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By Bulbul Singh

24 Aug 11. Putting aside allegations by earlier users of poor quality supplies of Nigh Vision Devices (NVDs), the Indian defence ministry has awarded a $200 million contract to state-owned Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL)to buy NVDs for the Indian Army.

Earlier this year, the leftist Communist Party of India (CPI)urged the Union Home Ministry to stop purchase of NVDs produced by Bharat
Electronics Ltd.(BEL), for use on light machine guns (LMGs) and INSAS 5.56 mm rifles used by the paramilitary forces.

The CPI alleged that though the life of each unit was supposed to be 10 years, around 400 units of the 1,000 supplied earlier developed defects within two-and-a-half years.

The Indian Night Vision Device market is estimated to be worth over
$2 billion, including the Indian Army and Homeland Security.

Under the current order is for the Indian Army BEL claims that it will make advanced NVDs using the technology for ‘supergen’ image intensifier tubes which it plans to acquire. BEL has supplied NVDs earlier to the Indian army and para-military forces.

BEL started supplying the NVDs to the paramilitary forces in September 2010, up to March 2011, it supplied 5,000 NVDs, of which 2,000 were tested. Ten per cent of the tested pieces were found to be faulty.

“The remaining 3,000 pieces are stored at depots, as the ministry is wary about deploying them in the field,” said sources.

The Indian Paramilitary forces previously complained that the supplies of NVDs were inferior in quality. The NVDs had been supplied by BEL to the Home Ministry were cleared by the Home Minister P. Chidambaram in 2008 under which 32,766 telescopic NVDs for the paramilitary forces were to be procured.

A senior Indian Army official said, “BEL is only acting as a procuring agency for most of the equipment it is supplying to the Indian forces,” adding that, “For NVDs BEL had to procure these devices for the para-military order on technology transfer basis.”

It is still not sure whether BEL has been able to acquire the technology transfer or whether it is simply acting as a procurement agency.

A senor BEL executive said that for the current Indian Army order it would be acquiring technology for next-generation image intensifier tubes.

The executive said, “BEL had procured Passive Night Vision Device (PNVD) technology on a Technology Transfer basis for supplying the armed forces.

These devices included Passive Night Vision technology for sights for 5.56 mm INSAS Rifle, Light Machine gun, rocket launchers and night vision Binoculars.

The Indian Army official added that the Army requires third-generation thermal imaging (TI) sights and night-vision devices to enhance the night-fighting capabilities of both its infantry and mechanized forces.

The Indian Army is currently procuring NVDs for AFVs including tanks and BMPs while troops are being given night vision goggles, handheld image intensifiers, thermal imagers and GPS position locaters. Russian T-72 tanks and Advance Light Helicopters (ALH)are also being upgraded with NVDs.

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