The Indian army’s artillery buy remains snarled in a maze as British defense and security company has opted not to bid on a program for 1,580 towed guns.
“While we are certain that the FH-77B05 is the most capable 52-caliber towed gun available, and it was specifically designed for and demonstrated to meet the Indian army’s requirements as stated in a previous request for proposals (RFP), BAE Systems has, after very careful consideration, come to the conclusion that the company will not submit a proposal,” Guy Douglas, head of communications for BAE Systems India, tells Aviation Week. “We have informed the Indian Ministry of Defense in this regard.”
In January, India issued a tender to purchase 155-mm towed artillery guns, trials for which have been repeatedly held over the last several years, only to have the effort put on hold. The purchase plan is part of the Indian army’s artillery modernization program worth over 200 billion rupees ($445 million). Besides BAE Systems, the tender documents were sent to gun makers in France, the U.S., Israel and the Czech Republic.
BAE Systems makes the FH-77B05 155-mm 52-caliber towed gun among other products that it could have offered to India. But, “this conclusion [to opt out] was reached following a detailed assessment of the new RFP,” Douglas says.
“The new RFP includes technical and performance relaxations that allow less-capable weapon systems to enter the competition,” Douglas says. “This significantly reduces the competitive advantage FH-77B05 derives from its greater capability. The FH-77B05 was optimized for the more taxing requirements of the previous RFPs. Therefore, the decision not to bid is a commercial one based on the high investment costs required to participate in a complex artillery competition of this nature, where the win probability has been reduced.”
BAE Systems and its artillery partner in India, Defense Land Systems India, a joint venture between BAE Systems and Mahindra & Mahindra, are acutely aware of India’s requirement to upgrade its artillery capabilities and therefore remain willing to fully assist India’s defense ministry and army to achieve this aim, he adds.
The Indian army’s artillery modernization program has been mired in kickbacks and controversies since the Bofors gun deal in the mid 1980s. Hence there has been a long delay in acquisition of different types of 155-mm/52-caliber guns.
India’s planned acquisition includes 1,580 towed guns, 814 mounted gun systems, 180 self-propelled wheeled guns and 100 tracked guns. Of the 1,580 towed guns, 400 are to be purchased off-the-shelf and the remaining 1,180 units are to be license-produced indigenously by the Ordnance Factory Board.
India had earlier cancelled a tender issued in March 2008 and issued a fresh request for information after BAE competitor Singapore Technologies Kinetics sought more time to prepare its gun, the iFH-2000, for trials in India.