India’s Defense Acquisition Council met for the first time under the new Defense Minister, Manohar Parrikar, on Saturday and cleared a proposal to procure 814 artillery guns worth $2.5 billion.
The Ministry of Defense is expected to issue a Request for Proposal to both public as well as private companies.
Sources told The Times of India that “at least six tenders have been issued so far but were cancelled due to a number of reasons including blacklisting and single vendor scenario.”
The Indian private companies that are likely to make a bid for this project include L&T, TATA and Bharat Forge. While foreign companies will likely include the recently de-blacklisted Denel, Rosoboronexport and BAE System which won a contract to supply 145 M777 ultra-light howitzers worth $493 million in 2010. However that deal has since been put on the back burner.
“The case for procurement of ultra-light howitzer guns through the US government has not progressed due to cost issues and because the vendor has not been able to come up with a proposal fully compliant to the offset requirements,” the then-defence minister Arun Jaitley told Parliament in July.
Denel was banned in 2002 after allegations surfaced that it paid kickbacks to secure a contract with the Indian Army to sell 1,000 NTW-20 anti-material rifles along with 398,000 rounds of ammunition. Those charges were recently proven false and the company was removed from the blacklist thus allowing it to compete in future programs.
India plans to procure 155mm/52 caliber towed gun systems (TGS) for which trials are currently underway.
Competitors for this contract include France’s Nexter, with its Trajan gun and Israel’s Elbit fielding the ATHOS 2052 howitzer.
India is simultaneously working on developing 400 towed howitzers and building an additional 1,180 guns through a technology transfer to the state-run Ordnance Factory Board (OFB).
Meanwhile, South Korean Samsung-Techwin’s K-9 Thunder and an upgraded version of Russia’s MSTA-S SP gun modified to 155mm/52cal standards and mounted on a T72 main battle tank chassis are vying to fulfill the Army’s initial requirement for 100 self-propelled tracked (SPT) howitzers.
The Indian Army has been petitioning the government for over a decade for rapid procurement of artillery guns. However, all procurement proposals have been delayed for reasons ranging from bribery allegations to cost overruns.
And The Ultra-Light Howitzers are expected to be stationed in the Northern sector and North-east in the areas bordering China and is expected to dramatically boost the firepower of the Indian Army.
India has not bought artillery guns since the Bofors deal in 1986.