‘Akash missile system can’t be trusted during war’: Degraded by govt defence agencies, loopholes in strategic weapon system threaten national security
- Other squadrons reported frequent unserviceability of mobile surface-to-air Akash Missile system and long duration downtime, which means that the missiles are dysfunctional and may not be cocked and loaded against enemy in contingency
- Several government agencies, including missile manufacturer Bharat Dynamics Limited, Bharat Electronics Limited, did not tell the truth to the government about malfunctioning Akash Missile system and poor quality of spare parts provided by the private vendors
- CAG was perhaps far-sighted, when in a 2017 report, the national auditor observed that Akash Missiles cannot be trusted in situation of a war
On 3 June, 2018, Akash Missile’s Transportation and Loading Vehicle (TLV), parked at an Air Force Squadron, was jolted after a sudden burst of tube followed by shearing off wheel bolts due to impact. The incident shocked Air Force headquarters. The Air Force officials wanted not only wanted the routine analysis of the incident, but also an in-depth discussion with Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL), a multi-disciplinary Missile System laboratory under the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to unearth issues hampering the functioning of the strategic weapon system.
More than a month later, another squadron reported cracks on air intake caps of dummy missiles. An investigation by Firstpost revealed that the incidents were followed by other squadrons reporting frequent unserviceability of mobile surface-to-air Akash Missile system and long duration downtime, which means that the missiles are dysfunctional and may not be cocked and loaded against enemy in contingency. This incident forced Guided Weapon Maintenance Department of Air Force on 5 September 2018 to raise the issue, where they clearly stated that the “Squadrons have been reporting frequent unserviceability of Missiles and it has been noticed that time taken to resolve these failures is considerably high due to delay in analysis of failures.”
The sheer inertia of government defence enterprise involved in Akash Missile production and maintenance reached to such an alarming level that at least three squadrons of Akash in February 2019 reported that missile system remained down or simply broken and sometimes even out of order during 90 percent of the time since their date of commissioning. These squadrons were commissioned between 2013-2015 to counter Chinese aggression.
Multiple government agencies, including Missile manufacturer Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) which comes under the Ministry of Defence, Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) which is responsible for radars and maintenance and the DRDO, did not tell the truth to the government about malfunctioning Akash Missile system and poor quality of spare parts provided by the private vendors.
The malfunction of Integrated Air Compressor and Storage Facility (IACSF) revealed another shocker and the Air Force mentioned it on record that the IACSFs of Akash Missile System units are unserviceable due to wobbling and vibration, pneumatic leakage, breaking of mounting pads and bolts. A missile had failed to take off during combined guided weapon firing exercise known as ‘CROSSBOW-18’ and a team of Missile System Quality Assurance Agency (MSQAA), BDL and DRDL was constituted to investigate the failure.
Akash missile system cant be trusted during war: Degraded by govt defence agencies, loopholes in strategic weapon system threaten national securityIf there is an emergent situation, several Akash sqaudron may not be able to launch counter offensive because deficiencies in many of the system including hydraulic oil leakage and container pressure leakage, which is pending since 2017. Getty Images
MSQAA is an independent inspection Agency under the administrative and functional control of Director General Aeronautical Quality Assurance, which comes under the Department of Defence Production of Defence Ministry. The incidents of leakage from fuel tanks and leakage in pressurised Missile containers were taken so lightly that the Air Force, responsible to secure the nation from aerial threats, was forced to direct to the DRDL, BEL and BDL that present configuration of certain systems of Akash Missile will not be acceptable for future squadrons, which are under the process of procurement. The Air Force, BDL, BEL and DRDL are yet to respond to a questionnaire sent by Firstpost on 24 November.
Details expose criminal act by government defence enterprises
If there is an emergent situation, several Akash sqaudron may not be able to launch counter offensive because deficiencies in many of the system including hydraulic oil leakage and container pressure leakage, which is pending since 2017. The complaints received from Air Force headquarters, Eastern Air Command and other Akash field units reveals there is no back-to-back agreement with vendors for equipment under warranty, making it difficult to repair the faults. Documents reviewed by Firstpost showed that almost all squadrons have expressed that they are unable to get proper feedback from BEL on repairing the faults in Missile System and on problems plaguing Akash Missiles which Indian agencies are ill-equipped to resolve. Surprisingly the field engineers, who are supposed to rectify the critical snags, are not even aware of any action plan.
Documents further said: “Currently majority of the Akash field engineers are working to pass information about issues without any tangible technical output. The untrained and poorly equipped field engineers are neither aware of any corrective action plan nor they are committed.”
The documents also pointed to massive delay in supply of spares for Missile System, virtually grounding them for for six months to a year. Air Force in a meeting had informed that most of the problems reported in 2017 were pending for over a year now. The documents also pointed at the repairing of Akash trailers which are covered under annual maintenance contract. It said: “Akash Trailers serviceability is poor and some cases spares supplied to Akash Missile units are not configured as per system requirement which is affecting equipment serviceability in case of failure.”
Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) the manufacturer of Akash Missile has not been able to resolve three important issues for the last two to three years. BDL, founded in 1970, is a government enterprise under the administrative control of the Ministry of Defence. It is learnt that BDL was told in high level meeting convened last year to come out with solid plan after conducting an investigation and study of faults in Akash Missile System within a month on long delays of critical faults. Even the investigation to unearth and address the issues was delayed.
Source:- First Post