After a 30-year wait for new artillery guns since the Bofors scandal, the Indian Army today received the first two ultra light howitzers from the US as part of an order for 145 long-range guns which will be mostly deployed along the border with China.
The M-777 A-2 ultra-light howitzers (ULH), having a maximum range of 30 km and manufactured by the BAE Systems, were being taken to Pokhran firing range in Rajasthan for test firing.
The Indian Army is in dire need of ULH and India had struck a government-to-government deal with the US in November last year for supply of the 145 howitzers at a cost of nearly Rs 5,000 crore.
While 25 guns will come in a fly-away condition, the rest will be assembled in India by the BAE Systems in partnership with Mahindra Defence.
The 155 mm, 39-calibre guns will fire Indian ammunitions.
"As per the contract agreement, firing tables are being prepared by the contracted agency, that is, the US Government and BAE GCS (Global Combat Systems) Ltd with support of Indian Army," the Army said in a statement.
It said after the firing tables are ready, three more guns will be supplied in September, 2018 for training. Thereafter, induction will commence from March 2019 onwards with five guns per month till complete consignment is received by mid 2021.
"We continue to support the US government in integrating this new weapon system with the Indian Army's artillery modernization program," an official of the BAE Systems said.
The howitzers that can be heli-lifted were first proposedto be bought from BAE about 10 years back.
India had last procured howitzers in the mid-1980s from Swedish defence major Bofors. The alleged pay-offs in sealing the deal and its subsequent political ramifications had severely crippled the Indian Army's procurement of artillery guns.
Officials sources said that the new guns are expected to be deployed along the border with China.
Last week, engineering conglomerate Larsen and Toubro (L&T) was awarded a contract to supply 100 self-propelled howitzers to the Indian Army at a cost of Rs 4,500 crore
The first batch of the 155mm/52 calibre tracked self- propelled (SP) gun -- K9 VAJRA-T -- will be delivered later this year and the entire supply will be made within next 42 months.