New Delhi: In its first major induction of artillery guns after the Bofors scandal, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has inducted three major artillery gun systems, including the M777 A2 Ultra Light Howitzers, K-9 Vajra self-propelled gun and and a 'Composite Gun Towing Vehicle'.
The Rs 64 crore Bofors pay-off case disrupted the Army's modernisation plans in the late 1980s and turned out to be a major politically-sensitive scandal.
Speaking at the induction ceremony, held at Deolali Field Firing Ranges on Friday, the minister said many more such systems would be inducted in the Army in the next few years.
"These guns are being inducted almost 30 years after the Bofors guns were inducted," Sitharaman said.
Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre, Chief of Army Staff General Bipin Rawat and former Army chief Gen Deepak Kapoor were present.
The 155mm, 39 calibre Ultra light Howitzers have been procured from USA under government to government foreign military sales and will be assembled in India by BAE Systems in partnership with Mahindra Defence.
The gun system is versatile, light weight and can be heli-lifted, thereby providing the much needed flexibility in deployment in various terrains. It is in service in the US, Canadian, Australian and some other armies and has proven its mettle in difficult areas of Afghanistan and Iraq.
The first 10 K9 Vajra 155mm/52 calibre guns have been imported from Hanwha Techwin of South Korea in semi knocked down state and have been assembled by L&T in India.
The remaining 90 guns will be largely manufactured in India with some major assemblies coming from South Korea, the minister said.
Their induction will give a 'huge fillip' to the firepower capability of Indian Army on our western borders, she said.
The 6x6 Field Artillery Tractor has been indigenously developed by Ashok Leyland and will provide the much awaited replacement for the ageing fleet of artillery gun towing vehicles.
The induction of the gun systems also gives a major impetus to Make In India initiative of the government, the minister said.
The procurement process for the equipment was initiated in 2006 during the Congress regime but didn't advance further, the minister said. "In contrast, our government shrunk the process in last four years not only initiated the procurement process but ensure induction," she added.
An impressive display of equipment and a firepower demo by the guns of the Indian artillery was held on the occasion.
Indigenous gun systems/surveillance and target acquisition systems recently introduced in service were also on display.
The Rs 1,437-crore deal between India and Swedish arms manufacturer AB Bofors for the supply of 400 units of 155 mm Howitzer guns for the Indian Army was entered into on March 24, 1986. Swedish Radio on April 16, 1987, had claimed that the company had paid bribes to top Indian politicians and defence personnel.
The CBI on January 22, 1990, had registered the FIR for alleged offences of criminal conspiracy, cheating and forgery under the Indian Penal Code and other sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act against Martin Ardbo, the then president of AB Bofors, alleged middleman Win Chadda and the Hinduja brothers. It had alleged that certain public servants and private persons in India and abroad had entered into a criminal conspiracy between 1982 and 1987 in pursuance of which the offences of bribery, corruption, cheating and forgery were committed.
The first charge sheet in the case was filed on October 22, 1999 against Chadda, Ottavio Quattrocchi, the then defence secretary S K Bhatnagar, Ardbo and the Bofors company. A supplementary charge sheet was filed against the Hinduja brothers on October 9, 2000.
A special CBI court in Delhi on March 4, 2011, had discharged Quattrocchi from the case, saying the country could not afford to spend hard-earned money on his extradition which had already cost Rs 250 crore.