Defence Technology Current Affairs

India-US team test-fires M777 ultra-light howitzers in Pokhran

Joint investigation committee (JIC) comprising US and Indian officials has test-fired M777 ultra-light howitzers (ULH) at Pokhran firing range in Rajasthan. The team will review results of this test soon. The test was conducted in the wake of accident during its trial in September 2017.

Background

In November 2016, India signed Rs 5,070-crore deal with US to procure 145 M777 ULH for deployment on mountainous terrain in northern and eastern borders. It was first such induction of artillery guns since Swedish Bofors guns in late-1980s, which got embroiled in political controversy.

As part of deal, two M777 ULHs were brought to India May 2017 for field firing with Indian ammunition to compile firing tables that provide data such as range and elevation. But during September 2017 trial firing, the projectile had bursted in barrel of howitzers. After accident, two sides had formed joint team to examine issue.

M777 Ultra-Light Howitzers (ULH) artillery Guns

It is manufactured by BAE Systems’ Global Combat Systems division. It is smaller and lighter. It weighs 4,100 kg and can be easily transported by helicopters. It has effective firing range of 24 km.

Under India-US M777 deal, 25 ULHs will be inducted directly with rest to be assembled at BAE Systems facility in Maharashtra in partnership with Mahindra Group. The delivery is to be completed by 2021.

Indian Army is going to deploy these artillery guns in high-altitude areas in Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh, bordering China. Its induction will give Indian defence forces a much needed operational advantage and an access to state of art technology.

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CATOBAR: India Navy to use US aircraft launch system in ship

Indian Navy is likely to use advanced catapult-based aircraft launch mechanism (CATOBAR) from United States for its second indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC-II), which is on drawing board.

In this regard, both countries have held several rounds of discussions in joint working group (JWG) on Aircraft Carrier Technology Cooperation (JWGACTC) under Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) set up by them.

EMALS

For some time, India was exploring possibility of installing US electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS). The US has offered India its latest EMALS technology, developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. EMALS uses electric motor-driven catapult instead, which allows launch of much heavier aircraft and reduces stress on aircraft whereas older-generation CATOBAR is powered by steam catapult. It will allow Indian Navy to operate heavy surveillance aircraft, in addition to heavy fighters. However, the system is expensive, something that needs to be factored in.

Background

The IAC-II has been envisaged to be around 65,000 tonnes and capable of carrying over 50 aircraft. Indian Navy is keen on nuclear propulsion, which will give it unlimited range and endurance, its development in time seems doubtful. India’s first domestic carrier, Vikrant, weighing 40,000 tonnes, is in an advanced stage of construction in Kochi (Kerala). It is scheduled to be launched by 2018-end. It works on Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery (STOBAR) mechanism similar to that in present carrier INS Vikramaditya, with an angular ski-jump.

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