Singapore gun arrives today; stage set for artillery trials - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Sunday 18 April 2010

Singapore gun arrives today; stage set for artillery trials

The Singapore Technologies Kinetics (STK) 155mm, 52 calibre gun in action. This gun is facing off against the BAE Systems FH77B 05 for the Indian towed howitzer contract

The IFH-2000 being loaded onto an aircraft. The gun will be landing in Delhi today, from where it will be taken to the Punj Lloyd engineering facilities in Gwalior

The IFH-2000 being fired by a gun crew from Punj Lloyd, the Indian partner of STK. Punj Lloyd will get a significant share of the manufacture if the IFH-2000 is selected by India

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 19th Apr 10

With artillery having killed more soldiers during the last century than any other battlefield weapon, the decade-plus delay in equipping the Indian Army with modern artillery guns is widely considered a major procurement lapse. The stop-start-stop process of buying 1580 towed guns for the Indian Army will effectively restart today when a C-130 Hercules aircraft lands in New Delhi, carrying a 155 millimetre artillery gun for trials this summer.

This gun, the Indian Field Howitzer – 2000 (IFH-2000), developed by Singapore Technologies Kinetics, or STK, is competing for the Indian tender with British company BAE Systems’ FH-77B-05, a derivative of the controversial and respected Bofors gun. The lower-profile IFH-2000 is the world’s first 155mm 52-calibre howitzer, which the Singapore Armed Forces have used for over a decade.

A 52-calibre howitzer fires heavier shells than older, 39-calibre and 45-calibre guns, inflicting greater punishment on the target. The Indian tender for towed guns specifies that only 52-calibre guns will be evaluated.

Trials for procuring 155 mm, 52-calibre towed guns began in summer 2002, when the MoD began evaluating three guns from BAE Systems; Israeli firm, Soltam; and South African company, Denel. Five rounds of trials, conducted in 2002; 2003; 2004; and 2006; reached no conclusion. Denel was blacklisted for corruption in Sep 05; the other two guns did not meet the army’s standards.

The trials remain dogged by controversy even after a fresh tender was issued in 2008. Last year, one of the two contenders, STK, was unofficially blacklisted for corruption after the arrest of former Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) chief, Sudipta Ghosh. But CBI investigations have made no apparent headway in the past year; not even a charge-sheet has been filed against Sudipta Ghosh. Now, STK has been asked to field its gun for trials.

STK plans to start preparing for the impending trials by practicing firing at the Pokhran ranges using Indian ammunition and a crack gun crew of seven former Indian Army artillerymen, recruited by STK’s Indian partner, Punj Lloyd Ltd.

The BAE Systems gun, too, is in India, having been brought for the Defence Expo in February and for trials scheduled immediately after that. But those trials were postponed when the IFH-2000 was damaged in Singapore while being loaded into an aircraft for despatch to India.

“Punj Lloyd is STK’s Indian partner for the 155 mm gun”, explains Patrick Choy, STK’s international marketing chief. “STK will rely on them for logistics and engineering support during the trials; and if STK is awarded the contract, we will manufacture a substantial part of the gun at Punj Lloyd’s facilities near Gwalior.”

STK’s rival in this tender, BAE Systems, has a similar arrangement with its Indian partner, Mahindra & Mahindra. These two companies have formed an Indian joint venture, Defence Land Systems, with Rs 100 crores equity held on a 74%-26% basis between Mahindra & Mahindra and BAE Systems.

At stake in the forthcoming trials is an order, worth US $1.8 billion (Rs 8000 crores), for the outright supply of 400 towed guns; and the licensed production in India of another 1180 guns. If the MoD imposes even the minimum offset requirement of 30%, that would translate into US $540 million (Rs 2400 crores) worth of manufacture within India.

STK and BAE Systems are also vying for a US $700 million (Rs 3100 crores) contract for 140 ultralight howitzers (ULHs) for Indian mountain divisions.

Two more artillery purchases are simultaneously in the works: a US $800 million (Rs 3500 crores) order for 100 medium guns, mounted in tracked vehicles, for self-propelled (SP) medium regiments that go into battle with India’s strike corps. Another US $900 million (Rs 4000 crores) will buy 180 vehicle-mounted guns for more SP regiments.

The stakes are high for everyone involved. For BAE Systems, this is an opportunity to bury the stigma of the Bofors scandal; for STK, this is a golden opening into the lucrative Indian market; and for the Indian Army, desperately short of artillery firepower, this is a chance to fill a gaping operational void.


  1. ow Singapore selling guns to India, after that some day Bangladesh and Nepal will. Bravo Indian Army, bravo Bofors.

  2. Any comments on how good these different systems are?

  3. Any update on LCA or Kaveri engine?

  4. Ajai sir
    I have some questions, will be glad if you answer them
    Q1. The 52 calibre guns taken for trails, fires heavier shells. So just how much heavy are these shells from the 39 calibre ones, and what will be there the range. wont it be shorter than the 39s on a/c of weight.
    Q2. Some reports said 52 calibre gun are ideally suited for coastal batteries, with only a few countries including Singapore (effectively is a city state surrounded by water) having opted for these. So is it really viable for India to try these 52s.
    Q3. Just how many towed, tracked and wheeled guns are we looking for, including these [US $800 million (Rs 3500 crores) order for 100 medium guns, mounted in tracked vehicles, for self-propelled (SP) medium regiments that go into battle with India’s strike corps. Another US $900 million (Rs 4000 crores) will buy 180 vehicle-mounted guns for more SP regiments.]
    Q4. If these 52s are towed, what caliber we can expect for tracked and wheeled guns
    Q5. If order is placed by 2012, by when we can except the deliveries to start.
    Q6. Since these 52s will fire heavier shells, wont it need metallurgical changes in arti shells at OFBs.
    Q7. Will it be ideal to go for better gun powder, better fuse for these new guns.

  5. Whoever does the critical technology's transfer besides the requirement should win it. Gun metallurgy - paramount.

  6. wonder if the deal would really go through. but seriously i am hoping for the deal to go through as the Indian army is desperately in need of modern artilery

  7. Are the Ultra light howitzers also 155mm and 52 calibre? And what sense does it make to make two different classes within the towed category.

    Also, I had heard that the Indian Army has abandoned it's plans for the towed howitzers all together and was looking to induct the truck mounted self propelled 52 calibre 155mm howitzers in larger numbers. I mean, they clearly need more than 180.

    What is the use of towed howitzers anyway now that we have truck mounted ones that are light enough to be airlifted? Unless they are ultra light M777s.

  8. Why is the army looking for 3 different guns? Wont it be better to have 3 different versions of the same gun ie a towed, wheeled and tracked one?

  9. Sudip Das ( April 2010 at 11:58

    Why our defence forces are not standardizing their weapon system ? Cost of inventory , maintenance and operations will be easier . Artillery personnel operating one type of equipment cannot use the other unless retrained . This is high time the Army and the Airforce start to think, decide and act like the Navy . This is the age of 3S : standardization , simplification and specialisation

  10. so, we will pay a state that is smaller than any of the metros in india to get the guns we need to defend ourselves?where are the chest beaters who says that ancient India had all the supreme knowledge including metallurgy?

    le feu tue! (firepower kills)

    we are lagging behind in the artillery technology from the day of invention of artillery. Had we invented artillery or at least copied from early days, we could have challenged British, French and Portuguese navies/armies. Same old story even now.

    Any IIT graduates to confront my comments?!!!

    Pardon me for this rant that did not contribute to the discussion, but could not control myself. Better half does not understand this, so I'm venting it here.

  11. 7 Things that many Indians don't know about Singapore but should know:

    (1) Good Leadership: The Prime Minister of Singapore, BG Lee Hsien Loong served in the artillery formation and even attended the Field Artillery Officers’ Basic Course at Fort Sill, Oklahoma (see: The artillery formation in Singapore is well resourced and has a track record of producing leaders.

    (2) 155mm Design is a Core Competency: Singapore is in artillery range from West Malaysia and from the Riau Islands, Indonesia. Therefore Singapore artillery has to be able counter battery operations swiftly. If the SAF is unable to do so in a time of war, all of Singapore's air bases could be potentially subject to artillery barrages. This is part of the SAF's strategic considerations when Singapore decided to indigenously develop and produce our own artillery. In fact, we have two weapon locating radars deployed in Afghanistan to provide warning to ISAF troops.

    (3) Complete Artillery Product Range: Singapore makes a range of 155mm artillery howitzers, this would include the Pegasus (39 Calibre) lightweight howitzer which was in the news earlier, the Primus Self-Propelled howitzer (39 Calibre) and the FH-2000 (52 Calibre). Further, ST Kinetics has a track record of exporting Singapore made weapons to the United Kingdom under their UOR process - the home turf of BAE.

    (4) World's First: The FH-2000 is the world's first and longest in-service 155 mm 52 Calibre towed Howitzer (it also has been exported to Indonesia). It is clear from the pictures posted that iFH-2000 has been adapted with Indian concerns in mind. This is in sharp contrast to the attitude of it's competitor, BAE, who is world's biggest arms supplier - where the Indian army is but one of many customers.

    (5) Design Track Record: ST Kinetics assisted Turkey in the design and manufacture of its own 155mm/52calibre "PANTER" towed howitzer system, which is understood to be based on the FH-2000 design. This demonstrates Singapore's track record in transferring technology and processes to a NATO country with no strings attached.

    (6) Partnership Track Record: Beyond Turkey, UAE has also incorporated Singapore made 120 mm mortars as part of a total solution called the AGRAB (or Scorpion) - (see: UAE is a noted smart buyer of technology.

    (7) Zero Tolerance for Corruption: Singapore and our companies are amongst the least corrupt in Asia. BTW, the current President of Interpol is a Singaporean (see: and we are proud of our record on enforcement.

  12. When India can get monorail coaches manufactured in Malaysia by Scomi (which is the engineering firm of former PM Abdullah Badawi's son) for the Mumbai metro, why is it so unique about Singapore's contribution to Indian defence?

    In this globalized world it is not the size of a country that matters but the resolve and will of the government to be self-sufficient especially in defence.

    Isn't there any industrial giant in India that can manufacture coaches for its rapid transit system? Can't it get a JV worked out with the leaders in rapid transit system such as Germany, France or Japan? Are we going to look up to China for high speed (bullet) trains that are being operated by France, Germany or Japan? The Chinese are even operating trains based on megalev technology which is supposed to be the next generation in rapid transportation.

    Critical defence hardware such as arty pieces serve as the mainstay weapons of infantory regiments. If after 60 years of independence India cannot manufacture those, then it might as well give up the vision of becoming a super power.

    This is another clear example of Indians beating their chest as great innovators in software but can't still contain countries hacking into their systems with impunity.

  13. Graphic explaining how a Singaporean Division Strike Centre (DSC) works with the Air-Land tactical control centre to co-ordinate artillery and air support for troops (

    For Singapore, at this stage of our force development, the emphasis is on our ability to sense and respond via the integration of sensors, recce elements and shooters.

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