by Shishir Arya
Nagpur: L&T Heavy Engineering, whose 155x52mm self-propelled howitzers have cleared trials over a year ago, is now expecting to get production order within the current calendar year. The gun made by a joint venture of L&T and Korea's Samsung Techwin emerged successful during the test fires and was among the two contenders along with Russia's Rosoborn.
With the company emerging as the sole contender after test fires, the price negotiations were initiated that continued for almost a year. Now with the negotiations having also ended, the deal is in the final stage. "Certain clarifications were sought by the negotiations committee," said Commodore Mukesh Bhargava (retd), the vice-president (international business, defense, and aerospace) of L&T Heavy Engineering. He was in the city for a seminar focusing on opportunities for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the defense sector. The meet was organized by Confederation of Indian Industries (CII).
With L&T being the leader in the joint venture with Samsung, 50% of the spares used in the gun have been indigenously developed. The company has also completed the confirmatory test fires for the 155x52mm towed guns which are a separate version. There were certain issues in the systems that needed to be addressed. The second round of tests are over with those taken care of. Now the company is awaiting a final word from the government, Bhargava said.
The L&T gun comes as another choice for an indigenously made artillery weapon for the army. The 155mm is similar to Bofors howitzers procured by the government in the 1980s. The version now developed has a higher range. The original Bofors gun is of 155x39mm caliber while the army now mainly wants a 155x52 caliber gun that gives a higher range.
The ordnance factory has also developed an indigenous gun of 155x45 mm caliber giving a comparatively less range. The army has placed an order for 18 pieces of those.
Earlier in the seminar, Bhargava, who is also the convener of CII task force on defense for Maharashtra, apprised the SMEs about risks and advantages of venturing into defense production. "The product has to be perfectly meeting the requirements or else there are chances for businessmen to end up burning their fingers. The components required in the sector are based on complex technology and the bigger players in the private sector are also ready to hand hold the SMEs. However, the end-product should also ultimately meet the requirement," he said.
In a Nutshell
* Apart from ordnance factories, private players also vying to sell howitzers to army
* Ordnance factory has developed 115x45mm version as against 155x39mm supplied originally by Bofors
* L&T has come up with 155x52mm self-propelled and towed versions
* Bharat Forge also planning internal validations of its 155x52 and 152x39 mm guns this year