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Prioritise defence buys: Arun

New Delhi, June 4: The defence ministry is drawing up a list of major acquisitions for the armed forces that should be contracted urgently.

Defence minister Arun Jaitley was understood to have asked secretaries to prioritise acquisitions based on urgency of requirement and processing of the cases.

Topping the list of pending acquisitions is the fighter aircraft for the Indian Air Force. The IAF selected the Rafale fighter jet over two years ago. The cost of the acquisition of 126 Rafales could now top an estimated $20 billion. The IAF has also projected a need for six additional C-17 Globemaster III strategic airlifters.

For the army, the defence establishment has been aware of the need for heavy artillery guns. The artillery modernisation plan is estimated to cost about $3.8 billion.

The army’s biggest force-accretion was set rolling last year with the CCS approving the creation of a Mountain Strike Corps. To be headquartered in Bengal’s Panagarh, the corps will be equipped for the China frontier.

A crucial element in its arsenal will be the ultra-light howitzer, a Bae Systems made M777. The proposal to buy 145 of these guns has been in the works for over five years.

The army and the air force have also asked for light utility helicopters that can operate in the Siachen Glacier area. The Army Aviation Corps has asked for 197 such helicopters.

The IAF has also selected Boeing’s Chinook CH-47F helicopter for its heavy rotorcraft need and the Apache Longbow AH-64D for its attack helicopter requirement. There has been tardiness in procuring 16 multi-role helicopters for the navy costing nearly $6 billion.