About three decades after Swedish-made Bofors Howitzers were inducted by the Indian Army, it received three major artillery gun systems, including the M777 A2 ultra-light howitzers, K-9 Vajra self-propelled gun and a ‘Composite Gun Towing Vehicle’, on Friday.
The induction will come as a shot in the arm for the Army after the CAG, in a report, said the Army faces a severe shortage in ammunition, mainly for artillery guns, which will make it very difficult to fight an intense short war.
Speaking at the ceremony, held at Deolali Field Firing Ranges, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the induction would give a “huge fillip” to the firepower capability of the Army on the western borders. “These guns are being inducted almost 30 years after the Bofors guns were inducted,” Sitharaman said.
The event was also attended by Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre, Army chief General Bipin Rawat and former Army chief General Deepak Kapoor. Taking a dig at the Congress, Sitharaman said though the procurement process began in 2006, it did not advance further.
“In contrast, our government shrunk the process in last four years and not only initiated the procurement process but ensured its induction,” the minister said, adding that the induction would also give a major impetus to the Make In India initiative of the government.
The 155mm, 39 calibre ultra-light Howitzers have been procured from the US under Government to Government Foreign Military Sales and will be assembled in India by BAE Systems in partnership with Mahindra Defence. There is a huge importance of artillery in border warfare, especially in the mountainous kind that we share with both Pakistan and China.
The M777 guns procured by India will be able to strike targets anywhere between 24-40 km. While optimised for Indian conditions, guns of this make have already proven battle effectiveness in Iraq and Afghanistan. The gun weighs around 4.2 ton, which is roughly a third of what a normal 155mm howitzer weighs. This explains the ultralight tag.
The first ten K9 Vajra 155mm/52 calibre guns have been imported from Hanwha Techwin of South Korea in semi-knocked down state and have been assembled by L&T in India. The remaining 90 guns will be largely manufactured in India with some major assemblies coming from South Korea, the minister said.
The 6×6 Field Artillery Tractor has been indigenously developed by Ashok Leyland and will provide the much-awaited replacement for the ageing fleet of artillery gun towing vehicles.