The Indian ministry of defence (MoD) has apparently cleared all the pending queries on the manufacturer of the M-777 ultra-light Howitzers - regarding the proposed acquisition for 145 of these artillery guns, but the deal with the US through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme will not be inked yet.
According to various reports, the deal may not be signed until a new government is in place later this year.
One of the reasons for the delay in the Howitzer artillery deal is the upcoming elections in India, plus the defence expenditure for the current fiscal year is believed to be minimal. The validity of the Letter of Acceptance issued by the US government had lapsed on October 15, 2013, leaving India with no choice but to re-negotiation, with a fresh Letter of Acceptance issued by US.
In addition, BAE Systems had suspended the production line of the M-777 ULHs on October 17.
India has not bought artillery guns since the Bofors deal in 1986. The Defence Acquisition Council — of the ministry of defence (MoD) — had in 2013 approved the proposed acquisition which was initially estimated to cost about 3,500 crore but could cost significantly more than that now.
The Ultra-Light Howitzers are expected to be stationed in the Northern sector and North-east in the areas bordering China and is expected to dramatically boost the firepower of the Indian Army.