Indian Army to get ‘Make in India’ M777 Howitzer guns soon! By the end of the fourth quarter of 2019, a new M777 Howitzer gun, assembled, integrated and tested at the Mahindra Defence facility will be ready for rollout, a BAE Systems executive tells Financial Express Online. The Indian Army has placed an order for 145 ultra-light weight Howitzer guns with BAE Systems under the ‘Make in India’ programme. Out of these 145 howitzer guns, 25 will come in a flyaway condition and the rest 120 will be assembled in India at the Mahindra Defene facility. Under the ‘Make in India’, the foreign original equipment manufacturer BAE Systems has tied up with India’s private sector firm Mahindra Defence for the completion of the $750 million deal.
According to Nik Khanna, Managing Director, BAE Systems India, starting with the 26th M777, the entire assembly, integration and test of the M777 will happen in India. “We are 1.5 years into the programme delivery of the M777s. The first 5 guns on the 145 foreign military sales have now been handed over to the Indian Army. The tie-up with Mahindra Defence is our testament to our Make in India commitment. It is a complete Assembly, Integration and Test (AIT) facility,” Khanna told Financial Express Online.
M777 Howitzer facts and range: The M777 Howitzer is a 155mm 39 calibre towed gun. According to BAE Systems, the maximum unassisted range of the M777 is 24.7 km, while the assisted range is of more than 30 km! The OEM claims that the gun can be used to fire 5 rounds per minute for up to 2 minutes. The first batch of M777 howitzer guns was inducted into the Indian Army in November last year after extensive field trials.
Said to be highly portable, the M777 howitzer guns can be carried easily over land, air and sea. One special feature of the M777 is that it can be readily airlifted on a Boeing Chinook heavy-lift helicopter. The Indian Air Force (IAF) has recently inducted the first batch of Chinook helicopters. This means that at a very short notice, both troops and artillery guns can be transported by Chinooks to border areas in Jammu and Kashmir, giving India ready firepower along its borders.
BAE Systems’ Nik Khanna believes, “This is the first time that the AIT on a very capabale ultra light howitzer which has a lot of advance material science and engineering is going to be done in India.” “It has only been done in the US and the UK. Perhaps, we can look at India as a global hub to do that,” he said adding that in the future, the company can also look at titanium castings and moulding, elements of refining for the M777 in India. “We are in talks to meet the requirements of the Indian Army and in future we may even want to export the gun to India’s friendly nations, that’s a possibility,” Khanna added.
Apart from M777 Howitzers, IAF’s Hawk trainer aircraft is another flagship programme of BAE Systems in India. “Hawk is one of our flagship programmes with the HAL. We have already delivered 123 Hawks to the defence forces and are in talks to better support and sustain the Hawks upgrade for the future of IAF,” Khanna said. The company is now also looking to supply 127mm guns to the Indian Navy.