As many as a third of the home-made Akash surface-to-air missiles are unreliable, unusable and untested, posing an operational risk during hostilities, the country's national auditor said in a damning report.
This revelation comes at a time when a stand-off between Indian and Chinese troops continues along the border in Sikkim sector.
Akash, to be positioned in the vulnerable Siliguri corridor (also referred to as the Chicken's neck), was India's counter to any strike by Chinese Air Force fighters. But the CAG report puts a big question mark on its utility and also on the Make in India initiative that seeks to trim the country's dependence on imported arms.
Here's what CAG had to say:
1) The missiles fell short of the target, had lower than the required velocity, and there was malfunctioning of critical units
2) The missile systems were to be installed at six designated sites (in northeast), between 2013 and 2015. But till date, none of the missile systems have been installed
3) Out of 80 missiles received up to November 2014, 20 missiles were test fired during April-November 2014. Six of these missiles, which is 30%, failed the test
4) Two of the missiles failed to even take off. These deficiencies pose an operational risk during hostilities
5) The lifespan of some missiles had expired by March 2017
6) The missiles were bought at a high cost but would stay usable for a less period than their stipulated life.
7) Delay in civil works at the sites pushed the installation of the missile systems behind schedule.
8) The CAG was also not ready to accept Indian Air Force’s argument that the delay in commissioning of missile system was not attributable to non-availability of infrastructure
The report is a body blow to the missile system and comes after the Army earlier this year showed interest in going for the Israeli quick-reaction surface-to-air missiles (QR-SAMs) to take on enemy fighters, helicopters and drones instead of Akash.
Defence ministry sources said the Army has made it clear that it does not want any more Akash regiments after it gets the first two ordered earlier for Rs 14,180 crore, with six firing batteries and hundreds of missiles each.
According to a Times of India report, the Army holds Akash area defence missile systems do not meet its operational requirements for defending its strike corps against enemy air attacks in forward areas.