India’s Military Cannot Fight Wars Lasting Longer than 20 Days
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

India’s Military Cannot Fight Wars Lasting Longer than 20 Days


Last week, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India published a report outlining a massive ammunition shortage facing the Indian military. Currently, India has only enough supplies for 20 days of intense fighting.

“Stocking of ammunition even at ‘minimum acceptable risk level’ was not ensured,” the report said, according to the Hindustan Times. The report found that, as of March 2013, India’s stockpiles were below “minimum acceptable risk level” for “125 out of a total of 170 types of ammunition.”

The across-the-board requirement for the Indian Army is to have enough reserves for at least 40 days of high-intensity combat. However, the auditors found that the supplies for around 50 percent of ammunition types would barely last for even ten days of war.

Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.

This report will not come as a surprise to military analysts. The Indian Army has been confronted by a critical ammunition shortage for at least 16 years. For example, during the 70-day long Kargil War in 1999, India had to purchase much needed artillery shells from Israel at exorbitant prices.

Already last year, the Times of India revealed that the Indian military could not last for much longer than 20 days of intense fighting and reported critical shortages, including in tank and air defense ammunition, anti-tank guided missiles, specialized machine-gun magazines, grenades, and mine fuses.

The article also noted that “urgent steps” were being taken by the government to address this problem and to accelerate the slow buildup of the war wastage reserves (WWR), which should reach 100 percent by 2019.

“The WWR, incidentally, should be sufficient for 30 days of ‘intense’ and 30 days of ‘normal’ fighting. With three days of ‘normal’ equal to one of ‘intense’, the WWR should consequently be adequate for 40 days of ‘intense’ fighting,” the Times of India states.

However, drawn-out arms procurement processes and the underperformance of state-owned ammunition suppliers has led to no obvious improvements in the situation, as evident by the newly released CAG report. One of the consequences is that India still has to rely heavily on arms imports.

For example, India’s Defense and Research Organization (DRDO) failed to produce ammunition for its fleet of T-90 tanks (see: “Breakdown: What’s Happening with India’s Tank Force”). “The ammunition produced in India was not compatible with the fire-control system of the tanks, thus these have to be modified,” according to a military analyst.

Consequently, the Indian military decided to purchase around 66,000 anti-tank shells from Russia in early 2014. However, Moscow suddenly hiked up the price for the purchase by 20 percent. New Delhi had no choice and the Indian Ministry of Defense had to reluctantly agree to the price increase.

Sign up for our weekly newsletter
The Diplomat Brief