NEW DELHI --- In election season, the Bofors howitzers are all set to boom once again. But these artillery guns are not the original Swedish ones that brought down the Rajiv Gandhi government in 1989. Instead, they are the electronically upgraded desi Bofors versions called “Dhanush”.
Defence officials on Friday said the formal induction ceremony for the first five of the 155mm/45-calibre Dhanush howitzers, after initial barrel bursts and protracted trials spread over six years, will finally take place at the Gun Carriage Factory in Jabalpur on March 26.
Recurring scandals in India’s artillery procurement projects, from the Swedish Bofors in the mid-1980s to the South African Denel in 2005 and Singapore Technology Kinetics in 2009, stymied induction of long-range, high volume firepower in the over 13-lakh strong Army for over three decades.
Faced with this major critical operational gap, the combine of Army, DRDO and Ordnance Factory Board almost a decade ago kicked off work on the long-forgotten original designs obtained under transfer of technology provisions in the infamous Rs 1,437-crore Bofors contract of 1986 inked by the Rajiv Gandhi government.
This has finally led to the electronically upgraded Dhanush howitzer, with the 39-calibre of the original Bofors gun being upgraded to 45-calibre to increase its maximum strike range to 27-36 km (depending on the type of ammunition used) from the earlier 24-30 km.
“There were several problems with the Dhanush guns during the trials…but most have been resolved now. The Army had earlier placed an order for 114 of these guns for Rs 1,260 crore. The first 18 guns will be delivered by March 2020. The OFB will gradually step up its production rate. Overall, the Army requires 414 such guns,” said an officer. (end of excerpt)
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