New Delhi : The first two of the M777 Ultralight Howitzers landed here on Thursday, bringing an end to the Indian Army’s three decade wait for a new artillery gun.
The two 155mm/39 calibre ultralight Howitzers arrived on a chartered flight. The guns, which have a maximum range of 30 km, will be tested in Pokharan in Rajasthan.
“Two M 777 A-2 (Indian) ULH arrived today for preparation of firing tables. During this event, the guns will fire 155 mm indigenous ammunition,” the Indian Army said in a statement.
As per the contract agreement, firing tables are being prepared by the contracted agency – US Government and BAE GCS Ltd with support of Indian Army.
Three more guns will be received in the second stage in September 2018 for training, the Indian Army said.
Thereafter, induction will commence from March 2019 onwards at the rate of five guns per month till the complete consignment is received by mid 2021.
According to sources, over the next year, another 23 guns will be delivered off the shelf, and another 120 will be sent in a semi-knocked down condition, to be assembled in India by Mahindra.
At 4.2 tonnes, these guns weigh only a third of the normal 155 mm Howitzers, and are expected to add tremendous firepower to the Indian Army.
The M777 guns, which can be carried underslung by heavy lift helicopters, are expected to give the Army tremendous flexibility in operations, specially in mountainous terrain.
On November 30 last year, India signed the Letter of Agreement and Acceptance (LOA) with the US to buy 145 M777s through the foreign military sale (FMS) route.
The $737 million contract has a 30 per cent offset clause worth around $200 million.
India last inducted the Swedish Bofors guns in the 1980s. The deal however got tainted by an alleged scam with allegations of kickbacks being received by Indian leaders.
The Bofors guns however have been a mainstay for the Indian Army for decades, and played an important role in the Kargil conflict.
The M777s would increase Indian Army’s ability in high altitudes. These guns are being used by the US, Canadian and Australian armies.
(With Inputs from IANS)