After a wait of 30 years, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday inducted three M777 Ultra Light Howitzers (ULH), 10 K9 Vajra and field artillery tractors and high mobility gun towing vehicles into the Indian Army in the presence of Army Chief General Bipin Singh Rawat, and General Officer Commanding-in-Chief (GOC) Southern Command, Lieutenant General S K Saini in Devlali near Nashik.
Both the guns, the 145 M777 and the 100 K9 Vajra, are 155mm calibre and have a range of 30 kilometres. The K9 Vajra is a tracked self-propelled gun whereas the M777 is a US manufactured light howitzer, which can be lifted by a helicopter.
Earlier in the day, the Defence Minister tweeted about the artillery guns that have been inducted into the Army. In her tweet, Sitharaman stated that the 155mm M777 guns have been procured from the United States’ Government to Government Foreign Military Sales, while 25 ready-to-use guns would be coming and 125 others will be assembled in India by BAE Systems in partnership with Mahindra Defence.
The ten K9 Vajra guns have been imported from Hanwha Techwin of South Korea in semi-knocked-down state and have been assembled by L&T in India, and the rest 90 will be manufactured here. The total cost of the 100 Vajra guns is estimated to be more than Rs 4,366 crore, while the estimated cost of the 145 M777 guns has been pegged to be over Rs 5,000 crore. Indian Army will have around 40 K9 Vajra guns by November 2019, and the number increases to 50 by November 2020.
In a subsequent tweet, Sitharaman wrote, “A third equipment is also being inducted today- the Common Gun Tower, a 6×6 vehicle with cross-country capability. Required to tow the medium guns. These Common Gun Towers are made by the Indian Company Ashok Leyland.” The 6×6 field artillery tractor will provide the replacement for the ageing fleet of artillery gun towing vehicles. The equipment will also give a major impetus to ‘Make in India’ initiative of the Central government.
Union Minister of State for Defence, Subhash Ram Rao Bhamre, senior officers of the Indian Army and Ministry of Defence, representatives of Manufacturing Industries and dignitaries from the Government of the USA and South Korea were also present on the occasion. The Defence Minister on Thursday enhanced the financial decision-making powers of the Vice-Chiefs of three services by five times with an enhanced ceiling of Rs 500 crore.
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