Indian Army soldiers look over a 40mm Bofors L/70 anti-aircraft gun from the Army's 19th Air Defence Regiment. (Indian Army)
NEW DELHI — The Indian Army will replace its aging Swedish-built 40mm L/70 air defense guns with weapons from domestic companies, a Defence Ministry source said, after the cancellation of a global tender floated last year that failed to elicit any response from overseas defense companies.
The MoD decided this month to float a $400 million domestic-only tender, the source said, to purchase 430 gun systems to replace the four-decade-old L/70 guns.
The 2013 tender was submitted to Israel Aerospace Industries, Thales, Bumar, Rosoboronexport and BAE Systems. While no executive from the overseas defense companies would respond, an MoD source said the companies did not respond to the tender because they found the program uneconomical.
An executive with private Indian firm Larsen & Toubro (L&T) said it would tie up with overseas defense companies to compete for the tender.
The tender, expected to be issued in three months, will go to state-owned Bharat Electronics Ltd. (BEL) and the Ordnance Factory Board, and to private-sector companies Tata Power SED, L&T, Punj Lloyd and Bharat Forge.
The new L/70 guns, which will be bought from local companies along with ammunition, will be used to protect areas of tactical importance in the mountains, plains, desert and semi-desert terrain.
The guns will be towed or mounted on a high-mobility vehicle, an Indian Army official said.
The new guns will be linked to advanced fire-control radars to automatically lock on to the target and signal the fire. The Army requires that the guns have the ability to engage air targets at a range of at least 4,000 meters and be capable of firing 1,000 rounds per minute.
The Army operates about 2,000 L/70s, bought in the 1960s from Sweden, and upgraded in 1995 by BEL by adding a digital fire-control system. The gunís rate of fire was increased from 240 to 300 rounds per minute by the state-owned Defence Research and Development Organisation.
The Army has been pressing since 1997 for a full upgrade of the L/70s, including the addition of advanced radars, upgraded night-vision devices and the use of smart ammunition. ■