Tuesday, November 1, 2011

India Cancels Wheeled Howitzer Purchase

NEW DELHI - The Indian Defence Ministry has canceled the tender to purchase 180 wheeled 155mm/52-caliber howitzers, another in a series of setbacks for the long-delayed Army program.
The Indian Army has failed to induct a single 155mm howitzer since 1987.
Defence Ministry sources said the purchase of the wheeled guns is being canceled following complaints to Defence Minister A.K. Antony about technical snags that came to light when a gun from one of the competitors, Konstrukta of Slovakia, burst during trials last year.
Currently Rheinmetall of Germany and Konstrukta are in the race for the $1 billion wheeled gun competition after Samsung of South Korea was eliminated from the procurement process in 2009.
After the howitzer burst during the trials last year, a Defence Ministry committee concluded the guns offered by Rheinmetall and Konstrukta are prototypes that are not in use even in their home countries.
In 2008, the tender for the wheeled guns was sent to the U.K.'s BAE Systems; Slovakia's Konstrukta; France's Nexter; IMI and Soltam of Israel; Samsung of South Korea; United Defense of the U.S.; Rheinmetall of Germany; and Rosoboronexport of Russia.
Only Rheinmetall, Konstrukta and Samsung were shortlisted after the technical evaluations.
The Indian Army requires that the wheeled 155mm/52-caliber guns be able to travel up to 40 kilometers and fire 150 rounds of ammunition in six to eight hours.
The gun should be able to operate day and night and receive data from the command post in digital and audio form.
The howitzer procurement is already delayed by more than 10 years, mainly due to India's blacklisting first of Denel of South Africa and then Singapore Technologies in 2008 because of alleged corruption.
The Army plans to buy 145 ultralight howitzers, 158 towed and wheeled, 100 tracked and 180 wheeled and armored guns in the first phase of its program to upgrade its artillery divisions.
Towed Guns
In May, BAE Systems opted out of the towed howitzer competition because the Indian Army changed requirements in the reissued tender of early 2011.
The Army's 2008 attempt to acquire the towed guns failed when BAE, which had fielded the FH-77B-5 gun, became the sole vendor after the other shortlisted competitor, Singapore Technologies, was blacklisted following allegations of corruption by India's Central Bureau of Investigation. The Army could not make an award if only one bidder qualified.
Light Howitzer
The purchase of light howitzers from BAE's U.S. subsidiary also was delayed when Singapore Technologies went to court and challenged the decision, claiming its gun was superior.
The Indian court has not issued a decision, although the Army strongly favors the immediate purchase of the 147 BAE light howitzers, Army officials said.

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