India Acquires Howitzers to Protect Border With China

KONAR PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN – U.S. Army Soldiers with Battery C, 1st Battalion, 321st Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 18th Fires Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, N.C., fire 155mm rounds using an M777 Howitzer weapons system, July 6, on Forward Operating Base Bostick, Afghanistan. The Soldiers were registering targets so they will have a more accurate and faster response time when providing fire support. (Photo by U.S. Army Spc. Evan D. Marcy, 55th Signal Company)

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India’s defence ministry approved a proposal to purchase 145 ultra light howitzer guns at a cost of $750 million from the British weapons manufacturer BAE Systems.

The country’s defence ministry wants to give these guns to the Mountain Strike Corps—consisting of over 90,000 troops and to be raised by 2021—to defend India’s 4,000-kilometre-long border with China. According to Defense One, the Indian government has yet to fix a timeline on the delivery schedule for these guns.

The new gun, the Howitzer M777, has a range of over 30 kilometres and can fire 10 rounds in under two minutes.

The 155-millimetre gun can also be slung under helicopters, unlike many traditional guns that need to be moved by land and, therefore, become difficult to deploy at high altitudes. BAE describes its artillery gun as “highly portable by land, sea, and air, the system features a minimal logistical footprint alongside maximum reliability.” The M777 has been used in Afghanistan since 2006.

In 2014, India has purchased more than $5.5 billion worth of arms, ammunition, and related goods from abroad. But under prime minister Narendra Modi, the country is now looking to manufacture much of its defence goods at home. BAE will therefore assemble 120 of the artillery guns in India, while the remaining 25 will be brought in ready-to-use condition within six months of signing the contract. BAE has already chosen homegrown automobile and defence equipment maker Mahindra Group to partner it in the assembling process.

The government has also asked the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) in Jabalpur to provide indigenously produced 155mm 45 caliber guns, named Dhanush, to address the severe shortage of artillery. India requires between 2,800 and 3,000 such guns and the government wants its public defence manufacturers to step up efforts to deliver.