The government is in the final stages of awarding a Rs 670-crore contract to Punj Lloyd for upgrading the army’s ageing Zu-23-2B anti-aircraft guns, capable of engaging both aerial and ground targets.
The firm has partnered with Slovakian defence company EVPU to convert the mechanical Soviet-era gun, developed in the late 1950s, into an automatic system. The plan is to upgrade 468 guns.
Ashok Wadhawan, who heads manufacturing for Punj Lloyd, told HT that the deal was on the verge of being inked and the guns would be upgraded over a period of four years. The contract covers maintenance of the guns for 15 years.
Punj Lloyd emerged as the lowest bidder for the contract last year, beating off competition from state-run Bharat Electronics Ltd.
Larsen and Toubro (L&T), Tata Power SED and Alpha Design Technology also competed for the order, but were knocked out of competition in the early stage.
“The contract is not a big one, but it will help us build capabilities at our Malanpur plant in Madhya Pradesh,” Wadhawan said.
The existing guns will be upgraded with an electro-optical fire control system for detecting, tracking and engaging targets with precision. The modified guns would have all-weather day/night capability.
The firm is also competing for a Rs 1,500-crore contract to upgrade the army’s vintage 130mm M-46 artillery guns to 155mm standard – 155 mm denotes the diameter of the shell.
“The up-gunning will increase the gun’s range and its ability to deliver heavier explosives to cause greater destruction. The upgrade should have happened by now. We are running behind schedule,” said former army chief General Deepak Kapoor, an artillery officer.
Punj Lloyd has partnered with Serbian firm Yugo Import for the programme. Its competitors include Ordnance Factory Board and Bharat Forge.
The 130 mm gun has a range of 27 km. The upgrade will increase the gun’s range by 34%, enhance its terminal effectiveness by 260% and enlarge the lethal area by 330%. The army has completed summer trials and is gearing up to test the systems on offer in winter.
Wadhawan said Punj Lloyd was also preparing to take part in a tender to provide a replacement for L-70/Zu-23-2B guns, a Make in India project worth nearly Rs 17,000 crore.
Strategic affairs expert Brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal (retd) said the army’s air defence capabilities needed to be scaled up swiftly and the L-70/Zu-23-2B replacement programme was a crucial one.