The Indian Army on Thursday received two 155mm/39 caliber Ultra Lightweight Howitzer artillery guns from BAE Systems in the United States. “In fulfillment of the United States’ Foreign Military Sale of 145 M777 Ultra Lightweight Howitzer to India, we are pleased to confirm that the first two weapon systems will land in India ahead of schedule over this weekend,” said a company spokesperson, according to IANS.
The Army will test-fire the guns at Pokhran, Rajasthan, this weekend. This comes after almost 30 years the Bofors howitzers were introduced. The guns have been designed for firing Indian ammunition in domestic conditions, according to The Indian Express. The design is such that these can be manoeuvred in narrow and treacherous mountain roads.
In June last year, the Union Defence Ministry had sanctioned the proposal to purchase 145 M777 Ultra Lightweight Howitzer artillery guns from BAE Systems in the United States. The deal was completed in November.
After these two guns, three M777 guns will be delivered in September 2018 and those will be used for training purposes. Five guns will be inducted every month between March 2019 and June 2021. While the first 25 guns will come in flyaway condition, the remaining 120 will be assembled at the Assembly Integration and Test facility. The government has chosen Mahindra to partner with in the assembling process.
The last time the Army had inducted a modern artillery gun was the Swedish Bofors in the late 1980s. But it got embroiled in a scam that dates back to 1980s and 1990s when the Congress was in power with Rajiv Gandhi as prime minister. The Indian government had signed a $1.4-billion (Rs 9,568 crore approximately) defence deal with Swedish arms manufacturer Bofors for 410 field Howitzer guns, and a supply contract. Senior Congress politicians were found guilty of receiving kickbacks for the deal. Gandhi was also implicated in the case.