NEW DELHI: British defence group BAE Systems has joined the race to win part of a 2.5-billion-dollar artillery shopping spree by the Indian military, defence officials in New Delhi said Friday.
India last month invited proposals from global arms manufacturers for the purchase of 140 ultra-light artillery guns. BAE Systems joins a field including firms from Russia - India’s main defence supplier - and Soltam Systems of Israel, a country which last year moved up to become the second biggest arms supplier to New Delhi. “It’s going to be a close thing,” a senior defence ministry official said. New Delhi is also expected to open a separate tender for 155 heavy guns by the end of March, Indian defence sources said.
Arms fair: Rival firms will be showing off their guns at DefExpo, an annual arms fair which starts in New Delhi today. The tenders are part of India’s plans to spend 30 billion dollars by 2012 to modernise a military currently mainly armed with vintage, Soviet-era weaponry. Indian security officials have also been discussing buying Israeli anti-aircraft missiles, as well as a contract to upgrade a fleet of Russian-built MiG-29 fighters.
A source from the office of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh confirmed the two projects were raised in talks late Thursday, and said the deals - with a combined value of 1.13 billion dollars - had been approved. India in 2001 floated global tenders for 400 guns, but scrapped the contract last year after testing hardware sent by Israeli, British and South African firms vying for the deal.
South Africa’s state-owned Denel armament firm was later blacklisted by India on charges of corruption in a separate arms deal. The Indian army has not bought artillery since 1986 when the purchase of 410 howitzer guns for 1.23 billion dollars from then-Swedish firm Bofors sparked allegations that politicians took bribes to clinch the deal. The scandal contributed to the collapse of the government of then-prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1989.
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