A fresh RFI (Request for Information) for the Indian army’s 155 mm/52 caliber towed artillery guns was issued two months back for a record fourth time after the current ongoing process was scrapped, signaling yet again the process going back into the never ending loop of proposals, trails, accusations and cancellations.
There seems no end in sight to the Indian army’s artillery modernization. The ghost of Bofor’s and corruption continue to haunt the force and the result: the army has not inducted any new piece of artillery in the last two decades since the infamous bofor’s scandal. The 400 Bofor’s guns bought in the 80’s are the latest in the inventory and some of them have been cannibalized for spares to maintain the others. We just don’t seem to get over the ghost of Bofor’s and the lackluster attitude of the government in general and the defense ministry in particular is further pushing back things when we urgently need to augment the most potent force multiplier and area dominating arm of the land forces.
The government is in the process of rising to new mountain divisions to be deployed in the northeast border but the question is – where are the guns to equip them? In the event of a conflict in the north east or in Kashmir, armored divisions will be greatly limited due to the mountainous terrain and it’s the artillery that will play a crucial role in enabling the forward thrust by the infantry which we have seen happen during the Kargil conflict. And with future conflicts being short and swift this assumes even greater importance.
The requirement of the towed guns is about 1580 units, 400 purchased off the shelf and remaining to be license produced in India. The just cancelled process was approved in 2007 and after all the delays two short listed guns were supposed to commence field trials last month for which the guns are in the Phokran test range when it was stalled. The reason is with one of the contender’s ST kinetics (gun iFH 2000), Singapore being blacklisted, only BAE Systems (fielding the FH77 B05) was left in the fray, resulting in a single vendor situation and resulted in the cancellation of the process. There is also a requirement of other types of guns as well albeit in lesser numbers but even with them the story is no different.
The army is trying to procure 145 light guns (BAE Systems M777 lightweight howitzer) through the direct Foreign Military Sale (FMS) route from the US for which the process is underway. The other requirements of the army are 145 units of 155 mm/39 Caliber Ultra-Light Howitzers,