In the first move to induct new artillery guns in the Indian Army in nearly three decades, two M-777 ultra-light howitzers will be flown down to India from the US on Thursday.
The 155mm-calibre guns manufactured by BAE Systems are being acquired under the $737 million deal which India inked with the US in November 2016.
According to a report in The Times of India, the two howitzers, which will come in a chartered aircraft from the UK, will be taken to the Pokhran ranges for testing and "compilation of the firing tables" for subsequent use. "The firing tables, with the guns being tested for different kinds of Indian ammunition with bi-modular charges, will take some time to be formulated."
A source quoted in the report said that five guns will be delivered every month and that all 145 guns will be inducted by June 2021.
The last time the army inducted a modern artillery gun was in the late 1980s, when Bofors were purchased by a Swedish company Bofors AB. There was a controversy over payment of alleged kickbacks in the deal, which put on the backfoot all deals for the modernisation of the artillery.
Subsequent scandals revolving around other global artillery manufacturers, like South African Denel and Singapore Technology Kinetic's, further punched gaping holes in the army's long-range, high-volume firepower. The original Swedish Bofors company is now owned by BAE Systems, reported The Times of India.
The guns which are currently being used by the US, Australian and Canadian armed forces, are primarily meant for the front in China. The army has plans to equip 169 regiments with 3,503 guns by 2020.The guns will equip the new 17 Mountain Strike Corps, which the army is raising by cannibalising its existing reserves, for the China front. With two infantry divisions geared for mountain warfare, and associated artillery, air defence and armoured brigades, the 17 Corps will be fully in place with 90,274 troops by 2021.
After these two guns, three M777 guns will come to India in September 2018 and used for training. Thereafter, five guns will be inducted every month from March 2019 to June 2021. These guns, which will equip seven artillery regiments, are capable of firing at a range of 24 to 40 kilometres, depending on the type of ammunition used, was reported in Indian Express.
While the first 25 guns will be inducted directly, 120 of the 145 guns will be assembled in India by Mahindra Defence as part of offsets obligation, the report said.
The arrival of the M-777 guns comes soon after the government also inked a Rs 4,366 crore contract with engineering conglomerate L&T for the supply of 100 self-propelled howitzers in collaboration with its South Korean technology partner Hanwha Tech Win. These 155mm/52-calibre tracked guns called K-9 Vajra-T, in turn, are to be delivered within 42 months, reported The Times of India.
Key features of the M-777
M-777 is the world’s first 155mm howitzer weighing less than 10000 lbs (4218 kilogrammes) because it uses titanium extensively. It has been selected by the US Marine Corps and US Army as their next generation medium force weapon.
The gun can be transported by helicopter and transporter aircraft such as the C-130, and has a minimal gun crew of five.
The M-777 uses a digital fire-control system to provide navigation, pointing and self-location, allowing it to be put into action quickly.
With inputs from PTI
Updated Date: May 18, 2017 13:03 PM