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By Bulbul Singh

08 Sep 11. While Singapore Technologies has gone to Court in India to stall inking of the contract to buy light howitzer guns from BAE Systems, the Indian Army has sent a strong letter not to cancel the tender and instead go ahead with acquisition of the guns urgently. Singapore Technologies has challenged Indian defence ministry’s decision to buy the light 155mm Howitzer guns from BAE of U.S. on government-to-government basis saying they were in the running for the competition and that their gun was superior to the BAE Systems’
M777 ULH.

While no formal award has been given by the Indian Court, the
Indian defence ministry is on the back foot and does not want to take chances by overstepping the matter as it is in Court.

However, the Indian Army has taken a very strong view that the Indian defence ministry should not knuckle under and has made a strong case for the immediate purchase of 147 BAE M77 ULHs.

An Indian Army official said, “They fear the Indian Defence Ministry may cancel the proposed purchase from BAE and may enter the market fresh with an increased order.

The purchase of the guns has been controversial, like other types of 155mm guns. In response to a 2008 international tender, BAE Systems and Singapore Technologies were left in the fray and the stage was set for trials after the technical evaluation cleared both guns. Just before the trials, Singapore Technologies was blacklisted by India’s Central Bureau of Investigation on charges of alleged corruption, which has yet to be proved.

The Indian Defence Ministry immediately cancelled the trials in mid -2009 and thereafter the tender itself. Singapore Technologies had flown in their gun by chartered flight hours before they were told that the trials had been cancelled.

The controversy surrounding the gun became more dramatic when
the Trial Report of the two guns by the Indian Army was leaked to the press in early 2011 and the Indian Defence Ministry had to set up an internal enquiry to find the reasons behind the leak. The trial report of the guns brought out lapses in the BAE’s gun during the Trial.

The Indian defence ministry is now under pressure from the Indian Army to buy the guns immediately to be deployed on the Chinese border. However, the defence ministry is also extra cautious on the matter, fearing the purchases could blow over into another purchase scam.

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