In yet another boost to India’s defence, the M777 American Ultra Light Howitzers and K9 Vajra artillery guns will be formally inducted in the Indian Army today in an event at Deolali, Maharashtra today. Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman will be present at the event where the two artillery guns will be inducted. The ‘Composite Gun Tractor’ for towing some of the existing guns in service with India will also be inducted during this event. The first regiments of these two deadly artillery guns- M777 Howitzers and the K9 Vajra consisting of 18 guns each will come up by midway next year. With this, India’s artillery firepower will get a shot in the arm. Apart from this, Dhanush guns are also being developed by the Ordnance Factory Board, and three other major acquisitions are also in the offing.
India had entered into a contract with the US for procurement of 145 M777 Howitzers in November 2016. Two of the guns had been supplied by the BAE Systems, manufacturer of these artillery guns, in May 2017. Three more guns had been delivered later on. Twenty more guns will be delivered off the shelf while the remaining 120 guns will be assembled in India in collaboration with Mahindra. Five guns will be delivered every month to India for the next two years starting August next year. An official said, “the first regiment (comprising of about 18 guns) will be equipped by October 2019.” These highly mobile guns will give India a huge advantage as they can be easily transported to high altitude and far flung areas by the Chinook helicopters. These are battle tested guns which have been pressed into service in operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The 155 mm K9 Vajra artillery gun is a variant of the K9 Thunder which has been used by the South Korean Army. It is being Made in India in a partnership between the engineering giant, Larsen and Turbo and South Korea’s Hanwha Techwin. The Indian Army has order 100 K9 Vajra guns, out of which 10 will be delivered this month, another 40 will be supplied by November next year and the rest of the guns will arrive by November 2020.
The induction of these guns comes in the background of the defence ministry’s decision to delegate greater financial decision making powers in revenue procurement process to the three Vice Chiefs of the Indian Army. A defence ministry statement read, “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.” This is going to be a major step as far as improving military preparedness and arms/ ammunition building is concerned.
This induction of M777 Howitzers and K9 Vajra is a testimony to the intent that the Modi government has shown for strengthening India’s defence. This is the first major procurement of artillery guns after the purchase of the Bofors guns in the 1980s. In fact, the Modi government made it a point to shore up India’s defence ever since it came at the helm of affairs in 2014. And especially, in the recent past the government of the day has gone on a weapons shopping spree. The purchase of Rafale jets, S-400 air defence system deal and reports of the upcoming deal for AK 103 rifles that will empower the infantry troops like never before are all examples of how the Modi government has not left any stone unturned when it comes to fulfilling India’s defence needs. Modi government is correcting the wrongs committed by the previous government by not being indifferent towards the needs of India’s armed forces and also realising the need to quickly modernise the Indian military set up given the fact that we share a couple of not-so-friendly frontiers.