New Delhi: For the first time in three decades, the Indian Army received two new artillery guns today.
The M-777 ultra-light howitzer guns are part of India's 145-gun order from the US for 700 million dollars. This is the first induction of howitzers after the Bofors scandal broke out nearly 30 years ago. Allegations of kickbacks in the deal had vastly impacted defence purchases since then.
The Army has massive plans to upgrade its artillery formations, and is in the process of acquiring five different types of artillery guns under a Rs. 22, 000 crore modernisation plan. The guns that arrived today will be used to shore up defences in high-altitude areas. The guns are expected to add tremendous firepower to the Indian Army, especially against China in eastern front.
The air portable 155mm/39 calibre gun, with maximum range of 30 km, is manufactured by BAE Systems. An official of the company said the guns had arrived ahead of schedule. "We continue to support the US government in integrating its weapon systems with the Indian Army's artillery modernisation programme," he added.
Out of 145 guns, BAE will deliver 25 guns and rest will be assembled in India by Mahindra. The ultra-light howitzer is being purchased primarily to deploy on mountains in eastern border with China to provide the much-needed fire power to the Indian Army in the region.
The Bofors controversy revolves around the allegation that Swedish defence manufacturer Bofors paid huge kickbacks to Rahul Gandhi's father and then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and others for the sale of an artillery gun to India. Defence purchases and procurement since them have been blighted by the political scandal.