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Monday, February 23, 2009
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Govt plans major defence spending

Missiles, frigates, tanks, choppers on purchase list

The government yesterday unveiled in parliament plans to strengthen the country's defence system by procuring new military hardware including anti-tank and air-defence missiles, aircraft for maritime patrol, frigates, tanks, and choppers.

Planning Minister Air-Vice Marshal (retd) AK Khandker, who is in charge of the armed forces affairs in parliament, said the purchases will be made in the current and next fiscal years.

He however did not give any idea about the cost. He said the government measures to make the forces well equipped and trained will be in line with the country's financial capabilities.

Answering a question from ruling alliance lawmaker Zafar Iqbal Siddiqui, the planning minister said preparations are complete for signing a deal to buy anti-ship missiles for the navy at an estimated cost of Tk 120 crore this year.

The matter is now awaiting the government's approval. Besides, work is on to set up anti-aircraft missile systems on the most modern frigate at the navy's disposal.

The leading-edge ship was purchased during the AL rule in 1996-2001. On coming to power in 2001, the BNP-led four-party government decommissioned the ship equipped for both peacetime and war on grounds of corruption in the purchase. It also sued Sheikh Hasina and some others for the alleged graft.

The planning minister also said a process is underway to replace three frigates aged over 50 years with new ones.

Different countries are already being approached to that end, he said adding that these are long-term plans to prepare the navy to meet the challenges of 21st century.

“An international tender has already been floated to purchase choppers and aircraft to strengthen maritime patrol and also to turn the navy into a three-dimensional force,” said Khandker, also former air force chief.

For the army, he continued, the government will purchase helicopters, tanks, armoured personnel carriers, anti-tank and -aircraft missiles, sniper rifles, explosives, night vision equipment, modern radio devices, vehicles and other necessary hardware in the current fiscal year.

The government also plans to upgrade training for the army personnel by setting up simulators at 27 training establishments. “Our standard of training has been lauded all over the world,” the planning minister said.

For the air force, he said, the government has plans to purchase modern aircraft and cutting-edge equipment. The plans will be implemented gradually.

Stressing the need for raising air strength, Khandker said the air force gives necessary assistance to the army and navy in rescue and relief operations during emergencies at home and abroad and defend the air space.

The previous AL government purchased eight MiG-29 fighters for the air force. The last BNP government brought charges against Hasina and others for corruption in that purchase as well.

In reply to a query from AL lawmaker Akram Hossain Chowdhury, State Minister for Liberation War Affairs Captain (retd) AB Tajul Islam told the House that 3,713 members of the armed forces laid down their lives during the Liberation War in 1971 according to the list of defence ministry.

Citing government statistics, he said 2,10, 581 freedom fighters joined the war, and of them, 25,505 were from the defence force.

Unstarred questions on defence purchase were not discussed in parliament yesterday.

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