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U.S. howitzer to add to Army’s firepower

The Army’s efforts to induct new artillery guns made last mile progress with the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) on Saturday giving advanced approvals for the procurement of M-777 Ultra-Light Howitzer (ULH) from the U.S. and Dhanush developed by the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB).

“The DAC meeting chaired by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar today [Saturday] considered 19 projects. New proposals worth Rs. 28,000 crore were discussed and a large number of existing schemes were reviewed,” a senior official said after the meeting.

In the M-777 deal for 145 ULH worth around $750 million, the DAC approved the case under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route from the U.S. The DAC directed independent progressing of the offsets. Under this, BAE systems, which manufactures the guns, will set up an Assembly, Integration and Test (AIT) facility in India for which it has already selected Mahindra group.

Of the 145 guns, 25 will be imported while the remaining 120 will be assembled in India.

However the number is expected to go up further given the Army’s need for guns to quip the mountain strike corps on the Eastern front. In another case, the Council reviewed the ongoing development of the indigenous Dhanush howitzer by the OFB based on the original Bofors guns imported from Sweden.

Under this three guns will be delivered for user exploitation trails by June 30 and another three guns by September end.

It gave nod for an initial bulk production clearance of 18 guns.

Air defence systems

The Army’s ongoing projects for procurement of air defence systems, Short Range Surface to Air Missile (SRSAM) and Very Short Range Air Defence Systems (VSHORAD), were also reviewed.

“It was decided to keep the ongoing procurement process going in a multi-vendor situation,” officials said.

For the Navy, approval was made for issuing the Acceptance of Necessity (AON) for six next generation missile vessels to replace the current Prabal class ships at an estimated cost of Rs.13,600 crore.

An Rs.86-crore project for modernisation and augmentation of facilities at the Naval Dockyards and the Naval Ship repair yards was cleared as well as acquisition of five diving support craft indigenously at Rs. 150 crore.

For the Air Force, while there was decision on the much anticipated S-400 Triumph air defence systems from Russia, two other projects — procurement of indigenously developed simulators for Jaguar Aircraft at a cost of Rs. 500 crore and setting up of an electronic warfare range by the Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) at a cost of Rs. 1,330 crore were approved.

Council clears deal for 145 guns worth around $750 million; indigenous Dhanush too gets nod

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