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.

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