Indian Army had first raised the demand for light-weight modular jackets almost a decade ago. Defence acquisitions council had cleared the acquisition of 1.86 lakh bullet proof jackets way back in October 2009.
However, the army jawans will get the new modular jackets only now. The modular jackets along with ballistic helmets allow soldiers to move with more agility during counter insurgency operations. The bigger benefit of such jackets and helmet is that is effectively protects soldiers' head, neck, chest, groin and sides.
Army needed 3.5 lakh new jackets in all of which they were supposed to get 1.86 lakh by 2012 and remaining by the year 2017.
For a decade army men have used old and bulky jackets which do not provide adequate protection. Also these jackets were about to reach the end of their shelf-life.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had last year told that the urgent and essential requirements of the jackets was met by revenue procurement route.
Accordingly immediate demand for 50,000 bullet proof jackets will be met by procuring them from Tata Advanced Materials Limited which is a subsidiary of the Tata Group.
The jackets will cost Rs. 140 crores. Tata Advanced Materials Limited will start delivering the jackets from August and will complete the delivery by January 2017.
These 50,000 new jackets will have to meet the requirement of army of 3.5 lakh jackets.
Reasons for the delay in the procurement:
The biggest reason for delay in procurement of modular jacket was six vendors who were competing for providing the jackets.
Numerous issues were faced since 2009 for the procurement of the new jackets. Finally in 2012 a fresh proposal was issued with changes in the qualitative requirements.
After the new requirements were issued the technical problems still continued and it was announced that Ordnance Factory Board had failed to meet the right velocity requirements which are used for the trials of the jackets.
Trials cleared for 1.86 lakh jackets:
Very recently the technical trials were cleared and the field trials of the jackets went on smoothly. Jackets were tested for user comfort, weight and other criteria. Since the year 2009 this is for the first time that the trial stage has been cleared as far as the various stages of procurement is concerned.
The procurement of jackets is now at the cost negotiation stage and jackets will soon be available for the soldiers.
Pending demands from army:
Apart from the demand for new modular bullet proof jackets the army also needs modern assault rifles and light machine guns. There is also a demand raised for new anti-tank weapons and light weight ballistic helmets.