NEW DELHI: With the arrival of two M-777 ultra-light howitzer (ULH) guns here on Thursday, the Army is all set to acquire a modern artillery gun after a gap three decades since the Bofors guns controversy. India and US had signed the government to government deal for 145 howitzers last year worth over 737 million dollars (Rs 2,400 crore). And most of these howitzers will be deployed in the Mountain Strike Corps now under raising for meeting any challenge from China in the eastern theatre.
According to defence sources, the two guns, which arrived here, will fire 155mm ammunition and will go through pre-induction trials in the field firing range in Pokharan next month. As per the contract, firing tables and range of the guns to be deployed in the mountain regions facing China will be calibrated during the trials. Following this process, three more guns will arrive in September and the formal induction will begin in March with five guns coming to the Army every month. The entire acquisition process is likely to be over by June 2021, officials said here.
Giving details of the delivery schedule, they said India will acquire 24 guns off the shelf and the remaining howitzers capable of hitting targets ranging from 24 to 40 km will be assembled in India by private sector company Mahindra and Mahindra. The first two guns were brought to New Delhi in a chartered transport plane, they added.
The M-777 howitzers manufactured by BAE systems are light weight as they are manufactured of titanium and can be airlifted to inaccessible mountains of on the Eastern and Western fronts facing China in a short time.
Incidentally, the defence ministry last week inked another deal worth over Rs 4,366 crores with Larsen and Toubro for supply of 100 self-propelled howitzers. The private sector company will manufacture these 155mm52 calibre tracked artillery guns called K-9Vajra-T in collaboration with South Korean firm Hanwha Tech Win and all the gins will be delivered to the Army within 42 months of singing the deal.
These guns can fire beyond 45 kms and will move on tank-type tracks to accompany tanks and mechanised regiments to battle.
The Army was facing an acute shortage of modern artillery guns capable of firing long range for the last guns as acquisition came to a halt in the wake of the Bofors gun controversy in 1986. As per Army’s artillery modernization plan that envisages procuring 2,800 guns by 2027 which included procuring 1,580 towed guns, 814 truck-mounted guns, 100 tracked self-propelled guns, 180 wheeled self-propelled guns and 145 ultra-light howitzers.