The Government’s decision to completely re-work the acquisition process for wheeled artillery guns is now official.
With the deal, which almost went to South African firm, Denel, earlier this year, now on hold, the Army has asked Bofors Defence AB for a live demonstration of its new Archer 155mm 52-calibre self-propelled howitzer. Bofors officials told The Indian Express that the request was being processed and an invitation would shortly be sent for an Indian Army team to visit Sweden for a firing demo.
The Army envisages the need for at least 30 wheeled 155mm howitzer regiments (600 guns) over the next ten years. The need may shoot up if the current Army HQ thought process of scaling down the requirement for tracked howitzers is finalised.
The Archer system, which will be inducted into the Swedish and Danish armies early 2008, is ready and two specimens are likely to be used in the next few months for a live firing trial. Bofors is also preparing to present features that the Army did not have on its General Staff Qualitative Requirements (GSQRs), including Multiple Round Simultaneous Impact (MRSI) capabilities, the world’s first ever guided shells and the Uniflex-2 modular charge system on the Archer.
Built on the Volvo A30D mega-truck platform, the Archer was developed to completely fulfill the Swedish artillery doctrine. The towed variant of the same L-52 guns has just completed a third round of trials in India for a substantial deal to arm at least 50 artillery regiments.
Haken Kangert, Chairman of the India-specific marketing arm of Bofors Defence, said that the company was willing to transfer Archer technology to New Delhi so that a bulk of the guns could be built under license in Bangalore. In addition, Kangert said Bofors would be willing to participate in an upgrade of the Army’s current arsenal of 400 old generation L-39 guns that New Delhi purchased in 1986 from AB Bofors.
The Indian Army’s towed gun arsenal should ideally arm more than 100 regiments — in excess of 2,000 towed howitzers. The Army already has 400 towed L-39 Bofors guns, in currently converting its 130mm guns to the 152mm standard and will soon be armed with 1,000 more 152mm guns. It further envisages five tracked gun regiments and ten regiments of wheeled turret based artillery systems.