Rather than getting caught in the laborious defence acquisition process, the armed forces are using the financial powers of vice-chiefs to lease out critical weapon platforms from strategic allies like the United Sstates, France and Russia. The vice-chiefs have the power to purchase ₹300 crore worth of equipment as part of capital purchases as well as half of ₹500 crore can be used for emergency requirements for the service but outside capital outlay.
According to South Block officials, the leasing of two Predator unmanned aerial vehicles from the US, a nuclear power submarine Akula class to replace the presently leased INS Chakra from Russia, and the proposal to lease a Airbus 330 multi-role transport tanker from France are examples in this direction.
While the leasing process allows the armed forces to train on a platform that it plans to acquire, it also short-circuits the labyrinth of acquisition process like acceptance of necessity, request for information, request for proposal, defence acquisition committee, finance ministry approvals and finally the Cabinet Committee of Security (CCS).
Faced with a northern neighbour who is constantly inducting stand-off weapon systems like weaponized drones, nuclear powered submarines, fifth generation aircraft and large warships, the leasing system at least allows the Indian armed forces to be prepared for future wars.
“The leasing of two Predator drones from US allows India to train and be prepared to induct 10 such drones in each of the three services. The MQ9 Predator drone is a highly versatile UAV with capacity to target the adversary through Hell-fire missile and laser guided bombs. The process for acquisition of drones has already begun,” said a top admiral of Indian Navy.
The Navy is also eyeing to lease Rafale maritime fighters for its upcoming indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant as the American fighters like F-18 and F-15 are too heavy and large for 45,000 tonne flat-top warship.
After its tender to purchase mid-air refuellers was canned by the Defence Ministry, the Indian Air Force is now leasing one Airbus 330 MRTT while eyeing further lease of five more refuellers currently with France through the proper acquisition route.
While the Indian Army has no plans to take weapon platforms on lease as of now, the military purchased anti-tank weapon systems, UAVs and laser guided shells from Israel under emergency purchases powers with the vice-chief at a time when India and China were locked eyeball to eye ball at Pangong Tso in eastern Ladakh.
While Chinese President Xi Jinping has offered support to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ride out of Covid-19 crisis, the paramount leader has refused to budge on the Gogra-Hot Springs issue in eastern Ladakh as if the present government will allow the land dispute to be swept under the carpet or to be left to future generations.
With Beijing determined to play hardball on the border with India, the latter will have to be in advanced state of preparedness with high tech weapons in case the balloon goes up when the pandemic with origins in Wuhan sweeps India.