The Indian Army appeared to be closer to procuring new artillery guns – 30 years after Bofors – as the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) approved progress in the deal for M777 Howitzers and also noted the progress in the indigenous Dhanush guns.
The DAC, chaired by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, on Saturday “approved” progress in the ongoing case of procurement of 145 M777 ultra light howitzers from US.
The council also noted “satisfactory progress” in the manufacturing of indigenous Dhanush guns. Three guns will be given to Army by June end, three more in September and all together a clearance was given for “bulk production of 18 guns”.
All together, the council cleared 19 proposals worth Rs 28,000 crore, defence ministry officials said.
“The DAC approved progress of ongoing case of 145 ultralight howitzer on FMS route from US,” an official said.
“DAC directed independent progressing of the offsets. Deliveries of these guns will be in India, resulting in substantial cost savings in transportation,” the official added.
Some of the guns will be assembled in India, the official said.
“There will be certain components that will be coming as full assembled guns and some of it will be assembled here.”
Asked about the process in the procurement, the official said: “Since we are getting it through Foreign Military Sale (FMS) route, we have sent a request letter to US government. They have sent us a draft letter of acceptance.
“When the draft letter of acceptance comes to us we review that the terms we gave and the terms that they have accepted are matching or are they acceptable to us… Once this letter of acceptance is sent back to their government and finally after that whatever is the money is paid.”
Once the deal is sealed, it will be the first artillery gun India buys after Bofors in 1986.
The timeline for procurement of the gun was however not revealed, though the source confirmed there have been discussions on it. The first 25 guns will be supplied in ready to use condition.
“Timing has been discussed but I would not like to dwell on the timing. But timing also include the time needed for assembly, integration and testing in India,” the official added.
On the Dhanush gun, a 155/45mm calibre gun which is a modified version of Bofors, the official said: “DAC also noted progress in manufacture of indigenous Dhanush gun with three guns being delivered for user exploitation by June 30 and three more by end September.”
“DAC approved bulk production clearance of 18 guns for exploitation and setting up of indigenous manufacturing facilities,” the official added.
The deal for buying M777 howitzers has been long pending and in May 2012, the defence ministry had cleared the proposal for buying 145 guns.
The proposal however went into the cold basket. The deal appeared to be off at a time, but in November 2014, the process was restarted under the “Make In India” programme.
The council also reviewed the procurement process of short-range surface-to-air missile system (SRSAM) and VSHORAD air defence gun system for the Army. It was decided to keep the procurement process going in a multi-vendor situation.
The other key proposals cleared include a project for getting six new missile ships for the Indian Navy, to replace the aging ships bought from Russia.
The ships will be procured under “buy Indian” category, and Rs 13,600 crore have been allotted for the purpose.
The ships will replace the aging missile ships of Veer class with Indian Navy, which were bought from Russia in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
The DAC also cleared a proposal worth Rs 386 crore for modernisation and augmentation of facilities at naval dockyards and ship repair yards.
For the Indian Air Force, the DAC cleared a proposal for developing simulators for Jaguar fighters worth Rs 500 crore, and setting up electronic warfare range using indigenous capabilities available with BEL worth Rs 1300 crore.
The DAC is the highest decision making body of the defence ministry.