12:00 AM, November 1, 2010
BAE Land Systems 155mm/39cal M777 ultra-light howitzers is undergoing what is dubbed in the Indian media as “confirmatory trials”, which means that if the howitzer passes the test, the Indian MOD will place the order for 145 howitzers on the U.S. made system without going through the tendering process. The M777 howitzer will be sold under the U.S. foreign military sales (FMS) route through a possible government-to-government deal. The confirmatory trials are said to be taking place in the northern state of Sikkim, which borders China. The deal for the 155mm/59cal howitzers is worth an estimated $650 million and two of the guns have been sent to Sikkim for trials. Speculation is rife that the M777 howitzer deal with be signed, or at least confirmed to be signed at a later date, during the visit of U.S. President Barak Obama who is scheduled to visit India in the second week of November 2010. India had earlier announced a tender for the light howitzer deal but the only other bidder, Singapore Technologies was blacklisted from doing business with the MOD on grounds that it was involved in a bribery base. Singapore Technologies Kinetics had fielded its Pegasus howitzer and had brought it for possible trials in India. However, even before the howitzer could be tested, Singapore Technologies found itself fired from India.