Army seeks 7 regts of ultra-light howitzers, RFPs issued

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New Delhi, Jan 14 (UNI) Signalling its long-delayed artillery modernisation and acquisition programme was back on track, the Army announced that Requests for Proposals (RFPs) for ultra-light howitzers were issued today and those for towed and self-propelled versions would follow soon.

''RFPs for the ultra-light howitzers were issued today. Those for the towed version of the 155-mm howitzers will be issued shortly, and work on those for self-propelled versions is in an advanced stage. They should be out by next month,'' Army Chief Gen Deepak Kapoor said.

The Army envisages raising up to seven regiments equipped with these howitzers.

Addressing the customary eve of Army Day press conference, the Army Chief admitted that the artillery modernisation programme had suffered a setback after extensive field trials, both the Swedish and Israeli 155 mm howitzers had not turned up to be up to the mark.

''We had to foreclose these options and begin afresh,'' Gen Kapoor -- a Gunner himself -- said, adding that now the programme seemed to be back on track.

According to sources, the ultra-light howitzers will add a considerable punch to the Army's firepower, especially in mountainous and other difficult terrain, as they could be transported more easily to such places -- either slung on helicopters or within a medium cargo aircraft.

The Army Chief also announced that a fresh RFP for helicopters would be issued, after the Eurocopter bid was rejected.

He also said the induction of the Brahmos cruise missile, and the Russian-made and indigenous 'Smerch' and 'Pinaka' Multi-Launch Rocket System was proceeding smoothly.

Gen Kapoor also admitted that there were some problems regarding the Transfer of Technology (ToT) for indigenous manufacture of the T-90 tank but expressed the hope it would be resolved soon.

''It is a complex issue, and thus there has been a degree of delay. But it is a matter of time till its resolved,'' he said, adding that in the interim, they had got government approval for purchasing 347 more tanks from the Russians.

On the issue of the indigenously-developed 'Akash' surface to air missiles, he said the Army would only consider them when their specific requirements were met.

''The missile has just been tried and tested for the IAF. As such, there are some aspects we need to get addressed for ourselves.

When these requirements are met, then we will try it out,'' he said.

UNI VD KD RS1853

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