M777 Howitzers Current Affairs - 2019
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Indian Army is going to resume trials of US-made M777 ultralight howitzer in the Pokhran firing range, Rajasthan. During the trails local ammunition will be used and tentatively 100 to 150 rounds will be fired. The trials will begin after they were suspended in September 2017 following a barrel burst caused by faulty ammunition during firing.
M777 Howitzer artillery gun
M777 is 155-mm, 39-calibre towed artillery gun. It is manufactured by US based BAE Systems’ Global Combat Systems division. It is smaller and lighter, as it is made of titanium and aluminium alloys and weighs just 4 tonnes. It has effective firing range of 24 km.
It can use all types of 155 mm ammunition. It can be easily transported by heavy lift helicopters, which will give Indian Army tremendous flexibility in its operations, especially in high altitude mountainous terrain. It takes only three minutes to come into action and has a pack-up time of just two minutes. It can sit down like scorpene, which makes it difficult to be spotted by the enemy tanks
Significance: Induction of M777 Howitzer artillery guns is expected to add tremendous firepower and much needed operational advantage to the Indian Army as they will be deployed in high-altitude areas in Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh, bordering China. It will also give access to state of art technology. These artillery guns are already being used by US, Canadian and Australian armies.
India signed Letter of Agreement and Acceptance (LoA) with US Government in November 2016 to buy 145 M777s through the foreign military sale (FMS) route at cost of $737 million. Of the 145 guns, 25 will be imported while the remaining 120 will be assembled in India in partnership with Mahindra group. Deliveries are slated to commence in March 2019 and will be completed by 2021. M777s deal is the first contract for artillery guns in almost 30 years after Bofors artillery guns induction in late-1980s, which had got embroiled in political controversy due to illegal kickbacks. Bofors guns however had been mainstay for Indian Army for decades and had played important role in Kargil conflict.
India has signed government-to-government (G2G) deal with the United States (US) to buy 145 M-777 Ultra-Light Howitzers worth $750 million under the Foreign Military Sales programme.
The deal was signed at the two-day meeting of the 15th India-US Military Cooperation Group (MCG) held in New Delhi.
This is the first defence deal signed by India for purchasing artillery guns since the Bofors scandal in 1980s. It was recently cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Under this deal
- M777 howitzers manufacturer BAE Systems will conclude an offset agreement estimated at about $200 million. 25 guns will come to India in a fly-away condition.
- Remaining 120 guns will be assembled at the proposed Assembly Integration and Test facility for the weapon system in India.
- BAE Systems already has selected the Mahindra group as the local offset partner.
India-US MCG: It is a bilateral forum established to progress Defence Cooperation between HQ Integrated Defence Staff (India) and US Pacific Command at strategic and operational levels.
About 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.
M777 Ultra-Light Howitzers artillery guns induction will give Indian defence forces a much needed operational advantage and an access to state of art technology. These guns will be deployed in high-altitude areas in Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh, bordering China.