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By Bulbul Singh

21 Apr 10. The Indian Army kick started the long-delayed acquisition of self-propelled 155mm 52 Calibre guns, a project worth over $4bn, with the arrival in India April 19 of the gun from Singapore Technologies for trials against the competitor BAE Systems of United Kingdom.

The purchase of 52 calibre guns has been hit by various scandals, including the Bofors scandal in the 1980’s, the blacklisting of Denel of South Africa in 2005 and the blacklisting of Singapore Technologies in June 2009, on alleged kick-back charges. Singapore Technologies has now been allowed to bring in the gun for trials, though the final award of the contract, in the event that their gun is selected, will depend on the outcome of the investigations by the Central Bureau of

Singapore Technologies is fielding its Field Howitzer-2000 (IFH-2000) gun in competition with British company BAE Systems’ FH-77B-05, a derivative of the Bofors gun.

The acquisition of the 155 mm, 52-calibre towed guns first began in summer 2002, when trials began for three guns from BAE Systems, Israeli firm, Soltam and Denel. However, after Denel was blacklisted in 2005 on alleged kick-back charges, still under investigation, the
project was finally called off and fresh bids were floated
in 2008. However, the project got a set back again with the blacklisting of Singapore Technologies in June 2009.

With the Indian government agreeing to allow Singapore Technologies to at least fielding its guns for trials, the process of acquisition of artillery guns has finally begun. Not a single new artillery gun, after all, has been inducted ever since the infamous $312m Bofors contract for 410 field howitzers became a political bogey in 1986.

It is estimated that the Indian Army will procure around 1300 155mm/52 caliber guns of different varieties including towed, wheeled and tracked self-propelled howitzers worth over $4bn. The Army wants to equip all 230 artillery regiments with 155mm guns by 2025. Presently, the army operates around 14 different caliber guns

Singapore Technologies was also in the running for the 155mm 39 calibre Ultra-light guns. However the Indian government did
not allow Singapore Technologies to go ahead in this procurement process, and scrapped the procurement process. The Indian Army has since decided to award the purchase of 155 39 Calibre Ultra Light guns to the U.S. subsidary of BAE Systems from whom the guns will now be purchased on government-to-government basis.

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