FH-77Bs, Kargil War
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India has marked over $4 billion worth of artillery projects to purchase several hundred new 155mm howitzers. They are intended to supplement India’s dwindling artillery stocks, while out-ranging and out-shooting Pakistan’s self-propelled M109 155mm guns. It seemed simple enough, and in the main towed artillery competition, BAE Systems Bofors had been competing against systems from Israel’s Soltam and Denel of South Africa.
Unfortunately, India’s 2 towed howitzer competitions, and its 2 self-propelled artillery procurements, have mostly served as cautionary tales. If the stakes weren’t so high, they’d qualify as farce. The simple process of buying off-the-shelf artillery guns has become a decades-long affair filled with legal drama, accusations of corruption, and multiple re-starts – but not one new gun. Competitions are declared, and canceled, again and again. One is on its 5th iteration. Another is on its 3rd. Meanwhile, India’s stock of operational 155mm FH77 howitzers has dwindled to around 200, and their last successful artillery buy was over 2 decades ago. Is there an end in sight to any of these competitions? Or a potential winner?
Towed Artillery Competition Saga
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US-India Defense and Strategic Affairs reported on the competition in 2004, and noted that this was expected to be one of the first large defense procurement decisions made by India’s new United Progressive Alliance government. The question became whether a decision could be made within that government’s term(s) of office. The answer: no.
The saga is illustrative of the problems India’s defense bureaucracy is creating across all of its artillery competitions, as it attempts to field working products before its existing artillery systems expire.
After multiple firing trials and several years, India’s towed artillery competition managed to end up without any competitors left standing. All 3 competitors (Bofors FH-77 B05, Soltam TIG 2002, Denel G5/2000) failed to meet India’s accuracy specifications in 2003 trials. Which might lead one to question the specifications, but all 3 improved their guns to compete again in 2004. There are reports that Soltam fell out of the race entirely, after a barrel burst during field trials. Then South Africa’s Denel was sidelined in 2004 and eliminated in 2005, after the Indian government accused the manufacturer of corruption in another defense deal.
That created problems on 2 fronts. One front involved a key competitor. Denel’s financial situation was deteriorating, and The Times of India reported that the contract may have been critical to the firm’s financial survival. In hindsight, that concern was valid, but Denel managed to survive the loss. A win certainly would have made a significant difference, and might have allowed Denel to delay its major corporate restructuring and associated strategic rethinking for several years.
Winner by default?
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The other problem involved India’s Ministry of Defence. India’s defense procurement establishment has shown an extreme risk-averse behavior and Defense India observes that when a competition devolves to a single-vendor solution, the practice is often to re-tender. Soltam and Denel’s exit left just BAE Bofors, until they, too were eliminated by allegations that Bofors had paid INR 640 million (about $16 million) in bribes, trying to secure the order.
The net effect of corporate blacklists, plus single-vendor prohibitions, is a process that can’t field equipment to India’s military when it’s needed – and sometimes ever. Unfortunately for India’s front-line soldiers, their need for working artillery hasn’t changed.
Indian history suggests that this is a long-standing problem. Bofors Defence AB had been blacklisted by India before, after allegations of kickbacks in a 1987 deal during Rajiv Gandhi’s regime. That scandal had derailed a planned 1,500 gun buy, reducing it to 410 FH-77 B02 howitzers. Fortunately for India, those guns arrived in time to become an iconic feature of the 1999 Kargil War with Pakistan. On the civil front, meanwhile, those accused in the Bofors case eventually had their day in court, and won. Leaving behind a number of questions that India’s political class would rather leave unasked.
In April 2007, India re-opened its towed howitzer competition again, and the passage of time had created a number of changes in its requirements and options. By November 2009, however, it was the same old dynamic. The mere allegation of bribery had frozen the competition again, by leaving just 1 eligible contender. Would the January 2011 re-start fare any better?
Meanwhile, the support contract with Bofors for India’s in-service howitzers expired in 2001. As of January 2009, India’s stock was believed to sit at just 200 operational 155/39 caliber guns. They are accompanied by existing stocks of Soviet-era 130mm artillery, and 105mm light guns. A contract with Soltam (now Elbit) of Israel has converted some of those 130mm howitzers to 155mm/45 caliber weapons, raising the guns’ range from 26 km to 39 km/ 24 miles.
India’s Howitzer Competitions
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The competition for Indian artillery is actually several competitions.
The competition covered in the previous section involves about $1.8 billion for 400 towed 155/52 artillery guns, to be followed by production of up to 1,180 in India.
Current Status: 5th RFP is now out. Winter and summer trials planned in 2010, now in limbo. BAE Bofors’ FH77 was competing against ST Engineering’s FH-2000, but BAE pulled out, and ST Kinetics is barred by a 10-year blacklist. France’s Nexter is now partnered with India’s Larsen & Toubro to offer the purpose built Trajan gun, while Israel’s Elbit Systems is partnered with The Kalyani Group to offer its ATHOS 2052.
On the sidelines, India’s DRDO has used the blockage to start a design project of its own. It also turned out that India’s incompetent Ordnance Factory Board has been sitting on the plans it was given for the 155/39 caliber Bofors FH77B02, as the tech transfer piece of the 1990s buy that allowed licensed production in India. An October 2011 decision directed the OFB to begin manufacturing 155/39 and 155/45 caliber “Dhanush” versions of these guns for trials, for delivery beginning in December 2012, but there have been issues with the guns, and they’re still tied up in testing. India’s government has approved a potential contract for 114, but plans could add another 400.
Farther into the future, some private Indian firms are collaborating with the DRDO’s Armament Research and Development Establishment in Pune to design a 155 mm/52-caliber Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS) with a 50 km strike range by 2016. Maybe they can field a gun with substantially longer range than existing global offerings. Maybe they can’t. Maybe the unfulfilled chase will end up derailing the purchase of actual working weapons, which is the usual pattern in India.
A 2nd competition involves about $700 million for the ultra-light 155/39 howitzer competition, covering about 145 pieces. These would be portable, towed guns.
Current status: India’s government may be doing a government-to-government deal, as an emergency end-run to buy BAE’s M777, and bolster its dwindling artillery.
Singapore’s Pegasus was picked in 2009, but ST Kinetics’ 10-year blacklisting has derailed them, pending a legal fight. The reasons for the M777’s holdup are a combination of the Indian bureaucracy’s inability to conduct the required trials in over 2 years since the DSCA request, reports that legal advisors were worried about a decision in the ST Kinetics’ legal case entangling any M777 buy, and unwillingness to pay the $4.48 million per gun cost for a unique product with lots of titanium in it.
In May 2012, India’s MoD was reportedly cleared to negotiation an M777 contract worth around $550 million. As of November 2014, they haven’t managed to get anything done. Meanwhile, India has been pushed off high-altitude territory on the Chinese border, where air-transportable M777 guns would have strengthened its position considerably.
Self-Propelled Tracked Howitzers
A 3rd competition would spend about $800 million for about 100 155mm self-propelled tracked guns. The BHIM (Denel G-6 gun on Arjun tank chassis) winner was terminated in 2006, when Denel was barred following a corruption case. Partner Bharat Earth Movers was the big loser. Another RFP in 2007 failed, as all of the firms with products to offer were barred from India.
Current contenders include Samsung-Techwin’s K-9 Thunder, in partnership with India’s Larsen & Toubro. A Russian tie-up with India’s state-run Ordnance Factory Board offers a modified 155mm/52 caliber MSTA-S system on a T72 main battle tank chassis.
Current status: After a period of limbo, India gave indications that some kind of process was underway in 2013, with 3 Indian firms participating. In the mean time, India has ordered 40 locally-designed Catapault Mk.IIs, which mount a Russian 130mm gun on an Arjun tank chassis. They’ll replace aging Catapult Mk.Is, which mount the same gun on license-built Vijayanta (T-72) chassis, but neither system can match the range of a 155mm gun.
As a point of comparison, India’s rival Pakistan began its own process in 2005, and bought 115 tracked M109A5 155mm self-propelled howitzers from the USA at a very cheap price. The M109s have greater range than the Catapults, and the last one was delivered to Pakistan in 2010.
Self-Propelled Wheeled Howitzers (Mobile Gun System)
A 4th competition involves about $900 million – $1 billion for 180 self-propelled wheeled guns.
Current status: Canceled November 2011. RFP responses were reported to pit Slovakia’s 155/45 Zuzana system against Germany’s Rheinmetall and their RWG-52 155/52 system, which uses the PzH-2000 turret. Samsung Technwin’s entry, which is no longer listed in their product line, was eliminated from competition in 2009.
Indian firm Ashok Leyland has partnered with France’s Nexter, and will offer the Caesar 155/52 caliber artillery system mounted on their Super Stallion 6×6 truck.
Contracts and Key Events
FARP modernization plan overview; Conditional order for 114 guns from the geniuses at OFB; 40 Catapult Mk.II SPHs; DAC clears mounted gun program; Major shortages in artillery charges & fuses; Denel & IMI Blacklistings rolled back for lack of evidence; Elbit signs Indian joint venture; JV for Nexter.
M777: Chinook pick-up
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October 9/15: The Indian Defence Ministry has shortlisted the Samsung Techwin K-9 Thunder howitzer for the country’s self-propelled tracked gun requirement, a much-delayed competition thought to value approximately $800 million. One hundred guns are required for the Indian Army, with local firm Larson & Toubro partnering with the South Korean firm to offer manufacturing in India. The Thunder beat the Russian-designed MSTA-SP 2S19 howitzer mounted on a T-72 tank chassis, with the Russian bid partnering with the Indian state-run Ordnance Factory Board to satisfy offset requirements.
2013 – 2014
Nov 23/14: India’s Defence Acquisition Council, with new defense minister Manohar Parrikar, clears the INR 157 billion (about $2.56 billion) proposal to buy 814 mounted 155mm artillery guns. A fresh RFP will be issued, with “Buy and Make India” terms that allow foreign partnerships, but force the systems to be manufactured in India. Larsen & Toubro, TATA, and Bharat Forge are expected to bid.
At the same time, the DAC approved an INR 71.6 billion integrated Air Command and Control System, but left programs for 56 light aerial transports and 106 basic-intermediate trainer turboprops in limbo. Note that programs approved by the DAC still need top-level approval from the Cabinet Committee on Security, which includes the Prime Minister. Sources: NDTV, “A Hurdle for ‘Make in India’ Push in Defence: Why Air Force Plane Deal Was Put on Hold” | dna India, “Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar clears proposal to acquire 814 artillery guns for Rs 15,750 crore” | Times of India, “Govt clears proposal to acquire 814 artillery guns for Rs 15,570 crore”.
Nov 18/14: IMI. India quietly lifts a ban on Israel Military Industries (q.v. Nov 12/09, July 7/10, March 5/12), in the face of a situation where its state-owned Ordnance Factory Board is manifestly failing to deliver key fuses, precision-guided shells, and artillery firing charges. The result is a critical set of shortages (q.v. Sept 15/14). IMI offers a full line of shells and charges, plus the GMM 120 laser/GPS-guided 120mm mortar shell, and tank design and manufacturing experience from its Merkava family.
The ban is actually lifted on the grounds that India’s CBI hasn’t substantiated its charges that IMI bribed OFB officials, which may touch off some interesting conversations with other blacklisted firms like Singapore’s ST Kinetics (q.v. March 5/12). Sources: Defense News, “India Removes IMI From Blacklist”.
Sept 15/14: Update. After a 5th set of towed howitzer trials, featuring Nexter’s Trajan and Elbit’s ATHOS 2052, India’s MoD is readying its report. That report will supposedly arrive in the Ministry of Defence by the end of 2014. Domestically, license-built “Dhanush” variants of Bofors’ FH77B (q.v. April 29/13) are conducting their own final round of trials, following a burst barrel in summer 2013. Meanwhile:
“The [Army’s Field Artillery Rationalisation Plan] envisages inducting a perplexing mix of 1,580 TGS, 814 mounted platforms and the outright purchase of 145 BAE Systems M777 155 mm/39-caliber ultra-light howitzers; that too is mired in unnecessary red tape and confusion. Also included is the outright purchase of 100 SPT howitzers and 180 self-propelled wheeled howitzers with another 120 to be built locally under a technology transfer agreement. The critical howitzer shortage and obsolescence of existing platforms is possibly the worst of the Army’s innumerable deficiencies…. Proposals are also afoot to privatise ordnance manufacture to meet shortages. The Army faces a shortfall of some 50,000 155 mm precision-guided munitions rounds, more than 21,200 bi-modular charge systems, and around one million electronic fuses which the OFB is incapable of fulfilling.”
Lovely. Sources: The Hindu, “Feeble fire in the big guns”.
Aug 29/14: SPH. India’s high-level Defence Acquisition Council clears an INR 8.2 billion (about $137 million) purchase of 40 Catapult Mk.II tracked artillery systems from DRDO’s Combat Vehicle Research and Development Establishment (CVRDE) in Avadhi. The new system uses the same aging, short-range Russian D-30 130mm guns as the 1980s-era Catapult Mk.I, but it substitutes an indigenous Arjun tank chassis for a license-built “Vijayanta” (modified Vickers Mk.1) chassis. The result is a tracked, self-propelled system with good mobility and much improved access to spares and maintenance, but a firing range of just 24 km.
Clearance must still come from the CCS, but this purchase is effectively done. An Indian officer points out that this works out to $3.75 million per system for a small handful of units, which can’t reach critical high-altitude contested areas like Kashmir or the Chinese border. Meanwhile, helicopter-transportable M777 155mm guns that can fire GPS-guided shells 40km remain in limbo, because India is balking at a price of $4.48 million per gun. That works out to about $650 million for the desired 145, or $179 million as an equivalent emergency buy of 40.
As an even more invidious comparison, neighboring Pakistan bought 115 used M109A5 self-propelled 155mm howitzers from the USA in 2005 – and paid just $56 million. They outrange the Catapults, of course, and all of them were fielded by 2010. To add injury to insult, Pakistan is also working with China’s North Industries Corp. to upgrade 400 of its own D-30 towed guns to 155mm caliber. Sources: Defense News, “Indian Analysts Rap Plan To Buy Homemade 130mm Artillery Gun”.
SPH: 40 Catapult Mk.II
Aug 19/14: Denel. The new BJP government quietly lifts its 9-year ban on Denel in an Aug 12/14 letter, judging that India’s CBI had failed to substantiate corruption charges stemming from the NTW-20 anti-material rifle competition. Those charges cancelled the NTW-20 contract, led to Indian design of the suspiciously similar Vidhwansak anti-materiel rifle, and sank the 155mm BHIM (G-6 gun on Arjun chassis) self-propelled howitzer contract in 2005.
The G-6 is an outstanding 155mm gun, and fielded options could become strong competitors in the towed competition (if that is re-opened), or the wheeled Mobile Gun System requirement. The Catapult Mk.II’s small production run could also insert the G-6 back into the self-propelled howitzer competition, re-launching BHIM as as Catapult Mk.III. Sources: South Africa’s defenseWeb, “Huge Indian market to become available to Denel as blacklisting resolves” | South Africa’s Engineering News, “India ends ban on Denel” | Defense World, “India Clears Denel Of Corruption Charges, De-Blacklists Company”.
Feb 25/14: M777. With elections looming, India’s Ministry of Defence clears a whole series of defense projects: upgrades for 37 airbases, modernization of 5 ordnance depots, 4,000 hand-held thermal imagers for soldiers, 5,000 thermal imaging sights for tanks and infantry combat vehicles, 44,000 light-machine guns, 702 light armoured multi-purpose vehicles, and 250 RAFAEL Spice IIR/GPS guided smart bombs. The M777 isn’t among them:
“The M-777 howitzer contract, which is a direct government-to-government deal under the US foreign military sales programme, has been hanging fire since January 2010. Due to the long delay, the American Defence Security Cooperation Agency has hiked the cost of the M-777 deal from the earlier $ 647 million to $885 million now. The Army wants these 155mm/39-calibre howitzers since they can be swiftly deployed in high-altitude areas in Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh by helicopters and aircraft to counter China.”
China has been seizing Indian territory again in this high-altitude region, but apparently that isn’t urgent enough to prompt action. Thermal imagers and light machine guns are useful, but they aren’t going to change the situation anywhere. Sources: Times of India, “Decision on four key defence deals put off”.
February 2014: MGS. Indian truck firm Ashok Leyland, whose trucks have a huge presence in the Indian military, announces a number of new vehicles for their product line. these include a brand-new 2.5t “Garuda” 4×4, a new Mine Protected Vehicle (MPV), and variants of the new Super Stallion heavy truck. The latter include a 10×10 configuration, an 8×8 configuration that will be integrated with Saab’s BAMSE missile system for India’s SR-SAM air defense competition, and a partnership with France’s Nexter to mount the Caesar 155mm artillery system on its 6×6 Super Stallion truck.
Larsen & Toubro is Nexter’s other Indian partner, and an example of their offering is later unveiled at DefExpo 2014 in June. Sources: Ahok Leyland, “Ashok Leyland unveils a two-pronged strategy for Defence” | The Hindu Business Line, “Nexter Systems, L&T and Ashok Leyland to develop artillery system”.
Feb 12/14: Towed. Ordnance Factories Board (OFB) of India displays its 155/45mm Dhanush towed howitzer at India’s Defexpo 2014. They’ve manufactured 6 prototypes so far, and the most recent prototype includes several changes.
OFB is aiming to improve range over the base FH77 from 27 km – 38 km, and the added a modern computerized fire control system. Mechanical redesigns have had to include the gun cradle, muzzle brake, and of course the higher-caliber gun. According to the presenter, they’re hoping to reach the approval stage in India within 6-8 months, and to triple manufacturing capacity to 3 guns/ month. Cold weather and desert testing has been conducted (+45C to -15C), and Dhanush will be sent to Sikkim firing range for another round of trial tests to check its accuracy and range. Sources: Army Recognition, “OFP Dhanush 155mm howitzer at Defexpo 2014”.
Aug 7/13: M777. The US DSCA publishes [PDF] an official follow-on export request from India for 145 M777 guns, under modified terms compared to the Jan 26/10 request, which is superseded by this one.
The Indian guns will use the same Laser Inertial Artillery Pointing Systems (LINAPS) equipment as Canada’s M777s, and the estimated cost for the guns plus warranty, spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, publications and technical documentation, training, and other US government and contractor support has risen from $647 – $885 million.
The other item that has changed is the acknowledgement of a 30% industrial offsets contract, in conformance to India’s official Defense Procurement Procedure (DPP). That has to be part of a negotiated contract, which can be signed within 30 days of this notice.
The principal contractors haven’t changed: BAE of Hattiesburg, MS; Watervliet Arsenal of Watervliet, NY; Seiler Instrument Company of St Louis, MO; Triumph Actuation Systems of Bloomfield, CT; Taylor Devices of North Tonawanda, NY; Hutchinson Industries of Trenton, NJ; and Selex in Edinburgh, United Kingdom. Likewise, implementation of this proposed sale will still require annual trips to India involving up to 8 U.S. Government and contractor representatives for technical reviews/support, training, and in-country trials, over a period of approximately 2 years.
DSCA: M777 Request, Revised
Aug 3/13: M777. Negotiations are still underway in India. So what’s new? According to the Business Standard, the expected price is now INR 40 billion due to the falling rupee, and the industrial offsets issue is almost resolved. If India can manage to finalize the sale, the Mountain Strike Corps that they announced in July 2013 would receive the 145 guns.
The key seems to be offsets. The initial DSCA announcement (q.v. Jan 26/10) didn’t include offsets, but BAE sees the potential to equip artillery regiments in up to 7 more Indian corps, given deployment patterns and India’s mountainous borders. As such, they’ve accepted a standard 30% offset liability of about $195 million. About $58.5 million can be discharged by transferring technology, as India badly needs to field bi-modular charge systems (BMCS) for artillery. If they hadn’t blacklisted Denel and Israel Military Industries, they’d have it already. The rest will reportedly be discharged by manufacturing some components in India, including work for its “future artillery gun” and “future naval gun” programs.
India’s challenge is to break with its general practice and place a timely order. BAE’s Mississippi plant is being kept active in anticipation of an Indian order, but if India dithers much, the price will rise sharply to pay production line restart costs. On the other hand, early execution could see India field the new gun by early 2014. India’s Business Standard.
June 25/13: SPH. A draft document [PDF] available on the Indian Army’s website confirms renewed activity to procure vehicle-mounted 155mm / 52 calibre systems. The Request for Information is still labeled as a draft, though it stipulates answers by September 1st, which leaves little time for both the Army to finalize it then vendors to send their replies. The RFI is explicitly addressed exclusively to Indian firms. However, joint ventures with foreign partners seem acceptable. Among the technical questions, the Army inquires whether the vendors’ sighting system will use a GPS-based inertial navigation system.
May 6/13: SPH. A Parliamentary reply indicates that India is pursuing another avenue for new self-propelled guns, in the wake of the 2007 RFP’s failure:
“A case for procurement of Qty.100 x 155mm/52 Calibre Tracked (self-propelled) Guns is in progress wherein three Indian vendors, including two private sector companies, have been selected for trials of their equipment. The recent amendments to the DPP-2011 which have been accepted by the Defence Acquisition Council aim to give higher preference to indigenous capacity in the Defence Sector.”
It will be interesting to see which companies are involved, and what they’re offering. Bharat Forge’s partnership with Elbit (q.v. Feb 7/13 entry) would allow them to offer the Rascal system, for instance.
April 29/13: 114 from OFB. Minister of state for Defence Shri Jitendra Singh confirms the contract details with India’s Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), who discovered that they had been sitting on blueprints to license-produce the 155/39 FH77 howitzer for over 20 years (vid. Oct 15/11), even as OFB personnel destroyed previous competitions by soliciting bribes.
OFB have carried out several firings of their derivative 155mm x 45 calibre gun, but it hasn’t been submitted for user testing yet, and hasn’t received production clearance. Once they get that clearance, there’s a contract for 114 towed guns. The first 6 will be delivered within 8 months of clearance, and another 6 over the next 4 months. Year 2 will produce 36 guns, and the last 60 will be manufactured in year 3. Indian government.
OFB contract for 114 license-built FH77/45s
April 29/13: What, me worry? Defense Minister AK Antony offers the usual non-response to a Parliamentary question that asks about the delays in getting India’s Army new artillery. We’ll save you the verbiage. Summary: “Nothing’s happening, and we’re not doing much about it, either.”
Feb 7/13: Elbit/Bharat JV. Israel’s Elbit Systems is forming a joint venture with the Kalyani Group’s Bharat Forge, to market advanced artillery and mortar systems in India.
Elbit products in this field include their Athos towed and Atmos wheeled self-propelled artillery, and their 120mm vehicle-mounted Cardom mortar. They also upgrade Soviet caliber artillery systems. Defense Update | Economic Times.
Feb 6/13: M777, FH-77. India Strategic quotes Chief of the Army Staff Gen Bikram Singh as saying that “whatever the reasons earlier [for delaying the M777 purchase], there would be no delay now.” India has held its firing trials, asked for some changes, and verified that BAE has made them. The Maintainability Evaluation is done, and negotiations are now focused on the price of 145 of the 155mm/ 39 caliber guns, plus a support package.
India’s 2004 buy of counter-fire artillery radars in 2004 reportedly omitted support considerations, and they don’t want to have to go through that problem again.
On another front, trials of the state-run OFB’s license-built Bofors FH-77Bs are now slated for the summer of 2013. The original guns and plans are 155 mm/ 39 caliber, but OFB’s version will be 155/45 caliber instead. Many standard towed 155mm guns these days are 155/52 caliber or more, and if India’s towed guns solicitation ever goes ahead, it will probably be to that specification. India Strategic writes:
“Senior officers of the Army are confident that the acquisition of M-777 will not go beyond 2013, and if there is a delay, it would not be beyond the coming fiscal year April 2013-March 2014. That is, a delay of not more than three months beyond 2013.”
2011 – 2012
M777 buy cleared; Wheeled tender canceled; 5th towed RFP – but not for BAE; DRDO launches indigenous 155mm development; OFB had India’s solution the whole time!?!
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May 16/12: License-build. A written reply by Minister of State for Defence Dr MM Pallam Rajuin sets out India’s initial plans to license-build FH-77B02 155mm guns for initial trials, and confirms that India has a standing license agreement with M/s AB Bofors to produce the FH-77B02 155/39 caliber gun and its ammunition. If trials go well, full-scale production may begin.
Meanwhile, India’s state-owned Ordnance Factory Board will produce 2 FH77 155mm /39 caliber prototypes by December 2012. This is the same gun India is currently using. By June 2013, the OFB will also produce 2 upgraded FH77 155/45 caliber guns, with electronic and mechanical upgrades, and apply the same upgrades to 1 existing 155/39 gun. India’s MoD says that the Technology Transfer Agreement allows those changes. India MoD.
May 11/12: M777 approved. CNN-IBN reports that India’s MoD has cleared a Rs 3000 crore deal to buy 145 of BAE’s M777 ultra-light 155mm howitzers, as a government-to-government deal through US Foreign Military Sale channels.
They’re careful to note that this isn’t a contract yet, which may explain the absence of any announcement from BAE. At current conversion rates, the deal would be worth around $557 million, but exchange rates may change when and if negotiations produce an actual contract. CNN-IBN | India Defence.
March 5/12: 10-Year Blacklist. India’s MoD debars Singapore’s ST Kinetics, Israel Military Industries Ltd., Rheinmetall Air Defence, Corporation Defence Russia (CDR), and Indian firms TS Kisan & Co. Pvt. Ltd. and RK Machine Tools Ltd. The firms are prohibited “from further business dealings with the Ordnance Factory Board, Department of Defence Production, MoD, for a period of ten years.”
India’s MoD says that the debarments took place based on CBI evidence re: former Director General of Ordnance Factories Shri Sudipto Ghosh’s bribery case, and after the firms were issued notice to show cause. IMI and Rheinmetall have made no public comment yet, but ST Kinetics is angry, and says more or less that India’s MoD is lying:
“Since 2009, we have offered the authorities full cooperation and assistance as appropriate to clear our name. We had even offered on several occasions to open our account books for inspection by the Indian authorities but these offers were never taken up by them… To seek clarification on the alleged blacklisting and to protest against the arbitrary suspension of ST Kinetics’ defence business activities, we have filed three petitions with the Delhi High Court. The petitions were accepted by the Delhi High Court in March 2011. In all the court hearings and its affidavits filed, the MoD repeatedly stated that ST Kinetics is not blacklisted, and that the “putting on hold” of ST Kinetics’ defence business activities is but an interim arrangement only.
With this latest ruling by the MoD, we will seek legal advice and we intend to vigorously take appropriate actions to clear our name and defend our reputation… As a responsible public listed company, we abide by all laws and regulations stipulated by the local government and we engage fully in good corporate governance practices.”
MoD blacklists – but on what grounds?
January 2012: India Strategic sums things up, by quoting Chief of Army Staff Gen VK Singh:
“The procurement game is a version of snakes and ladders where there is no ladder but only snakes, and if the snakes bite you somewhere, the whole thing comes back to zero,” he said adding that he was hopeful of some guns to be cleared for acquisition shortly. It was 25 years ago that the Indian Army had acquired Bofors guns from Sweden… The gun had come with designs for production in India, with the much-needed Transfer of Technology, but its production was never undertaken by the designated public sector body, the Ordnance Factory Board… Bofors has since been sold several times to US and British companies. There has also been a proposal to acquire 145 ultra light howitzers M777 from the BAE Systems’s US arm. But it is also stuck somewhere.”
As the Hindustan Times notes, at least 3 of the few foreign vendors that make artillery systems are on the MoD’s blacklist, over allegations that don’t seem to get resolved in any timely way. This is true, but Israel’s IMI makes rocket artillery and shell charges. Only Singapore’s ST Kinetics and Germany’s Rheinmetall would matter for these competitions, though it’s worth noting that their absence has already derailed 2 artillery programs. The newspaper also cites Brig. Gurmeet Kanwal (ret.) of The Centre for Land Warfare Studies think tank, as one voice beginning to make the argument that blacklisting is a failure, and arguing that other approaches are needed.
Dec 12/11: Why so late? A Parliamentary question about India’s howitzer plans gets an answer from the defence minister, which is informative but not encouraging. Basically, India’s bureaucracy has had almost 2 years to get its act together on trials, and has not:
“Ultra Light Howitzer is amongst the equipment that is included in the Artillery Profile 2027 prepared by the Artillery Directorate of Army, The procurement on Single Vendor basis from M/s ST Kinetics, Singapore is sub-judice [DID: a legal case]. The option of procuring the equipment through US Government (FMS route) is also being pursued.
The field evaluation of Ultra Light Howitzer comprises three parts viz. user trials, DGQA trials and Maintainability trials. Out of these, only user trials of the gun proposed to be procured through US Government have been completed. The performance of the gun can be ascertained only after evaluation of all three trial reports.
The field evaluation trial report of the guns was a confidential document. Four pages of draft field trial report were received in an anonymous envelope by the Army Hqrs. An enquiry in the matter is underway. Detailed instructions exist about security of classified documents. Aberrations, if any, are dealt with as per the relevant rules.”
One wonders what the over/under odds would be in Vegas, on the subject of India actually having some new artillery pieces by 2027.
Nov 1/11: Wheeled cancellation. India’s MoD cancels the tender to purchase 180 wheeled 155/52mm howitzers, after complaints were made to Defence Minister A.K. Antony that a Zusana gun burst during 2010 trials last year. While Rheinmetall and Konstrukta were shortlisted after technical evaluations (Samsung was not), an MoD committee later concluded that the guns on offer were not in service anywhere, and as such were only prototypes. Which can happen, if your requirements force that. Indian Defence | Defense News.
Wheeled SPH canceled
Oct 15/11: You had WHAT all this time? The Times of India reports that India’s Ordnance Factory Board, whose leadership has been involved in bribery scandals that have derailed some of India’s attempted artillery buys (vid. July 7/10 entry), has been sitting on licensed design documents for India’s Bofors FH77 155mm gun. In other words, they had the full plans thanks to technology transfer and licensing agreements, but didn’t mention this, and didn’t produce the guns. Incompetent is the nicest adjective that can be used for this conduct.
“A senior official, not very amused at the turn of events, told TOI that they have now asked OFB to manufacture six prototypes of the Bofors artillery guns within the next 18 months. “If we had indigenous capability, then all these years of effort to buy foreign guns and such crippling shortage in capabilities wouldn’t have been there,” he said. A senior military source said the OFB has now been asked to manufacture two guns of the 155/39 mm caliber, the original make of the Bofors gun bought in the 80s. Two others would be of the same caliber but upgraded with new capabilities. The OFB has also been asked to make two guns of 155/45 mm caliber. All the six guns would be towed guns, sources said. Once they are ready, the Army would put them through extensive field trials and once cleared, OFB could then resort to mass production, one of the officials said.”
India OFB wins incompetence prize
June 29/11: DRDO DIY. India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has started developing an indigenous 155mm 52 caliber howitzer for the armed forces, with its Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE) in Pune as the lead agency. DNA India.
May 18/11: M777. In “India’s consolation prize to US,” The Times of India reports that India is close to an M777 buy, pursued as government-to-government Foreign Military Sale. The Times of India reports that:
“…the Army has dispatched a team to the US to carry out quality assurance assessments of maintenance and other technical specifications of M777… Once the team returns, “it wouldn’t take much time to conclude the deal”, sources said, adding that a June-end deadline was being looked at. He also hinted that this order too could go up, now that the government is expected to approve Army’s recommendation to raise a dedicated mountain strike corps for China border.”
April 29/11: BAE out. BAE Systems opts out of India’s Jan 23/11 tender for 1,580 towed artillery guns. They seem to have tired of the headaches, and will settle for the limited M777 ultralight howitzer procurement conducted outside of India’s normal processes. Guy Douglas:
“While we are certain that the FH-77B05 is the most capable 52 calibre towed gun available, and it was specifically designed for and demonstrated to meet the Indian Army… the company will not submit a proposal… We found that the new RFP includes technical and performance relaxations that allow less capable weapon systems to enter the competition. This significantly reduces the competitive advantage FH-77B05 derives from its greater capability… the decision not to bid is a commercial one based on the high investment costs required to participate in a complex artillery competition of this nature, where the win probability has been reduced…”
The question is whether this will leave India facing a single-vendor situation again, which will force them to cancel a 5th time. The RFP was not sent to Singapore’s ST Kinetics, but it did go to firms in France, the US, Israel and the Czech Republic. The question is who will respond. See StratPost.
Jan 23/11: (5th) Towed RFP. After 4 failed attempts in the last 25 years, and no new gun inducted since the mid-1980s, the Army has issued a fresh global tender for over 400 towed artillery howitzers. PTI reports that the latest RFP was issued in the 3rd week of January, for over 400 guns from foreign vendors, and local production of over 1,000 guns in India.
The last tender was canceled after Singapore Technologies was blacklisted by the Defence Ministry, and BAE Systems was the only company left. PTI adds that “it is not yet clear as which firms other than BAE Systems have received the RFP this time,” especially given that key competitors like Denel are also on Indian blacklists. Meanwhile, a government-to-government effort to circumvent these roadblocks and buy 145 M777 ultra-lightweight howitzers “for use in mountainous regions” is “in an advanced stage of negotiations.” India Defence (PTI) | Deccan Herald | Silicon India || defpro on the Denel G6’s woes | Hindustan Times on the Bofors scandal’s long echo.
5th Towed Howitzer RFP
2009 – 2010
3rd time for wheeled howitzer RFP; Towed competition canceled for 4th time; Pegasus wins ultralight competition – then blacklisted; US DSCA request for BAE’s M777.
Bofors Archer System
(click to view full)
Sept 10/10: SPH. The Indian defense ministry is expected to issue its 3rd wheeled howitzer RFP, for 140 wheeled guns, by the end of September. BAE’s Archer apparently doesn’t fit the RFP criteria, which implies requirements that aren’t in line with global norms for the class. France’s Caesar is also unmentioned in this competition, leaving just Rheinmetall’s RWG-52 and Slovakia’s Zuzana as known contenders. Aviation Week.
July 27/10: Canceled again. India cancels towed artillery field trials, as it suspends its artillery competition yet again. The Bofors FH77B05, now owned by BAE Land Systems, and STK of Singapore’s IFH 2000 were the only 2 guns in the competition for the 155mm/52calibre howitzers. STK has been blacklisted due to its involvement in the state-owned Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) scandal, leaving just one competitor. India’s government, burned by the Bofors allegations, then canceled the competition.
The Defence Ministry must now decide what to do next. A government-to-government Foreign Military Sale from the USa is one of the possibilities, in lieu of re-bidding the contract yet again. An Indian Army delegation reportedly visited the USA in January 2010, and the US government reportedly proposed 2 units for field trials and requested 84 rounds of Indian ammunition for that purpose. A draft Letter of Request is reportedly winding its way through India’s the Ministry of Defense to that end. AGE | India Defence Online | StratPost.
Towed cancellation #4
July 7/10: Blacklists, again. India’s CBI has asked the Defence Ministry to blacklist 6 firms for their alleged involvement in the Ordnance Factory Board graft scandal: Cooperation Defence in Russia, Singapore Technologies Kinetics (ST Kinetics), Israel Military Industries Ltd (IMI), Rheinmetall Air Defence (RAD) in Zurich, T S Kisan and companies Pvt Ltd in New Delhi, and R K Machines Tools Ltd in Ludhiana. If the Defence Ministry agrees, it would likely derail the self-propelled howitzer competition, where a different division of Rheinmetall is one of 2 finalists.
The move follows a 2,700-page chargesheet in a special CBI court against former Director General of Ordnance factory Board, Sudipta Ghosh and 11 others. The CBI alleges that Ghosh had entered into criminal conspiracy with other accused personnel, with the object of demanding and obtaining huge bribes in return for supply orders placed by the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB). Indian Express.
March 15/10: Still stalled. Indian Defence Minister Shri AK Antony responds to Shri Asaduddin Owaisi and others in Parliament:
“In March, 2008, the Government had issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for procurement of towed guns. The name of one of the firms participating in the said procurement case figured among the names of seven firms in the FIR filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in May, 2009 in respect of various supply orders placed by Ordnance Factory Board. The procurement / acquisition cases in pipeline with any of the firms figuring in the said FIR were put on hold until further orders. Later, it was decided that multi-vendor procurement cases, presently held up at various stages of technical evaluation / trials, may be progressed further as per Defence Procurement Procedure – 2008. However, no tender will be awarded to the companies mentioned in the FIR unless CBI investigation clears them totally.
No towed guns / howitzers have been procured during the last three years. The proposals presently being processed include production of towed guns by Ordnance Factory Board under transfer of technology from the selected vendor. The procurement proceeds as per the provisions of the Defence Procurement Procedure 2008. The induction of the equipment, as and when it takes place, will enhance the firepower of the Indian Artillery.”
Feb 15/10: Towed. The Wall Street Journal reports that BAE Systems Ltd. expects to start trials in India for its FH77 B05 towed howitzer by early March. That’s a month or so behind the original February 2010 expectation for winter trials. The FH77 B05 would be manufactured and marketed in India by BAE’s joint venture with Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd.
BAE also reportedly expects to start trials for the M777 ultra-light howitzer in India by the end of 2010. Speaking at DefExpo 2010 in New Delhi, BAE Systems India (Services) Pvt. Ltd. VP and General Manager Mark Simpkins reportedly said that the initial M77 order “is likely to be for 145 units, which could increase to 1,000 units in the future.”
Feb 15/10: SPH. As part of its DefExpo 2010 push, Rheinmetall Defence discusses its RWG-52 and RTG-52 candidates for India’s self-propelled programs.
Jan 28/10: M777. Indian sources tell DID that that the M777 request could also become an attempt to sidestep India’s paralyzing procurement bureaucracy. Single-vendor competitions are problematic when following India’s Defence Procurement Procedures (DPP), but can reportedly be used for government-to-government foreign military sales deals, per Section 71 of the DPP 2008:
“There may be occasions when procurements would have to be done from friendly foreign countries which may be necessitated due to geo-strategic advantages that are likely to accrue to our country. Such procurements would not classically follow the Standard Procurement Procedure and the Standard Contract Document but would be based on mutually agreed provisions by the Governments of both the countries.”
While ST Engineering’s Pegasus is still an ultra-light howitzer contender, the question is whether the legal steps required to make that deal would take too long – even though nothing has been proven concerning the firm’s conduct in India.
Jan 26/10: M777 request. The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces [PDF] India’s formal request to buy 145 M777 155mm Light-Weight Towed Howitzers with Laser Inertial Artillery Pointing Systems (LINAPS), warranties, spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, publications and technical documentation, maintenance, personnel training and training equipment, and U.S. Government and contractor technical assistance and support.
The estimated cost is $647 million, but a DSCA announcement is not a contract. In this case, it may not even be an intended sale. DSCA requests can be issued as a way of ensuring that the way is clear for a contract, if a competition continues, and if that vendor requiring American arms export approvals turns out to be the winner.
If the 9,700 pound/ 4,400 kg, part-titanium M777 should bypass the competition altogether, or win a re-started competition against the likes of ST Kinetics’ Pegasus semi-mobile lightweight howitzer, the principal contractors will be BAE of Hattiesburg, MS; Watervliet Arsenal of Watervliet, NY; Seiler Instrument Company of St Louis, MO; Triumph Actuation Systems of Bloomfield, CT; Taylor Devices of North Tonawanda, NY; Hutchinson Industries of Trenton, NJ; and Selex in Edinburgh, United Kingdom.
Uncharacteristically for India, the DSCA says that there are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale – another sign that India’s DPP may be side-stepped. Implementation of this proposed sale will require annual trips to India involving up to 8 U.S. Government and contractor representatives for technical reviews/support, training, and in-country trials, over a period of approximately 2 years.
US DSCA: M777 request
Jan 22/10: ST Kinetics. Singapore’s ST Kinetics announces that it is keen to set up a manufacturing base in India, if it wins some of the 5 contracts it has bid for. The tenders comprise 2 artillery gun projects (ultra-light and towed howitzers), a light strike vehicle for the army, and 2 carbine rifle projects for internal security forces.
Jan 15/10: ST Kinetics speaks. Singapore’s ST Kinetics issues a release touting “the longest in-service 155 mm 52 Calibre towed Howitzer, the FH 2000,” which is expected to enter field trials in February 2010. It also says that:
“The company is hopeful that the stalled [Indian] trial of the 155 mm calibre 39 Pegasus Lightweight Howitzer (LWH) will also recommence very shortly… ST Kinetics plans to address India’s strategic needs and is fielding tailored solutions to meet the requirements of the modernisation programmes of the armed forces. These include the iFH2000 155mm 52 Calibre Howitzer for the Towed Gun requirement and the Pegasus 155mm 39 Calibre Lightweight Howitzer for the Ultra Lightweight Howitzer program. ST Kinetics has also offered the SAR 21 Carbine with its proven reliability and performance.
Speaking at the Press Conference, Brig Gen Patrick Choy, Chief Marketing Officer, said “…The company is respected for its integrity, transparency and high standards of corporate governance. [The Pegasus 155mm / 39 howitzer]… is already in India in Gwalior and is awaiting a call to trials.”
Nov 23/09: Blacklistings. India’s MoD publicly confirms the blacklisting and terms for all 7 firms mentioned in the Nov 12/09 Defense News report:
“In regard to the tender cases of procurement/execution, where the tender process has already been started and where the companies mentioned in the FIR are figuring, each case should be dealt as per the tender conditions, keeping in view of the FIR in question. No tender should be awarded to the companies mentioned in the FIR unless the CBI investigation clears them totally.”
Nov 12/09: Frozen again. Defense News reports that India’s artillery competition is frozen yet again. Singapore Technologies has been disqualified, and under India’s rules, competitions can’t proceed with just one qualified vendor.
In June 2009, corruption charges filed against the former director-general of India’s Ordnance Factory Board placed 7 firms on the “tainted” list, blacklisting them from defense contracts: Singapore Technologies, Israel’s IMI, Poland’s BVT, Singapore’s Media Architects, and India’s HYT Engg, T.S. Kishan and R.K. Machine Tools. The latest Indian MoD advisory will not allow them to participate in defense procurements, pending a full Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) report.
Towed competition frozen, 7 firms blacklisted
Oct 7/09: Bofors. Indian Express reports that:
“The government may have decided to let Ottavio Quattrocchi off the hook, but the Bofors ghost continues to haunt the armed forces, with several key artillery modernisation programmes put in the limbo due to wrongdoing charges levelled against three major international manufacturers.”
March 12/09: Pegasus picked. The Singapore Straits Times reports that India has picked ST Kinetics’ “Pegasus” semi-mobile light howitzer for its $1 billion, 145-gun ultralight howitzer competition. At 5,000 kg/ 11,000 pounds, the 155mm/39 caliber Pegasus SLWH is not quite as light as BAE Systems’ M777. What it does have, is an unusual feature that allows the towed gun to be moved limited distances, at up to 12 km/h, under its own power. This is a very useful feature when trying to sidestep return fire cued by artillery tracking radars.
Unlike the 155/52 caliber competition for larger and heavier howitzers, the “ultralight” competition reportedly contains no clauses requiring manufacture in India.
Singapore was also sent an RFP for the 155/52 caliber competition, which the Straits-Times reports could involve up to 400 foreign-made and 1,180 domestically-produced howitzers. ST Kinetics’s other products include the 155/52 FH2000 towed field howitzer, and the Primus 155/39 caliber 28.5-ton tracked self-propelled howitzer. Singapore Straits-Times.
Towed guns: Singapore’s Pegasus picked
Jan 14/09: An anonymous Army official tells Indian reporters that:
“The procurement process for the towed and light howitzer is proceeding as planned. Bids have been received from all the vendors and trials of the guns are planned in February or March [of 2009]… The trials for self-propelled howitzers are planned in May-June .”
According to the IANS report, the initial contract involves 180 guns, but the eventual contract is to include up to 400 guns, thanks to transfer of technology to build the howitzers in India. Of these, 140 will be light howitzers that will be spread over 7 regiments. They will still be 155/52 caliber, just lighter thanks to advances in metallurgy and design. The remaining 260 guns will be towed and self-propelled variants. IANS via India Defence | <a href="http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/StoryPage.aspx?sectionName=IndiaSectionPage&id=375506b7-fcc7-43f0-887a-4defcee62465&&Headline=Army+seeks+more+equipment+to+st