155mm Bofors FH-77B

The Bofors FH-77B on display at Republic Day

Crew: Six.

Calibre: 155mm/39 calibre.

Shield: None.

Maximum Speed: 70 km/h; towed.
.......................8 km/h; self-propelled.

Armament: 1 x 155mm Howitzer with ? rounds.

Gradient: 40%.

Rate of Fire: 10 rounds a minute (maximum).

Gun Elevation/Depression: -3º to +70º

Traverse: ±60º in total.

Maximum Ammunition Range: 24,000 metres - standard.
.......................................30,000 metres - extended.

Comments: The Indian Army initially planned to acquire 1500 FH-77B howitzers, from Bofors of Sweden, but due to theinfamous 'Bofors Scandal' only 410 guns were purchased in 1987. Due to the lack of spares, an estimated 100+ guns were cannibalized and deemed not operational. A deal was signed with Austria's Maschinenfabrik Liezen (MFL) in July 1998 to supply much-needed Bofors spares to the Indian Army. However in February 1999, MFL stated that it could not deliver the spares. The Corps of Electrical & Mechanical Engineers (CEME) then managed to produce some of the spare parts, but other vital parts have not been easy, and thus unable to reproduce. The gun proved its worth during the 1999 Kargil Conflict and the Indian Government, on the insistence of the Indian Army, decided to lift the ban imposed on Bofors (today known as SWS Defence and currently owned by BAE Systems) to purchase the much-needed spares. In September 1999, the Army ordered spare parts from BWS worth $23.26 million which was a follow-on order to a small July 1999 purchase. On 25 March 2001, the 14-year contract with Bofors expired and once again the howitzer is in serious trouble of acquiring spares and ammunition.

The Telegraph, reported on 14 January 2006, that a multi-million dollar artillery upgrade is in the works and would see the gun be upgraded to a 52 calibre standard. Then a media report, dated 06 May 2007, stated that proposals for the upgrade of 360 guns - worth USD $400 million - has been sent to Israel's Elbit Sytems Ltd, Britain's BAE Systems and India's Tata Power Strategic Electronics Division. The proposal requires the upgraded gun be presented to the Indian Army for field trials by the end of 2007. The guns will be upgraded to a 45 caliber standard, and not the 52 caliber reported earlier, and will have an enhanced range. The increased range will be accomplished by replacing the barrel & breechblock and strengthening the undercarriage. Tata Power is hoping to work with India's state-owned Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) to upgrade the guns, as the latter was given all the blueprints and technical details of the howitzer by Bofors during the original 1987 purchase.

The Hindustan Times, reported on 10 May 2007, that Tata's Strategic Electronic Division and Larsen & Tubro are in the race to win the contract to upgrade 300 guns - contrary to the earlier report of 360 guns - worth USD $400 million. An L&T Executive stated that the blue print for the modernisation will be presented before the Defence Ministry by September 2007, while prototype equipment will be ready for field trials by the end of this year. The executive also stated that it will be a no-cost, no-commitment trial, after which there will be a bidding process. L&T is expected to partner with a foreign company - probably BAE Systems - for a technological tie-up. The news report also stated that the upgrade will involve replacing the barrel with an enlarged one, strengthening the undercarriage and integrating the entire weapons system to provide enhanced range and accuracy.

Howitzer trials are being conducted by the Indian Army under the much-delayed Field Artillery Rationalization Plan, which will see the artillery upgrading some of its present guns to a 155mm standard and purchasing new-build 155mm howitzers, of which BAE Systems is one of the international competitors offering the FH77 BW L52 - Archer self-propelled howitzer. The Indian Army conducted the first round of trials with BAE Systems, Soltam of Israel and Denel of South Africa from May to July 2002. Three rounds of trials have been conducted since and an unprecedented fourth round of trials is expected later in 2007, after the Indian Army revises its qualitative requirements, with BAE Systems and Soltam being the sole contenders. Denel was removed from the competition in 2005, due to being blacklisted by the Defence Ministry, with allegations of payoffs in connection with an anti-material rifles contract with the Indian Army. Around 1500 new-build howitzers are planned to be purchased in a deal worth over USD $2 billion.

Picture Gallery:155mm Bofors FH-77B Howitzer

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