As many as a third of the home-made Akash surface-to-air missiles have failed basic tests, says the country’s national auditor, claiming the deficiencies of the missiles “posed an operational risk during hostilities.”
The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) is a big setback for the Make-In-India initiative which seeks to reduce India’s dependence on imported arms. The report, given to parliament, says, “the missiles fell short of the target, had lower than the required velocity, and there was malfunctioning of critical units.”
The Air Force has refused to comment on the report.
The Akash was produced by the state-run Bharat Electronics. The auditor says that though 3,600 crores have been paid to the manufacturer, none of the missile systems are installed at the six designated sites even though it has been seven years since the contract was signed.
The Akash and its newer variant, the Akash Mk-2, are a medium-range surface-to-air missile system designed to intercept enemy aircraft and missiles at a distance of 18-30 km. Tested extensively by the Indian Air Force, the Akash, which was first handed over in December 2008, was seen as a breakthrough indigenous system and in 2010, an additional six squadrons were ordered.
These additional squadrons, composed of missile launchers, radars, associated vehicles and hundreds of Akash missiles, were meant to be deployed at six air force bases in the East for which the government approved related infrastructure including storage facilities, workshops and ramp structures. These were supposed to be constructed by Bharat Electronics on a turnkey basis at a cost of approximately 100 crores. However, this infrastructure “could not be completed till October 2016 at any of the sites.” The auditor also says though work was nearly complete at two bases, the “IAF had not taken over these buildings because of defects in the construction, which rendered them unsuitable for strategic missile system storage. In other stations, the progress was below 45 per cent as of October 2016”.
While the missiles were indeed delivered to air forces bases between April 2014 and June 2016 after a delay of between 6 and 18 months, the missiles were found to be deficient in quality. According to the auditor, “Out of 80 missiles received upto November 2014, 20 missiles were test fired during April-November 2014. 6 of these missiles, ie, 30 per cent, failed the test.”