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Race To Modernisation: Air Force, Navy Beats Army

February 19, 2024 10:24 IST

The Army has now fallen behind the other two services for four years in a row.

IMAGE: A glimpse from Kartavya Path on Republic Day. Photograph: Press Informaton Bureau

The world's most recognisable firearm was first developed based on a German assault rifle of similar design.

The Kalashnikov made Russian soldiers more effective and reduced production costs.

The Indian Army's modernisation effort may be going slower than the Indian Navy's or the Indian Air Force's.

The capital outlay for the Army grew at a compound annual growth rate of 4 per cent in the last five years.

That is less than half the growth rate of the total capital outlay on defence services overall (chart 1).

The revised estimate for FY24 showed a lower absolute spend on the Army (Rs 33,411.2 crore/Rs 334.11 billion).

It was Rs 51,052.2 crore (Rs 510.52 billion) for the Navy and Rs 58,111.6 crore (Rs 581.11 billion) for the Air Force.

To be sure, a large defence purchase can skew the numbers for any given year.

The Army has now fallen behind the other two services for four years in a row. Budget estimates for 2024-2025 were unavailable.

It is not that the Army does not get priority in allocation, but spends a large part of it in recurring expenses such as salary.

Such revenue expenditure was worth nearly six times the capital outlay in FY24. The expenditure is lower for the Navy and Air Force (chart 2).

Pension expenses cost the Army Rs 1.2 trillion in FY24. The Air Force and Navy spent Rs 0.2 trillion (chart 3).

Parliament's Standing Committee on Defence, in its review of the working of the Defence Research and Development Organisation, quoted an official who said that while India spends around five per cent of its defence budget on research and development. Some other countries spend 10 to 15 per cent.

A re-ordering of priorities may help the Army and defence services.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/

Samreen Wani
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