These are the first new pieces of artillery to join the Army after the Bofors guns — a gap of three decades .
The Army on Thursday took delivery of two M777 Ultra-Light Howitzers (ULH), which will be put through trails to prepare them for induction.
“Two guns arrived in New Delhi today from the United States,” officials confirmed.
These are the first new pieces of artillery to join the Army after a gap of three decades. India last inducted the Swedish Bofors guns in the 1980s, the deal of which kicked up a major controversy and stalled the Army’s artillery modernisation programme. However, the Bofors guns won the Kargil conflict for India and continues to be the Army's mainstay.
The M777 is a 155mm, 39 caliber towed artillery gun made of titanium and aluminium alloys and weighs four tonnes, enabling it to be transported under slung by helicopters.
In November 2016, India signed the Letter of Acceptance (LoA) with the U.S. government under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme for 145 BAE Systems-built M777A2 artillery guns in a deal worth $737 million.
As part of the agreement, two guns were to be delivered within six months for calibration and preparing range tables by the Indian Army.
“The guns have yearlong trials ahead of them. They will first go to the Pokhran ranges,” a senior officer told The Hindu.
Another officer explained that range tables are required when integrating local ammunition in use by the Army with the gun and calibrating it against a whole lot of variables like weather, temperature.
A BAE Systems spokesperson said the two guns have landed in India “ahead of schedule”.
As per the agreement, deliveries will begin 21 months after the initial payment which, defence officials said, would be done about five weeks from the signing of the LoA. Of the 145 guns, 25 will be imported and the remaining assembled in India in partnership with the Mahindra group.
After three decades, the Amry’s artillery modernisation is finally on track. While the M777 is in the implementation stage, the Dhanush guns, the upgraded version of the Bofors ones, are in the final stage of trials, and induction will begin very soon.