Getting over the shadow of the bofors scandal, the Indian Army on Friday inducted its first new pieces of artillery in three decades. The M777 Ultra-Light Howitzer from the US and K9 Vajra-T tracked self-propelled artillery gun from South Korea were formally inducted into service at the Deolali field firing ranges in Maharastra.
The guns were inducted in the presence of Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat. The Army will get three M777 and 10 K9s this year. The Army had last inducted Bofors artillery guns procured from Sweden in the early 1980s. Several attempts to procure new guns later have not made progress.
In April 2017, the Indian engineering conglomerate Larsen & Toubro (L&T) and Hanwa Techwin of South Korea signed a contract to manufacture the K9 Vajra-T guns. The K9 was shortlisted by the Army after extensive trials and the deal is worth about ₹4,500 crore for 100 guns.
K9 Vajra-T is a 155-mm, 52-calibre self-propelled artillery gun with a maximum range of 40 km, customised from the original K9 Thunder gun. The fire control system has been customised for desert conditions to the requirements of the Army.
As per agreement, the first 10 guns are to be imported from South Korea and the rest manufactured by L&T in India. All the 100 guns will be delivered by November 2020. The first regiment would be in place by July 2019.
The M777 which is the lightest in its category will be deployed by the Army for use in the mountains. In November 2016, India signed a deal for 145 M777 ULHs with the U.S. under the Foreign Military Sales programme at a cost of $737 million. Of the 145 guns, 25 will be imported while the remaining 120 will be assembled in India in partnership with Mahindra group. Deliveries are slated to be completed by mid-2021.
The M777 is a 155-mm, 39-calibre towed artillery gun and weighs just four tonnes, making it transportable under slung from helicopters.
Source: The Hindu