The controversial gun that won Kargil war for India - India News

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Friday, July 26, 2019

The controversial gun that won Kargil war for India

Bofors guns could fire three rounds in 12 seconds. Its ability to target enemy posts operating literally from under the nose of Pakistani soldiers, who were occupying the hilltops, proved the difference between the two sides in Kargil war.

The controversial gun that won Kargil war for India

Bofors howitzer guns turned the tide in India's favour during Kargil war with Pakistan and helped the Indian Army recapture Tololing, Tiger Hill and other posts in 1999. (Photo: India Today)

HIGHLIGHTS

  • In 1986, India signed a deal with Swedish company AB Bofors for purchase of 400 howitzer guns
  • Bofors deal turned into a huge scandal after Swedish Radio claimed bribes were paid for it
  • Rajiv Gandhi government lost 1989 polls but Bofors guns won Kargil war 10 years later
For most of us, Bofors is a reminder of corruption in defence deals. It played its role in bringing down the government which purchased the howitzer for the Indian Army in 1989. However, this gun was the real hero of the Kargil war in 1999.
The Bofors guns inflicted huge casualties on the Pakistan forces in Kargil war. It was the first time that Bofors guns were used as a direct-fire role weapon.
Most of the terrain in Kargil sector lies at above 8,000 feet altitude. Artillery power at this altitude restricts war capability of an army. And, in Kargil war, the government had allowed only a limited use of the air force.
The Indian Army faced a daunting task in the given circumstances of flushing out Pakistani soldiers, most of them drawn from its Northern Light Infantry regiment. Pakistani soldiers were acting according to a well thought-out military plan to capture key posts on hilltops overlooking routes connecting Siachen and Kashmir Valley with the rest of the country.
Bofors with a range of over 35 km in the high-altitude terrain proved to be the difference between the two armies in Kargil. Bofors could fire three rounds in 12 seconds. Its ability to target enemy posts at close to 90 degree angle made it operate literally from under the nose of Pakistani soldiers who were occupying the hilltops.
Bofors guns targeting enemy posts during 1999 Kargil war. (Photo: India Today)
The 155 mm FH77 Bofors guns were better than any medium artillery guns available with the Pakistani Army. The superiority of Bofors helped the Indian Army keep the Pakistani forces quiet in every exchange of fire along the LoC till ceasefire agreement was signed in 2003.
The Bofors guns are powered by a Mercedes Benz engine and capable of moving short distances on their own. These guns would move from their locations after firing at enemy targets during Kargil war to avoid counter-fire from Pakistani troops.
The Bofors guns remained the main howitzer guns at the disposal of the Indian Army in high altitudes of Kashmir till the India got M777 howitzers from the US last year. The purchase of Bofors guns in 1989 had come under the scanner over alleged corruption.
The Indian government entered into a deal with Swedish arms manufacturer AB Bofors in March 1986 for the purchase of 400 howitzer guns of 155 mm make at a cost of Rs 1,437 crore. In April 1987, Swedish Radio claimed that the company had paid bribes to top Indian politicians and defence personnel to get the deal done.
It stirred a huge political controversy in India. Rajiv Gandhi's defence minister VP Singh resigned soon after. However, VP Singh had then said he resigned not over Bofors scandal but alleged corruption in HDW submarine deal with [West] Germany.
VP Singh, however, made Bofors his poll cry in 1989 election. "Gali gali mein shor hai, Rajiv Gandhi chor hai" slogan spelt doom for the Congress. However, Rajiv Gandhi later got a clean chit in the Bofors case.
The Bofors guns have been upgraded since Kargil war and now have an extended range. They now have the capability to target military installations deep inside Pakistan-occupied Kashmir including those at Skardu, where a unit of the Northern Light Infantry is based.
The Bofors guns are today deployed at 10,000-13,000 feet altitude and serve as a reminder to Pakistan Army about their vulnerability to these howitzer guns.

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