2 decades after Bofors, India all set for artillery purchases
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Last Updated: Friday, March 19, 2010, 21:23
New Delhi: Remaining without a single purchase of artillery guns since Bofors scandal broke out two decades ago, India has lined up series of procurements of such weapons to bridge the growing gap in the operational preparedness of its Army.

Among the guns it plans to buy soon include towed, wheeled self-propelled, tracked self-propelled and ultra light howitzers.

Defence Ministry sources said these acquisitions are at various stages of procurement and these guns would strengthen the artillery arm of the 1.13 million strong Army.

While it has scheduled trials for two such weapons in the coming months, the Defence Ministry has ramped up its bid to procure 145 ultra light howitzers for deploying in mountainous terrains from the US.

The Obama Administration has notified the US Congress of its intention to sell the howitzers through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route.

The FMS sales to India comes at a time when the country is planning to schedule a trial of Singapore's ST Kinetics 'Pegasus' gun in the next couple of months.

Though the trials, on a 'no cost-no commitment' basis, was to happen last year, it got shelved after the Defence Ministry blacklisted ST Kinetics along with six other companies after the CBI named them in the corruption case against former Ordnance Board chief Sudipto Ghosh.

But the Defence Ministry changing its policy to allow the trial, but not to award the contract before the CBI case was complete, provided an opportunity to the Army to complete testing the gun and await the outcome of the corruption case against Ghosh.

The Defence Ministry had issued a global tender to 10 firms for the 155mm/39 calibre ultra light guns, but only ST Kinetics had responded with an offer.

Simultaneously, the US too came forward with a proposal to supply BAE's M777A2 guns to India and the process of procurement is in its final stages.

Sources said apart from the ultra light howitzers, the trails for the wheeled self-propelled guns would commence next month in which Slovakian firm Konstrukta and German company Rhienmetall would compete for the supply of 180 guns to India. India had issued a global tender for the 155mm/52 calibre wheeled self-propelled guns and only the Slovakian and German firms were shortlisted out of the five which received the tenders.

Another trial for the 155mm/52calibre towed guns in which ST Kinetics and United Kingdom's BAE Systems would compete is to take place in a couple of months, after the Singapore firm sought time to bring its guns for the test following damage to the one it was bringing to India during loading.

Under the global tender issued for the towed guns, India had projected that it would buy 400 of them off-the-self from the selected firm and another 780 would be manufactured in India through technology transfer to one of the Ordnance Factories.


First Published: Friday, March 19, 2010, 21:23

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