Report leak: Antony asks officials to be careful

New Delhi, Feb 15 (PTI) Viewing seriously the leakage ofa report on trials of a US gun system that India plans to buy,Defence Minister A K Antony today sounded a note of caution toofficials dealing with such matters amid assertion that nomanipulation would be allowed in the procurement procedures.

He noted that Army has ordered an inquiry into thealleged leakage of the secret report that contained assessmentof the trial of ultra-light M-777 artillery guns which Indiaproposes to procure from the US.

"Already Army has ordered an inquiry at the highestlevel. We will find the truth," Antony told reporters on thesidelines of function here.

Sounding a note of caution, Antony said due toincreasing competition in defence deals, the armed forces needto be very careful during acquisition processes.

At the same time, he added, "nobody would be able tomanipulate our procurement procedures."

Asked whether there was any timeline for completion ofthe probe, Antony said, "The report came only a few days back.

The Army is doing inquiry... they are very serious and we willnot allow any manipulation at any level."

He said, "Whenever there is a leak or mistake, we aretaking action against it. Proper action is always taken.

Transparency will be maintained at every level. There is apucca (fool-proof) system".

The Army proposes to procure 145 M-777 Ultra-Light155 mm Howitzers from the US under an inter-governmentalagreement, which will mark the first deal of the artillerygunships that India has entered into in 25 years after theBofors gun scandal broke out.

The field trials of the American howitzer have beencarried out at various places including Leh, Sikkim besidesthe desert and plain areas also. The trials are yet to becompleted, sources said.

American BAE Systems'' M-777 and Singapore TechnologiesKinetics'' (STK) Pegasus were the two contenders for the dealto supply the 155mm/39 calibre guns to the Army for beingdeployed for mountain warfare.

The Government chose the Foreign Military Sales (FMS)route to procure the M-777 howitzers from the US after STK wasblacklisted for its alleged involvement in the OrdnanceFactory Board scam in 2009.

Due to the blacklisting, the Army had to cancel thetender for procuring 400 towed howitzers also and has reissueda new Request For Proposal (RFP) last month.

The deal is critical for Army''s Rs 20,000 croreartillery modernisation plans to do away with the deficiencyof modern howitzers in Service.

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