INDIA BUILDING OWN 155MM GUN TO TAP THE BIG TICKET DOMESTIC MARKET
By Bulbul Singh
07 Oct 10. The Indian Army, which has not received a single 155mm howitzer since 1985, (due to repeated delays in the procurement of a variety of guns worth over $3 billion) has been offered an indigenous Mobile 155mm, 52 calibre wheeled howitzer by state-owned defence company, Bangalore-based Bharat Earth Movers Ltd. (BEML), which company officials said has been under development behind closed doors, adding that the gun is currently undergoing trials.
BEML is obviously eyeing the Indian Army’s $1.3 billion 155mm Mobile Gun project, which sources in the Indian Army say could be re-bid as the ongoing procurement process underway could be halted any time as Germany’s Rheinmetall with its RWG-52 faces blacklisting by the Indian defence ministry. India’s Central Bureau of Investigation has already involved Rheinmetall for allegedly involved in defence kickbacks. The second competitor is Kerametal of Slovakia. The Indian Army’s procurement process for inducting 155mm guns has been adversely affected mainly due to blacklisting of some participating companies such as Singapore Technologies, Rheinmetall and Denel of South Africa.
BEML developed the gun in association with an unnamed Slovakian company. BEML officials said the gun is armed with a 155mm barrel, weighs 48 tonnes, is mobile and can reach a maximum speed of 85 kilometres per hour.
BEML is also developing other varieties of 155mm guns which the Indian Army urgently needs as its own programme to purchase 155mm guns has been delayed by ten years.
The Indian Army is to purchase 180 pieces of 155mm/52 calibre wheeled artillery guns from the overseas at an estimated cost of around $1.6 billion, 400 guns will be purchased off-the-shelf while the remaining 1180 guns will be license-produced in India.
Global bids were sent in 2008 to BAE Systems, Keremetal of Slovakia, Nexter; IMI and Soltam of Israel, Samsung of South Korea, Rheinmetall and Rosoboronexport.
Meanwhile, the Indian defence ministry, has not taken a decision whether to allow India’s DRDO to fund the design and development of its proposed 155mm gun.
DRDO told the Indian defence ministry earlier this year that it had begun work in designing & developing 155m guns at its laboratory, Armament Research & Development Establishment (ARDE)at Pune. DRDO is partnering with private sector defence companies including Larsen & Toubro, Mahindra Defence Systems, Bharat Forge Ltd and Tata Motors.
DRDO scientists said ARDE could develop a world-class 155-mm gun within three to three and a half years. The Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory, in Hyderabad, would develop special alloys and materials for the gun. Ammunition would be tested at the Proof and Experimental Establishment at Balasore, Orissa. Warheads would be tested at the Terminal Ballistics Research Laboratory (TBRL)at Chandigarh.