Army to resume M777 trials

Test was stopped last year following a barrel burst caused by faulty ammunition

The Army will resume the trials of the U.S.-made M777 Ultra-Light Howitzer (ULH) in Pokhran firing range. The trials were suspended last September after barrel of a gun burst during firing.

A defence official said they had received four guns for the trials. “Firing will resume this month and continue in August. Local ammunition will be used and tentatively 100-150 rounds will be fired,” the official said.

In November 2016, India signed a deal with the U.S. government under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme for 145 M777 guns at a cost of $737 million. Following this, two guns were delivered for calibration and making range tables with local ammunition when the barrel burst occurred. The trials have been suspended since.

As the deal was through the FMS, the trials will be conducted by the U.S. government and India will be an observer. Following the trials, the Army will take formal custody of the guns.

U.S. review

An Army team was in the U.S. in June to take stock of the investigation. A preliminary investigation after the incident had found faulty ammunition supplied by the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) to be the cause of the accident.

“The M777 gun delivery programme is proceeding to plan. Major upcoming milestones include hand-over of the first ULHs to the Indian Army and the mobilisation of the Assembly, Integration and Test facility at Mahindra,” a BAE Systems spokesperson told The Hindu.

The M777 is a 155 mm, 39-calibre towed artillery gun made of titanium and aluminium alloys and weigh just four tonnes, making it transportable under slung by helicopters. Of the 145 guns, 25 will be imported while the remaining 120 will be assembled in the country in partnership with Mahindra group. Deliveries are slated to commence in March 2019.

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