The Indian Army is carrying out field trials on two M-777 A-2 long-range ultra-light howitzers (ULH) in Pokhran which it received in May this year.
The test-firing of the guns is primarily aimed at collating and determining various critical data like trajectory, speed and frequency of fire of the M-777 A-2 ULH which are expected to be mostly deployed along the border with China. The trials will continue till September for formation of the "firing table" which is a major aspect of the overall induction process, said an Army official privy to the trials on the condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
The 155 mm, 39-calibre guns will fire Indian ammunition. Three more guns will be supplied to the Army in September, 2018 for training. Thereafter, induction will commence from March 2019 onwards with five guns per month till the complete consignment is received by mid-2021. "The trials have been going on smoothly and various data are being collected for formation of the firing table," the official said, adding the aim was to ensure that there was no delay in the induction of the guns.
India on Thursday received the first two of 145 M777 ultra-light howitzers as part of the $750 million dollar contract signed with the US in November 2016.
Under the contract, 25 guns will come to India in a fly-away condition (two per month will be delivered), while 120 will be assembled at the proposed assembly integration and test facility for the weapon system in India in partnership with Mahindra Defence, located in Faridabad.
The $750-million deal was formalised last year on the sidelines of the 15th India-US Military Cooperation Group (MCG). The proposal had met a dead end over offsets and price issues before being finalised as it also involved direct import of the howitzers from the US under the buy (global) category of the Indian Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP).
The Indian Army plans to use these Howitzers in defensive troop deployment spread across the country’s vast rugged terrain. The gun will come with laser inertial artillery pointing systems (LINAPS), maintenance, personnel training and training equipment, technical assistance, engineering and logistics support services.
The offsets, under which BAE Systems will invest about $200 million, will be pursued independently.
Mahindra Defence will be in charge of assembling, integrating and testing the guns at the AIT facility. This will enable the army to have access to spare parts and it further drastically reduces the maintenance time and cost of the guns.