New Delhi: An Indian private company is for the first time in direct competition with a foreign vendor to supply 100 self-propelled howitzers to the Army in a deal expected to be worth over Rs 2,000 crore.
India's Larsen & Toubro (L&T) and Russia's Rosobornexport are in a straight contest to supply the 100 self-propelled tracked howitzers to the Army and the trials of the two guns are slated to begin in June-July this year, defence ministry sources told PTI.
The guns are being procured by the Army as part of its more than Rs 20,000-crore artillery modernisation programme, which has been stuck after the Bofors gun deal scandal, they said.
Not a single new artillery gun has been inducted ever since the infamous Bofors contract for 410 field howitzers became a political issue in 1986.
The gun being offered by the Indian firm is learnt to have been built and developed in collaboration with South Korea's Samsung Techwin and is based on its "K9 Thunder" self- propelled howitzer.
According to the contract between the two firms, the Korean firm would provide key technologies to L&T for local production of the howitzer.
After the trial phase gets over by early next year, following the winter evaluation of the guns, the Army would find the lowest bidder and include the chosen guns in five regiments of its artillery units.
Under its artillery modernisation plan, the Army envisages induction of 2,814 guns of different types from both indigenous and foreign sources.
The force has plans of procuring more than 300 indigenous versions of the Bofors howitzers being produced by the Ordnance Factory Board and is also in the process of upgrading the 130 mm artillery guns to the 155mm 52 calibre standard.
It is also procuring from the US around 145 ultra-light howitzers to be deployed in India's mountainous borders with China and Pakistan from the US under a Foreign Military Sales deal expected to be finalised soon between the two countries.