mechanized infantry battalions. These vehicles can carry seven to eight soldiers and are currently manufactured by the Ordnance Factory, Medak. Mechanized infantry battalions are an integral part of armored brigades and are meant to be a crucial part of any army strike formation that has to fight the battle in enemy territory.
The CAG report highlighted that the military has a 47 percent shortage in possession of BMP vehicles. The main reason for the shortfall was the delay in the supply of 389 BMPs by the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), which not only adversely affected the operational readiness of the mechanized forces, but also resulted in a minimum additional liability of Rs 270.97 crore due to escalating costs.
Ordnance Factory Medak’s current production capacity is 100 BMP vehicles per year, which includes BMP variants like Carrier Mortar Tracked (CMT), Armored Ambulance Tracked (AAT), Mine Protected Vehicle (MPV), and Bullet Proof Vehicle . Apart from mechanized infantry, Indian Army Corps of Engineers and Signals Corps are also allowed for BMP vehicles to provide support elements to combat troops. The CAG report states that against the clearance of 2,827 BMPs and 323 BMPS respectively, the Mechanized Infantry and Corps of Engineers hold 2,521 and 170 vehicle numbers only.
In order to fill the lack of BMP vehicles in the Mechanized Infantry and Engineer Corps, Army HQ placed two dashes on Ordnance Factory Medak in 2009 and 2011. Counter dashes for 389 numbers of BMPs placed on the OFM in 2009, delivery for Mechanized Infantry was to be completed by 2011-12 and for the Engineer Corps by 2013-14. The CAG, however, found that only 179 issues had been delivered until January 2015. Moreover, against a production capacity of 600 BMP (100 BMP per year x 6 years), OFB only been able to produce only 265 BMP over the past six years, which resulted in a shortfall of 55. percent of the rated capability and therefore impacted the Army’s operational readiness.
The audit scrutiny of the case further revealed that out of the total number of 2,691 BMPs held, 1,025 vehicle numbers were due for revision until 2014-2015. As a result, only 1,666 vehicles were actually available, indicating that only 53% of authorized vehicles were available. After being highlighted by an audit (September 2012) regarding the state of supply and the impact on the operational readiness of the army due to a delay in the supply of BMP vehicles, the Ministry of Defense / Army HQ responded in November 2012 that the paragraphs were placed in view of the urgent operational requirement and acute deficiency within the management units. They further stated that according to the current production capacity of the OFM, it would take six to eight years to meet the planned requirements, since the OFM was not solely dedicated to the production of BMP vehicles.