BAE Systems, which had pulled out of a joint venture with Mahindra Group three years ago, has down-selected Mahindra as its business partner for the proposed in-country assembly, integration & test (AIT) facility for the M777 ultra-light howitzer.
Both India and the US are in discussions for a Foreign Military Sale (FMS) of 145 M777A2 LW155 howitzers for the Indian Army. “BAE Systems looks forward to working with Mahindra in the coming weeks to finalise details of this AIT facility and to negotiate the terms of its contractual arrangement,” a company release said.
Last year, the company developed and submitted a US Government-supported proposal offering a higher degree of indigenisation on the M777 weapon system. The highlight of this is the commitment to establish AIT capabilities in India in partnership with a domestic Indian company.
The story was first reported by FE in June 2015 about the Mahindra Group being down-selected for making M-777 guns in India.
The selection follows a detailed assessment of Mahindra’s ability to fulfil the requirements and provide the best value to the M777 India programme, and in the future, grow its capability as a strategic partner for BAE Systems in India.
Joe Senftle, vice-president & general manager, Weapon Systems, BAE Systems, said, “As a founding partner of defence manufacturing in India, BAE Systems is pleased to partner with Mahindra on our offer to develop an assembly, integration and test facility in India. The facility is a fundamental part of the M777 production line.”
“A domestic AIT facility will enable the Indian Army to access maintenance, spares and support for the M777 locally. We will continue to support the two governments to progress to contract agreement so that we may begin the process of ‘Make in India’ for M777,” Senftle said.
“Mahindra and BAE Systems share the same values and common vision towards Make in India. BAE Systems is one of the largest defence companies globally and we could not have a better partner. M777 will give our Defence Forces a much needed operational advantage and an access to state of art technology. Mahindra M777 facility will also ensure that the life cycle support is available locally thereby enhancing operational availability of the guns,” SP Shukla, group president, Mahindra Defence & Aerospace, Mahindra Group, has been quoted in the official statement released by BAE Systems.
BAE Systems and Mahindra Group had formed a joint venture — Defence Land Systems India (DLSI) — that focused on the Future Infantry Combat Vehicle (FICV) competition. However, the British company parted ways in Feburary 2013.
The UK-based company, through its US arm, in an effort to resurrect the dead deal, had earlier this year offered to build more components in India for the 155-mm/39-calibre M777 ULH. It had offered the transfer of the AIT capabilities to India.
The AIT facility will not only provide in-country support to the Army on its weapon system, but also begin the process of indigenous manufacture of modern artillery in India.
Due to delays on part of New Delhi in finalising the deal for M777 guns through the FMS route from the US, the company has been gradually shutting down its facilities at Barrow-in-Furness, UK, and work at the US facility too has been suspended. This means that India buys the guns from the Pentagon, which negotiates terms with BAE Systems.