New Delhi: India has finalised a road map to spend $130 billion in the next five to seven years to modernise the armed forces and bolster their combat capabilities over rivals in the region, according to an official document and military sources.
The plan includes procurement of a range of weapons, missiles, air defence systems, fighter jets, submarines and warships, drones, surveillance equipment and developing infrastructure for extensive use of artificial intelligence, official sources said. While India’s spending has remained relatively constant in the last 10-15 years compared to its GDP, China’s has significantly ramped up defence budget during the period.
“The government will spend $130 billion for fleet modernisation in the next 5-7 years across all armed forces,” the official document stated. Multiple military sources said the government’s aim is to invest in capabilities so that the armed forces can effectively deal with any possible threat from either China or Pakistan.
Last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced clearing a long-pending proposal to establish the post of chief of defence staff (CDS) for boosting coordination among the Army, the Indian Air Force and the Navy. The sources said the CDS will play a key role in implementing the modernisation drive in the three forces. The sources also added that establishing India as a military power in the outer space will be another key aspect of the plan.
The government’s immediate priority is to fast-track pending proposals including procuring 2,600 infantry combat vehicles, 1,700 future ready combat vehicles for the Indian Army and paving way for supplying 110 multi-role fighter aircraft to the Indian Air Force, they said.
“Infantry modernisation is a key focus area,” said a source. The armed forces have been pushing for adequate allocation of funds so that they are well prepared to deal with the possibility of a “two-front” war on both northern and western borders.
Sources said government is aware of China significantly ramping up its air and naval powers, adding the aim is to equip both the the Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy with capabilities on par with its adversaries.
To bolster its operational capability, the Navy has already finalised a plan to have 200 ships, 500 aircraft and 24 attack submarines in the next 3-4 years. At present, the Navy has around 132 ships, 220 aircraft and 15 submarines.
The sources said the government is also determined to significantly enhance IAF’s overall combat capabilities and a detailed plan is being finalised. The government is also working on a mega defence project to make the airspace over almost all its major cities, including Delhi and Mumbai, virtually impregnable, the sources said. It is also inducting the first batch of its intercontinental ballistic missile system — Agni V — which is expected to significantly bolster the country’s air defence system.
The missile, with a strike range of 5,000 km, is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. Very few countries, including the US, China, Russia, France and North Korea, have intercontinental ballistic missiles. In its missile armoury, India currently has Agni-1 with a 700 km range, Agni-2 with a 2,000-km range, Agni-3 and Agni-4 with 2,500 km to more than 3,500-km range.
The sources said the government’s focus will be to develop the domestic defence industry and key policy initiatives are expected to be rolled out for it in the next couple of months.