Indian Army will soon get more firepower in terms of M777 ultra-light howitzers.
The light artillery gun is seen as a principal weapon for India’s new Mountain Strike Corps, which is being raised to deter China. It will give teeth to this strike formation.
The US has finalised a proposal to sell light artillery gun, under a direct government-to-government deal, worth over $700 million. Washington expected to send a formal ‘Letter of Acceptance (LOA)’ soon.
After the LOA comes up before the South Block, the Indian side would give its acceptance following which deliveries of 145 guns would commence.
India has not bought artillery guns since the Bofors deal in 1986.
The proposal to acquire the M777 howitzers, manufactured by BAE Systems’ Global Combat Systems division, has been in process since 2008, but there has seen several ups and downs. Modi government revived the contract last year under a new deal that included a ‘Make in India’ component.
BAE has offered to shift its production line to India and make them in the country under the “Make in India” programme. BAE which is expecting orders from other governments envisioned that an Indian plant could become its single global assembly centre for the weapon.
“We’ve offered to bring the gun’s assembly, integration and testing to India. We have identified over 40 Indian partners to substantially indigenise the components. At the heart of the proposal is to shift the assembly line (from the Hattiesburg, Mississippi facility in the US) to India, and make the gun here under transfer of technology,” said John Kelly, vice president, British Aerospace (BAE). Last year in May, India’s Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) chaired by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, cleared the procurement of M777 howitzers.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. Huffington Post
A proposal to procure 814 artillery guns worth $2.5 billion in 2010, saw bidding from international companies such as Denel, Rosoboronexport and BAE Systems. BAE Systems won the contract to supply 145 M777 ultra-light howitzers worth $493 million.
M777 Howitzer in a desert operation.youtube
As part of the deal, India is likely to get at least two M777 light howitzers this year so that the army can generate its ‘range tables’ – a calibration for the various types of Indian made ammunition that the guns would fire once in service. The M777 is an ultra light weight 155 mm 39 calibre towed howitzer having a range of 30 kms. While Bofors guns of India weigh in at about 11,000 kgs, the M777 weighs a mere 4000 kgs per unit. These guns are light weight because of titanium castings which also improves mobility and transportability features for the resulting weapon system.
The M777 can be transported through CH-47 Chinook helicopters, C-17 Globemaster and C-130 Hercules aircraft, or on trucks. This will allow India to deploy lethal firepower in the mountain regions on the border with China.
A Chinook helicopter lifts a M777 ultralight gun for deployment in mountains. ajaishukla
India’s artillery procurement has received a filip under Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. In his first meeting as chair, the DAC had okayed the procurement of 814 Mounted Gun System (MGS) for an estimated Rs 15,750 crore ($3 billion) under “Make in India” policy. In June 2014, Indian version of the Bofors which was upgraded to 45 Calibre from the original 39 Calibre by the Ordinance Factory Board (OFB) passed trials. Ministry of Defence ordered 114 of these guns named Dhanush to be made by OFB.