Monday, 23 August 2010

DRDO chief, arguing for developing a 155mm gun in India: ‘An Indian gun will bypass difficult trials’

An FH-77B-05 Bofors gun in action. India's MoD restarted the procurement of 155mm towed guns in July after rival maker, STK, faced blacklisting. That would have left BAE Systems as the only vendor in contention.


by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 23rd Aug 10

With the Indian Army’s procurement of 155 millimetre towed artillery guns stymied again by CBI strictures against 5 international artillery vendors, the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) has pointed out that developing an Indian gun would bypass the problematic selection of a gun from the global arms bazaar.

Business Standard has reported (29th July 10, “155 mm gun purchase: DRDO enters the fray”) that the DRDO is joining hands with a private sector company to develop and manufacture an Indian gun. Now, DRDO Director General, Dr VK Saraswat, has explained the rationale for this DRDO decision. He says that, amongst the foreign guns on offer, there is no clear winner. And, given the cutthroat nature of competition for this Rs 8000 crore contract for 1580 guns, a drumbeat of corruption allegations will keep derailing any decision.

Dr Saraswat told Business Standard, “The differences [between competing guns] are miniscule and people would like to exploit those miniscule differences… and [the MoD’s] life becomes more difficult. The [acquisition] process is today back to zero. This is not the first time it has come to zero; this has happened before…. So it is better to develop your own system.

The purchase of artillery guns, the Indian Army’s most crucial component of combat power, was stalled for 16 years by the Bofors scandal of 1987. Restarted in 2003, the procurement process has remained dogged by scandal. Over the years, the CBI has asked the MoD to blacklist five of the vendors whose guns India was evaluating for purchase: Singapore Technologies Kinetics (STK); German giant, Rheinmetall; Israel Military Industries (IMI); another Israeli gun-maker, Soltam; and South African major, Denel. BAE Systems, a front-runner in this race, is offering the FH-77B-05 howitzer, a modernised version of the controversial Bofors gun.

“The armed forces felt that this gun system can always be acquired abroad, so why should the DRDO spend time and effort (on developing the gun)?” says Dr Saraswat. “We too thought it better to focus our efforts on [technologies that could be denied to us]. But now, Indian industry and DRDO, along with the army, should make a concentrated effort to cut this Gordian knot.”

Business Standard has learned that the DRDO laboratory that will spearhead the development of an Indian 155 mm gun --- the Armament Research & Development Establishment (ARDE), Pune --- is finalizing its development partners for this project.

This will not be the first time that an Indian consortium will have come together to develop an artillery gun. In the 1950s the so-called Gun Development Team was constituted by the MoD. Functioning from the Ordnance Factory at Khamaria, the Gun Development team oversaw the “Indianisation” of two of the Indian Army’s most successful artillery guns: the 75/24 howitzer; and the 105 mm Indian Field Gun (IFG). Inexplicably, this successful experiment was wound up around the time that the Bofors FH-77B gun was imported.

Since those early days, says the DRDO chief, the Indian private sector has dramatically honed its manufacturing skills. Earlier, only the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) had the technological capability and the facilities to manufacture guns. Today, the DRDO is turning to private sector companies like the Tata Group, L&T and Bharat Forge, while retaining its traditional option, the OFB.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

So instead of an international competition now there will be a domestic one for DRDO to select a development partner. Very bright.

MPatel said...

These guys should be given the opportunity to show that they can deliver what they promise. Its not as if the competition is getting anywhere or that IA has any choices. What i would not like to see is that in 10 years time DODO and private sector blaming each other for the failure. That would be too much and they need to be told now that, that would be unacceptable.

Anonymous said...

Tata, L&T and bharat forge can deliver the system without dollars going off shore

Mr. Ra said...

OFB, DRDO, Tata Group, L&T and Bharat Forge appear to be a realistic, formidable and reliable conglomerate for effective design and manufacturing of the latest 155 mm Gun with international quality. Even if they earn higher profits, they can be expected to be cheaper than the foreign vendors with price escalation variants.

Anonymous said...

Hope that the DRDO chief means what he says this time. The problem that plagues Indian defence establishment abd idustry technically has been metallary. We had design of aircraft carrier ready early 1990 but it could take off from drawing board only after more then 15 years as we didnt have the steel to manufacture the carrier. Similarly, our tanks are overweight as we lack technology to impart strength in ligher metal. Even for the fifth generation figher being devloped will have little airframe work done in India. The strain of throwing a 50 kg shell to 40 kms puts enermous strain on the gun which needs excellent metallergical skills. Also, the assumption that all guns by forign vendors have miscule diffrences is wrong. The isreali guns tested in India devloped cracks in its barrel and was rejected. We may have similar issues with our made in India gun as we had the same problems with T72 barrels that were made in India earlier. Range of the guns would also be diffrent and cannot be not taken into account. In Kargil, our guns (Bofors)outgunned Pakis (and saved the day)who had US made howitzer. We need to take all these into account and not wait for DRDO to make a gun in anothe decade or more.

Ashmann said...

Another Arjun story in the making.

Simranjit Singh said...

Ajai Sir, You said :

"Armament Research & Development Establishment (ARDE), Pune --- is finalizing its development partners for this project."

Does it mean that ARDE has received the necessary go ahead from the Army/MoD ??
Or
Are they doing it on their own ??

Thanks

Anonymous said...

So the reason why they want to develop a gun in house is because the politicians cannot make a decision between some 5 equally competent guns in the international market.

If there is a dumber reason than this, I haven't heard it.

Anonymous said...

as long as domestically developed gun performs equally well as international guns why not? but, what worries me is when they want to fire ammunition they stand hundreds of meters away ,but expect our soldiers (not even graduates )to stand and fire close by. But, DRDO has excellent places, nice intentions, plush budget. So are our politicians.

PRANAV UNDALKAR said...

GOOD!DRDO SHOULD DEVELOP 155 MM HOWITZER FOR INDIAN ARMY.MONEY WILL GO TO INDIAN COMPANIES.IT WILL SAVE BILLIONS OF DOLLARS.THUS ULTIMATELY WE WILL BE ABLE TO HAVE VERY GOOD ARTILLERY AT LESS PRICE AND INDIAN ARMY WILL NOT FACE PROBLEMS LIKE DENIAL FOR TOT,IRREGULAR SUPPLY OF VITAL PARTS.IT WILL MAKE US AT LEAST PARTIAL SELF RELIANT.

Anonymous said...

I am really amused to see Singapore in that race!, very interesting provided the country even does not have a regular army and any experience of warfare or combat situation using that gun. It proves if you have will power then you can really make things!

Anonymous said...

Nothing is impossible...