New Delhi: Nine years after it first made a request for more than 1.86 lakh bulletproof jackets, the government today signed a major 'Make in India' contract which will see the army finally acquire the life-saving kit its soldiers desperately require during operations.
The contract has been won by SMPP Pvt Ltd, a small Delhi-based company which has a Research and Development Centre in the Okhla Industrial Area. The Rs 639 crore order signed today is the biggest order SMPP have ever signed. In a statement, the company, which hopes to complete delivery of all the jackets within three years, has said its body armour meets the most stringent standards of the Indian Army. "These bulletproof jackets have 'Boron Carbide Ceramic' which is the lightest material for ballistic protection," the company said.
The army, which has struggled to acquire body armour for its soldiers because of an oppressively slow procurement system, says the new jackets have modular parts which provide "immense protection and flexibility to soldiers operating in different operational situations ranging from long distance patrolling to high risk room intervention scenarios". The jackets are designed to sustain the impact of even the latest hard steel core bullets in saving the lives of soldiers in operations.
In 2009, the government accepted an army requirement for 1.86 lakh bulletproof jackets but the order fell through after none of the vendors cleared trials conducted by the army. Only one of the four participants cleared the first round where the jackets had to demonstrate their ability to withstand .30 calibre armour-piercing bullets in a series of tests in different conditions.
The manufacturer which cleared the first round failed in the next where the bulletproof jacket was deliberately degraded to replicate typical wear and tear in real life conditions.
With a glaring lack of bulletproof jackets at its disposal, the army signed on for 50,000 bulletproof jackets as part of an interim emergency purchase in March 2016. This was hardly a solution since these jackets were designed to older specifications and did not meet the standards that the army was looking for. Neither did the order of 50,000 jackets make a serious dent towards meeting the army's overall requirement of more than 3.5 lakh bulletproof jackets for its soldiers.
With today's contract out of the way, the top brass of the army will be relieved to know that its soldiers will finally have world class basic equipment. Besides being a significant win for the government's Make in India initiative, the new body armour "will boost the confidence of the soldier and provide moral ascendency to security forces".