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India to Buy Extended-Range Artillery Shells From US

 
 

The Indian Army will purchase an undisclosed number of Excalibur artillery projectiles from a U.S. weapons manufacturer, according to local media reports.

The Indian Army has been given authority to procure goods and materiel worth up to $72 million without prior approval from the Indian Ministry of Defense (MoD) under an emergency procurement procedure following the February 2019 military standoff between India and Pakistan. The Excalibur procurement will take place under this emergency purchase provision.

Excalibur extended-range guided artillery shells can be fired from the Indian Army’s newly acquired M777 155 mm 39-caliber towed howitzer guns and the K-9 Vajra 155 mm/52 caliber self-propelled tracked howitzer.

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In November 2016, the Indian government approved the purchase of 145 air-mobile M777 howitzers from BAE Systems at an estimated cost of $750 million under the U.S. Department of Defense’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. The Indian Army will establish seven M777 regiments in the coming years, with the first regiment slated to be operational by the end of October 2019.

The Indian Army will also get 100 modified K-9 Vajras. South Korean defense firm Samsung-Techwin and its local partner, Indian private sector firm Larsen & Toubro (L&T), signed a contract for self-propelled howitzers in 2017. All 100 K-9 Vajras howitzers are scheduled to be delivered by the November 2020. The first 40 howitzers will be handed over by November 2019 with the remaining 60 to be delivered in the following 12 months. As I reported elsewhere:

 The K-9 Vajra is specially designed for arid lands such as the desert areas bordering Pakistan. Mounted on a tracked vehicle, the K-9 Vajra is ideally suited for mobile tank warfare. (…)

The Indian Army wants to induct this new howitzer into its mechanized strike corps to offer close fire support during deep thrusts into enemy territory. (…)

The overall number of K-9 Vajras required by the Indian Army will be around 250. This is based on the creation of at least three K-9 Vajra regiments for each of the army’s three armored divisions, as well as another three regiments for the independent armored brigades within the army’s three strike corps. [The Indian Army decided to disaggregate the three strike corps into division-sized integrated battle groups and station them closer to the border.]

An official induction ceremony for the first K-9 Vajra and M777 howitzers was held at the Indian Army Artillery School, located in Deolali in Nashik district, Maharashtra, in November 2018.

Co-developed by Raytheon and BAE Systems AB, Excalibur rounds, fitted with a polymer-bonded explosive warhead, have an effective range of up to 50 kilometers when fired from 52-caliber artillery. The GPS-guided munition has a circular error probable of five to 20 meters and can engage targets at a distance as close as 75 meters.

It is unclear when the first batches of Excalibur munition will be delivered to the Indian Army. According to The Economic Times, artillery units stationed along the Line of Control in Kashmir will be the first receive the new rounds. The service also plans to deploy its first M777 regiment there.

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