INDIA RUSHES TO PROCURE MORE ANTIQUE 130 MM GUNS AS PROCUREMENT
PROCESS SUFFERS FROM DELAYS
By Bulbul Singh
23 Nov 09. In a sudden change of policy, the Indian Army has decided to buy additional 130 mm guns, which had earlier been slated to be scrapped. Sources said, “The purchase of additional 130 mm guns is due to delays in purchase of 155mm guns, pending since 1999 and the urgent requirement to deploy more artillery along the Indo-Chinese border.”
The Indian Army is considering purchase of unspecified numbers of Soviet-designed 130mm M46 field guns, developed in the 1950s from surplus stocks lying with the former Soviet Republics.
A senior Indian Army official said, “The 130mm guns being available at very cheap prices will be usefully deployed along the higher reaches of the Indo-Chinese border.”
The official however regretted that the Indian Army has to compromise with 130mm guns as the procurement of light 155mm guns is likely to be delayed due to the slow pace of procurement.
The Indian defence ministry has decided to put the procurement process of ultra-light 155mm guns on hold after one of the front runners in the program, Singapore Technologies had been named in an alleged corruption scandal.
Besides, the Indian defence ministry has yet to finalize the
upgrade of 410 Bofors 155mm/39 calibre guns procured in the late 1980’s.
The Bofors 155 mm FH-77B howitzers are used for general support and
counter-bombardment and are being effectively deployed by the Indian Army in the mountain areas in Siachen Glacier battlefield and along the Indo-Chinese border in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.
A total of 410 FH-77s against a projected requirement of over 2,000
were procured in 1986. However, the program got bogged down in alleged kick backs, leading to disrespect of former Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, in whose tenure the guns were bought.
The purchase of 130mm guns is a departure from the decision in 1999 to replace all field guns with 155mm caliber guns over the years. However, not a single gun has been purchased so far despite budgetary provisions being made for their purchase because of the cumbersome defence procurement process.
The towed 130mm M-46 field guns are used for close support, general support and counter battery fire. India procured about 400 Russian M-46s between 1992-95 for around $280m. The Field Artillery now has 720 M-46s in 36 regiments.
The Indian Army also used the 105mm Indian Field Guns deployed in the mountains. The other guns deployed in the mountains include the 75mm Pack Howitzer. However, while the splinter effect of its shells is greater than the 25 pounder gun, its effect on defensive positions remains unsatisfactory.
“The Indian Army urgently needs advanced field guns to be deployed along the Indo-Chinese border,” said the Indian Army official, adding that, “The threat perception from a war with China is increasing by the day.”
So far, the Indian weapons and equipment purchases have been largely Pakistan-focused. This focus will change in the years to come.
India has already cleared a $4 billion artillery modernization
programme which aims to aims to induct artillery guns of different types.
The modernization program includes purchase of 155mm/52-calibre mounted gun, 155mm/52-calibre self-propelled tracked guns and 155mm/52-calibre towed artillery guns, which is to be followed by indigenous manufacture of another 1,180 howitzers.