Indian Army celebrated receiving its first M777A2 Ultra Lightweight Howitzers (ULH) at an official handover ceremony today, a key step toward the modernizing and strengthening of the Indian Army’s artillery capabilities.
The 155-mm M777 systems will deploy to their first regiment in 2019. The gun systems, produced by BAE Systems, were accepted earlier this year, as part of a 145-gun agreement between the U.S. and Indian governments.
«The Indian Army is receiving an extremely reliable and battle-proven artillery platform», Joe Senftle, vice president and general manager of BAE Systems’ weapon systems business, said while attending the event. «The M777 brings a new level of capability to the artillery unit by offering rapid deployment and extreme accuracy. It can operate in areas that are difficult to access and is also very easy to maintain».
BAE Systems is building and delivering the first 25 M777 ULHs fully assembled, with the remaining 120 to be assembled in India by Mahindra Defence Systems Ltd. (MDSL) under an arrangement designed to support defense industrial cooperation and promote local economic growth.
«The M777 ULH is more than a very effective piece of artillery technology», said Nik Khanna, managing director India, BAE Systems. «With the M777 program, BAE Systems has made the first step of our substantive Make-in-India commitment, which includes our pledge to develop a network of Indian suppliers for our global supply chain and deepen our relationship with industry in India. We are committed to a strong and collaborative working relationship between BAE Systems, the Indian Armed Forces and Indian industry».
«This is a landmark event with the first M777s being delivered to the Indian Army. It is a product of our long-standing business partnership with BAE Systems», said SPShukla, Group President – Aerospace & Defence Sector, Mahindra Group, and Chairman – Mahindra Defence Systems. «In this program each of the M777 howitzers have value addition from Mahindra Defence. I believe that this is the first step towards Make-in-India with much bigger programs to follow».
The U.S. government recently certified that MDSL is ready to carry out the work at a purpose-built production facility created for this program to conduct the in-country Assembly and Integration of 120 of the 145 gun systems on order. The newly-handed over M777 ULHs were instrumental in establishing the new MDSL capability in India. The Mahindra team finalized these weapons by replicating the proven manufacturing processes to the highest of quality specifications, including modifications specifically tailored for the Indian Artillery, such as a unique camouflage paint scheme.
Earlier this year, BAE Systems delivered the first spares and other logistics including tooling, technical publications and training materials, to support the Indian Army as it brings these new M777 ULHs into service. The company also recently received a contract to provide 18 additional M777 systems to the U.S. Army, taking the total number of systems ordered and in service with the United States, Canada, Australia and India to more than 1,250.