December 1, 2016: "We look forward to providing the Indian Army with the combat-proven M777," said Dr. Joe Senftle, Vice President and General Manager for Weapon Systems at BAE Systems. "Our plan to establish a domestic Assembly, Integration and Test facility, further demonstrates our commitment to 'Make in India' and remains a firm part of our strategy to work with the Indian defense sector across Air, Land, Sea and Security."
BAE Systems signing the contract in the coming weeks with the US Department of Defense to supply the howitzers to the Indian Army. BAE Systems said that the M777 howitzers were half the weight of other 155mm towed howitzers. The M777 will provide rapid reaction capability. It has a proven pedigree that delivers decisive firepower when needed most in sustained combat conditions.
There are over 1,090 M777s in service across the globe and is said to be the only battle-proven 155mm ultra-lightweight howitzer in the world. BAE Systems said that it would remain in the forefront of artillery technology well into the future through the use of technical insertions, long range precision guided munition developments, and flexible mobility options.
BAE Systems stated 'earlier this year, encouraged by Prime Minister Modi's call to 'Make in India', BAE Systems announced a plan to establish an Assembly Integration and Testing (AIT) facility in India which will expand our global supply chain and is an integral part of the offset offer to the Government of India." It further added "the offset offer commits to investing in, and the development of a number of Indian defence suppliers, providing them with access to the BAE Systems group across Air, Land, Sea and Security programs. The conclusion of this procurement program will enable BAE Systems to make an investment of over $200 million in those defence suppliers."
Under the foreign military sales (FMS) programme, India and the US have agreed to sign deal wherein the latter will sell through BAE Systems 145 M777 ultra-light howitzers. The deal when signed will be worth Rs. 5,000 crores and reportedly the howitzers will be deployed on the borders, particularly along the Chinese border.
With India signing the Letter of Acceptance which formalises the contract between India and the US for the howitzers, the next steps will be worked out soon. Only recently, the Indian Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) also had cleared the guns. The agreement reportedly was inked at the 15th India-US Military Cooperation Group (MCG) in Delhi. The India-US MCG is a forum established to progress Defence Cooperation between HQ Integrated Defence Staff and US Pacific Command at the strategic and operational levels.
The meeting commenced with the US Co-Chair Lt Gen David H Berger, Commander US Marine Corps Forces, Pacific calling on Lt Gen Satish Dua, CISC, HQ IDS.
The MCG meeting was co-chaired by Air Marshal AS Bhonsle DCIDS (Operations), HQ IDS.
It is reported that a 260-member delegation from the US Defence Forces and several officers from the three Services HQ and HQ IDS representing the Indian side attended the bilateral event.
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 are going to make substantial difference in the artillery which last imported artillery guns nearly three decades back with the controversial Bofors guns.
Photo Credit: US Army