Nexter Systems is moving three of its pieces on the “equipping the Indian army” chessboard: the Trajan gun; its chassis-mounted version, the Caesar; and the T40 turret are each moving forward in their respective programmes, according to Nexter officials at Defexpo 2016 held last week in Goa.
By far the most forward positioned piece is the 155mm Trajan competing for the €1bn contract for 1,500 Towed Gun Systems (TGS). According to the terms of the partnership between Nexter and India’s Larsen & Toubro (L&T), the first 400 guns would be made in France and the following 1,150 would be manufactured under licence in India. A prototype, built in close collaboration with L&T, completed the evaluation phase by the Indian Army at the end of 2015. Nexter is now awaiting the final report expected in the upcoming months on its “battle-proven artillery system which is fundamentally ‘Make in India’ because it integrates a large number of Larsen & Toubro developments,” says Thierry Soulat, Nexter’s director for artillery sales in India.
The Nexter-L&T duo, in partnership this time with Ashok Leyland, is also moving forward in the Mounted Gun System programme to supply 814 self-propelled guns for which they are proposing the Caesar artillery system mounted on a chassis supplied by Ashok Leyland. As the principal contractor L&T should benefit from a transfer of French technology. The latter is “a strategic partner in India as it has just been selected to supply 100 self-propelled K9 Vajra-T guns,” Soulat adds.
Finally, Nexter Systems is hoping to arm the successor of the Indian BMP-1/2 with its T40 turret in the framework of the Fighting Infantry Combat Vehicle (FICV) programme. Launched six years ago, this programme aims to replace the Indian Army’s 2,100 BMP-1/2s with a new amphibious, tracked vehicle. Nexter has partnered with Tata Power and South Korea’s Doosan which has a solid experience in the infantry combat vehicle sector with its K21. This trio is the only contestant to be offering a vehicle armed with a 40mm gun “obviously very different from a 30mm calibre,” explains Olivier Lequeux, the director of Nexter’s turret department. “A 40mm gun, necessarily very different from the 30 mm caliber, requires a different approach in the specifications of this program to highlight all the operational benefits of this caliber“, said Olivier Lequeux. The T40 turret’s advantages, particularly for an amphibious vehicle, are its maturity and the light weight of its 40CTAS gun. In the evaluation phases the turret was the only one to have received no criticism from the Indian military.