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₹15,000-cr gun deal in L&T, Kalyani crosshairs

Alka Kshirsagar Pune | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on June 10, 2015

bl10_artillery gun

Contract involves supply of 1,500 towed artillery guns for the Indian Army

Kalyani Group company Kalyani Strategic Systems Ltd (KSSL) and L&T are the only two Indian companies currently in contention for the towed artillery gun pie that is valued at around ₹15,000 crore.

Field trials for the 155-mm/52 caliber gun — one from the KSSL subsidiary BF-Elbit JV and the other from L&T and French defence major Nexter teaming — are nearing completion and the winner of the order is expected to be declared over the next few months.

The contract involves the supply of 1,500 towed artillery guns for the Indian Army, including 1,100 that must be produced indigenously under the ‘Make-in-India’ initiative.

The indigenous manufacture is expected to cut the cost of a gun by at least 25 per cent.

The other 400 are to be delivered as complete units from the relevant overseas JV partner in three years’ time.

KSSL has set up a facility that can make 150 guns at Pune and also has land at Jejuri in Maharashtra where a new BF-Elbit facility will be established, Kalyani group Chairman Baba Kalyani told BusinessLine.

5-gun programme

The Pune-based KSSL is participating in three (of four) artillery gun programmes announced by the Indian government in partnership with Elbit, and is also currently making two guns entirely on its own.

At Mundhwa near Pune, what was formerly a heat treatment shop is now a facility for making barrels, breeches and muzzles, making it the only private sector company, and only the second one in the country, apart from Ordnance Factory Board in Kanpur, to have this capability.

The machines imported from RUAG, Switzerland, can produce barrels up to 9 m in length, while the rifling and autofrettage machines can make bores ranging from 105-155 mm.

The raw material for the barrel — a highly specialised steel alloy — is sourced from the neighbouring facility Kalyani Carpenter Special Steels.

In an adjoining shop stand prototypes of artillery guns, including the Bharat52, a 155-mm/52 caliber gun (8m long barrel) with a range of 42 km. It sits on a 12-m, wheeled platform that can be driven for distances up to 60 km and can attain speeds of up to 25 km per hour.

Both gun and platform have been designed and developed indigenously by KSSL, the company under which all of the Kalyani Group’s defence JVs – three as of now with Elbit, Rafael (both Israel-based companies) and Premier Explosives (Hyderabad) operate.

There are at least two more alliances with foreign partners in the pipeline. The second KSSL product in the shop is the Garuda a 1.4 ton, 105/37 soft recoil gun.

With the Indian Government standardising 155 mm bore for guns, this programme undertaken in association with the Indian Army, aims to re-utilise the components of the existing light field gun that is being phased out. “Both these guns are ready. While Bharat52 will go for track trials, Garuda will go for field trials to Deolali soon,” says Col Rajinder Bhatia, President & CEO, Defence and Aerospace, Bharat Forge, and Chairman of KSSL.

After the 155/39 Bofors gun controversy, the Indian Army has had zero acquisition of modern artillery systems and suffers from an acute shortage of them.

“There are over 200 artillery regiments, each requiring guns, so the requirement is for at least 3,000 guns, the vast majority of which is towed guns,” explains Lt Gen (Retd) Surendra Kulkarni, who recently retired as Director-General, Mechanized Forces.

“With each gun costing in the region of ₹10 crore, the value of any contract, including lifetime support, will run into thousands of crores.

“The Kalyanis have a head start, but other conglomerates could also come into the fray - the Adanis or Ambanis, for instance, each of whom could have a foreign partner,” he says.

The government policy review could even bring in foreign collaborations for OFB and the DRDO, he points out.

Published on June 10, 2015
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