Bangladesh plans major defence purchases

February 23rd, 2009 - 7:47 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Feb 23 (IANS) Bangladesh is planning major purchase of weaponry, equipment and hardware for its armed forces, including anti-tank and anti-ship missile systems, aircraft for maritime patrol, frigates, tanks and helicopters, the parliament was told.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government said it needed to strengthen the country’s defence system, The Daily Star reported Monday.

Preparations are complete for signing a deal to buy anti-ship missiles for the navy at an estimated cost of 1.2 billion takka ($2 million) this year, Planning Minister Air-Vice Marshal (retd) A.K. Khandker, who is in charge of the armed forces affairs in parliament, said Sunday.

He said the purchases will be made in the current and next fiscal years, by June 2010.

He did not indicate the cost involved, but said the defence expenditure would be in line with the country’s financial capabilities.

Khandker, the country’s first air force chief, in reply to a query said work is on to set up anti-aircraft missile systems on the most modern frigate at the navy’s disposal.

The ship was purchased from South Korea during Hasina’s earlier tenure (1996-2001).

On coming to power in 2001, the (Bangladesh Nationalist Party) BNP-led four-party government decommissioned the ship on grounds of corruption in the purchase.

It also sued Sheikh Hasina and some others for the alleged graft.

The frigate was re-commissioned under a new name in 2007 by the military-backed caretaker government that ruled for two years.

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, Khandker said, but did not give details.

“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,” he said.

For the army, 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.

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

The previous Awami League government purchased eight MiG-29 fighters from Russia. The Khaleda Zia government (2001-06) brought charges against Hasina and others for corruption in that purchase as well.

Bangladesh armed forces are equipped mainly with Chinese weapons and hardware.

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