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BAE Systems to sell more howitzer guns, aircraft to India soon

Amrita Nair Ghaswalla Mumbai | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on January 27, 2013

Almost two years after deciding to buy light howitzer guns from the US subsidiary of BAE Land Systems, the Indian Defence Ministry has initiated talks with the US Government to procure M777 light howitzers. The deal is likely to be inked before the end of March.

Under the contract, worth $700 million, the UK-headquartered BAE Systems is to deliver the guns as fully built units.

Speaking to Business Line on the condition of anonymity, an official said, this would be “a direct G2G deal (Government to Government) between India and the US and will be facilitated under the US Government's foreign military sales route.”

A rapidly growing Indian economy, defence preparedness challenges and opening up of defence production to the private sector, have given a major fillip to the defence sector.

The US Government had sent two units of the M777 to India for trias last year. The M777 howitzer is a 39-caliber towed artillery gun and weighs 4.2 tonnes. The official added that BAE Systems has supplied the M777 to Canada and Australia, besides the US.

India is a key international market for BAE Systems. It has been here for 60 years and has an office in New Delhi.

The company has two joint ventures in the country. One is with Mahindra and Mahindra for land systems. On January 23, M&M and BAE Systems announced a strategic review of their joint venture. The other is with Baehal, that undertakes software engineering sevices for companies in the defence space.

In 2004, India inked a contract to buy 66 Hawk Advance Jet Trainers worth $1.63 billion from BAE Systems for the Indian Air Force. The deal included options for another 40 aircraft. The second batch is being license-built by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in Bengaluru. The overall project cost is estimated at Rs 16,000 crore.

“In 2004, the first batch of 66 Hawks was contracted, comprising some aircraft in fly-away condition and some built under licence by HAL. In 2010, it was the second batch with 57 aircraft. With a total of 123 Hawks purchased by India as of now, BAE has received an RSP (request for proposal) for 20 more aircraft that could potentially make up the third batch,” said the official.

The aircraft, to be built by HAL in Bengaluru, will fulfill the Indian Air Force’s requirement for its prestigious aerobatic team. A 20-plane third order would bring India’s Hawk fleet to 143, making the country the world’s third largest Hawk operator behind the US Navy and Britain.

Given BAE's partnership with HAL, BAE is to “assist, enable and support the production line of the Hawk aircraft by HAL. The Hawk programme is progressing well. HAL is now manufacturing the aircraft,” said the official.

With India’s defence industry set to become a hub centre for defence business in the Asia region, the potential addition to the Indian fleet, one of the largest fleets of Hawk anywhere in the world, would take the number of Hawk aircraft ordered worldwide to over 1,000. The UK Royal Air Force aerobatics team Red Arrows has used the BAE Systems Hawk since 1979.

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Published on January 27, 2013
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