The weapon modernisation plan of the Indian Army gets a major boost today when M777 guns will be test-fired nearly 30 years after the Bofors howitzer guns were introduced. M777 is a howitzer gun like Bofors.
Reports suggest that two artillery guns made by BAE systems reached New Delhi early this morning. The guns will be tested at Pokhran this evening.
It was exactly 43 years ago on the same date at the same place that the Indira Gandhi government carried out the first nuclear weapons test under the code name Smiling Buddha, which took the entire world by surprise because of its secrecy and ease with which it was conducted.
The M777 testing was scheduled for late June but it seems that the Narendra Modi government decided to advance the tests to mark the anniversary of Pokhran-I, which showcased India's nuclear prowess to the world for the first time.
The Indian Army plans to equip nearly 170 regiments with the M777 artillery guns. The first two guns are being tested today. These guns are of ultra light howitzers (ULH) quality and have 155mm/39 calibre.
The modernisation deal was initiated with the United States in 2010 but it was finally announced last year on June 26. The first deal is for 145 M777 guns at Rs 2,900-crore. It was done under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route between the two governments.
After the first two guns, another consignment of three guns is expected to arrive around the middle of next year. Those three guns will be used for training by the Indian Army.
Under the agreement, 25 guns will be supplied by the US to India by 2021. The rest of 120 M777 guns will be assembled by the Mahindra Defence in India.
The maximum range of these guns is 30 km. Presently, M777 guns are used by armies of the US, Canada and Australia. All these countries have deployed the M777 guns in Iraq and Afghanistan. The new guns have been redesigned to suit Indian conditions and requirements.
The M777 guns are such designed that these can be transported to rugged terrain of regions - like those along the borders with China and Pakistan - and be lifted by helicopters used by Indian Army and Air Force.