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Bofors Gun and a Controversy in India About It.

MG is a senior air warrior who has seen combat and is an alumnus of the Staff College and a writer on military matters.



The Swedish Bofors gun is associated with the Bofors scandal when hush money was supposed to have been paid by the Bofors Company to some middlemen who were close to the then Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. It was alleged that Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi received close to Rs.80,00,00,000s( $1.5 Million appx). The Finance Minister at that time VP Singh resigned on this ground leaving the Prime Minister high and dry. Rajiv denied the allegations but there was enough smoke all-around to point the finger of suspicion at him and his wife who is an Italian.

The Congress government however was extremely lackadaisical in investigating the charge of bribe money. Two main characters Win Chadha and arms dealer and Quatterchoi an Italian close to Sonia Gandhi the Italian wife of Rajiv Gandhi was never interrogated. Rajiv Gandhi made a visit to Sweden, the purpose of the visit was never fully explained. The money trail to the Swiss banks was also not followed up and this state of affairs continued till 2014 when the Congress finally was swept from power by the BJP led by Narendra Modi. Though six years have lapsed the BJP government has not been able to nail any evidence against the Gandhis.

But with all this hula bulla about the kickbacks and their recipients, the true worth of the Bofors gun has been brushed under the carpet.

Selection of the Gun

The Bofors gun was selected by the Indian army after extensive trials in 1986. At that time the Army evaluated the Russian and British guns. However, the Bofors 155 mm howitzer with its radar-controlled gun sight was an easy winner over other competitors and the Indian army received 410 pieces of this heavy artillery from 1986-1990. The actual demand was for 1600 guns, but with all the scandals going on the demand was curtailed.

The gun is manufactured by the Swedish Company Bofors. This company started off as an iron and steel company over 350 years back at Karlskoga in Sweden. Subsequently, the company diverted to the manufacture of guns. It will not be out of place to mention that Alfred Nobel the inventor of the dynamite had a share in the Bofors arms company.

Guns manufactured by Bofors are high in quality and efficiency. My first brush with the Bofors gun came in 1998 when the Indian Army used these guns in the Kargil conflict.

Earlier under General Sundarji, the Chief of the Indian Army launched an exercise in the state of Rajasthan called "Operation Brass tacks" was executed to evaluate the guns. The Bofors gun was used extensively during this exercise. Flying from the air, pilots could visualize the Bofors guns pumping away at their targets some 40 km away. The Bofors 155 mm gun is a long-range gun that can be very lethal. It was an excellent buy but the murky dealings of hush money took away some of the shine from the guns.


The gun

Technical specifications

The Bofors 155 mm caliber gun is a complete weapon system and a force multiplier for the army. The gun is self-propelled and has its own power plant for propulsion. It requires six trained gunners to operate the howitzer. The gun if moving on its own power has a speed of 8 km an hour, but it can also be towed for faster movement by specialized trucks up to a speed of 70 km an hour. This becomes essential when the guns are to be moved quickly in a changing battle scenario.

The gun has a single 155mm barrel that can fire 10 rounds a minute up to a range of 24000 meters. It has an extended range of 30,000 meters with special ammunition. Thus one can get an idea of the use of the gun. The gun barrel has a gradient of 40m; which gives the shells the necessary elevation to travel the distance. It has a transverse elevation of plus;60m; in total. The howitzer has a continuous fire rate of 75 rounds an hour, an intensive fire rate of 20 rounds (i.e. a full magazine) in 2.5 minutes, and a salvo fire rate of three rounds in 15 seconds.

Battle Use.

The gun locks onto the target automatically. It proved its worth during the Kargil conflict when the gun fired from below the hills could target the Pakistan troops in their shelters almost 30 km away. The gun played a significant part in the assault of the Indian infantry in the heights of Kargil. With lethal covering fire, the Indian Infantry could move up the slopes of the hills. The gun has now also been positioned in Ladakh to face the Chinese.


A dead duck

Thirty years have elapsed and there is a need for up-gradation of the Bofors gun. The army has now prevailed on the government to go in for an advanced version of the Bofors gun which is a marvel of engineering. The gun is standard equipment in NATO and is a name to reckon with. It has competition from the Russian 155 howitzer, but the Bofors scores for its range and easy serviceability. Irrespective of the Bofors scandal the Bofors gun adds to the Indian army's firepower.

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The controversy has not died down and even though Rajiv is dead, the new BJP government is trying to nail the truth. It looks a little late in the day and futile as well. , The Modi government has not been able to prove anything. The fact is the case is three decades old and there is no way that the past deals can now be unraveled. One of the main accused Win Chadha died in 2001. Rajiv Gandhi was also assassinated 29 years back. Another accused Ottavio Quattrocchi dIed in 2013 in Milan. One might as well say that the hush money allegedly paid is like a dead duck.


MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 22, 2020:

Tom, Leopoldo Gailteri Was Argentina president for a short time and initiated the disastrous war with England. That was his swansong and he had to resign after the humiliating defeat. He lived on and died in 2003.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 22, 2020:

Tom, yes maybe that's the reason.

tom on October 21, 2020:

gailteri military dictator wanted to divert public attention

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 21, 2020:

Tom, sometimes I wonder why Argentina went into battle on the Falkland Islands when they didn't have the beef for it.

tom on October 20, 2020:

argentine carrier never left port fearing uk nuke subs

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 20, 2020:

Tom, thanks for info on Belgrano and the British submarine. The sub was also hunting for the Argentine aircraft carrier but it could not get it.

tom on October 20, 2020:

uss phoneix became belgrano

tom on October 20, 2020:

dear alan ,conqueror is now decomissioned

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 20, 2020:

Alan, I have the information. HMS Conqueror is the submarine to have engaged with torpedoes, sinking the cruiser General Belgrano during the 1982 Falklands War.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 19, 2020:

Alan, Tom is a storehouse of information and am sure he will come up with the name.

Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on October 19, 2020:

What a clever lad Tom is. Couldn't remember the name the USN gave her. Maybe he'll furnish us with the name of the British sub?

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 19, 2020:

Tom, thanks. The Argentine navy cruiser Belgrano Was sunk by a British nuclear submarine.

tom on October 19, 2020:

uss phoneix survived pearl harbour and became general belgrano sunk in falklands

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 19, 2020:

Thank you Tom in hindsight one can say that circumstances did not favour the Germans as far as Spain is concerned.I must read something about the blue Legion.

tom on October 19, 2020:

yes ,spain was saved by british funding,1936-1939 civilwar lakhs killed,economy ruined,so spain stayed neutral ,spanish blue legion later withdrew from russia due to western pressure,few movies on blue legion available

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 19, 2020:

In his meeting with General Franco on the Spain France border, Hitler had requested not only to join the axis but also permission to the German army to go through Spain to attack Gibraltar. Franco was the elusive man and maybe he had some sixth sense because he didn't give permission at the same time the economy of Spain was dependent on United States also for so many things including oil and after the Civil War it had been shattered so he could not risk joining the axis.

tom on October 19, 2020:

hitler wanted franco to attack gibraltar,but loss of life in spanish civil war and payment of 30 crore pounds to franco by churchill ,this was declassified in late 90s

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 19, 2020:

Good points made Alan. My personal view is that Spain will not upset the apple cart. As it is they have a secessionist movement in Catalonia. Maybe if chap like General Franco had been there it may have been different and secondly, Gibraltar is pretty close to the UK geographically for the UK to act as a deterrent and Spain in any case is no great shakes as a power. We must remember that during WWII despite the exhortations of Hitler Spain did not join the axis because Franco knew that his main import of oil etc was from the USA and joining Hitler would put Spain in great economic difficulty. In my visit to Russia ( at least 35 times) and confabulations with Soviet and Russian AF, I could still sense the deep resentment against Germany.

In a way, it's good that the Uk has left the EU because as Trump said the EU is itself an anachronism. Britain should try and revive the commonwealth and India is a pivot as the USA has realized. On 27/28 the formal defence agreement with the USA is going to be signed and China is worried. The Secretary of the state is coming to Delhi for the signing of the pact as Trump is keen to sign it BEFORE the 3 Nov election. I don't know why. Fait accompli for Biden? If he wins.

England is my second home and I hope to be there for at least 6 months once this virus is dealt with.

The EU better worry about the minority population that is restive. Just see the beheading of the teacher in France.

Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on October 19, 2020:

The government in Madrid is wary of being labelled an aggressor. In a 'face-off' recently, two large Spanish naval vessels were confronted by a Royal Navy patrol boat. The Spanish vessels must have been in contact with HQ in Madrid, as they withdrew from Gibraltar's waters. Spanish police take a long time checking papers of those Gibraltarians who work across the border. They all put up with it because Spain doesn't want to antagonise Britain, nor does it want to cause ripples in Brussels as a potential aggressor. Brussels wants its members to 'talk, sooner than walk'.

Germany shares its power with France, whom it invaded 80 years ago. It also shares a border with Poland, invaded 81 years ago, and the Czech Republic 82 years ago. Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg came in 1940. They all have collective memories. Although those alive then are less in number now, Germany still treads their eggs very carefully. Like Israel, they're surrounded by potentially hostile neighbours if they start to rattle sabres. So they'll growl now and then, and their far right will flash the old banners but their constitution tells them to behave like the good 'burgers' that they are, basically law abiding. Besides, their main gas supply comes piped from Russia. The taps will be turned off if they get 'bolshie', and they couldn't survive without the means to cook their dumplings.

Come 1st January we're out of 'the club', deals or no. We'll have some nervous farmers around the UK worried about where to sell their beef, but at least we won't be flooded with cheap, low quality eggs. Citrus we can get from outside the EU, likewise lots of other products. Spain, Portugal, France etc rely on the British market so they need us more than we need them.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 19, 2020:

Ashutosh, yes they are fine and I have seen them in action. Lethal and pin point accuracy. Thank you for commenting.

Ashutosh Joshi from New Delhi, India on October 18, 2020:

3 decades of pounding, yet nothing. Bofors is a classic Indian story of corruption and kickbacks - Yes we know it happened and of course everyone got away.

The big guns though have certainly have proved their worth.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 18, 2020:

Thank you for your comment, Flourish.

FlourishAnyway from USA on October 18, 2020:

If a product is so superb it’s a shame that there are those who won’t leave it to impress the powers that be on its own merits. It certainly isn’t the only big ticket item to become mired in such controversy.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 11, 2020:

Alan, you have made some interesting points which were in any case known to me but I will just amplify my point of view a little. Hong Kong need not have been handed over to China because just as Gibraltar does not want to become a part of Spain the people of Hong Kong also did not want to become part of China. Just as the people of Formosa do not want to join China. The better course of action at that time would have been to have set up a small city-state like Singapore with a military guarantee by the United States. Probably at that time Reagan had his priorities to control the Soviet Union and he didn't want to antagonize China which he thought was going to be on the American side. The British should have known that all the talk of 50 years system being maintained and all that was just BS to hoodwink and finally the Chinese have shown their true Colours.

As a historian and also as a man who has been in the forefront of the battle my take on both Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands Is a little different. With Britain militarily weak and an army strength reduced to 80,000, I do not see how Britain will retain both these outposts without American support. You cannot keep relying on America and they have shown that when the time comes they put American interests first. The same is the case with Formosa and in case the Americans withdraw their shield whether the Taiwanese want to join China or not would become immaterial as China will just gobble them up. That is why I said that whatever the wishes of the people of Gibraltar and other places will not matter a decade from now in case Britain does not have the military capability to retain them. China is making deep inroads in Africa and what is to stop the Chinese who are also entering South America or fishing in the troubled waters of the Falkland Islands.

Germany is the enigma and in my last visit to Germany before COVID the general feeling was that the going away of the British was good riddance as now the Germans felt they could lord it over Europe. None of the EU countries have any political clout in the EU to force Germany to pay the reparations otherwise 75 years have elapsed and nothing seems to happen on that front. In Europe, Russia has a big stake and in my view instead of Boris Johnson beating Russia with a stick, as a part of power politics, he may well try and give an olive branch to the Russians. They are the best counterpoise to German hegemony.

Anyway, we are armchair thinkers and do not hold the joystick to pilot the plane. So we have the liberty to express our thoughts. Thats all. Lastly even India with a standing army of 1.2 million armed to the teeth with T 90 tanks is finding it difficult to counter China in the northern Himalayan mountains.

Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on October 11, 2020:

I'll take your last point first: Britain was granted a 99 Year Lease of Hong Kong by the Chinese government to foster trade relations, and to improve Chinese business interests before Shanghai was developed.

The Falkland Islands (originally Argentinian 'Malvinas') were abandoned by Argentina as a dead concern. Britain populated them and after the Antarctic region's whaling industry declined in the 19th Century sheep farmers were encouraged to 'set up shop' down there. Since then oil had been located and - to divert attention from his own failings - General Galtieri began his sabre-rattling against the British, finally instigating an all-out invasion which they lost. This was partly due to their land army relying on numbers rather than training. A cruiser, 'Belgrano' (formerly US warship) was torpedoed by a British nuclear submarine. They had successes, notably due to the French Exocet missiles (we were supposed to be allies of the French, in the EU), and the Austrians sold them military vehicles.

True, the Germans have become a - not the - powerhouse of the EU, but it was the Marshall Plan after WWII that set them on their 'Wirtshaftswunder'(economic miracle) course, in order to prevent the Soviet-East German takeover of the whole of Germany. The US figured that if they didn't help the country after roundly defeating the Nazis - and we couldn't, and wouldn't as it was Nazi Germany that rendered our status as world leaders to dust by the sheer expense of Lend-Lease and rebuilding during the post-WWII Austerity years. We had only just paid up by the time Ted Heath became PM. And it was his idea to take us into the Common Market/EU in return for a 'sop', i.e., the cash to buy his second sailing yacht, 'Morning Cloud II'.

So are we back to Square One after Brexit? Probably not, but at least we don't have to help prop up the backward or poorly equipped nations of Europe.

Germany still hasn't paid reparations to countries like Greece and Italy, Serbia, Bosnia, Poland, Ukraine and Russia for the damage to their infrastructure during their retreat in WWII. If they did, they'd become the 'Armleuchter' (beggars) they'd created out of some of these countries (allies that Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania and Slovakia were), and flattening cities such as Warsaw. We also helped rebuild Germany, at least in the British sector of occupation, levelled concentration camps like Belsen, and pushed back the Soviets to their agreed occupation boundary in Austria. In return the Austrians wanted to punish us for our perfidy in leaving the EU.

With friends like that you don't need enemies.

Gibraltar doesn't want to be Spanish-ruled, they've made that clear. They're happy to be a British protectorate.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 10, 2020:

I think that the U.K.'s membership of the EU for so many decades had a great deal to do with the devaluation of the UK as a world power. In the continent, Hitler's dream of domination actually bore fruit as Germany became the powerhouse; the economic hub of the EU and it began to have tremendous clout because of its strong economy. That was one of the reasons the British decided to leave the EU. One other aspect is the dilution of the British Commonwealth after the UK became a member of the EU and now to get back to that old stage is not going to be easy. Britain has a lot of possessions from Gibraltar to the Atlantic and it cannot keep these on its own power which is greatly depleted and has to rely on the United States. How long this will continue is anybody's guess but I have a feeling that in Gibraltar and the Falkland islands there will have to be some adjustment and this cannot continue as the British possessions.As far as the EU is concerned I think Donald Trump realized that in due course of time with the rise of the economic power of Germany it could at some stage be a threat to America itself.I learned of this line of thought while interacting with many US military personnel. Now China has appeared on the scene and the entire scenario has changed. I have no hesitation in saying that China would not have risen to this position if it had not been treated with kid gloves by the Americans. Secondly, I have yet not understood why in 1983 the British prime minister Thatcher decided to handover Hong Kong to the Chinese. Did she think that China would remain perpetually week? That is a blunder but nobody talks about it.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 10, 2020:

Tom the 25 pounder was a basic weapon and very good.

Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on October 10, 2020:

Even 'best friends' let you down sometimes, emge. We might rely too much on the US' favours. I understand Joe Biden can't stand Boris Johnson - where does that leave us if 'Trumpy' loses the next election? Can we rely on the Commonwealth after we leave the EU? We might've left it too late. After all, in joining what was then the Common Market PM Heath took a backhander from Brussels to buy 'Morning Cloud II' and then we turned our back on old allies for a more expensive, less reliable new bunch whose recent idea was the establishment of a Euro-Defence force... Under whose command? why, Brussels of course. The German and Austrian constitutions forbid them from bearing arms overseas. The Dutch and Swedes rely on a military force that's back in civvy street after a year or so, as with the Belgians. The Spaniards still hanker after Gibraltar, the Portuguese have lost their empire and the Danes are the only ones in the EU who take 'policing' seriously.

The Swedes may have a great armaments industry but they prefer to sell their goods rather than use them.

tom on October 10, 2020:

british 25pdr was good ,we used it ,sea harrier phased out,

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 10, 2020:

The British at one time had some of the best weapon hardware in the world. They had the Vulcun bomber and the Harrier. But I think now there has been a rethink and Britain has decided to cut corners as far as defense budget and that includes hardware manufacture is concerned and the policy is a reliance on America.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 10, 2020:

I understand that the Dhanush 155MM gun which is now under testing is almost a copy of the Bofors gun. It's a fine piece of engineering and let's see how successful it will be.

Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on October 10, 2020:

Maggie managed to screw up our armaments industry as well... Are we off on the same road to nowhere? There is some military hardware still being made, but like the armed forces the output 's shrunk.

That masterpiece of engineering, the Harrier Jump Jet was sold to the US Marines, and we've got US planes. Nobody's got the brains to tell our 'betters' that if you spend more you generate more. Maggie's dad's corner shop economics still hold sway...

tom on October 09, 2020:

plan to make 1840 bofors in licence cancelled,modified as atags

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 09, 2020:

The bane of Indian politics is the decision by the political leadership and the Bureaucracy not to manufacture any military hardware in India. This has never been understood by many people but basically, it was because the politicians and the civil servants wanted to always buy weapons so that they could get hefty kickbacks. 99% of the arms deals in India involve kickbacks. It is sad, that this Bofors kickback was at the highest level and the needle of the suspicion pointed to the Prime Minister.A perceptible change came only in 2014 when Modi took over as the Prime Minister of India and coined the words 'make in India. However, the cumulative effect of the last seven decades is that India remains the biggest importer of arms in the world and one can say that no nation can become a world power by importing arms. In contrast, China did import weapons from Russia but they copied them and now they are almost self-sufficient and that is the big advantage they have over India.

India's problems lie with the Gandhi -Nehru family. Jawaharlal Nehru is guilty of frittering away all the gains of the British Raj and handing over Tibet and Aksai Chin to China more by default than anything else.

Rajiv is reported to have met Sonia in England where she was a waitress and a part-time student and maybe he fell in love with her. It is to the credit of in the British that they had defined the northern borders at the Shimla conference of 1914 and made China and Tibet's sign on the dotted line. But that is all history as the Congress government with lopsided properties threw away all the gains.

Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on October 09, 2020:

The British Army and Royal Navy had versions in WWII. I don't know if the Swedes also sold them to the Germans. We also had Czech weaponry, such as the Bren gun made at Brno, from before WWII. As you probably know, not only did Neville Chamberlain sell the Czechs down the river with allowing them to enter the Sudetenland (bordering Germany), he did the same with/to the Austrians in the same year. They also had an armaments industry, but nowhere near as large as the Czechs and Swedes. The Royal Navy also had Oerlikon guns to raise a curtain of explosives around capital ships (battleships and cruisers) in WWII, nicknamed 'Pom-Poms' from the sound they made when fired.

I think the Swedes tackled the Indian market fairly late on, considering India and Pakistan had 'brown-nosed' each other for decades already. Were they 'weighing the odds'?

It's also interesting the Indian PM chose an Italian bride. There are some amazingly beautiful Indian women who've got brains as well.

tom on October 09, 2020:

indian army used bofors 40mm ackack L60and L 70,modified bofors is atags,bofors fh 177,olaf palme killed due to this scandal,sweden high quality weapon maker,

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 09, 2020:

Liz, it's so nice of you to spare time and comment

Liz Westwood from UK on October 09, 2020:

I had heard of the Bofors gun, but did not realise its origin. This is an interesting investigative article. I suspect that other countries have similar skeletons in the cupboard linked to defence spending.

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