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By Bulbul Singh

24 Jan 14. India’s 155mm/45 howitzer gun upgraded by state owned Ordnance
Factories Board (OFB) is back on track as private sector Bharat Forge has helped in restoring the barrel of the gun which burst in trials last year. The gun is now ready for winter trials, and subsequent induction, claimed officials of OFB.

Indian Army officials said in private that they are still not sure about the success of the upgraded gun as the 45 calibre barrel has been mated with the chassis of the Bofors which was meant for the 39 calibre gun. OFB officials claimed that the Howitzer chassis meant for 39 calibre gun will be able to take the stress of the 45 calibre. An internal enquiry set up to find the causes of the barrel burst in trials last year has found that the cause was faulty ammunition supplied by OFB.

The 155mm guns Howitzers bought during the 1980’s are to be upgraded by OFB to 45 calibre based on the documents including drawings by erstwhile Bofors of Sweden. The upgrade of the Howitzer gun programme has since been restored after the private sector Bharat Forge helped OFB in the metallurgy of the barrel. The Indian Army has ordered 114upgraded 155mm/45 calibre guns from OFB.

OFB began upgrading the Howitzer 155mm/39 calibre guns to 155mm/454 calibre guns three years ago, based on the drawings supplied by Bofors in 1980’s as part of the transfer technology arrangement for which payments were made.

BAE Systems which has acquired erstwhile Bofors had offered OFB help in the upgrde of the Howitzer guns but the British company’s offer was not accepted. Instead private sector Bharat Forge was approached to help in the upgrde.

The Indian Army urgently needs variety of Howitzer guns, and so far it has not bought a single Howitzer since 1980’s when the guns were purchased from Bofors. The open competition had to be stalled mid-way, on several occasions, because of blacklisting of overseas companies on charges of alleged corruption. Denel of South Africa got blacklisted in 2005 and Rheinmetall of Switzerland, IMI of Israel, Singapore
Technologies in March 2009. The Indian Army has a demand for variety of 155mm calibre guns worth over $6 billion as it plans to replace all the artillery guns to 155mm calibre.

To tap the big Howitzer gun market, domestic private sector companies have also forged tie-ups with overseas companies to make a gun here with indigenous content. India’s domestic private sector major Larsen & Toubro (L&T) has forged a tie up with South Korea’s Samsung.

Domestic private sector Tata Power Strategic Electronics Division(SED) has also developed a 155mm/52 calibre Mounted Gun with a firing range of 40 kilometres. While the company would not officially commit its foreign partners, sources said help has been sought from Denel of South Africa.

Meanwhile for the first time an Indian private company is in direct competition with a foreign vendor in the supply 100 self-propelled howitzers. India‘s L&T and Russian Rosobornexport are in a straight contest for self-propelled tracked howitzer guns.

An Indian Army official showing displeasure at the pace of acquisition of the 155mm guns said the Pakistan Army is swiftly replacing its 400 numbers of 130mm guns to 155mm/45 calibre guns with the help of the Chinese.

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