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Pokhran,Rajasthan,-Desi Bofors successfully clears final trials .

Pokhran,Rajasthan, In a major boost to defence indigenisation, the desi Bofors howitzer has today cleared its final round of user-trials in Pokhran field firing ranges, earlier it had successfully undergone winter trials in the mountains of Sikkim.

The artillery gun christened 'Dhanush', which is the electronically upgraded indigenous version of the original Swedish 155 mm Bofors howitzer bought by India in the mid-1980s, has already entered the production phase at the Jabalpur Gun Carriage Factory of the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB).

Both the Army and OFB, in fact, are "quite excited" about Dhanush, which they claim performs "20-25% better" than the original Bofors gun in virtually all parameters like range, accuracy, consistency, low and high angle of fire and shoot-and-scoot ability. "It outclassed the Bofors during the trials in Sikkim at sub-zero temperatures at 11,500 feet altitude," said a defence official.

The final summer trials began earlier this week at Pokhran, and minister of state for defence Rao Inderjit Singh  witnessed the howitzer boom on today at Khetolai. The Army has failed to induct even a single 155 mm howitzer for 30 years after the infamous Bofors scam, which in later years got reinforced by scandals around other artillery manufacturers like South African Denel, Israeli Soltam and Singapore Technology Kinetic's (STK) to derail all its artillery modernisation plans.

The Army hopes to plug at least some of its operational gaps in long-range, high-volume firepower through the initial induction of 414 Dhanush guns. The OFB has already been given an order of over Rs 1,260 crore to make 114 howitzers.

"Dhanush is around 80% indigenous now. It costs just about Rs 14 crore apiece. Only its APU (auxiliary power unit), electronic dial sights and a few other small items are imported. As per the plan, OFB will manufacture 18 howitzers in this financial year, followed by 50 in the next, and 100 per year thereafter," said an army official.

Dhanush has been upgraded to 45-calibre from the 39-calibre of the original Bofors gun, increasing its strike range to 38 km with "extended range, full-bore" ammunition. The Army-OFB team began work a few years ago on the long-forgotten original designs, obtained under transfer of technology (ToT) provisions in the infamous Rs 1,437 crore Bofors contract of 1986, to develop the Dhanush.

There was a slight setback to the project when the barrel of a Dhanush prototype burst during firing trials at Pokhran in August last year. But officials contend it was the use of "old ammunition with air bubbles" that led to the accident. "The inquiry established there was no fault with the barrel or its metallurgy," he said