Indian Army has received two of the 145 M-777 ultra-light howitzers from BAE Systems. The two 155mm/39 caliber ultra light howitzers (ULH) are being tested at the Pokhran field firing range in Rajasthan. This is the first induction of the howitzers after the Bofors scandal broke out around 30 years ago in the late 1980s. The scandal had badly hit the artillery modernisation of the Indian Army as all deals for this purpose were put on hold. A few high-profile people in the country had allegedly received kickbacks in the deal.
Here are 10 things you should know about the M-777 ultra-light howitzers to be used by the Indian Army:
1. The M777 howitzers come with laser inertial artillery pointing systems (LINAPS), maintenance, personnel training and training equipment, technical assistance, engineering and logistics support services.
2. The M777 howitzers weigh around 4200 kg and can be moved easily in the rugged terrains because of its modular design. Built with titanium and aluminium alloys, the M777 howitzers can be deployed at high altitudes with the help of helicopters like Chinook.
3. The Indian Army plans to use these howitzers in defensive troop deployment across the country. The M777s would increase Indian Army’s ability in high altitudes. According to PTI, the M777 howitzers would be deployed along the India-China border. It would be used by the new mountain strike corps being raised in Panagarh, West Bengal.
4. In 2016, India had signed a government-to-government deal for the 145 M777 guns from the US at a cost of around $750 million under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route. The talks for the deal, however, started way back in 2010.
5. Test at Pokharan: The two guns are being tested at Pokhran for the compilation of firing tables.
6. According to IE, the M777 guns have been designed to fire Indian ammunition in Indian conditions.
7. M777 guns are already being used by the US, Canadian and Australian armies.
8. Boost to Make in India: The two M777s, which have arrived in India, are part of the 25 ready-to-use weapons to be supplied by the BAE over the next two years. As per the deal, 120 remaining howitzers would be produced in
India under the ‘Make in India’ programme in collaboration between BAE and India’s Mahindra Defence in Faridabad.
9. At present, a major portion of M777 is being manufactured at BAE’s UK plants, where core components like titanium forgings and fabrications, which make the M777 light, are produced. The final integration and testing phase, which is being handled at BAE’s Hattiesburg facility at Mississippi in US, will be shifted to India’s Mahindra Defence facility in Faridabad. Mahindra Defence will assemble, integrate and test the guns at the AIT facility, allowing an unhindered access to spare parts and reduce the maintenance time and cost.
10. India had signed the $750-million deal in 2016 on the sidelines of the 15th India-US Military Cooperation Group (MCG).
(The article was edited for a few errors and updated on May 19, 2017 )