Well, this was inevitable. For a record fourth time, the Bofors FH77-B05-L52 gun has been offered for India’s 155-mm towed competition for 1,580 guns. Essentially a reiteration of an offer it has gotten painfully used to putting on the table, BAE Systems was one of the recipients of a fresh RFI that was issued recently, effectively signalling the cancellation of the earlier competition.
In a statement today, BAE Systems said it had, “[S]ubmitted a response to the Indian Ministry of Defence’s latest RFI for towed 155mm howitzers, following previous tenders which were cancelled due to the inability of other potential suppliers to meet the tender conditions. The company’s offer will be based on the FH77 B05 155mm howitzer, and a significant proportion will be manufactured in India to meet the specific needs of the Indian Army.”
The other potential suppliers mentioned in the statement is actually just one supplier — ST Kinetics. A few days ago, ST Kinetics’ India campaign chief Brigadier General Patrick Choy told me that his company’s gun, the iFH-2000, needed only six additional days of range testing with Indian ammunition to meet all tender conditions, but there was no response to this request, possibly as a result of the blacklist recommendation which swam into view around that time. He also claims that his team was given 10 days to calibrate their gun (they had requested 14 days), and that a combination of rain-induced flooding and an IAF-Army exercise stole them of six effective days of allocated range time, giving them only four effective days to complete the calibration.
Anand Mahindra, vice chairman and managing director of the Mahindra Group (which BAE Systems partners in India for artillery and specialty vehicles) said, “We’re proud to be associated with a defence system that has such a history of defending our great nation. Working on this programme will bring world-leading artillery technology to India for the first time, setting in motion the process of making Defence Land Systems India a global force in artillery.”
The question is, of course whether India will ever buy another Bofors gun. The funny thing is, India’s blacklist (or potential blacklist) runs like a who’s who of the global artillery business — Denel, Soltam, Rheinmetall and now ST Kinetics, leaving the Bofors gun with practically no competition. That hasn’t helped the gun so far, though.