India, US ink Rs.5000 crore Howitzer deal
India and the US inked a Rs.5000 crore deal for 145 M-777 ultra-light howitzers in a government-government deal. Of the 145 set for delivery, 120 will be "assembled, integrated and tested" in India; BAE systems has picked Mahindra as its manufacturing partner. The move will go a long way in improving Indo-US ties and breaking the Bofors jinx.
What is the M777 Howitzer?
The ultra-light weight Field Howitzer (UFH), designated M777 in the USA, is a towed 155 mm artillery piece, successor to the M198 howitzer in the US Marine Corps and US Army. M777 made its combat debut in 2007, in the Afghanistan war.
Initial plans to purchase M777s
India's plans to purchase M777s were announced in 2010 and in Aug 2013, Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) requested for 145 M777s from multiple contractors under a foreign military sales (FMS) contract. The deal's worth went up from $647 million in 2010 to $885 million in 2013. India's failure to sign the deal by October deadline caused BAE to shutdown M777 Howitzer production.
Howitzers, produced by BAE
M777 is manufactured by BAE Systems' Global Combat Systems division. BAE Systems is a British multinational defence, security and aerospace company headquartered in London with operations worldwide. BAE Systems Inc. subsidiary is one of the largest suppliers to US Department of Defense.
Progress of Howitzer deal
In February 2014, the Ministry of Defence once again cleared the proposal to buy the M777 but left the final purchase to new government. The new government with Manohar Parrikar as Defence Minister, cleared the long-pending deal in May 2015. As per the procurement procedure, the acquisition of M-777 will have to be first approved by finance ministry and the cabinet committee on security.
BAE's offset package for India
BAE Systems offered an offset package, focused on localized defence production, to support its anticipated Howitzer contract to supply to the Indian Army. Complying with India's defence offset rules, the M777 offset programme will be worth 30% of the agreed value of the contract. BAE Systems had offered to transfer its M777 assembly, integration, and test (AIT) facilities from the United States to India.
M777 Howitzer's advantage for Indian army
M777 light-weight Howitzers, could be airlifted swiftly to "threatened high-altitude areas" along the 4,057-km LAC with China. M-777s, with a strike range over 25 km, are meant to equip the new 17 Mountain Strike Corps. They will help Indian army in addressing the military asymmetry with China, which has infrastructure in place to swiftly mobilize troops and equipment to outnumber Indian forces along LAC.
US finalizes deal to sell Howitzers to India
US finalized its proposal to sell M777 ultra-light Howitzers to India under a direct government-to-government deal, with Washington expected to send a formal 'Letter of Acceptance' this week. The deal worth $700 million, will also involve a significant 'Make in India' component. Once the Indian government accepts the LoA, delivery of 145 guns would commence, starting with two guns being delivered this year.
BAE, Mahindra team up for Howitzers
BAE Systems announced the selection of Mahindra as its India partner for the nearly USD 700 million deal for the supply of 145 M777 howitzers. The gun deal would be through Foreign Military Sales but the "spares, maintenance and ammunition will be operated through Indian systems", BAE said in a statement. The deal will provide for a higher degree of indigenization on the M777.