Army to receive first Howitzer by June
After a wait of three decades, the Indian Army is set to receive its first Howitzer by June 2017, thanks to a $737-million deal with the US. The government-to-government contract between Washington and New Delhi will facilitate the sale of BAE Systems’ M777 ultra-lightweight Howitzers to the army, which didn’t have any artillery since the purchase of the Bofors guns.
A week before US Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter’s India visit on December 8, the Defence Ministry had signed the Letter of Acceptance to purchase 145 M777 guns through the foreign military sales route. The countdown to the delivery has already begun as BAE Systems is to supply the first one within six months, sources said.
The entire consignment is to be delivered over a period of about 54 months. While the first 25 guns are to be imported in two years, the rest would be assembled at a factory at Faridabad, which Mahindra set up in partnership with BAE Systems.
At half the weight of other 155mm-towed Howitzers, the M777 provides a rapid reaction capability, and is the only battle-proven 155mm ultra-lightweight Howitzer in the world.
For the Indian Army, the guns would be useful while serving on mountainous terrain. Also, since they can be carried by Chinook helicopters, which also India is buying from the US, they can be quickly moved to areas close to the border. Almost a decade ago, the army had proposed purchasing the 155 mm/39 calibre lightweight Howitzers. But even after the ministry approved the M777 purchase and the gun performed well in the trials, the deal was stuck due to price negotiation.