Army orders COI into leakage of Howitzer trial papers

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New Delhi, Feb 22 (PTI) The Army has ordered a Court ofInquiry (CoI) headed by a Lieutenant General-rank officer tolook into the leakage of a secret report regarding trials ofultra-light gunships proposed to be procured from the US.

The CoI has been tasked to find out how and from wherethe report leaked and to find out the officials to be heldresponsible for it, Defence Ministry sources said here.

The probe was ordered after the Army headquartersreceived an anonymous letter with five pages of the fieldtrial report of the M-777 Ultra-Light Howitzers (ULH), 145 ofwhich are being procured from the US through aninter-governmental agreement, they added.

This is the first deal of the artillery gunships thatIndia has entered into in 25 years after the Bofors gunscandal 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, the source said.

American BAE Systems and Singapore TechnologiesKinetics (STK) were the two contenders for the deal to supplythe 155mm/39 calibre guns to the Army for being deployed inmountains.

The Government decided to go for the Foreign MilitarySales (FMS) route to procure the M-777 howitzers from the USafter STK was blacklisted for its alleged involvement in theOrdnance Factory 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 the Army to do away with thedeficiency of modern howitzers in Service and Army ChiefGeneral V K Singh had expressed hope that the guns would beinducted by the end of this year into the force.

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