In a giant modernisation leap post-Bofors, after three decades, the Indian Army finally inducted the M777 Howitzers, K-9 Vajra, and 6×6 Field Artillery Tractors
Marking the end of Bofors’ 30-year reign, defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman, on November 9, inducted three crucial artillery gun systems into the Indian Army at a special induction ceremony held at the Devlali Firing Ranges in Maharashtra. These include the M777 A2 Ultra-Light Howitzers, K-9 Vajra-Tracked Self Propelled Gun, and 6×6 Field Artillery Tractors. The ceremony was attended by union minister of state for defence, Dr Subhash Ram Rao Bhamre, Chief of Army Staff, General Bipin Rawat, senior serving officers of the Indian Army and Ministry of Defence, representatives of manufacturing industries, and also dignitaries from the governments of the United States and the Republic of South Korea.
A total of 145 M777 A2 Ultra-light Howitzers are being procured from USA under a government to government Foreign Military Sales (FMS) contract wherein 25 units are to be delivered off the shelf while the rest 120 will be assembled in India by BAE Systems in partnership with Mahindra Defence. The M777 system is not only lightweight but also extremely mobile and versatile. It can be heli-lifted, and thus meets the Indian Army’s operational requirements in the northern high-altitude regions of the country. The M777 is currently in service in the US, Canadian, Australian armies. It has also seen extensive and successful use in Afghanistan by the United States Marine Corps.
The first 10 of the 100 K-9 Vajra 155mm/52 calibre guns were imported from Hanwha Techwin of South Korea in a ‘Semi Knocked Down’ state and have been assembled by Larsen & Toubro in India. The remaining 90 guns will be largely manufactured in India with some major assemblies coming from South Korea. Its induction will be a game changer in regards to the firepower capabilities of Indian Army on the country’s western borders.
The first regiments of both the M777 and K-9 Vajra, each comprising of about 18 guns, are expected to be equipped by October 2019.
The indigenously developed 6×6 Field Artillery Tractor, manufactured by Ashok Leyland, will provide the much-awaited replacement for the ageing fleet of Artillery Gun Towing Vehicles.
The induction event also included live demonstrations of the artillery gun systems. Also on display were indigenous Gun Systems/Surveillance & Target Acquisition Systems that have been recently inducted in service.