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By Bulbul Singh

18 Jan 06. The Indian government has decided to begin acquisition of 155 mm/52 calibre guns this year under a Field Artillery Rationalisation
Plan which will see the replacement of most of the field guns of
various caliber with only the 155mm/52 calibre guns. Indian defense ministry is issuing a $800 million Request for Proposal (RFP) for the purchase of 180 pieces of 155mm/52 wheeled guns within the next one month and officials in the Indian defense ministry said, even the trials of the guns will be completed this
year so that the guns contract are cleared for induction in the
Indian Army by early 2007. Sources say another RFP will also be issued this year itself for the purchase of 100 pieces of 155 mm/ 52 calibre towed guns.
After the purchase of around 400 guns on ready to use condition the Indian government will also negotiate for the license production of the 155 mm guns in India itself.

In the next 15 years over 3000 155 mm guns will be acquired for the Indian Army replacing all other field guns with different caliber costing billions of dollars, said an Indian defense ministry official.

The purchase of large number of 155 mm guns is part of the Indian Army’s new plan which seeks to upgrade the artillery’s firepower to neutralize strategic targets in what Army planners predict will only be a limited engagement with Pakistan in the near future in view of the nuclear capability of the two hostile countries, said a senior Indian Army official. As part of this policy, the Indian Army has raised a separate artillery division which has the Prithvi-1, and Agni-2 ballistic missiles and will also man the 155mm guns and also missiles. The Indian defense ministry is sending RFP’s of all major 155 mm gun producers of the world, minus Denel of South Africa which was black listed last year by the Indian government following alleged involvement in kick back deals.

RFPs will be send to Soltam of Israel, Sweden SWS Defense and
Slovak’s Kerametal.

SWS Defense, (formerly Bofors) which is one of the front runners
in the race for the wheeled guns has already been caught up in a political controversy involving the Bofors gun purchase in 1987 when India’s political opposition alleged that there were kick backs in the purchase of the FH 77B 155 mm/39 calibre Bofors guns, of which India had bought 410 pieces.

Sources however say, senior Indian Army officials are in favor of buying the 52 calibre guns from SWS Defense but the Bofors controversial deal is politically explosive still and could hit the Bofors gun despite it being a favorite with the Indian Army officials. Sources added that the FH-77 BO5 L52 artillery systems has already been tested in the Pokhran desert along with TIG-2002 of Soltam of Israel, and the, G-5/2000 guns from Denel of South Africa in
2002 trials and the evaluation by the Artillery Centre and School at Deolali in Maharashtra had placed the Bofors gun on the top. The purchase of 180 guns is being put to re-bidding as Denel of South Africa has been blacklisted in the short listed three companies: Soltam, Denel and Bofors.

The 155mm gun purchase has emerged as one of the top priorities of the Indian Army in the coming years to increase its fire power inside Pakistan say officials and as such the contracts of the 155 mm guns will be completed in the cumbersome bureaucratic ridden Indian defense ministry in record time. Officials add that the purchase of large number of guns will set of huge potential for outsourcing and a number of private sector auto companies, including Ashok Leyland, Mahindra and Mahindra, and Tata Motors
are already in talks with overseas companies to set up units to tap the emerging potential from the 155 mm guns.

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