A committee headed by India’s Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar Thursday cleared the way for the country to acquire 145 M777 155 mm ultra light howitzer artillery guns from the United States.
The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) passed the proposal for the guns — the first since the controversial Bofors from Switzerland in 1987 — after a series of intense negotiations with BAE Systems’ U.S. subsidiary that has tied up with India’s private sector company Mahindra for the deal. A senior Ministry of Defense (MoD) official reportedly said both parties had reached a consensus on the price and tackled other related issues.
The acquisition of the howitzers is being carried out through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route and will now face the Cabinet Committee on Security for final clearance, after which the contract will officially be awarded to the parties involved.
According to a report, the MoD issued a letter of request over its interest in buying the M777 artillery guns to the U.S. government in 2013. However, the permissions have been delayed for several years, even after Parrikar and his predecessor, AK Antony cleared the proposal more than thrice.
According to the deal — expected to cost India about Rs 4,500 crore (over $670 million) — 25 M777 ultralight howitzers are expected to be supplied in “fly-away condition,” while the rest will be assembled in India by the Mahindra partnership. The two companies are also expected to set up an assembly integration and test facility for the howitzers near New Delhi.
The DAC is also due to consider a number of other proposals like the acquisition of almost 5,000 combat net radio sets meant for tactical communication, either indigenously or from Israel. A top secret project of the Indian Air Force may also be looking to upgrade its unmanned aerial vehicles, a proposal that will be considered by the DAC.