India had last procured howitzers in the mid-1980s from Swedish defence major Bofors.
New Delhi: Two pieces of brand new M-777 A-2 howitzers are being test-fired in Rajasthan’s Pokhran desert — the site of India’s nuclear tests to collate and determine critical data like trajectory, speed and frequency of fire, an Army official has said on conditionof anonymity.
“The trials have been going on smoothly and data is being collected for formation of the firing table,” the official added.
The two BAE Systems-manufactured howitzers are the first of a consignment of 25 guns which are being bought from the US in a fly-away condition while another 120 will be manufactured by BAE Systems in India in partnership with Mahindra Defence.
The trials of the two guns will continue till September for formation of the “firing table” which is a major aspect of the overall induction process.
Three more of these 155-mm guns will be supplied to the Army in September 2018.
Thereafter, induction will commence from March 2019 with five guns per month till the complete consignment is received by mid-2021.
With a maximum strike range of at least 30 km, the M-777 will fulfill a critical requirement for Mountain Strike Corps being especially raised for the Indo-China border in the higher and rugged eastern Himalayas in Arunachal Pradesh and in Ladakh.
The Army needs the howitzers considering the evolving regional security scenario. India had last procured howitzers in the mid-1980s from Swedish defence major Bofors.
The alleged pay-offs in the deal and its subsequent political ramifications had severely crippled the Indian Army’s procurement of artillery guns.
India had struck a government-to-government deal with the US last November for supply of the 145 howitzers at a cost of nearly Rs 5,100 crore.
At just 4,200 kg and capable of being transported by helicopters to the place of deployment in remote and very high-altitude areas, the cannon, made of an alloy of titanium and aluminium, is much more sophisticated than the Bofors which had to be taken in parts to the higher reaches and assembled therein. The lightweight and mobility allows for easier “shoot and scoot” capability.