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The Army said the major contract for procurement of 1,86,138 bullet-proof jackets (BPJs) has been signed with domestic private company SMPP Pvt. Ltd after successful conduct of stringent field evaluation trials.
“The contracted BPJs have contemporary and state-of-the-art specifications with added protection level and coverage area. These ergonomically designed BPJs have modular parts, thereby providing immense protection and flexibility to soldiers operating in different operational situations ranging from long-distance patrolling to high-risk room intervention scenarios,” said an officer.
“The new BPJs will provide 360 degree protection to soldiers in combat, including from latest hard steel core bullets,” he added. As per the contract, SMPP will start the supply of the BPJs within the next few months and complete the entire order within a period of three years.
“The new jackets meet the most advanced GSQRs 1438 (technical parameters) standards of the Indian Army. These BPJs have `Boron Carbide Ceramic’, which is the lightest material for ballistic protection,” said SMPP chairman S C Kansal.
The 1.3-lakh strong Army’s overall requirement for 3,53,765 new BPJs has been hanging fire for almost a decade now, while its soldiers make do with old bulky ones that provide poor protection and are near the end of their operational life.
Several parliamentary committees have taken an extremely dim view of this “critical shortage” of BPJs, slamming the government for “playing with the lives” of soldiers.
As was first reported by TOI, the earlier proposed contract for new 1.86 lakh modular BPJs was scrapped in October 2015 because the samples offered by six vendors “failed” to clear the field trials.
The Army, in March 2016, had then gone in for the Rs 140 crore “emergency” procurement of 50,000 BPJs with older technical parameters from Tata Advanced Materials Limited.
This time, the contract for BPJs with advanced technical parameters has been inked. The Army wanted the new light-weight jackets to adequately protect the head, neck, chest, groin and sides of the foot-soldiers as well as allow them to move with greater agility during counter-insurgency operations in “unfriendly terrains”.