The BAE Bofors 155mm gun is back in the competition for a record fourth time for a multi-billion dollar heavy artillery gun order from the Indian Army.
BAE Systems, the owner of Bofors, has said that that it has “submitted to the Indian ministry of defence’s latest RFI (request for information) for towed 155mm howitzers, following previous tenders which were cancelled because of the inability of other potential suppliers to meet the tender conditions.”
Along with its Indian partner, Mahindra and Mahindra, the company has offered a version of the FH77 B05 155mm howitzer. It says “a significant proportion will be manufactured in India to meet the specific needs of the Indian Army.”
In the last trial, which was cancelled by A.K. Antony’s defence ministry in July, the Bofors gun and ST Kinetics’s iFH 2000 were the only guns in the competition.
Army sources said the trial was cancelled because STK’s gun was not calibrated to fire Indian ammunition. But STK sources say they were not given the time sought to re-calibrate their weapon for the summer trial in the Rajasthan desert.
The tender was cancelled because STK’s disqualification made BAE Systems the only vendor and the Defence Procurement Policy (DPP) lays down that procurement must be based on competition, defence ministry sources said.
The guns — the Bofors GH 77 B05 and STK’s iFH 2000 — that the companies had brought for the trials are still in India. The cancellation of the tender pushed the Indian army’s field artillery modernisation programme, already behind schedule by 10 years, at least two more years behind.
Andrew Gallagher managing director and chief executive of BAE Systems India said, “BAE Systems is confident that the FH77 B05 is the best heavy towed howitzer in the world today and meets the requirements of the Indian Army”. The Indian Army used the earlier version of the howitzer in the 1999 Kargil war.
The army plans to buy and produce a total of 1,580 guns of the 155mm/52caliber category. For 23 years now, the army has not added a single big gun to its arsenal since the Bofors FH77B02, contracted by the Rajiv Gandhi government, raised a row over kickbacks.