US-made howitzer damaged during Pokhran field trials
Indian Army

An Ultra- light Howitzer M-777 Imported From US Was Damaged

One of the ultra- light (ULH) howitzer M-777 that India imported from the United States under the foreign military sales (FMS) route was damaged during field trials, an Army source said on Tuesday.

The accident, during field trials at the Pokhran Field Firing Ranges, took place on September 2 and is being investigated, the source said. There was, however, no casualty or injury, he said.

A preliminary inquiry found that the projectile exited the barrel in multiple pieces, damaging the gun barrel. However, a joint investigation team comprising defence officials from India and the US (BAE Systems) is on the site to probe the accident. Further firing for trials shall commence based on analysis by the joint team.

Amid tension along the Pakistan and China borders, the Pokhran incident is considered a setback for the Army as the force is desperately in need of howitzers. The country last inducted Swedish Bofors guns in the 1980s. Since the Bofors payoff controversy, India has not been able to acquire howitzers.

 M-777 howitzers weighing 4.2 tonnes are ultralight guns as they weigh only a third of normal 155mm howitzers. They have a range of 25 km. Partly made of titanium, M777 howitzers can be swiftly airlifted to high-altitude areas. Therefore, these guns are set to equip new 17 Mountain Strike Corps, which is being raised to get ‘quick reaction force capabilities’ against China.
In January 2010, Pentagon had notified plan to sell 145 M-777 guns for $647 million to India. Under the agreement, first two M-777 howitzers were delivered to India on May 18 this year. Over the next years, around 25 howitzers are to be imported from the US and over 120 guns to be assembled in India. The M777s, already in service with the US, Canadian and Australian armies, are supposed to increase Indian Army’s ability in high altitudes.

This the second setback for the armed forces as in July, indigenously built 155mm artillery gun Dhanush had failed again after reaching the last phase of tests. During its testing, a shell hit the muzzle brake. Sources said the gun had faced a similar issue in the test-firing carried out in May. The guns are being manufactured at Gun Carriage Factory at Jabalpur.

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