Defence Ministry nod to buy ultralight howitzers worth ` 5,000 crore from US
The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), chaired by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has approved the much-delayed purchase of 145 ultralight howitzers, worth about ` 5,000 crore, from the US and also the bulk production of 18 Dhanush artillery guns.
While 25 guns will come to India in a fly-away condition, the rest will be assembled at the proposed assembly integration and test facility for the weapon system in India in partnership with Mahindra. The howitzers that can be heli-lifted were first proposed to be bought from BAE about 10 years back.
DAC has approved progressing of ongoing case of procurement of 145 ultralight howitzers through the foreign military sales (FMS) route from US. DAC directed independent progressing of offset. The DAC has also shortened the supply period of the guns, with a strike range of 25 km, sources said though the exact period could not be known.
Dhanush, a towed howitzer with a strike range of 38-km, has been developed by the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), Kolkata, after going through the design and voluminous documents running into more than 12,000 pages which were delivered to India under the first phase of transfer of technology as part of the Bofors gun deal in late 1980s.
“While three guns would be delivered for user exploitation by June 30, three more will be handed over by September end. DAC also cleared bulk production of 18 guns to enable better exploitation and setting up of indigenous production,” the officer said.
Costing about ` 14 crore a piece, Dhanush is comparable to most current generation weapons systems which are in use by different countries. Along with electronic gun-laying and sighting systems and other features, the indigenous gun has an enhanced 11-km range as against the gun range of 27-km of the imported Bofors.
The plans to acquire such guns were first mooted under Army’s Field Artillery Rationalisation Plan (FARP) formulated in 1999. Meanwhile, the DAC also reviewed the ongoing procurement case of SRSAM and Very Short Range Air Defence (VSHORAD) System. “It was decided to keep on the ongoing acquisition process going in a multi-vendor situation”, the officer said.