Manohar Parrikar clears decks for new artillery guns

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New Delhi | November 23, 2014 1:15 AM

The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) on Saturday cleared the decks for the Indian army’s proposal...

No artillery guns have been bought since Bofors in the ‘80sNo artillery guns have been bought since Bofors in the ‘80s

The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) on Saturday cleared the decks for the Indian army’s proposal for 814 155mm/52 calibre mounted guns systems (MGS), at a cost of R15,750 crore ($2.55 billion)

Indian companies, including Tata Power SED with its 155mm Tata-truck mounted gun system (which they had first unveiled in 2012), L&T-Ashok Leyland-Nexter with its 155mm CEASAR gun mounted on an Indian-built Super Stallion 6×6 chassis, and Bharat Forge are expected to bid for the tender, which would be floated soon.

Briefing mediapersons at the end of the DAC, which was headed by new defence minister Manohar Parrikar, an MoD official said, “Some of the mounted guns will be imported, but most will be made in India under `Buy and Make’ in a collaborative effort between foreign companies and domestic manufacturers.”

Hinting that the defence procurement policy will be tweaked, the new defence minister stressed on fast-tracking procurements and more transparency. He also announced that the DAC would meet more frequently, at least once in a month, to expedite acquisition proposals and with tighter agendas.

“We have indigenously developed a prototype of the 155mm gun that has passed several operational tests at our level and is ready to be offered to the Indian army after getting necessary certification from the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO),” Baba N Kalyani, chairman of the Kalyani Group, told FE.

The Indian army has been wanting to replace the ageing Bofors guns procured in the 1980s, but has failed to buy a single Howitzer in the past 13 years because an international tender for 155mm/52-calibre guns earlier was aborted over the blacklisting of overseas competitors on charges of corruption involving firms including Rheinmetall of Germany, Singapore Technologies Kinetics, Soltam and Denel of South Africa. This has pushed the government to look at indigenous development of these guns.

The sheer size of the order has pushed these companies into launching their indigenous research and development, even without the knowledge whether their technology would be approved for induction by the user.

“The Kalyani Group has invested about R100 crore on building artillery guns, armoured vehicles and unmanned ground vehicles. Bharat Forge has separately formed a venture with a unit of Elbit Systems to bid for the Indian Army’s contracts, including for towed guns, mounted guns and the upgrade of 130mm artillery guns,” Kalyani added.

Earlier this year, MV Kotwal, president (heavy engineering), L&T, had told FE, “We have already fielded two major systems—one-tracked gun and one-towed gun system.” With Samsung Techwin, L&T has also developed a desert gun that will be offered to the army, as well to other countries. L&T has tested its guns in private ranges, but is yet to get the nod for user trials.

In 2012, Tata Power SED, the defence arm of the $100-billion Tata Group, began working on its ‘mounted gun project’. The prototype gun was rolled out of the company’s facility in Bangalore’s Electronic City area in that year. These guns will spearhead the group’s bid for the army’s requirement for 814 mounted gun systems. But even this technology is yet to pass muster of the user before the technology is validated for use by the defence forces.

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