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India and the US on Thursday reviewed the entire gamut of projects under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route as both sides look at closing key projects including the purchase of M777 Howitzers, the first deal for artillery guns since the Bofors scandal in 1980s. Defence sources said that the deal for 145 American Ultra-Light Howitzers, costing about Rs 5,000, has recently been cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). Vice Admiral Joseph Rixey, Director of Defense Security Cooperation Agency, met with his counterpart here at the Defence Ministry. Sources said a number of key projects, including the one for 22 Predator Guardian drones, which is at an advanced stage of negotiations, were discussed besides other projects that have already been signed.
The visit comes ahead of a scheduled trip by US Defence Secretary of State Ashton Carter next month. However, sources indicated that the visit might be a tough one to make given the results of the US elections. Rixey’s visit was for the annual meeting to review defence acquisition and defence trade matters.
On the issue of M777, sources said India had sent a Letter of Request to the US government showing interest in
buying the guns which will be deployed in high altitude areas in Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh, bordering China. The US had responded with a Letter of Acceptance (LOA) and the Defence Ministry had in June looked into the terms and conditions and approved it.
The offsets, under which BAE Systems, manufacturer of the gun, will invest about USD 200 million, will be pursued
independently. While 25 guns will come to India in a fly away condition, the rest will be assembled at the proposed Assembly Integration and Test facility for the weapon system in India in partnership with Mahindra. The first two howitzers will be delivered within six months of the contract being inked, while rest will be delivered at the rate of two per month.
The howitzers that can be heli-lifted were first proposed to be bought from BAE about 10 years back.