New Delhi: After inducting two new howitzers from the US and South Korea on Friday, the Indian Army is now looking forward to inducting the 'Made in India' Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System for which it will hold a competition between two indigenous manufacturers — Tata Sons and Bharat Forge Limited.

The Nirmala Sitharaman-led defence ministry has already given clearance for the acquisition of 150 howitzers which have been developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and would be manufactured by both Tata Sons and Bharat Forge.

“There will be a competition between both the companies for supplying the guns. As per the plan, the firm offering the lowest price will get to supply close to 100 guns while the other firm would supply the remaining guns at the cost offered by the winning bidder,” senior Army sources told MyNation.

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Sources said this arrangement will help the Army to get a lower price for the guns. Otherwise, if the two companies were allowed to supply 75 guns each, both the firms could have offered a higher price.

The guns known as the Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS) have been developed and manufactured by a joint venture of the DRDO and private sector companies Tata Power and Bharat Forge Limited.

The defence ministry is also going to buy around 220 vehicles, which will be used for towing the guns as well as carrying their ammunition and other spare parts during operations by the Army. 

While the Bofors controversy ensured that no artillery guns were bought for more than three decades for the Army, the defence ministry, under the Modi regime, has finalised the supply of various guns, including the acquisition of 100 Vajra self-propelled guns, M-777 howitzers from the US and Dhanush howitzers which are being provided by the Ordnance Factories Board. 

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The 155 mm ATAGS guns have created a world record by firing at targets at a distance of 50 kilometres, which is much higher than the other systems of this class worldwide. The gun is believed to be two tonnes lighter than the other guns of the same category and scores higher than its rivals in terms of accuracy and rate of firing. 

The guns have also performed very well during high altitude trials in Sikkim and other places, the sources said.

Sources in the government said that 150 guns is part of the initial order and the Army has a requirement of several hundreds of such guns which will replace the older systems in the force. 

The future guns would be provided with more capabilities as the stakeholders will continue to develop them further.