Kalyani Group artillery to be featured
Army chief General V K Singh’s leaked letter to defence minister A K Antony, which flagged the country’s lack of defence preparedness, casts a shadow over Defexpo India 2012, which kicks off in New Delhi tomorrow. However, the silver linings in the four-day event would be the impressive presence of several Indian private companies and newcomers in developing complex weaponry, with capabilities the defence ministry (MoD) can no longer ignore.
Among the most visible would be the Pune-headquartered Kalyani Group, which would emphatically project its ambition to develop artillery systems for the Indian Army. With foreign artillery procurement stalled for two decades, Baba Kalyani — who has shaped his flagship company, Bharat Forge, into the world’s largest forgings manufacturer — has committed the finance, the manpower and the strategic mind space he believes would make the Kalyani Group a full-spectrum developer of artillery systems.
Kalyani intends to start by building a 155 mm, 52-calibre towed howitzer, which the army desperately wants. Several years of user trials of foreign guns have only resulted in vendors being rejected, blacklisted, or withdrawn from the contest. Kalyani is now boldly offering an Indian alternative.
“I will offer to the Indian Army a fully developed artillery gun system, integrating all the command and control elements, before 2015,” he asserts.
To this end, the Kalyani Group has imported from Austrian gun manufacturer Maschinenfabrik Liezen (MFL) a service version of its famous 155 mm, 45-calibre, autonomous gun system, which had impressed Indian gunners when they evaluated it in the mid-1980s (though they bought the Bofors gun instead).
The Kalyani Group has also bought, knocked down and transported to India an entire operational artillery gun factory from Swiss company RUAG. Instead of learning the ropes of manufacturing artillery from scratch, Kalyani’s designers in Pune intend to absorb foreign technology, thereby leapfrogging an extended development process. Unlike many Indian private companies, Baba Kalyani is investing his own money into building capabilities. Given Bharat Forge’s hardcore engineering pedigree, he is confident he has the solution.