New Delhi: Indian Army will soon get its first artillery guns since the Bofors deal in 1986. The Defence Ministry on Friday cleared a Rs 3000 crore deal to buy 145 M777 ultra light howitzers from the USA defence manufacturer BAE Systems.
The M777 artillery guns are essentially used in the mountains. These guns are air transportable and are currently used in Afghanistan by the US Army where their performance has been commendable.
India will procure the M777 howitzers from the US through the Foreign Military Sale programme.
The M777 is a 155mm 39 calibre towed gun and is the world's first 155mm howitzer weighing less than 10000 lbs (4218 kg).
The M777 can fire 5 rounds per minute and its firing range is about 30 km maximum.
The US and Canada are currently using the howitzers. This gun has also a digital fire control system.
The US Marine Corps and US Army inducted the M777 for the first time in November 2002.
The artillery gun deal comes at a time when the Indian Army is facing a severe crunch of such a weapons platform. The Army’s artillery programme suffered a major setback following allegations of kickback in the Bofors gun deal in 1987.
For over 25 years the Indian Army failed to induct a single new artillery gun in its armoury, leading to depletion in its war waging capabilities.
The M777 matches the firepower of current generation 155 mm towed systems at less than half the weight. The howitzer is equipped with a 39-calibre barrel. The muzzle velocity (at Charge 8 super) is 827m/s.
The lighter weight and smaller size allows the M777 to be transported by USMC MV-22 Osprey, CH-47 helicopter or truck with ease, so that it can be moved in and out of the battlefield more quickly than the M198. The smaller size also improves storage and transport efficiency in military warehouses and air/naval transport.
The gun crew required is an operational minimum of 5, compared to a previous size of 9.
It was first fielded in Iraq in May 2007 and in Afghanistan in February 2008. The M777 can be transported by helicopter, transporter aircraft and ship.
The M777 is equipped with two wheels. When the M777 is in the firing position, a firing platform is lowered to the ground under the forward part of the carriage and the wheels are raised clear of the ground.
It uses a digital fire-control system similar to that found on self propelled howitzers such as the M109A6 Paladin to provide navigation, pointing and self-location, allowing it to be put into action more quickly than earlier towed and air-transported howitzers.