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03:00 PM, July 17, 2018
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M777 long range ultra-light howitzer (Image: BAE Systems)

The Indian Army has received four United States manufactured M777 long-range Ultra-light Howitzers (ULH) and will resume trials at Pokhran later this month. The tests were stopped following a barrel burst caused by faulty ammunition in September last year.

“Firing will resume this month and continue in August. Local ammunition will be used and tentatively 100-150 rounds will be fired,” The Hindu quoted an unnamed defense official as saying Monday.

The barrel of the US-manufactured gun had exploded when it was firing ammunition on September 2 in Pokhran. A preliminary inquiry found that the explosion took place due to faulty ammunition supplied by India’s Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) and further probe into the matter is on.

The field trials of the 155 mm, 39-calibre guns manufactured by BAE systems were being carried out at Pokhran in Rajasthan. The barrel of the gun was damaged in the explosion.

The Army had received the howitzers as part of an order for 145 guns. Three more guns are to 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 M777 gun delivery programme is proceeding to plan. Major upcoming milestones include hand-over of the first ULHs to the Indian Army and the mobilisation of the Assembly, Integration and Test facility at Mahindra,” a BAE Systems spokesperson was quoted by the news daily.

India signed a $750 million dollar contract with the US in November 2016 for the procurement of 125 howitzer guns on the sidelines of the 15th India-US Military Cooperation Group (MCG).

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 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.

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