INDIAN ARMY’S WHEELED GUN TRIALS NEXT MONTH – KEREMETAL STAYS IN RACE
By Bulbul Singh
23 Dec 10. The procurement process of Indian Army’s $1.3 billion 155mm/52 calibre Wheeled Self-Propelled guns which was stalled since mid-2010, on account of problems with the ammunition in the summer trials,has got underway again.
“The Indian Army will conduct mobility trials of 155mm Wheeled Self-Propelled guns in Sikkim next month,” said sources in the Indian Army. Thereafter firing trials will be carried at Pokhran near the Pakistan border in May 2011. Only Rheinmetall of Germany and Keremetal of Slovakia were short-listed for trials after Technical Evaluation under which the Indian Army proposes to buy 180 155mm/52 calibre wheeled guns.
In June 2010, trials scheduled for the wheeled guns were affected following damage of barrels of Keremetal’s gun which the Slovakian maker blamed on the ammunition procured from India’s state-owned Ordnance Factories Board. The next phase of the trials are now moving ahead after the enquiry committee has submitted its report, based on the next round of trials to be held.
“Keremetal stays in the race.” said a source in the Indian Army but gave no details on the finding of the enquiry committee.
Earlier in 2007, the Indian government had cancelled the global bid for Wheeled Guns saying that none of the guns were meeting the qualitative requirements.
In 2008 RFIs were sent to BAE Systems in UK and USA, Keremetal of Slovakia, Nexter of France, IMI and Soltam of Israel, Samsung of South Korea, Rheinmetall of Germany and Rosoboronexport of Russia.
The Indian Army’s Technical Requirements of the 15mm/52 caliber wheeled guns requires that the minimum range at high angle of the gun should be at least five kilometres and be able to fire the complete family of in-service 15mm ammunition including standard NATO ammunition. In addition, the gun should be able to perform in a period of 72 to 96 hours under battlefield conditions, involving movement of up to 100 kilometres over cross–country terrain and is able to fire and move cross-country up to 40 kilometres and fire 150 rounds in 6 to 8hours.
The Self-Propelled (SP)gun should be able to operate in 24/7 conditions, and be able to receive gun data from the 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. The gun should have NBC protection and sensors to automatically activate the system.
Currently, only the 155mm Wheeled Guns have gone to the trial stage while the procurement process of Towed and Tracked guns had to be discontinued on account of the blacklisting of some competing companies. The Indian Army has wanted to procure 155mm guns since 1999 but the procurement process has been jinxed. The Indian Army plans to equip its artillery with 155mm guns costing over $6 billion under a long-term plan drawn up after the Kargil battle in 1999. However, the Indian Army has not bought any 155mm gun since it last bought 155mm Howitzer guns in the mid-80’s.