INDIA,'S NEVER ENDING ARTILLERY PROGRAM-by weapon and technology




India has marked over $4 billion worth of artillery projects to purchase several hundred new 155mm howitzers. They’re intended to supplement India’s dwindling artillery stocks, while out-ranging and out-shooting Pakistan’s self-propelled M109 155mm guns. It seemed simple enough, and in the main towed artillery competition, BAE Systems Bofors had been competing against systems from Israel’s Soltam and Denel of South Africa.
Unfortunately, India’s 2 towed howitzer competition, and its 2 self-propelled artillery procurements, have mostly served as cautionary tales. If the stakes weren’t so high, they would qualify as farce. The simple process of buying off-the-shelf artillery guns has become a decades-long affair filled with legal drama, accusations of corruption, and more than one re-start. Meanwhile, India’s stock of operational 155mm FH77 howitzers has dwindled to around 200. Competitions are declared, and canceled, again and again. One is on its 5th iteration. Another is on its 3rd. Meanwhile, India’s last successful artillery buy was over 2 decades ago. Is there an end in sight to any of these competitions? Or a potential winner?

US-India Defense and Strategic Affairs reported on the competition in 2004, and noted that this was expected to be one of the first large defense procurement decisions made by India’s new United Progressive Alliance government. The question became whether a decision could be made within that government’s term(s) of office. The answer: no.
The saga is illustrative of the problems India’s defense bureaucracy is creating across all of its artillery competitions, as it attempts to field working products before its existing artillery systems expire.
After multiple firing trials and several years, India’s towed artillery competition managed to end up without any competitors left standing. All 3 competitors (Bofors FH-77 B05, Soltam TIG 2002, Denel G5/2000) failed to meet India’s accuracy specifications in 2003 trials. Which might lead one to question the specifications, but all 3 improved their guns to compete again in 2004. There are reports that Soltam fell out of the race entirely, after a barrel burst during field trials. Then South Africa’s Denel was sidelined in 2004 and eliminated in 2005, after the Indian government accused the manufacturer of corruption in another defense deal.
That created problems on 2 fronts. One front involved a key competitor. Denel’s financial situation was deteriorating, and The Times of India reported that the contract may have been critical to the firm’s financial survival. In hindsight, that concern was valid, but Denel managed to survive the loss. A win certainly would have made a significant difference, and might have allowed Denel to delay its major corporate restructuring and associated strategic rethinking for several years.
Bofors’ FH-77B05:
The other problem involved India’s Ministry of Defence. India’s defense procurement establishment has shown an extreme risk-averse behavior and Defense India observes that when a competition devolves to a single-vendor solution, the practice is often to re-tender. Soltam and Denel’s exit left just BAE Bofors, until they, too were eliminated by allegations that Bofors had paid INR 640 million (about $16 million) in bribes, trying to secure the order.
The net effect of corporate blacklists, plus single-vendor prohibitions, is a process that can’t field equipment to India’s military when it’s needed – and sometimes ever. Unfortunately for India’s front-line soldiers, their need for working artillery hasn’t changed.
Indian history suggests that this is a long-standing problem. Bofors Defence AB had been blacklisted by India before, after allegations of kickbacks in a 1987 deal during Rajiv Gandhi’s regime. That scandal had derailed a planned 1,500 gun buy, reducing it to 410 FH-77 B02 howitzers. Fortunately for India, those guns arrived in time to become an iconic feature of the 1999 Kargil War with Pakistan. On the civil front, meanwhile, those accused in the Bofors case eventually had their day in court, and won. Leaving behind a number of questions that India’s political class would rather leave unasked.
In April 2007, India re-opened its towed howitzer competition again, and the passage of time had created a number of changes in its requirements and options. By November 2009, however, it was the same old dynamic. The mere allegation of bribery had frozen the competition again, by leaving just 1 eligible contender. Would the January 2011 re-start fare any better?
Meanwhile, the support contract with Bofors for India’s in-service howitzers expired in 2001. As of January 2009, India’s stock was believed to sit at just 200 operational 155/39 caliber guns. They are accompanied by existing stocks of Soviet-era 130mm artillery, and 105mm light guns. A contract with Soltam (now Elbit) of Israel has converted some of those 130mm howitzers to 155mm/45 caliber weapons, raising the guns’ range from 26 km to 39 km/ 24 miles.

The competition for Indian artillery is actually several competitions.
Towed. The competition covered in the previous section involves about $1.8 billion for 400 towed 155/52 artillery guns, to be followed by production of up to 1,180 in India.
Current Status: 5th RFP is now out. Winter and summer trials planned in 2010, now in limbo. BAE Bofors’ FH77 was competing against ST Engineering’s FH-2000, but BAE pulled out, and ST Kinetics is barred by legal complications. On the sidelines, India’s DRDO has used the blockage to start a design project of its own. Meanwhile, India’s incompetent Ordnance Factory Board has been sitting on the plans it was given for the Bofors FH77 B02, as the tech transfer piece of the 1990s contract that allowed licensed production in India.
Ultra-Light. A 2nd competition involves about $700 million for the ultra-light 155/39 howitzer competition, covering about 140 pieces. These would be portable, towed guns.
Current status: India’s government may be doing a government-to-government deal, as an emergency end-run to buy BAE’s M777, and bolster its dwindling artillery. Singapore’s Pegasus was picked in 2009, but ST Kinetics’ blacklisting derailed the competition. The reason for the M777’s holdup is a combination of the Indian bureaucracy’s inability to conduct the required trials over 2 years since the DSCA request, and reports that legal advisors worry about a decision in the ST Kinetics’ legal case entangling any M777 buy.
SPH Trakced. A 3rd competition would spend about $800 million for about 100 155mm self-propelled tracked guns. The BHIM (Denel G-6 gun on Arjun tank chassis) winner was terminated in 2006, when Denel was barred following a corruption case. Partner Bharat Earth Movers was the big loser. Another RFP in 2007 failed, as all firms were barred.
Current status: In limbo. Meanwhile, Pakistan began its own process in 2005, and bought 115 tracked M109A5 155mm self-propelled howitzers from the USA, at a very cheap price. The last one was delivered to Pakistan in 2010.
SPH Wheeled. A 4th competition involves about $900 million – $1 billion for 180 self-propelled wheeled guns.
Current status: Canceled November 2011. RFP responses were reported to leave Slovakia’s 155/45 Zuzana system), vs. Germany’s Rheinmetall RWG-52 155/52 system, which uses the PzH-2000 turret. Samsung Technwin’s entry, which is no longer listed in their product line, was eliminated in 2009.

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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

INDIA,'S NEVER ENDING ARTILLERY PROGRAM-by weapon and technology



India has marked over $4 billion worth of artillery projects to purchase several hundred new 155mm howitzers. They’re intended to supplement India’s dwindling artillery stocks, while out-ranging and out-shooting Pakistan’s self-propelled M109 155mm guns. It seemed simple enough, and in the main towed artillery competition, BAE Systems Bofors had been competing against systems from Israel’s Soltam and Denel of South Africa.
Unfortunately, India’s 2 towed howitzer competition, and its 2 self-propelled artillery procurements, have mostly served as cautionary tales. If the stakes weren’t so high, they would qualify as farce. The simple process of buying off-the-shelf artillery guns has become a decades-long affair filled with legal drama, accusations of corruption, and more than one re-start. Meanwhile, India’s stock of operational 155mm FH77 howitzers has dwindled to around 200. Competitions are declared, and canceled, again and again. One is on its 5th iteration. Another is on its 3rd. Meanwhile, India’s last successful artillery buy was over 2 decades ago. Is there an end in sight to any of these competitions? Or a potential winner?

US-India Defense and Strategic Affairs reported on the competition in 2004, and noted that this was expected to be one of the first large defense procurement decisions made by India’s new United Progressive Alliance government. The question became whether a decision could be made within that government’s term(s) of office. The answer: no.
The saga is illustrative of the problems India’s defense bureaucracy is creating across all of its artillery competitions, as it attempts to field working products before its existing artillery systems expire.
After multiple firing trials and several years, India’s towed artillery competition managed to end up without any competitors left standing. All 3 competitors (Bofors FH-77 B05, Soltam TIG 2002, Denel G5/2000) failed to meet India’s accuracy specifications in 2003 trials. Which might lead one to question the specifications, but all 3 improved their guns to compete again in 2004. There are reports that Soltam fell out of the race entirely, after a barrel burst during field trials. Then South Africa’s Denel was sidelined in 2004 and eliminated in 2005, after the Indian government accused the manufacturer of corruption in another defense deal.
That created problems on 2 fronts. One front involved a key competitor. Denel’s financial situation was deteriorating, and The Times of India reported that the contract may have been critical to the firm’s financial survival. In hindsight, that concern was valid, but Denel managed to survive the loss. A win certainly would have made a significant difference, and might have allowed Denel to delay its major corporate restructuring and associated strategic rethinking for several years.
Bofors’ FH-77B05:
The other problem involved India’s Ministry of Defence. India’s defense procurement establishment has shown an extreme risk-averse behavior and Defense India observes that when a competition devolves to a single-vendor solution, the practice is often to re-tender. Soltam and Denel’s exit left just BAE Bofors, until they, too were eliminated by allegations that Bofors had paid INR 640 million (about $16 million) in bribes, trying to secure the order.
The net effect of corporate blacklists, plus single-vendor prohibitions, is a process that can’t field equipment to India’s military when it’s needed – and sometimes ever. Unfortunately for India’s front-line soldiers, their need for working artillery hasn’t changed.
Indian history suggests that this is a long-standing problem. Bofors Defence AB had been blacklisted by India before, after allegations of kickbacks in a 1987 deal during Rajiv Gandhi’s regime. That scandal had derailed a planned 1,500 gun buy, reducing it to 410 FH-77 B02 howitzers. Fortunately for India, those guns arrived in time to become an iconic feature of the 1999 Kargil War with Pakistan. On the civil front, meanwhile, those accused in the Bofors case eventually had their day in court, and won. Leaving behind a number of questions that India’s political class would rather leave unasked.
In April 2007, India re-opened its towed howitzer competition again, and the passage of time had created a number of changes in its requirements and options. By November 2009, however, it was the same old dynamic. The mere allegation of bribery had frozen the competition again, by leaving just 1 eligible contender. Would the January 2011 re-start fare any better?
Meanwhile, the support contract with Bofors for India’s in-service howitzers expired in 2001. As of January 2009, India’s stock was believed to sit at just 200 operational 155/39 caliber guns. They are accompanied by existing stocks of Soviet-era 130mm artillery, and 105mm light guns. A contract with Soltam (now Elbit) of Israel has converted some of those 130mm howitzers to 155mm/45 caliber weapons, raising the guns’ range from 26 km to 39 km/ 24 miles.

The competition for Indian artillery is actually several competitions.
Towed. The competition covered in the previous section involves about $1.8 billion for 400 towed 155/52 artillery guns, to be followed by production of up to 1,180 in India.
Current Status: 5th RFP is now out. Winter and summer trials planned in 2010, now in limbo. BAE Bofors’ FH77 was competing against ST Engineering’s FH-2000, but BAE pulled out, and ST Kinetics is barred by legal complications. On the sidelines, India’s DRDO has used the blockage to start a design project of its own. Meanwhile, India’s incompetent Ordnance Factory Board has been sitting on the plans it was given for the Bofors FH77 B02, as the tech transfer piece of the 1990s contract that allowed licensed production in India.
Ultra-Light. A 2nd competition involves about $700 million for the ultra-light 155/39 howitzer competition, covering about 140 pieces. These would be portable, towed guns.
Current status: India’s government may be doing a government-to-government deal, as an emergency end-run to buy BAE’s M777, and bolster its dwindling artillery. Singapore’s Pegasus was picked in 2009, but ST Kinetics’ blacklisting derailed the competition. The reason for the M777’s holdup is a combination of the Indian bureaucracy’s inability to conduct the required trials over 2 years since the DSCA request, and reports that legal advisors worry about a decision in the ST Kinetics’ legal case entangling any M777 buy.
SPH Trakced. A 3rd competition would spend about $800 million for about 100 155mm self-propelled tracked guns. The BHIM (Denel G-6 gun on Arjun tank chassis) winner was terminated in 2006, when Denel was barred following a corruption case. Partner Bharat Earth Movers was the big loser. Another RFP in 2007 failed, as all firms were barred.
Current status: In limbo. Meanwhile, Pakistan began its own process in 2005, and bought 115 tracked M109A5 155mm self-propelled howitzers from the USA, at a very cheap price. The last one was delivered to Pakistan in 2010.
SPH Wheeled. A 4th competition involves about $900 million – $1 billion for 180 self-propelled wheeled guns.
Current status: Canceled November 2011. RFP responses were reported to leave Slovakia’s 155/45 Zuzana system), vs. Germany’s Rheinmetall RWG-52 155/52 system, which uses the PzH-2000 turret. Samsung Technwin’s entry, which is no longer listed in their product line, was eliminated in 2009.

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