Military cautioned against spending spree in Bangladesh

Military cautioned against spending spree in Bangladesh

The Bangladesh Armed Forces have been asked by the Prime Minister to tighten budgetary spending to limit financial losses from the COVID-19 pandemic fallout on the economy.

The military was advised to limit spending to only essential or emergency purchases.

She did not specify which projects would be impacted as a result of the latest drawback incurred from the pandemic.

Defence analysts believe major purchases such as the Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MRCA) could be stalled as a result of the latest advice from the Prime Minister’s Office.

The Bangladesh Air Force was planning to purchase a squadron of Eurofighter Typhoon or Dassault Rafale multi-role capable combat aircraft from European manufacturers to shore up its offensive air warfare capabilities. However the air force will have to fall back on the J-10CE to maintain a marginal air defence capability until the economy recovers to the point where it is deemed feasible to purchase the grander Western made fighter aircraft.

Moreover the Bangladesh Air Force is likely to exercise a $1 billion credit from China to purchase the first squadron of J-10CE fighter aircraft to replace its F-7MB interceptor fighters.

China may also supply LY-80E medium-range air defence systems to the air force to strengthen area level air defences of Bangladesh.

The purchase of Boeing AH-64E Guardian Apache attack helicopters may also be delayed but this is expected as Bangladesh is assessing the strategic impacts of signing military agreements with the United States.

The Bangladesh Navy had also hoped to purchase some Western-made ASW helicopters however it is believed those will also be shelved due to the present economic situation.

Additional submarines are to be purchased from China and smaller warship designs and material packages will be purchased from Turkey. The naval force will also adopt a new generation Turkish-made anti-ship cruise missile for the upcoming littoral warfare craft including LPC-M II’s and guided missile frigates.

The Bangladesh Army on the other hand recently advertised a requirement for medium range air defence systems. Those will be procured alongside light tanks, various types of anti-aircraft guns, missiles and artillery systems without much impact.

Long range surface to surface missiles will be delayed however. Procurements of sensors such as air surveillance radar, special surveillance optics, electronic warfare equipment and secure communications systems will continue as per normal.

The cost savings exercise will in fact push the military towards self-sufficiency in the production of various types of arms and equipment. This is likely ensure the Bangladesh Ordnance Factories (BOF) is expanded to tailor to increased demand for locally produced armaments and munitions.

The Bangladesh Air Force is set to produce its own primary trainers and intermediate jet aircraft with partnership of a friendly country from 2021.

The Bangladesh Navy owned shipyards will continue their programs to build guided missile frigates, corvettes and various models of patrol vessels.

The Navy is also planning to build its own missiles and munitions indigenously besides performing MRO on those existing systems including all Chinese origin guns, missiles and ASW weapons.

It is now evident that Forces Goal 2030 will be extended to 2040 for completion as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even when the economy recovers there will be a back log in mega projects forcing the government to spend less of defence apart from the most immediate requirements.

This may sway Bangladesh closer to the arms of China because it is one of the few major arms suppliers ready to offer credits on purchase of military hardware.

The Bangladesh government is also looking at new avenues by considering defence credit packages from France and the United Kingdom to purchase Western origin military hardware.

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