Indian Army New Request Of Proposal For Artillery Guns

The Indian Army has begun the process for acquiring heavy guns yet again, floating tenders for both the Towed and Tracked systems within January 2011.

The tender for the Towed gun was issued on January 28 while for the Tracked version, it was issued mid-January.

Sources said that several vendors, from France, US, Britain, Israel and Czechoslovakia and other countries, were invited but no details of the tender specifications were available as they are generally secret anyway in accordance with General Staff Qualitative Requirements (GSQRs).

India had earlier cancelled its Request for Proposal (RfP) for 1,580 towed guns (155mm, 52 calibre), as well as for tracked Guns over allegations of corruption involving one company or another. That set back the Army’s artillery modernisation programme by three to five years over and above the ten-year long delay in the process.

But the good news is that the summer and winter field trials of the ultralight gun, BAE Systems M 777 A1, have been completed successfully at the Pokhran range and now some negotiations are to be conducting for acquiring 145 of them from the US Government under its Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme. The 155mm/45 caliber gun, which can be slung-carried by heavy lift helicopters like the Boeing Chinook, or ferried by heavy trucks, is to be deployed in the mountains.

The process to acquire this type of gun was initiated in 2006.

US Congressional clearance, a mandatory requirement, has already been given and the gun could be in the Indian Army’s inventory within a couple of years after the contract is signed. Made partly of titanium, the gun is about40 per cent lighter than the earlier versions in operation, and is being used extensively in Afghanistan by the US Army.

It has digital controls, can be move quickly after firing, and can deliver munitions up to 40 km. There would be limitations of terrain in the mountains however.

It may be recalled that the artillery had played a decisive role in demolishing Pakistani positions that they had intruded into in Kargil in the 1999 war. But somehow, thanks to the allegations of corruption over the acquisition of 400 Bofors FH 77B (155mm/39 caliber) guns from Sweden in the mid-1980s, the Indian Army has not been able to renew its inventory. The Bofors guns though played havoc with the Pakistanis.

Pakistan however has has acquired M-109 A5 155mm howitzers meanwhile from the United States.

The Indian Army needs to phase out all its medium and field guns, although there is a proposal to upgun the Soviet vintage 130 mm guns into 155 mm guns by replacing the barrel. Israel’s Soltam had assisted in this process with the barrles but only some of the guns have been upgunned, and their results are reported to be very good.

While there is no plan to make the ultralight gun in India, both the other proposals involve part purchase and part Transfer of Technology to make them in India. BAE Systems for this has tied up with the Mahindras, and the Czech with the state-run BEML.

The emphasis on the acquisition now is to go in for ToT, and then make the guns indigenously rather than under licence, the latter option inevitably coming with some restrictions.

It may be pointed out that the French have offered to give all the technology if India buys the Ceasar, described by French officials as “the best and most modern gun” now successfully being used in Afghanistan. They say that this gun can meet both the tracked and towed requirements.

Notably, all the guns with the Indian Army’s Artillery Regiment are obsolete, and it goes to its credit that despite this limitations, it keeps them in ready to fire position. Old Bofors, the (not so light) Light Field Gun, and the Soviet M 46 medium guns are in this obsolete list.

There is progress though on the rocket artillery with the indigenous Pinaka and Russian Smerch Multi Barrel Rocket Launchers (MBRLs) having been inducted.

One hopes this time, the RfP is replied to, the trials are held as required, the deal is done in time, and the guns are delivered ASAP. Artillery plays a potent, battle-winning role and its modernization cannot be delayed any further.
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