The Ministry of Defence cleared a long-pending deal of $660 million (Rs.3,000 crore) to buy 145 ultra-light Howitzer guns. This is to add strength to the army’s ageing inventory. No deal in artillery guns was made in the last 27 years, following the Bofors scam that rocked the country in the 1980s. The M777 will be deployed in Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh, after it is procured.
The clearance was given by Defence Minister AK Antony, who heads the The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC). The deal involves M777 BAE Systems guns which will be purchased via Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route of the United States Government. The hastening of the purchase comes following the allegations made by Indian Army chief Gen. VK Singh writing to the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh about the glaring discrepancies in Indian Army.
The maximum firing range of these gun stand at 24.7km, with unassisted rounds and 30km, along with rocket-assisted rounds. They can easily be transported via helicopter and can fire around 5 rounds in a minute.
The selection of Ultra-light weight Field Howitzers, designated M777 in the US, was made in 1997 by a joint US Army / Marine Corps initiative. It sought to replace the current inventory of M198 155mm towed howitzers. The US Army and Marine Corps to Afghanistan deployed the M777 in December 2007 and to Iraq in 2008.
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