The Indian Army’s three-decade-long wait fornew artillery ended on Thursday as the first two of the M777 Ultralight Howitzers arrived in New Delhi.
Two 155mm/39 calibre ultralight howitzers arrived here on a chartered flight. The guns will now be taken to Pokharan in Rajasthan for user trials. In total 145 of these guns have been ordered and the rest are expected in the next five to six months. As per the agreement, 25 guns will be delivered by the US and the remaining 120 will be assembled by Mahindra Defence under the government’s flagship programme ‘Make in India.
Atpresent, a major portion of M777 isbeing manufactured at BAE’s UK plants, wherecore components like titanium forgings and fabrications, which make the M777 light, are produced. Thefinal integration and testing phase, which isbeing handled at BAE’s Hattiesburg facility inMississippi, US, will be shifted to India’sMahindra Defence facility in Faridabad.Mahindra Defence will assemble, integrate and test the guns at the AIT facility, allowing unhindered access to spare parts andreduce maintenance time and costs.
The Centre sealed the deal with the US government on November 17 which is worth Rs. 4,700 crore.
These artillery guns with a range of 30 kilometers will bolster the Indian Army’s firing might especially against China in the eastern front and in out-of-area contingency. It will beused by the army’s mountainous divisions in high-altitude positions in Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh, along the China frontier.
The army last purchased 410 howitzer field guns from AB Bofors in 1986, which later ran into controversy over allegations from the Swedish media that top Indian politicians and military officials had been bribed in connection with the deal.
The M777 howitzer is a towed 155mm artillery gun with a firing range of up to 30km; it can be airlifted easily and used for quick deployment in mountainous regions.
The howitzers have been used by the US Army, Marine Corps and NATO forces in Afghanistan since February 2006.