NEW DELHI: The Ministry of Defence has cleared the purchase of 145 ultra-light howitzer battlefield guns for $750 million from BAE Systems, US. The first such deal of field guns after Bofors scandal was finalised by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) meeting chaired by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Saturday. According to sources, the deal for the world’s first 155mm Howitzer weighing less than 4,218 kg was pending for over a decade.
The 155mm 39 caliber towed gun used by the US Marine Corps and US Army will be purchased through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route. Highly mobile on land, at sea and in the air, the M777 has increased survivability through unsurpassed tactical and strategic mobility and low thermal and radar signature.
India had sent a letter of request to the US government showing interest in buying the guns. The US responded with a Letter of Acceptance and DAC on Saturday looked into the terms and conditions and approved it.
This letter will now be sent back to the US and the process for the payment of first instalment will begin. The offsets, under which BAE Systems, manufacturer of the gun, will invest about $200 million, will be pursued independently.
“Twenty-five guns will be delivered directly from the US in fly away condition while the rest 120 guns will be assembled at a proposed facility which BAE is launching in partnership with Mahindra,” officials said.
BAE Systems in February had selected Mahindra Defence Systems Ltd as its business partner for assembly, integration and test facility for the Howitzer field guns..
Officials said the DAC on Saturday took up 18 proposals including new schemes worth Rs 28,000 crore for discussion. A Navy proposal to build six next generation missile vessels under ‘Buy Indian’ category for Rs 13,600 crore was also given ‘Acceptance of Necessity’ which will now allow Navy to issue tenders.
The DAC also noted the “satisfactory progress” in manufacture of indigenous Dhanush guns, also known as Desi Bofors.
“While three guns would be delivered for user exploitation by June 30, three more will be handed over by September end.
The DAC also cleared bulk production of 18 guns to enable better exploitation and setting up of indigenous production,” the officer said.
The gun, a towed howitzer with a strike range of 38-km, has been developed by Ordnance Factory Board, Kolkata, after going through the design and voluminous documents which were delivered to India under the first phase of Transfer of Technology as part of the Bofors gun deal in late 80s. Costing about Rs 14 crore a piece, Dhanush is comparable to most current generation weapons systems. (with PTI inputs)