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By Bulbul Singh

13 Feb 08. The Indian Army is to replace all existing field artillery pieces to 155mm calibre, thus guns worth over $8bn will be purchased in the next two decades years. The acquisition program has begun in phases; global bids have been sought for the purchase of a variety of 155mm guns.
Due to the large value, the Indian government is attempting to promote partnerships with local industry. At least 100 guns are to be purchased each year, on average, in the next two decades.

The Indian Defence Ministry issued a request for proposal (RFP) last month to purchase 145 pieces of 155mm/39 calibre guns. The RFP has been sent to Singapore Technologies and BAE Systems.

The Indian defence ministry has also issued an RFP for the purchase of 180 pieces of 155mm/52 calibre wheeled guns, after cancelling the earlier purchase effort which began in 2001.

The RFP has been sent to BAE Systems, Kermetal of Slovak Republic, IMI and Soltam of Israel, United Defense of USA, Samsung of South Korea and ROE of Russia.

The Indian Army intends to induct about three thousand 155 mm guns of various types, over the next 25 years or so. Since the acquisition process is a long drawn procedure, and provisioning of artillery pieces can only be achieved at a rate of about 100 guns a year, owing to budgetary and production capacity constraints the induction process would take up to 30 years said a senior Indian defence ministry official.

As per the plan for acquisition of 155mm guns, the Indian army will procure around 1000 pieces 155mm/52cal Towed Guns; another 1000 pieces of 155mm/52cal. truck-mounted Guns. In addition there would be an upgrade of 400 pieces of FH77B 155mm/39cal. to 155mm/45cal. guns; upgrade of 1000 pieces of 130mm guns to 155mm/45cal. and purchase of 155mm/52cal. tracked SP Guns and 400 pieces of 155mm/52cal. wheeled SP Guns.

The Indian defence ministry, meanwhile, is pushing a policy of private-public partnership in the defence sector and foreign vendors are allowed to invest up to 26 per cent in FDI in the defence sector. As such Indian defence sector majors such as Tata Power, Larsen & Toubro, Mahindra and Mahindra and Ashok Leyland are already on the look out for setting up partnerships with overseas majors to upgrade and even manufacture the 155mm guns in India, said the Indian defence ministry official.

A senior executive of the Ordnance Factories Board which manages the 39 Indian state-owned defence factories said it is possible to develop a new 155/52mm Towed Gun in India, by using an existing basic gun from a known source, and then integrating modern electronic devices for fire control, navigation and pointing. With the help of a suitably composed Team, this task could be completed in 18 to 24 months. Such a gun could cost around 30 per cent less, the executive added.

Besides production of guns here, upgrade of existing guns is another area where the Indian defence companies along with the state owned factories are focusing.
It is estimated that the existing 1200 pieces of 130mm guns from Russia which are ageing will continue to be in service for another 20 years, thus the program offers a big ticket potential for both domestic and overseas companies.

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