India will soon get the 145 ultra-light BAE M777 Howitzer cannons from BAE Systems, US. The Defence Ministry has cleared the deal worth USD 750 million paving the way for the weapon to arrive in India almost 10 years after it was first zeroed in on.
The nod was given by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar in a Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) meeting. The amount is significantly lower than it was in 2013.
The BAE M777 Howitzer.
Talks over the purchase of the guns started in 2006. In 2013, the US offered to sell the guns at USD 885 million to India. It was the price tag that prevented talks from moving ahead. In May 2015, the Indian government sent a Letter of Request to the US expressing interest in buying the guns. Things move really fast from then on leading to the green signal from the DSA.
This is the first deal for field cannons since the Bofors, which is more infamous for the scandal it triggered than the effectiveness of the gun itself.
The US Army using a BAE ultra-light Howitzer.
The BAE Howitzers will be positioned along the Himalayan terrain of the India-China border and will be used by Indian Army’s Mountain Strike Corps.
Being made from titanium, the gun weighs 4,200 kg and is lightest among 155 mm guns. The 39 caliber towed gun is currently used by the US Marine Corps, the US Army, Canada and Australia. The effective range of the cannon varies from 24 km to 40 km depending on the variant. It is one of the most advanced field guns in the world with low thermal and radar signatures among other technical advancements.
An Indian Army Bofors cannon. The Bofors was purchased some 30 years ago. Rediff
Mahindra Defence Systems Ltd is BAE’s business partner for assembly, integration and test facility for the guns.
“Twenty-five guns will be delivered directly from the US in fly away condition while the rest 120 guns will be assembled at a proposed facility which BAE is launching in partnership with Mahindra,” officials said.
At the same time, the DAC noted the “satisfactory progress” in manufacture of indigenously developed Dhanush cannons.
The Dhanush has a strike range of 35 kms and has been developed by Ordnance Factory Board, Kolkata. A single Dhanush costs Rs.14 crore.
The Indian Government plans to modernize the entire Indian Army by 2027.