India has finally come out of the shadow of three decades old Bofors scandal which had halted Indian Army’s artillery modernisation plans. In the first modern 155mm artillery guns to be inducted by the Army since the 1980s, two of the 145 M-777 ultra-light howitzers ordered from the US will touch down in New Delhi on Thursday morning.
It will be the first induction of the howitzers after the Bofors scandal broke out nearly 30 years ago. The scandal had badly hit the artillery modernisation of the Indian Army.
An official from BAE Systems said the first two guns will land in India ahead of the schedule over the weekend.
The howitzers are being procured for the Indian Army and will be deployed along the India-China border.
India has struck a government-to-government deal for 145 howitzers with the US at a cost of around USD 700 million.
As per the deal, the first 25 guns will be bought directly from the US and the rest will be assembled in India.
“We continue to support the US government in integrating its weapon systems with the Indian Army’s artillery modernisation programme,” the official said.
The arrival of the M-777 guns, which are primarily meant for the front with China, reportedly comes soon after the government also inked a Rs 4,366 crore contract with engineering conglomerate L&T for the supply of 100 self-propelled howitzers in collaboration with its South Korean technology partner Hanwha Tech Win.
The 13-lakh strong Army has not inducted a single 155mm artillery gun since the Bofors scandal brought down the Rajiv Gandhi government, and derailed all plans for technology transfer and indigenous manufacture.
Subsequent scandals revolving around other global artillery manufacturers, like South African Denel and Singapore Technology Kinetic's, further punched gaping holes in the Army's long-range, high-volume firepower. Interestingly, the original Swedish Bofors company is now owned by BAE Systems.