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Indian Army issues global tender to procure howitzers

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The M777 155mm light-weight towed howitzer has been offered to India by the US.

NEW DELHI (PTI): After four failed attempts in the last 25 years, Indian Army has issued a fresh global tender for 400 towed artillery howitzers, the first to be acquired after the controversial Bofors deal.

The ghost of Bofors controversy had been haunting the artillery modernisation process with all previous efforts to procure the guns being cancelled and the Army has not been able to induct even a single new piece of howitzer since the mid 1980s.

The latest request for proposal (RFP) was issued in the third week of January, army sources said, adding the deal would include procurement of over 400 guns from foreign vendors and production of over 1,000 guns indigenously in partnership with the chosen manufacturer.

The tender has been re-issued as the last one was cancelled after one of the two contenders, Singapore Technologies, was blacklisted by the Defence Ministry after it was named in a CBI charge sheet in the Ordnance Factory scam.

After the blacklisting, BAE Systems was the only company left in the fray and the tender was scrapped as the Indian defence procurement rules don't allow acquisition in single vendor cases.

However, it is not yet clear as which firms other than BAE Systems have received the RFP this time.

To augment its artillery prowess, the Army is likely to procure the ultra-light howitzers this year from the United States through the foreign military sales route.

India is already in an advanced stage of negotiations with the US for procuring over 145 ultra-light howitzers for their deployment in mountainous regions.

As part of its over Rs 20,000-crore artillery modernisation plan, the Army is looking at inducting several types of howitzers through inter-governmental pacts and global tenders.

The Army Chief had also recently said that the trials for different types of guns were expected to begin this year in summer so that their induction could take place by the end of next year.

The Army presently uses a mix of 105 mm field guns and 130 mm and 155 mm howitzers.

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