The Indian defense ministry has finalized a major contract with domestic private firm SMPP Limited for the procurement of over one 180,000 bulletproof jackets worth approximately $99 million.
The 1.3 million-strong army had been facing a severe shortage of bulletproof jackets since 2009. The heavy casualty among soldiers during counter-insurgency operations and those deployed along the border was mostly attributed to the absence of the basic gear. The latest casualty was recorded in December last year, when four armed personnel, including an Army Major, were martyred during an attack by the Border Action Team of Pakistan Army.
“The new bulletproof jackets will provide 360-degree protection to the soldiers in combat, including from latest hard steel core bullets. The provisioning of this operationally urgent and very critical equipment concerning personal ballistic protection, will boost the confidence of the soldier and provide moral ascendancy to security forces,” Indian defense ministry said in a statement.
The new bulletproof jackets are being manufactured by an Indian company named SMPP private limited which bagged the contract after beating two prominent gear manufacturers. The previous purchase attempt made by the Indian defense ministry in 2009 could not be concluded as samples submitted by different firms had failed trails conducted at the Terminal Ballistics Research Laboratory, Chandigarh. The procurement process was called off citing lack of technology and manufacturing expertise within the country.
The new jacket weighs approximately 10 kilograms- almost half the weight of presently available jackets with the army — and offer Level 3+ protection for the user.
“The bulletproof jackets have Boron Carbide Ceramic that is the lightest material for ballistic protection. This makes SMPP bullet-proof jackets the best of the class ballistic protection jacket and will be able to provide ballistic protection at the lowest possible weight,” S C Kansal, SMPP chairman, and managing director said in a statement.
The company claims that SMPP is one of only five companies in the world that make the ceramics — one of the lightest and hardest materials used for stopping bullets.
The delivery of the jackets will commence in the next few months and the order will be completed within the next three years. The Indian Army needs a total of 353465 bulletproof jackets, according to official statistics.