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Indian Army's howitzer procurement plans run into rough weather

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

NEW DELHI (PTI): Indian Army's plans to procure ultra-light howitzers for deployment along Sino-Indian border have run into rough weather and is expected to further delay its artillery modernisation programmme.

After the 1987 Bofors gun deal controversy, army has not been able to induct even a single piece of artillery.

Defence Ministry sources today said the process of procuring the M-777 guns from US-based BAE system has run into trouble. "Right now there is no progress in their procurement process," they said.

The procurement of these guns hit the roadblock soon after their trials in Pokhran ranges in Rajasthan earlier this year after the leakage of the field trial reports, the sources said.

As per Army's artillery modernisation programme, the procurement of 145 artillery guns was expected to begin by the end of this year.

After certain objections from rival companies, the file regarding these guns were sent to the Law Ministry for its opinion, they said, adding that these guns are to be procured from the US under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) routes.

Meanwhile, the procurement process for 155-mm, 52-caliber self-propelled wheeled howitzer guns has entered its final stages of technical evaluations with the completion of its field trials.

Rhinemetall from Germany and Konstrukta from Slovakia are in the race to supply 180 of these guns to the army.

The sources said the Defence Ministry has formed a committee to look into "certain issues" related to the howitzers offered by the two companies.

They said that by the end of this fiscal, one of these contracts for upgradation of artillery would be completed with the procurement process beginning soon after that.

In January 2008, the Ministry had issued global tenders for procuring artillery guns and howitzers for the mountains and plains, and self-propelled guns for deserts.


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