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BY Bulbul Singh

07 Sep 12. Failing to select a suitable vendor, the Indian Army has once again entered the global market to buy 180 Wheeled Howitzer guns. However, only a Request for Information (RFI) has been floated so far, and the formal tender has not been floated.

While the Indian Army now wants the guns to be bought on off-the-shelf to meet the shortage of Howitzer guns the Indian defence ministry is still undecided to agree to the Indian Army’s request as they want technology transfer for the guns.

An executive of an overseas company said, no technology transfer would be forthcoming for an order of only 180 wheeled guns, and the tender will again slip.

The Indian defence ministry late last year cancelled the 155mm Wheeled Gun tender in which Konstrukta of Slovakia and Rheinmetall were in the competition.

The competitors again are likely to be Konštrukta with its Zuzana gun, Nexter of France, BAE with its Bofors FH77 BW L52 Archer. Rheinmetall will not be allowed to compete as it has been blacklisted by the Indian defence ministry in March this year.

Last year the Wheeled Gun tender was cancelled following complaints made to the Defence Minister A K Antony pertaining to technical snags in the guns which came to light after the bursting of the gun of one of the competitors, Konstrukta of Slovakia during the trials in 2010. The $1bn tender was floated in 2008 and only Konstrukta and Rheinmetall were left in the fray after Samsung of Korea was ejected in 2009 during the course of the procurement process.

The Wheeled gun tender was floated In 2008 and sent to BAE Systems U.K., Konstrukta of Slovakia, Giat Industries of France, IMI and Soltam of Israel, Samsung of South Korea, BAE Systems of U.S.A., Rheinmetall of Germany and Rosoboronexport of Russia.

Out of these bidders only Rheinmetall of Germany, Konstrukta of Slovakia and Samsung of South Korea were shortlisted after the technical evaluations. Thereafter Samsung was ejected in 2009 leaving only Rheinmetall of Germany and Konstrukta of Slovakia in the competition.

The Indian Army requires Wheeled 155mm/52 calibre guns which should be able to fire and move across the country up to 40 kilometers and be able to fire 150 rounds of ammunition in 6 to 8 hours. The other requirements desire that the Self Propelled (SP) gun should be able to operate in day and night conditions, and capable to receive gun data from command post in digital as well as audio form.

The gun should be provided with operator controlled, power assisted loading devices to feed the ammunition for loading. As a back up arrangement it should be possible to load the gun manually and have Nuclear Biological and Chemical Protection.

The procurement of the Howitzer guns are already delayed by over 10 years mainly due to blacklisting, first of Denel of South Africa, and then the blacklisting of Singapore Technologies in 2008 during the procurement process on alleged charges of corruption. Self Propelled (SP) guns are required to provide continuous fire support to mechanized formations, which normally operate cross-country in plains and deserts.

An Indian defence ministry official said the procurement has been delayed partly by the Indian Army’s inability to define properly the requirements of the specific gun systems, which he said change mid-course in the procurement process,

An Indian Army official said, the delay is on account of the Indian defence ministry, which he said is bogged down by bureaucratic delays leading to time lags and thus the change of requirements, during the course.

A report of the Comptroller General of India, an autonomous audit agency of the government had charged in its report last year “The abnormal delay in procurement of the state-of-the-art technology gun replacing the existing guns of obsolete technology of 1970, had not only impacted the operational preparedness of the Army but also resulted i

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