The Indian Army has for the first time test fired M982 Excalibur precision-guided, extended range artillery projectiles from M777 155 mm 39-caliber towed ultra light howitzer guns at the Pokhran test range in the Thar Desert region in northwestern India on December 9.
“Today [the Indian Army] conducted test-firing of the newly acquired US Excalibur precision guided munitions at Pokhran…a new capability that will integrate with the US-origin M777 Ultralight Howitzer,” the US Embassy in India posted on Twitter. The test firing was also confirmed by senior Indian Army officials.
The Indian Army did not publicly reveal the results of the firing analysis to date. Co-developed by Raytheon and BAE Systems AB, Excalibur shells, armed 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, according to Raytheon, can engage targets at a distance as close as 75 meters.
The Army has procured an initial batch of 1,200 M982 Excalibur in October under an emergency procurement procedure following the February 2019 military standoff between India and Pakistan. The service was granted the authority to procure goods and materiel worth up to $72 million without prior approval from the Indian Ministry of Defense (MoD) to quickly address equipment and materiel shortages. The Indian Army continues to suffer from a shortage of artillery systems and munitions.
Excalibur extended-range guided artillery shells can be fired from the M777 howitzer and the Army’s new K-9 Vajra 155 mm/52 caliber self-propelled tracked howitzer. The Indian Army is set to induct a total 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. As I explained elsewhere:
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 batch of K-9 howitzers was reportedly handed over last month, with all 100 delivered in the following 12 months. The Army also is in the process of standing up its first M777 regiment consisting of 18 howitzers, with 15 ready-built by the BAE Systems and three assembled with the former’s help by Mahindra Defense Systems Limited, by the end of 2019. The Army will establish seven M777 regiments.
An 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.