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India to buy 145 howitzers from US firm for Rs 5,000-crore

nationpaper Updated: Jun 26, 2016 09:23 IST
Hindustantimes

NEW DELHI: The ministry of defence on Saturday cleared India’s biggest artillery gun purchase since the Bofors deal three decades ago. It will import 145 ultra-light howitzer artillery guns from BAE Systems at an approximate cost of $750 million (Rs 5,100 crore) for the newly-raised Mountain Strike Corps.

The decision was taken at the meeting of the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), which met after a gap of three months and discussed 19 proposals, among them new schemes worth 28,000 crore, a top source in the DAC said.

The proposals cleared by the DAC are a balancing act between fast-tracking delayed procurement of defence equipment and the government’s flagship programme ‘Make In India’ that aims at giving a fillip to indigenous production.

The first batch of 25 guns will be delivered by the US-based BAE Systems in ready-to-use condition within six months of signing a contract. The remaining 125 will come in a knock-down condition for which a facility for “assembly, integration and testing has been set up in India,” a ministry official said.

At the same time, the Dhanush, an indigenous replacement for the 155 mm Bofors artillery gun, will go into production soon after three guns are handed over for testing sometime next week. “Three guns will be handed over by June 30 for user exploitation and three more by the end of September,” a senior ministry official said. He added the government has given bulk production clearance (BPC) for producing 18 more Dhanush guns. The Ordnance Factories Board will decide on where these will be produced, based on trials. “The DAC noted that the Dhanush had made satisfactory progress,” he said.

Former Army chief Gen VP Malik (retd) said the decision to procure ultra-light guns and start producing the Dhanush will “fill a major deficiency” in the artillery arsenal. “These are important steps. They have taken a long time. Let’s hope there are no further delays,” he told HT from Panchkula.

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