K9 Vajra, M777 howitzers to be inducted on Friday, Nirmala Sitharaman to attend event


NEW DELHI: Three major artillery gun systems, including the M777 American Ultra Light Howitzers and the K-9 Vajra, will be formally inducted into the Indian Army at Deolali in Maharashtra on Friday. This comes amid the defence ministry increasing the financial powers of the Vice Chiefs of the three defence services by five times more than the existing powers, to improve operational preparedness by building up the arms and ammunition reserves, government officials said on Thursday.

Defence Nirmala Sitharaman will be present for the induction ceremonies of the M777 Howitzers, the K-9 Vajra self propelled artillery gun and the third being the ‘Composite Gun Tractor’ for towing some of the existing guns in service with India. The event takes place in the backdrop of upcoming elections and questions being raised on the success of the ‘Make in India’ initiative.

The development will lead to the establishing of the first regiments- each comprising of about 18 guns- of the M777s and the Vajra by around mid next year. The guns will be important assets for the army along the borders with China and Pakistan. This comes with the contract for the Dhanush guns being developed by the Ordnance Factory Board, and three more planned future acquisitions such as the Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System and the Mounted Gun System.


For procuring 145 M777s, India in November 2016 had entered into a contract with US under the Foreign Military Sales programme for Rs 5,070 crore. BAE Systems, which manufacturers these guns, gave the first two to India in May 2017, which were sent to Pokhran for preparing the firing tables. The tables help the army by providing data such as the gun’s range and elevation, which is important for accurate firing. But one of the two guns had suffered an accident in September last year, which damaged its barrel. A joint investigation team, comprising of members from the US government, army and other stakeholders, had completed a probe into the matter.

Meanwhile, three more guns were later delivered to India. Twenty more guns will be given off the shelf, while the remaining 120 will be assembled in India in partnership with Mahindra. For this, officials explained, that from August next year, five guns will be delivered to the army every month for up to two years. “The first regiment (comprising of about 18 guns) will be equipped by October 2019,” said an official.

The M777s, which have been used in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, can be easily transported to high altitude areas by the Chinook helicopters.

Meanwhile, the army has ordered 100 of the K-9 Vajra guns worth about Rs 4,300 crore. The 155mm gun, which is a variant of the K9 Thunder being used by the South Korean army, is being made in India in a partnership between Indian engineering conglomerate Larsen & Toubro and Hanwha Techwin of South Korea. Out of the 100 guns, 10 will be delivered by this month, while 40 more guns will arrive by November next year and the remaining 50 by November 2020.

The Composite Gun System is meant for towing 130 mm and 155 mm guns, which will include both the M777s and the Vajra. The addition of these guns will be the first major induction of artillery since the Bofors guns were bought in the 1980s.

The fresh induction comes at a time when the defence ministry has delegated greater financial decision-making powers involving revenue procurements to the three Vice Chiefs. “With the new delegation, the Vice Chiefs will be able to exercise financial powers upto five times more than the existing powers, with an enhanced ceiling of Rs 500 crore,” reads a ministry statement. The earlier powers were up to Rs 100 crore only.


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