Workers unload a Howitzer, part of a military donation from the U.S. government to the Lebanese army, at Beirut's port, Aug. 9, 2016. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

As tensions escalate between South Asian neighbors India and Pakistan, the Indian government has on Wednesday signed a long-awaited contract worth $737 million for acquiring 145 M777A2 LW155 ultralight howitzer artillery pieces from the United States, reports say.

The U.S. subsidiary of BAE Systems, the original equipment manufacturer, was awarded the contract for the artillery guns, which India wants delivered as quickly as possible. Over the next 15 years the Indian Army hopes to acquire a total of 220 ultralight howitzers.

BAE Systems is partnering with Indian private sector defense company Mahindra Defence Systems for the assembly of 120 ultralight howitzers, while the remaining 25 guns will be supplied within the next three years. According to the terms of the contract, BAE Systems will be setting up an assembly integration and test facility in India, in collaboration with Mahindra Defence Systems.

The howitzers can fire up to five rounds in two minutes with an assisted range of over 30 kilometers (over 18 miles) and a maximum unassisted range of 24.7 kilometers (about 15 miles). Independent defense and aerospace consultant Colonel K.V. Kuber was quoted as saying by the Financial Express: “The modern artillery was much needed for the Indian army.”

The howitzer procurement deal is the first overseas artillery gun acquisition for India in about 30 years, after a political scandal surrounding the acquisition of Swedish Bofors howitzers. In 2005, a previous competitive global tender was cancelled after allegations of corruption by Singapore Technology Kinetics emerged, causing the defense company to be blacklisted.

The deal is headlining Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government’s push to upgrade India’s military hardware and replace its army’s aging arsenal at a time when tensions are rife with neighboring country Pakistan.

With President-elect Donald Trump taking office early next year, India is yet to see the change in U.S. foreign policy in the region. However, in a statement on Thursday, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Nafees Zakaria said Islamabad is hoping to strengthen relations with the U.S. and welcomed Trump’s enthusiasm to help resolve the long-standing conflict between the two countries.