Howitzer trials go wrong: What this means for Indian defense
India's first artillery gun acquisition after the Bofors, the M-777 Howitzers, underwent damage during the field trials at Pokhran Field Firing Ranges on September 2. The new guns brought from the US were to be used by the army's new mountain strike corps in West Bengal's Panagarh. With this mess-up, the significant acquisition has suffered a major setback. Find out more.
M-777 Howitzers at 4.2 tonnes are ultralight guns. Also, they have a titanium body. These two characteristics allow them to be air-lifted to high-altitude areas with relative ease. They have a range of 25 km. They are already used by US, Australian and Canadian armies.
In 2010, the US agreed to sell howitzers to India. Last November, the deal was signed to buy 147 M-777 155mm/45-calibre guns from BAE Systems. Two howitzers were delivered to India in May for training purposes. Over two years, 25 others will be supplied. The rest 120 howitzers will be assembled in India as part of "Make in India" in collaboration with Mahindra Defence.
During the accident on September 2, the barrel of the M-777 Howitzer that was being tested, seemed to have crashed, after the missile to be fired from the gun exited the barrel in multiple pieces. No individual was injured. After the incident, a joint investigation team comprising army officials and BAE Systems is probing the incident. Future operations will be based on their analysis.
These howitzers are India's first artillery guns after the Bofors in the 1980s. Apart from the deal strengthening relations with the US, the guns are expected to increase combat capabilities in high-altitude areas. They could come in handy especially during current times when relations with neighboring Pakistan and China are strained. Tests are being conducted to check the capabilities of these weapons.