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Army's artillery acquisition plan on track: Vice Chief

Written by: Staff
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New Delhi, Mar 13 (UNI) The Indian Army's artillery acquisition plan is on track, with the selection of the 155mm howitzer and the initial payment is likely within the next financial year, Army Vice Chief Lt Gen S Pattabhiraman today said.

''Despite not much movement recently, it is proceeding well on track. We aim at completing the evaluation trials by the end of this year and are likely to make an initial financial committment by the end of the financial year 2006-07,'' he told mediapersons, on the sidelines of a function here.

However, Lt Gen Pattabhiraman declined to comment whether the trials would feature more contenders than the original three shortlisted firms, which comprised the Swedish AB Systems -- the successor to the notorious Bofors -- Israel's Soltam Systems and the South African arms major Denel.

The process for the acquisition of the howitzer had been delayed when Denel was blacklisted by the government after allegations of corruption surfaced and the Israeli gun failed to meet the Army's qualitative parameters, thus only leaving the possibility of a 'single vendor' deal, not allowed by the CAG rules.

According to sources, new contenders had jumped into the deal, including armament manufacturers from Slovakia, Russia and the United Kingdom.

The Army plans to acquire 150 howitzers initially and seek transfer of technology to manufacture 300 more to bolster its firepower and rationalise its artillery forces.

UNI VD AT BD1923

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