New Delhi: The Army has built up ammunition reserves to keep up a 10-day “intense war” with Pakistan and is now focusing on equipping its arsenal for any possible conflict with China, ThePrint has learnt.
According to defence sources, efforts are already under way to bolster the Army’s War Wastage Reserve (WWR) ammunition for “30 days of intense war” along the northern and eastern borders.
WWR refers to ammunition reserves that can sustain a 40-day intense war or a full-scale war. However, building such a large reserve is a herculean task, not just because of the money involved but also logistically.
Therefore, when the Army vice-chief was given emergency powers to buy critical ammunition and arms following the 2016 Uri attack, it was decided to focus on a 10-day intense war with Pakistan to begin with.
“My focus was to build more reserves. We had an internal discussion and decided to focus on 10 I (10 days of intense war) along the western border,” Gen Rawat told ThePrint in an interview earlier this month. “If we can’t win a war with Pakistan in 10 days, there is no point of a war.”
A matter of serious concern
Ammunition shortage has been a pressing concern for the Army over the years, and has also been flagged by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in the past.
When General Bipin Rawat took over as Army chief in 2016, the force did not even have one armour-piercing fin-stabilised discarding sabot (APFSDS) for each tank in the Indian inventory. Each round costs about Rs 4 lakh.
Artillery shells and fuses were another area of serious concern.
Following the Uri attack, the government realised the Army was really short of ammunition, and any long-term response by Pakistan to India’s surgical strike would put Indian forces under pressure.
With the vice-chief subsequently empowered to purchase critical ammunition and arms, the Army has been on a shopping spree.
Overnight, senior officers were sent aboard special aircraft to various countries, including Russia and Israel, and massive stocks procured, some at very high rates.
“You won’t believe the amount of visits the officers have undertaken in markets across the world,” Gen Rawat said. “A fresh batch of ammunition is set to come very soon. We have really focussed on building our ammunition stock, including for the artillery.”
In March 2018, the defence ministry also enhanced the financial powers of the three vice-chiefs from Rs 100 crore to Rs 500 crore for specific procurement of arms and ammunition. This was increased by another Rs 300 crore this year as a one-time move.
Capability against China
Gen Rawat said any possible war with China is unlikely to be a sustained conflict lasting days.
According to him, the Chinese will first focus on pulverising Indian command, control and logistics centres with missiles rather than fighting a full-fledged intense war in the initial stages.
Unlike Pakistan, he said, a possible future war with China will be long-drawn, instead of being a sustained, intense operation.
“And hence it is felt that we should prepare for 30 I…Also, in case of any issue, we can always move arms, ammunition and men from one location to another,” Gen Rawat said.
He added that, with the digitisation of the entire system, the Army headquarters and departments concerned knew exactly how much ammunition was where.
The Army chief, however, ruled out the possibility of any war at the moment, adding that small incidents like the recent standoff at Ladakh will keep happening because of differences in perception about the Line of Actual Control, the border between India and China.
“The Chinese have got a vision and a plan. I don’t think they are going to come in and do anything at this moment,” he said. “These pricks (the NDA government’s decision to make Ladakh a separate union territory) will not make them waver from their plan. They know when they have to do something. These small skirmishes will happen.”
He added that it was high time India created deep reserves.
“We are restructuring… We should create reserves, use technology for surveillance on the border,” he said.
The Army chief also claimed border infrastructure activities had gathered momentum since the induction of Chinook helicopters this year and the development of new Advanced Landing Grounds (ALGs).
He said the procurement of 145 light-weight M777 howitzers from the US was being done with warfare on mountainous terrain in mind. These howitzers, he added, can easily be airlifted with a Chinook and moved from one location to another.