|Among the competitors in the fray are many of the original bidders — such as Bofors and Soltam of Israel but also new entrants like K-9 of South Korea. The US was also nudging the Indian defence establishment to try out its Paladin M109A that was studied by the Indian Army during the 2003 war on Iraq.
Bofors is likely to compete for the order with a variant of its FH 77B mounted on a 6X6 wheeled Volvo truck chassis. Israel’s Soltam had offered the Atmos 2000 last time and claimed that it could be mounted on a 6X6 Tatra truck that is manufactured by the public sector Bharat Earth Movers Limited.
France’s Nexter (originally called Giat) is likely to bid with the Caesar GCT AUF1. The army chief, General Joginder Jaswant Singh, is understood to have been given a demonstration of the gun during a visit to France last year.
The decision to re-float the tenders conforms to policy and is also politically convenient to the Congress-led UPA government. Only last month, the Bofors controversy re-surfaced with the detention of Ottavio Quattrocchi — suspected of being the middleman in a 1997 deal — in Argentina.
The wheeled guns would be mounted on truck chassis. The tracked guns would be mounted on caterpillar tracks — like those of a tank. The Indian Army proposes to initially buy 180 tracked and 220 wheeled systems.
The two RFPs have been issued after the General Standard Quality Requirements were revised. The guns will be evaluated on the basis of performance in extremes of climate and terrain — in Rajasthan and Ladakh — and their performance for target acquisition, firing rate, command and communication will be assessed. Among the other bidders in the fray are likely to be Kerametal of Slovakia, now a division of Rheinmetall with its Zuzana howitzer.