Breaking almost three decade long jinx, prime minister Narendra Modi led NDA government is providing first artillery guns to the army after Swedish artillery guns Bofors deal mired with the corruption scandal in 1986.
On Friday, defence minister Arun Jaitley cleared the proposal of 40 self-propelled artillery guns, worth Rs820 crore. Jaitely, who headed the Defence Acquisition Council, accepted the Indian army's long pending demand of artillery guns. This gun system, termed a "catapult", consists of a 130-millimetre gun mounted on a Arjun tank chassis, allowing it to keep up with tank columns and provide them fire support in battle.
According to the defence ministry officials, The Arjun Catapult is a self-propelled gun (SPG), recently developed in India by the Chennai based central vehicle Research and Development of DRDO to meet Indian Army requirements.
"Catapult is mainly used to engage in indirect fire. Its typical targets are enemy artillery unit, tanks, troops at their concentration areas, permanent defensive installations and other field fortifications,"said a defence ministry official.
An artillery expert of the Indian army told dna that though these 130 mm guns will not be a substitute to Bofors or Ultra light Howitzers, but will give a stop gap arrangement for army's artillery fire power.
"These 130 mm gun barrel is mainly used to engage in indirect fire up to a maximum range of 27.4 km. It can also be fired directly on targets up to 1.4 km range. It can be fired at various angles of elevation as well. But, it is surely not a substitute to high end artillery like howitzers," an officer said.
Sources claimed that the army's 220 artillery regiments have received no new artillery since the 1980s, when the FH-77B, 155 mm/39 calibre Bofors gun was bought. Mired with the allegations of kickbacks, only 400 Bofors guns were delivered and rest of the contract could not complete. But significantly, Bofors guns played a key role in Kargil operation in 1999 against Pakistani intruders.
But, the Ordnance Factory Board's effort to build a 155 mm/45 calibre indigenous gun is facing trouble after the gun barrel was burst during its trials. And procurement of 145 M777 Ultra Light Howitzers guns has not moved towards its conclusive end.
The case for procurement of Ultra-Light Howitzer (ULH) guns through US Government has not progressed due to cost issues and because the vendor's proposal is not fully compliant to the offset requirements, defence ministry claims. Deal to buy M777 guns with US government is under Foreign Military Sales (FMS) with New Delhi.