Faced with the critical problem of obsolete artillery inventory, the Army has set in motion the process for acquiring the self-propelled wheeled guns for the fourth time, after its earlier attempts had to be abandoned in the wake of corruption charges.
The Army, in fact, has plans to procure as many as 180 units of the self-propelled guns for deployment under its five regiments in Punjab and Rajasthan. And the guns which are armoured and mobile would provide further teeth to the Army’s firepower-- giving it the capability to shoot and scoot or for carrying out sustained, intense burst of fire. The total cost of the tender will come to around $1billion.
Meanwhile, the latest Request for Information(RFI) sent by the Army has sought broad specifications from the Original Equipment Manufacturers by September 20.
With Bofors and Rheinmetall blacklisted by the Ministry of Defence (MoD), it remains to be seen which all will firms will respond to the RFI, which, however, does not specify the qualitative requirements of the howitzers. The RFI states that the requirement is for a 155 mm 45/52 calibre gun.
The procurement process for the guns mounted on six or eight-wheeled vehicles was called off in 2011 after the MoD received complaints of deviation in the field trials conducted in 2010. The Army had submitted its trial evaluation report about Rheimetall Wheeled Gun and Slovakia’s ShKH Zuzana-A1 in 2010.
But Defence Minister A K Antony later received a complaint about a technical snag in the Slovakian gun as its barrel allegedly burst during trials. Rhienmetall was later blacklisted by the MoD which effectively threw a spanner in the Army’s artillery modernisation plans.
Slovakian Konštrukta SpGH Zuzana 2, Nexter CAESAR, Rheinmetall RWG-52 and BAE-Bofors FH77 BW L52 Archer are likely to be the prospective respondents to the RFI, which was approved by the Defence Acquisition Council in June 2006.