New Delhi: One of the US-made M-777 ultralight howitzers, that brought to end India’s three-decade long wait for a new artillery gun, malfunctioned during trials and its barrel was damaged, army sources said on Tuesday.
The accident, during field trials at the Pokharan field firing ranges in Rajasthan, took place on 2 September and is being investigated by a team. There was no injury to anyone, the sources said.
The gun, one of those that arrived in India in May, was firing Indian ammunition at the time of accident. The projectile, which was fifth of the series, exited the barrel in multiple pieces, causing the accident, said the source.
The extent of damage to the barrel of the gun is being assessed by a joint investigation team which is on the site. Firing has meanwhile been suspended till the analysis of the accident is over.
Two 155mm/39 calibre M-777 guns were delivered to India earlier this year, and over the next year, another 23 guns are to be delivered off the shelf while 120 will be sent in a semi-knocked down condition, to be assembled in India by Mahindra. At 4.2 tonnes, these guns weigh only a third of normal 155 mm howitzers. They have a maximum range of 30 km.
The M-777 guns can be carried underslung by heavy lift helicopters and is expected to give the army tremendous flexibility in operations, specially in mountainous terrain. On 30 November, India signed the Letter of Agreement and Acceptance with the US to buy 145 M777s through the foreign military sale route.
The Cabinet on November 17 approved the much-awaited deal, which would add tremendous firepower to the Indian Army. The $737 million contract has a 30 per cent offset clause worth around $200 million.
India last inducted the Swedish Bofors guns in the 1980s. The deal however got tainted by an alleged scam with allegations of kickbacks being received by Indian leaders. The Bofors guns however have been a mainstay for Indian Army for decades, and had an important role in the Kargil conflict.
The M777s, already in service with the US, Canadian and Australian armies, would increase Indian Army’s ability in high altitudes.