Topical of artillery guns in the Indian Army
Last week the Letter of Acceptance and Agreement (LoA) was inked with the United States Government for 145 M777 ultra-light howitzers worth $737 million. This is a government-to-government deal under Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme of US. This breaks the long standing jinx for the army on artillery guns. Since the Bofors scandal in late 1980s, army has not seen any new artillery guns. Although the army formulated Army Field Artillery Rationalization Plan (FARP) in 1999 to induct 3,000 guns from various categories to equip nearly 200 artillery regiments, it remained far behind realization.
The first payment regarding this deal will be paid off within five weeks since the LoA is signed, and the delivery of the guns will begin after 21 months from the initial payment. However, BAE Systems, the manufacturer of the guns, expects a contract to be signed soon, with the US Department of Defence. After which an offset agreement worth $200 million would settled with India. Of the 145 guns dealt, 25 will be directly imported and the remainder will be assembled in India. Mahindra Group has already been selected as the local offset partner. Together, they are to establish the Assemble, Integration and Test (ATT) facilities. May be a few others companies will also be selected to execute the operations. As there is a heavy requirement for the guns, sources suggest that the count may go up in future.
The M777s weigh about 4,200 kg, and have length about 10.7 m and 9.5 m in combat and logistic conditions respectively. With a barrel length of 5.08 m, recommended crew count is eight while a minimum of five is required. The guns can be equipped with M107, M795, M982 Excalibur and Extended Range, Full Bore (ERFB) shells. They can fire up to 40 km with Excalibur, with a maximum rate of five rounds per minute.
Apart from these guns, the Dhanush guns, an upgraded version of Swedish Bofors guns, manufactured by the Ordnance Factories Board (OFB) are close to induction. OFB says that the 155 mm and 45 calibre Dhanush guns have a range of 38 km, and the technology used is 80 percent indigenous. An order for 114 guns worth ₹1,600 crore was already placed by the army. It has also expressed willingness for procurement of another 300 guns. In November 2016, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) approved for a tender of 814 155 mm, 52 calibre mounted long range artillery guns to be produced in India under the aegis of technology transfer. In July 2014, Defence Research Development Organization (DRDO) has test fired 155 mm, 52 calibre towed artillery gun with a range of 40 km under Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS) project.