Logistics: Abuse It And Lose It

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November 4,2008: A recent Indian government investigation revealed that the military was losing billions of dollars due to poor maintenance and tracking of equipment and spare parts. Supplies are not managed efficiently, with some units going without, while others have a surplus. This can be solved by implementing modern supply chain management techniques. That will cost money. You need computers and software to do it, and both are available off-the-shelf. But installing the hardware and software, as well as training everyone in the new methods, will take years. The Indian bureaucracy, particularly the military bureaucracy, is infamous for its sloth and ineptitude. The new system could create another supply scandal.

But a more serious problem discovered was the poor storage conditions. This is particularly troublesome for the increasing number of electronic items, and ammunition. Heat and moisture must be controlled for ammunition storage, otherwise the stuff will degrade, and go bad, more quickly. Same thing with electronics, but worse.

A classic example of all this is in the problems with a guided artillery shell India bought a decade ago. Two years ago, questions were raised about why there were continued with the Russian made, Krasnopol laser guided 155mm artillery shells. India has been having problems with these shells since it first got some to use in 1999, during the border war with Pakistan in the Kargil region of Kashmir. Only about 28 percent of the shells fired, performed as advertised. The shells either missed the target, or failed to explode.

Despite this, India agreed to buy 8,000 Krasnopol shells, for $40,000 each, in early 2002. India thought some of the problems were with the laser designators, and bought designators some from Israel, to replace the Russian ones. The problems persisted.

Krasnopol was originally designed, in the 1990s, for use in the Russian 152mm howitzer. The Indian shells were modified to work with Indian 155mm guns. The Russian manufacturer said it had fixed the problem, but additional tests recently revealed that there was still a high percentage of shells that did not hit the target, or, if they did, did not explode.

It turns out that poor storage conditions were most responsible for the continued poor performance of the Krasnopol shells. There have long been complaints about poor storage of high-tech equipment, and the Indian military will have to change their "corporate culture" regarding how these expensive items are stored. The alternative is to continue suffering from low reliability and availability.

 

 


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