M777 Howitzers
India signs deal with US for 145 M777 Howitzers. In Picture: Firing rounds with an M777_Howitzer Afghanistan, 2009.Wikimedia Commons/Specialist Evan D. Marcy/US Army

The Narendra Modi government has finally buried the Bofors ghost by signing the Rs 5,000 crore deal with the United States to buy M777 howitzer. Indian Army's artillery regiments have not seen any major buy or modernisation due to the Bofors scandal in which several politicians were accused of receiving kickbacks for a bid to supply field howitzer guns.

The government has now signed a deal to buy 145 M777 howitzer guns. "India has today signed the Letter of Acceptance which formalises the contract between India and US for these guns," PTI reported. It was cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS).

The deal was signed as a two-day meeting of the 15th India-US Military Cooperation Group (MCG) began in New Delhi on Wednesday. The India-US MCG is a forum that was established to advance defence cooperation between HQ Integrated Defence Staff and US Pacific Command at the strategic and operational levels.

The co-chairs of the meeting are Lt Gen David H Berger, Commander US Marine Corps Forces, Pacific and Air Marshal AS Bhonsle DCIDS (Ops), HQ IDS from the Indian side.

On the offsets aspect, India would be independently taking it up with manufacturer BAE systems. BAE will have to invest about $200 million back in India.

The first 25 guns will be sent to India in fly-away condition, while the rest will be assembled in India. BAE Systems have partnered with Mahindra, and will assemble 120 units at the proposed assembly integration and test facility.

Where will they be deployed?

According to reports, these weapons will be deployed in Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, which border China.

What is its speciality?

M777 howitzers are ultra-light and can be lifted by helicopters, something that Chinooks are pictured with. India is also buying Chinooks from the US in a separate deal. These are 155mm artillery equipments and use digital fire-control system. They can also be combined with the Excalibur GPS-guided munitions. It is not clear if India is buying Excalibur guided artillery shells.

The US military began fielding upgraded M777 howitzers in 2014 that featured liquid crystal display units, software updates, improved power systems and muzzle sensors for onboard ballistic computing, Defense Media Network reported.

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