India clears purchase of 145 Ultra Light Howitzers from US

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Defence Ministry headed by Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has given it's approval for the purchase of 145 Ultra Light Howitzers (ULH) guns, worth about Rs 5,000 crore, from the US and also the bulk production of 18 Dhanush artillery guns. 

This is the first acquisition of such weapon systems by the army in three decades since the Bofors scandal. ULH guns will be deployed in high altitude areas in Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh, bordering China under the Mountain Strike Corps (raised in 2013).

The procurement of ULH will be through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route from the US and it will cost around 750 million dollars.

The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) has directed independent progressing of offset.The delivery of these guns will be in India which will help in substantial saving of transportation cost. 

DAC has also shortened the supply period of the guns.While 25 guns will come to India in a fly away condition, the rest will be assembled at the proposed Assembly Integration and Test facility for the weapon system in India in partnership with Mahindra. 

Process of acquisition : India had sent a letter of request to the US government showing interest in buying Ultra Light Howitzers (ULH) guns. The US had responded with a Letter of Acceptance after which DAC looked into the terms and conditions and approved it. This letter will now be sent back to the US and the process for the payment of first instalment will begin.

Ultra-Light Howitzers (ULH)

The M777 howitzer is a towed 155mm artillery piece manufactured by BAE Systems' Global Combat Systems division. It weighs 4,100 kg and can be easily transported by helicopters. It has effective firing range of 24 km.

Since 2005, it is being used by United States Marine Corps and United States Army. The M777 is also used by the ground forces of Canada and Australia. It made its combat début in the War in Afghanistan.

 

Other approvals of DAC :

  • The Council approved a Rs 386-crore project for modernisation and augmentation of facilities at naval dockyard and naval ship repair yards.  Acquisition of five diving support craft for Rs 150 crore was also approved. 
  • The DAC also approved buying of indigenously made simulators for Jaguar aircraft for Rs 500 crore and setting up of an electronic warfare range for Rs 1,300 crore through indigenous capability. 

'Dhanush' aka 'desi bofors' :

approvals of DACThe Dhanush is a 155 mm towed howitzer used by the Indian Army.The project for it's development was started by OFB to replace the older 105 mm Indian Field Gun, 105 mm Light Field Gun and the Russian 122 mm guns with a modern 155mm artillery gun.

It's indigenous development started way back in the 1970s by the Artillery Gun Development Team under Brig Gurdyal Singh at Gun Carriage Factory, Jabalpur and resulted in the induction of 105mm artillery guns in the Indian Army.

DAC has asked Ordnance Factory Board (Jabalpur) to provide three 155 mm 45 caliber indigenously produced guns Dhanush to Indian Army by end of June 2016. Dhanush is also known as Desi Bofors. 

Version 2 of the Dhanush :

  • Version 2 of the Dhanush is under development. It will upgrade the current 155 mm/45 mm caliber to 155 mm/52 mm caliber. Dhanush v2 larger calibre ordinance will increase the strike range by 4 km to 42 km.
  • Version 2 of the Dhanush costing about Rs 14 crore a piece, is comparable to most current generation weapons systems which are in use by different countries. Along with electronic gun-laying and sighting systems and other features, the indigenous gun has an enhanced 11-km range as against the gun range of 27-km of the imported Bofors. 

Defence Acquisition Council (DAC): It is an apex body of Union Defence Ministry for clearing defence procurement proposals forwarded by the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force.

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