NEW DELHI — Approval has been granted for a A $3 billion purchase was approved for of air defense guns for the Indian Army to replace 1960s-era Swedish weapons. 

Domestic companies, including state-owned Bharat Electronics and Ordnance Factory Board, and privately held Tata Power SED, Larsen & Toubro, L&T, Ltd, Punj Lloyd and Bharat Forge, will get the tender, an MoD source said. 

The domestic companies will need to team with overseas defense companies to manufacture the new guns, analysts said.

"The Indian industry, it appears at present, does not have any proven capability and experience to make the L-70 gun," Anil Chait, retired Indian Army lieutenant general, said. "It is a challenge before the Indian industry to enter into a tie-up with the foreign original equipment manufacturer, investing in research and development and creating requisite capacities to procure high-end technologies and mature them through  to its production."

An executive of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the lobbying agency for Indian industry, claimed the domestic companies do have the ability to manufacture the guns, adding that Bharat Forge and Punj Lloyd have been preparing for the gun tender for some time.

No executive of Bharat Forge or Punj Lloyd would comment on whether they would produce the guns alone or in partnership with an overseas defense company. However, an executive of Tata Group said the domestic companies have the capability to manufacture the guns.

Meanwhile, the MoD source said, Larsen & Toubro is negotiating with the French, Punj Lloyd with Konstrukta Defence of Slovakia, Bharat Forge with Soltam of Israel and Tata Power with Bumar of Poland.

The new guns will replace aging L-70 air defense guns and will protect areas of tactical importance in the mountains, plains, desert and semi-desert terrains, and will have the versatility to be towed or mounted on a high-mobility vehicle configuration, an Indian Army official said. In addition, the new guns will be linked to advanced fire control radars that will automatically lock the target, and signal the fire.

The Army's more than 1,000 "The present holdings of L-70 guns, which were acquired from Sweden in the 1960s, is over 1,000. These "are all old and obsolescent. Also, the requirement now is for guns which are capable of engaging air targets day and night, using both fire control radars and electro-optical fire control systems. Procurement of new guns is an imperative," Chait said.

The L-70 successor guns will be bought in phases; the first order cleared is for 429 guns over the next five years.

In 2014, the MoD floated only a request for information (RFI) to the domestic companies. A 2013 global tender was canceled because only Rafael of Israel made a bid. Only two domestic companies responded to the RFI.

"The 2014 RFI was sent to Tata Power SED, Larsen & Toubro, Punj Lloyd, Bharat Forge, Ordnance Factory Board and Bharat Earth Movers," said analyst Rahul Bhonsle, a retired Indian Army brigadier general. "But the RFI has been responded by only two companies of the six who had been issued the same, that is Bharat Forge and Punj Lloyd."


Vivek Raghuvanshi is the India correspondent for Defense News.

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