Emerging from the shadow of the Bofors scandal, the Army on Friday inducted its first artillery gun systems in three decades. The M777 Ultra Light Howitzers from the U.S. and K9 Vajra-T self-propelled artillery gun from South Korea were inducted at the Devlali Field Firing Ranges in Maharashtra. The third equipment inducted is a common gun tower.
The Army last inducted an artillery gun system — the Bofors guns procured from Sweden — in the early 1980s. Attempts to buy new guns did not make progress.
Three guns of each type were inducted in the presence of Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Army chief Gen. Bipin Rawat. In all, the Army will get 10 K-9 guns this year.
“A third equipment is also being inducted today — The common gun tower, a 6x6 vehicle with cross-country capability. Required to tow the medium guns. These are made by the Indian company Ashok Leyland,” Ms. Sitharaman wrote in a tweet.
In April 2017, the Indian engineering conglomerate Larsen & Toubro (L&T) and South Korea’s Hanwha Techwin signed a contract to make the K9 Vajra-T guns. The gun was short-listed by the Army after extensive trials. The deal is worth ₹4,500 crore for 100 guns. The K9 Vajra-T is a 155-mm, 52-calibre self-propelled gun with a maximum range of 40 km. It has been customised from the original K9 Thunder. Its fire control system has been customised for desert conditions.
Under the agreement, the first 10 guns will be imported from South Korea and the rest will be made by L&T in India. The first regiment will be in place by July 2019 and all 100 guns will be delivered by November 2020.
Howitzer deal with U.S.
India signed a $737-million deal with the U.S. in November 2016 under the Foreign Military Sales Programme for 145 M777 Ultra Light Howitzers. Twenty-five guns will be imported and the rest will be assembled in India in partnership with Mahindra Group. Deliveries will be completed by mid-2021. “The M777 brings a new level of capability to the artillery unit by offering rapid deployment and extreme accuracy,” Joe Senftle, vice-president and general manager of BAE Systems’ weapon systems business, said after the induction.
The M777 is a 155-mm, 39-calibre towed artillery gun. It weighs just four tonnes, making it transportable under slung from helicopters.
The Army’s Field Artillery Rationalisation Plan, 1999, envisages induction of 3,000 guns of various types for 220 artillery regiments.