India has marked over $4 billion worth of artillery projects to purchase several hundred new 155mm howitzers. They are intended to supplement India’s dwindling artillery stocks, while out-ranging and out-shooting Pakistan’s self-propelled M109 155mm guns. It seemed simple enough, and in the main towed artillery competition, BAE Systems Bofors had been competing against systems from Israel’s Soltam and Denel of South Africa.
Unfortunately, India’s 2 towed howitzer competitions, and its 2 self-propelled artillery procurements, have mostly served as cautionary tales. If the stakes weren’t so high, they’d qualify as farce. The simple process of buying off-the-shelf artillery guns has become a decades-long affair filled with legal drama, accusations of corruption, and multiple re-starts – but not one new gun. Competitions are declared, and canceled, again and again. One is on its 5th iteration. Another is on its 3rd. Meanwhile, India’s stock of operational 155mm FH77 howitzers has dwindled to around 200, and their last successful artillery buy was over 2 decades ago. Is there an end in sight to any of these competitions? Or a potential winner?