The Indian Army is likely to soon issue requests for proposal (RFPs) for a Rs 16,000-crore air defence gun manufacturing programme to around 10 local firms. The 30-mm towed guns that will replace the Army’s obsolete air defence assets dating back to the 1970s were accorded approval in July 2015 by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) headed by defence minister Manohar Parrikar.
These 428 guns will be required to fire 500 rounds of ‘smart ammunition’ and 300 rounds of standard rounds per minute under all climatic conditions, even at night, and engaging aerial targets 4 km away. “The minimum firing rate of these guns needs to be 300 rounds of 30mm ammunition per minute to inflict significant damage to incoming aerial targets,” a military source said. They should also be capable of being transported swiftly to different locations, he added.
The proposed guns will replace the Army’s 1360 obsolete Bofors L 70 40mm single barrel and Soviet-era ZU-23-2 towed 23 mm twin-barrel weapon systems.
In May 2014, the ministry of defence (MoD) had sent a request for information (RFI) to local defence companies to develop replacements for these aged air defence guns.
The RFI to Bharat Forge, the state-owned Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), Larsen & Toubro, Punj Lloyd and Tata Power SED, followed the MoD’s inability in 2013 to import 428 air defence guns and 3.25 million ammunition rounds from overseas vendors for an estimated $440 million.
The RFI required the air defence guns to be indigenously developed under the buy-and-make (Indian) category of the MoD’s Defence Procurement Procedures (DPP). This necessitates technical collaboration between these five domestic manufacturers and overseas original equipment manufacturers.
In keeping with the MoD’s push for self-reliance, at least 50% of the components of the shortlisted air defence gun would need to be locally sourced.
The MoD’s earlier August 2013 tender for air defence guns, ammunition and technology transfer to build them locally that was issued among others to BAE
Systems (UK), Bumar (Poland), Israel Aerospace Industries, Thales (France) and Rosoboronexport (Russia), was withdrawn in January 2014.
This occurred after all vendors declined to respond to the tender as they deemed the MoD’s qualitative requirements (QRs) for the air defence guns to be ‘unreasonable’ and ‘over-ambitious’.
Army chief General Dalbir Singh has declared that modernising the Army Air Defence Corps is a key priority area.
Also, the Indian Air Force is pursuing its Close In Weapon System (CIWS) programme to protect its bases by similarly inducting 244 Air Defence Guns and Radars for R7,200 crore. This programme too was cleared by the DAC in March this year and will include only local companies who in turn can form joint ventures (JVs) with foreign original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).