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Govt okays huge gun deal, India to purchase 145 Howitzers

Catch Team | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:49 IST

The Ministry of Defence on Saturday cleared the way for the purchase of the biggest cache of Howitzer guns since the Bofors scandal broke out in the 1980s.

The ministry approved the purchase of 145 Ultra Light Howitzers, worth over Rs 5,040 crore.

The decision was taken on Saturday, 25 June, when Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar chaired a meeting of the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), the top authority to clear big-ticket purchases for the Indian armed forces.

The DAC is supposed to meet once every month, but hadn't met over the last two months. But on Saturday, it discussed proposals worth Rs 28,000 crore.

Big guns arriving soon

The Howitzers, also known as M777 guns, will now be procured through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route from the US, where they are manufactured by BAE Systems' Global Combat Systems division.

The DAC has reportedly shortened the supply period of the guns, which were first used in Afghanistan in 2005, and are said to have a range of 25 kilometres.

The deal for 145 Ultra Light Howitzers is worth over Rs 5,040 crore

According to an official, India had initiated the process to acquire the guns by sending an official request to the US a few months ago. India will now approach the US to initiate the process for the payment of the first installment for these guns.

According to the terms agreed to by both parties, 25 of the M777s will come to India in a flyaway condition, and the rest will be assembled at the proposed Assembly Integration and Test facility for the weapon system in India, in partnership with Mahindra.

The Indian Army reportedly intends to use these guns in high altitude areas in Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh, bordering China.

BAE systems, in return, as per the offset policy set by MoD, will reportedly invest around $200 million in the country.

Three M777s will arrive in India by the end of this month, while three more are likely to be handed over by September end.

Desi Bofors

The committee has also approved the bulk production of 18 locally-made Dhanush artillery guns, also known as 'Desi Bofors'.

These guns have been developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) for the Indian Army. The DAC reportedly noted a "satisfactory progress" in the manufacture of the Dhanush guns.

This order is likely to be a shot in the arm for the local defence industry, which has been seeing a lot of activity of late.

Dhanush guns have a strike range of 38-km. The guns have been developed by the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), Kolkata, after adopting the technology used in the manufacture of Bofors guns. The technology was passed on to India under the Transfer of Technology agreement, as part of the Bofors deal three decades ago.

Boost for navy too

The DAC also provided a big boost for the Indian Navy. It approved the proposal of 'Acceptance of Necessity' (AON), which will now allow the navy to issue tenders. The navy will now be able to build six next generation missile vessels under the 'Buy Indian' category for Rs 13,600 crore.

Edited by Shreyas Sharma

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First published: 25 June 2016, 10:23 IST