NEW DELHI — India may strike a deal with Sweden to purchase 155mm towed howitzers for its army, AVIATION WEEK has learned.
Controversy and delays have swirled around India’s effort to buy the guns. Trials were delayed a year as vendor ST Kinetics came under an ethics cloud.
The company has been vying with BAE Land Systems to build the guns (Aerospace DAILY, June 29, 2009). “It is time to bite the bullet,” an Indian official says. “The army needs the guns and we cannot wait for another three to four years for the decision to be made.”
Still, New Delhi is mindful not to repeat the Bofors gun scandal of the 1980s, during which then-Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was accused of receiving kickbacks from Bofors for a contract to supply India with howitzers.
Meanwhile, the Indian defense ministry is planning to issue another request for proposal (RFP) for the gun requirement, following the release of an RFI last week.
This would be the fourth RFP release since 2002. An Indian army spokesman confirms that the retraction of the third RFP was sent a day ago “by post.”
ST Kinetics has confirmed it will reply to the RFI. There was no official response yet from BAE whether it has responded or plans to.
- Neelam Mathews