The Indian Ministry of Defense’s Defense Acquisition Council (DAC), headed by Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar, approved the purchase of 145 M777 Ultra Lightweight Howitzers from BAE Systems at a cost of about $750 million under the Pentagon’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program on October 20, according to local media reports.
“In today’s DAC meeting, all these aberrations between India’s Letters of Request and the U.S.’s Letters of Acceptance were cleared,” a defense ministry source said, according to the The Economic Times. “And now we can formulate the contract after sanction of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). Then start the procurement of the guns between India and the U.S.”
The DAC first approved the deal in July 2016. Under the agreement, India would procure 25 guns in ready-to-use condition, with the remaining 120 howitzers to be built in partnership with Mahindra Defense at a BAE Systems Assembly, Integration, and Test facility in India (See: “India Clears Purchase of 145 Guns From the US”).
“Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) has been accorded for the procurement of 155 mm, 39 caliber Ultra-Light Howitzers from USA under U.S. Foreign Military Sales route at an approximate cost of $737 million,” Parrikar told the Indian Parliament in July. However, disagreements between India and the United States over the details of the deal persisted. (According to some sources BAE demanded a 10 percent increase in price should India fail to ink the deal before the September 5 deadline.)
“There was a large variance in what they offered to us and what we had asked for. The LOA [Letter of Acceptance] had certain variations as compared to the proposal approved by the DAC. Again the DAC had to be approached and requested for a decision to accept the U.S.’s offer. Several LORs [Letter of Request] and LOAs were exchanged before today’s meeting, which cleared all this. It is a positive step,” a source within the Indian defense ministry said.
As I reported previously (See: “Mountain Warfare Against China: US Plans to Sell 145 Guns to India”):
The M777 allegedly is the world’s first 155 millimeter howitzer weighing less than 10,000 pounds (4,218 kilograms). Partly made of titanium, the gun can be airlifted swiftly to high-altitude terrain and is ideally suited for mountain warfare. The M777 has a firing range of up to 25 kilometers. The Indian Army plans to induct the new gun into its new 17 Mountain Strike Corps, which is to be stood up by 2021.
The M777 155 mm, 39 caliber towed gun will be likely deployed along the so-called 4,057-kilometer (2520 miles) Line of Actual Control (LoAC) with China and Pakistan. The Indian Army has been unable to purchase a new howitzer since 1987.