Sitharaman Unveils

Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Union Minister of State for Defense Subhash Bhamre and Army Staff Chief General Bipin Rawat at the induction ceremony of three major artillery gun systems, including the M777 American Ultra Light Howitzers, K-9 Vajra and the Composite Gun Towing Vehicle into the Indian Army in Deolali, Maharashtra, Nov. 9. (IANS/DPRO photo)

NASHIK — Signaling a major milestone in capacity building and Army enhancement, Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman Nov. 9 dedicated three top globally combat-proven weapons to India, which purchased its Bofors Howitzer three decades ago.

The latest acquisitions include the M777 A2 Ultra Light Howitzers, K9 Vajra-Tracked Self-Propelled Guns and 6x6 Field Artillery Tractors, which were launched at the Deolali Field Firing Range at Nashik.

The Army will be procuring a total of 145 M777s and 100 K9 guns, which will be delivered over the next two years at a total cost of Rs. 5,000 crore and Rs. 4,366 crore, respectively. 

The 155 mm, 39 caliber ultra light howitzers have been procured from the U.S. under the government-to-government Foreign Military Sales and will be assembled in India by BAE Systems in partnership with Mahindra Defense.

The versatile M777 gun system, with a range of 30 km, can be lifted by helicopters and service aircraft, thereby providing the much-needed flexibility in deployment in various terrains.

The howitzer is currently in service in the U.S., Canadian, Australian and several other armies, and has proved its mettle in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The first 10 K9 Vajra 155 mm 52 caliber guns have been imported from Hanwha Techwin of South Korea in 'semi knocked down' state and have been assemble by L&T in India.

The remaining 90 guns will be largely manufactured in India with some major assembly in South Korea. The next batch of 40 guns will be delivered in November of next year, and the last batch of 50 guns in November 2020.

"Its induction will give a huge fillip to the firepower capability of Indian Army on our western borders," a Defense Ministry official said.

The tracked, self-propelled K9 Vajra, which has a maximum range of 28-38 km, is capable of firing three rounds in 30 seconds in the burst mode, 15 rounds in three minutes in the intense mode and 60 rounds in 60 minutes in the sustained mode.

The 6x6 Field Artillery Tractor has been indigenously developed by Ashok Leyland and will provide the long-awaited replacement for the aging fleet of artillery gun towing vehicles.

The event included a display of the Indian artillery’s sophisticated equipment and firepower.

Minister of State for Defense Subhash Bhamre, Chief of Army Staff General Bipin Rawat, dignitaries from the U.S. and South Korea, and other representatives from the government, armed forces and Indian and foreign manufacturing industries were present.

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