Friday, December 16, 2011

India: Howitzer Buyback on Track

NEW DELHI - India is going ahead with the purchase of M777 Ultra Light Howitzers from the U.S. subsidiary of BAE Systems, Defence Ministry officials said, refuting media reports here that that the project has run into "rough weather."
One ministry official said the $650 million, 145-gun deal is on track and will proceed quickly.
In a press statement, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said user trials of the gun have been completed, with maintainability testing and an evaluation by the Director General of Quality Assurance still to come.
Antony told the Indian parliament on Dec. 12 that India is looking at buying the guns through the U.S. government's Foreign Military Sales program.
The procurement was stalled after a report on the trials was released, but the program is back on track now, Antony said.
"The field evaluation trial report of the guns was a confidential document. Four pages of draft field trial report were received in an anonymous envelope by the Army headquarters. An enquiry in the matter is underway," the minister said.
Army officials want the howitzers quickly to boost firepower in high-altitude battlegrounds. A 2008 attempt to buy the guns was canceled in late 2009 after bidder Singapore Technologies was alleged to have been involved in kickbacks. In early 2010, Army officials gave the nod to the other bidder, BAE Systems. Singapore Technologies responded early this year with a lawsuit meant to stay the deal with BAE. The lawsuit is still in the hearing stage.

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