An M777 howitzer in action- Representational imageBAE Systems

The Indian Army will get 5 M777 howitzers made by American defense contractor BAE Systems in September. The rest of the consignment will follow in the coming years with the second batch set for delivery in June 2019.

The army has purchased 145 guns in all, reports the Tribune. All the ammunition of the towed 155 mm artillery piece are to be Made in India, so the American made guns will be tuned to fire a wide range of ammo. Last year, a shell had exploded in the barrel of an M777 during a trial. The reason for this was reported to be because of faulty India-made ammo. A full report of this incident is about to be sent to both the US and the Indian government for review, said BAE Systems' India campaign director (weapon systems) Paul West.

"Full-scale deliveries will commence in June 2019," he said. He also explained that the ongoing testing in India would be completed by May. "The guns have been firing a broader range of ammunition—all made in India," he added.

The total cost of this contract is about $737 million, notes the report. Once the second batch of 5 guns is delivered in June next year, the delivery rate will be five per month. The Indian Army should have, if the deliveries go as planned, 145 M777 howitzers by mid-2021.

Howitzers are known to be incredibly useful in war. They are also light and portable with good range. According to a report by War Zone, M777s have an effective range of over 32 km with special long-range ammunition.

Made of titanium, the Tribune reports that they can be easily transported using Chinook helicopters directly to battlefields. Weighing around 4,000 kg, M777's can also be transported using C-17 Globemaster and the C-130 Hercules aircraft and then towed out into the mountains using trucks.

This is the first howitzer purchase by the Indian Army since 1986 when 410 FH77, a Swedish 155 mm howitzer, were bought at a price of over $220 million. Over 30 years old, the aging systems are in line for replacement.