The much-maligned Bofors gun is back. The new avatar, an upgraded version of the howitzer purchased by the Indian Army in the 1980s, is being displayed at the DefExpo in New Delhi, having undergone many changes of ownership.
A statement by Defense Land Systems India, the joint venture between Mahindra and Mahindra and BAE Systems, reads , “A significantly upgraded version of the FH77 B02 which is already in service with the Indian Army, the new FH77 B05 advanced howitzer is more powerful with greater performance, including increased range. It meets the towed 52 Cal 155 mm howitzer artillery modernization requirements of the Indian Army and is shortlisted for field trials on the basis of its strong capabilities.”
Deepak Chibba, Chief Executive, Defense Land Systems India, said, “The FH77 B05 is the right product to help the Indian Army in its drive to modernize its artillery. Its predecessor, the FH77 B02, was in fact, the mainstay of the Indian artillery attack during the Kargil war, giving India a definite edge over its adversary. In future, we see the Defense Land Systems India JV evolving as a center of excellence for Indian artillery programs and the FH77 B05 is a part of that vision.”
Anand Mahindra, Vice President and Managing Director, Mahindra and Mahindra, said today at DefExpo, “We are extremely proud to be marketing it to the armed forces. The controversies surrounding it are a thing of the past,” also pointing out the several changes in ownership the weapon has undergone to date.
“The gun was innocent and served our armed forces well,” he said.
According to retired Brigadier Khutub Hai, Chief Executive, Mahindra Defence Systems, if the weapon is selected for purchase by the Indian Army, some part of it will be manufactured at a new factory set-up expressly for the purpose. The trials for the weapon are due in a month or two.
Bofors, the company that manufactured the howitzer in the the eighties, was accused of having paid kickbacks to the tune of Rs. 64 crore to the government of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. The resulting corruption scandal and the blowback it generated since has been blamed for the slow procurement of weapons systems by the armed forces and is seen to be one of the major reasons for the delay in force modernization and especially artillery weapons procurement by the Indian Army. The army has not bought any new artillery guns even around twenty years after the scandal broke.