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SOURCE: THE PRINT

The Indian Navy, which has spent quite a few sleepless nights over main guns for its under-construction vessels, has received a massive breather with the US clearing the sale of 13 MK 45 anti-surface and anti-air gun systems.

The guns are to be deployed on board 11 under-construction destroyers and frigates. The Trump Administration Tuesday notified to the US Congress its determination to sell $1.0210 billion worth of naval guns along with ammunition and related add-ons to India.

“The clearance by the Trump administration is a big relief,” a Navy officer told ThePrint. “They are the main guns that will be fitted on the four new Project 15B Visakhapatnam-class stealth destroyers and the seven Project 17A stealth frigates.”

The Navy’s original plans involved procuring the guns from the Italian firm Oto Melara. But the firm is owned by Finmeccanica, which was embroiled in the VVIP chopper scam. In 2015, then defence minister Manohar Parrikar decided against dealing with Finmeccanica, which was a key gun supplier to the Navy.

Since then, Indian Navy officials have rued in private that while the ships are being built and steel cut, there was no sight of the main guns.

The new guns have been procured under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route and are manufactured by BAE Systems Land and Armaments.

The 5-inch (127-mm) 62-calibre Mk 45 Mod 4 Naval Guns have a Naval Surface Fire Support (NSFS) range of more than 20 nautical miles (36 km) with the US Navy’s new 5-inch Cargo projectile and an improved propelling charge.

According to the US notification, this notice of a potential sale requires approval by law and does not mean the sale has been concluded.

The VVIP chopper scam hit Navy’s original plans

The Navy had originally selected Italian firm Oto Melara for supply of 127mm guns, the main weapons of the vessels. The company, which is the main supplier of Naval guns to the Indian Navy, had emerged as the sole bidder in the naval gun tender of 2013.

Once Parrikar decided against dealing with Finmeccanica, however, the Navy had to look out for new route for the supply of the guns. It was then that the Navy decided to go in for the BAE guns through the FMS route.

Guns will be fitted on the P15B and P17A

Of the 13 guns, four will be fitted on the new P15B Visakhapatnam-class stealth destroyers and the seven on P17A stealth frigates.

The remaining two guns are destined for the INS Dronacharya missile and gunnery school and INS Valsura electrical and weapons engineering school.

P15B destroyers, being built by Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL), are designed by the Indian Navy’s Directorate of Naval Design and each vessel spans 163 m in length and 17.4 m at beam and displaces 7,300 tonnes.

P17A frigates are a follow up of the Shivalik-class frigate with advanced “stealth”. While four P17A frigates will be built by MDL, three would be built by Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers Ltd (GRSE).