Monday, February 14, 2011

BAE ultra light Howitzer M777 failed during test in India, trial report leaked.

More than 20 years after Bofors, which gave India an edge during Kargil war, the Indian Army continues to struggle to modernise its artillery.

After four failed attempts in the last five years, it looks as if Bofors could be a jinx once again.

BAE Systems, the company that now owns Bofors, makes the ultra light Howitzer M777, which is likely to be procured through a Foreign Military Sales route.

But it turned out that the gun has failed trials on several parameters.

Parts of the leaked trial report, now the subject of an enquiry reportedly showed how the gun in the crucial Direct Firing trials, failed in both day and night.

Its compatibility, according to the Firing Table set up by the Army, was once again a 'Fail'.
In the Air Portability Trials, the BAE gun scored a zero on transportability by air. Transport by cargo, Para dropping the gun and a Heli Transport in a slung mode all showed up a 'Fail'.
The sighting system that deals with night vision also showed a 'Fail' along with the Inbuilt Communication System.

High level officials, that CNN IBN spoke to, do admit that some of the parameters on which the gun has failed are imperative for the artillery edge the force needs. But also equally important to underline these are details of just part of the report. In the final assessment, the ULH could still make the cut.

The revelations have put the scanner on the gun once again, since New Delhi has decided to go the Foreign Military Sales route, which is often more expensive but without the twists and turn that military tenders can run into.

The FMS route is essentially a government to government deal, which implies non-tender purchases, wherein the US Government is procuring the equipment on behalf of the Indian Government from its military companies and takes a commission for the services rendered through the Pentagon's Defence Security Cooperation Agency.

But the following line, in the Defence Acquisition Council's confidential note on the gun, could prove to be more controversial. It says "Post validation of Operational Requirements in trials conducted in India seek deviations to earlier technical parameters under Para 75 of DPP-2008".
Experts said it was part of the procedure. Anytime an equipment doesn't match your requirements, you seek a deviation. The bottomline though remains that the Indian Army's artillery procurement remains caught in a maze and the latest FMS route may have still not cut through it.

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