Marking a major milestone towards capacity building and giving more firepower to the Army, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday dedicated the globally combat proven M777 A2 ultra light howitzers (ULH), K-9 Vajra-tracked self propelled guns and 6×6 filed artillery tractors to the service at Deolali Field Firing Range in Maharashtra.
The 155mm, 39 Calibre ULHs were procured from the US under government to government foreign military sales at a cost of Rs 5,000 crore and will be assembled in India by BAE Systems in partnership with Mahindra Defense, Defence Ministry said in a statement. The Army is getting howitzers after a gap of 30 years since induction of Bofors howitzers during the Congress regime in late 80s.
The gun system is versatile, light weight and can be heli-lifted, thereby providing much needed flexibility in employment in various terrains obtainable in the country.
Commenting on the development Ms Sitharaman in a series of tweets said, “The 155 mm M777 Ultra Light Howitzers are procured from the Govt of USA. 25 guns are coming in while 120 being assembled & integrated in India. Can be air-lifted to areas devoid of roads & tracks. Negotiations started in 2006, gathered steam in the last 3 years.”
The first ten K9 Vajra guns have been imported from Hanwha Techwin of South Korea in semi knocked down state and have been assembled by L&T in India.
Rest of the 90 guns will be largely manufactured in India with some major assemblies coming from South Korea. Its induction will enhance firepower capabilities. The guns have been procured at an amount of Rs 4,366 crore.
In another tweet she said, “The K9 Vajra, 155mm 52 Calibre Tracked Gun is procured from S. Korea. Not a hybrid between a tank & a gun barrel but designed as a Self Propelled Gun. Ten guns assembled in India and ninety will be manufactured here.”
An indigenously developed 6×6 field artillery tractor by Ashok Leyland was also formally inducted to provide the much awaited replacement for the ageing fleet of artillery gun towing vehicles.
The Minister said, “Third equipment is also being (has been) inducted today- the Common Gun Tower, a 6×6 vehicle with cross country capability. Required to tow the medium guns. These Common Gun Towers are made by the Indian Company Ashok Leyland.”
The Army would be having five regiments of K9 and the first regiment is expected be equipped by July 2019.
It is also going to raise seven regiments of M777 howitzers.
The induction ceremony was also witnessed by Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat among others.