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France offers Indian Army its best artillery
A K Dhar in Paris | June 17, 2008 16:48 IST
France [Images], which has supplied advanced Mirage-2000 fighters and Scorpene submarines to India, on Tuesday offered to become its full weapons development partner to produce front-line land combat systems for the Indian Army.
The French offer comes at a time when Indian Army is on the threshold of floating its biggest-ever global tenders for 2000-3000 wheeled, towed and tracked 155 mm guns of .52 calibre and 1000-2000 high speed mine protected troop carrying 4x4 and 8x8 specialised troop combat vehicles for forces operating against terrorists and Maoists.
The tenders, according to experts here, could run up to 5-7 billion Euros with deliveries expected in three to five years.
The French offer was echoed by the country's Defence Minister Herve Morim as he threw open the five-day world's biggest land system exhibition, Eurosatory 2008 near Paris.
His comments came as leading companies from the US, Europe, Africa and others have put on display technology-driven new weapons systems to combat terrorism keeping their first hand experience gathered during operations in Afghanistan.
Indian Army is planning to float new tenders for purchasing up to 3,000 155 mm .52 calibre artillery guns of which 814 would be wheeled guns and another 1,500 towed guns to bring its artillery firepower up to NATO standards.
The state-owned French land combat systems company, which has recently downsized to become Europe's leading artillery and tank building company has expressed its willingness to co-produce and jointly develop land combat systems with India.
However, Indian defence planners are in a quandary over the purchase of higher firepower artillery guns, with an apparent hesitation in going in for controversial Bofors guns.
Nexter is offering its just-produced truck-mounted Caesar wheeled .52 calibre guns which, its top official Laurent Nicolas says, 'is unequalled in strategic mobility and air transportability in a C-130 J transport aircraft'.
The French guns have already been inducted into the French Army and have seen action in Afghanistan.
For the Indian Army's forthcoming order, the French firm would be in competition with Israel's Atmos Soltam System, Serbian Nora, South African Condor and matching guns from Slovakia.
Nexter officials said they are ready to offer the guns on government-to-government sale basis if India so wanted. The Caesar gun can fire six rounds to a distance of 40 km with a rate of fire of six rounds per minute and a gun crew of just five.
The Caesar guns support on board navigator and ballistics computer with muzzle velocity measurement radar and can be used with any fire control system.
"We are ready to transfer full and total technology of the gun systems to India," said Nicolas in comments, which assume significance in view of remarks by Defence Minister A K Antony that foreign nations were reluctant to part with frontline technology to India.
These guns were on display at the Eurosatory. The French company is already collaborating with India to make THL 20 guns, which are being mounted as turrets for army aviation's light combat attack helicopters which are undergoing tests at HAL.
"We have delivered under an agreement signed in 2006 80 such turrets," Nicolas said, indicating that Nexter would also be bidding for India's expected request for proposals for 400 new infantry combat vehicles, which are nuclear biological chemicals (NBC) proof.