Speeding up the military modernisation process, the Defence Ministry cleared procurement projects worth over Rs. 7,000 crore including the long-pending acquisition of 145 Ultra Light Howitzers from the U.S. under a Rs. 3,000-crore deal.
The decision to go ahead with the procurement of 145 M777 howitzers from the U.S. under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route and several other items was taken at a meeting of the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) headed by Defence Minister A.K. Antony.
The DAC also cleared a proposal to procure over 65 radars for the L-70 air defence guns which will be worth over Rs. 3,000 crore, Defence Ministry sources told PTI in New Delhi.
The projects approved by the DAC will now be put up before the Finance Ministry for clearance before they are taken up by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) for final approval.
The Ultra Light Howitzers of 155 mm (39 caliber) were being acquired for deployment in high altitude areas in Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh, the sources said, adding that this would be the first acquisition of howitzers by the Army in the last 26 years.
After the Bofors controversy in 1986, no new guns have been procured by the Army for its artillery.
The M777 guns, manufactured by the BAE Systems of the U.S., can be airlifted easily and be used for quick deployment of assets in mountainous regions.
The go-ahead for procurement of these guns had been cleared by a high-level committee headed by Defence Research and Development Organisation chief V.K. Saraswat.
The other projects of the Army cleared by the DAC included procurement of simulators for T-90 tanks worth over Rs. 300 crore and 300 water tankers worth Rs. 90 crore.
The list of items cleared on Friday by the Defence Ministry includes hardware for the artillery, armoured and the air defence arms of the Army.
Army Chief Gen. V.K. Singh had raised questions about the preparedness of his force in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and mentioned all the above three arms which were facing critical shortage of equipment.
The DAC also cleared a proposal of the Navy to build a new cadet training ship worth Rs. 480 crore and a joint Air Force and Army proposal for 300 aerial targets worth Rs. 350 crore, the sources said.