The Indian Army is all set to procure 145 US made howitzers in a direct government-to-government deal. The howitzers are 155mm light-weight which can be swiftly deployed in forward and inaccessible areas by helicopters and aircraft. The guns are fitted with laser inertial artillery pointing systems and other equipment.
The American Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notified the US Congress of the decision made by the U.S. federal government. According to the Times of India, it also asserted that the sale will boost "interoperability" between Indian and American soldiers and marines. "It will also improve the security of an important partner which continues to be an important force for political stability, peace, and economic progress in South Asia,'' added DSCA.
The Indian Army is generally opposed to such purchases through the Foreign Military Sale (FMS) route, as it bypasses the competitive bidding process used to procure arms and ammunition for the armed forces in India as it rules out any comparative trials and price negotiations.
The ultra mobile howitzers will help India strengthen its capabilities to react to any emergencies at short notice. The guns are used by U.S. forces as a primary weapon for indirect fire. The all-weather howitzers, which have a 25-30 km range, will also be useful for supporting Para-Special Force battalions while they operate behind enemy lines and in 'out-of-area contingencies'.
India had tried to procure such guns on two previous occasions also but the attempt failed. During the first attempt the South African gunmaker, Denel, was shortlisted but was later found to be indulging in corrupt practices. In the case of lightweight howitzers, ST Kinetics a Singapore based firm was indicted for similar practices where Sudipto Ghosh, the then Chairman of the Ordnance Factory Board was implicated.
The U.S. has been eyeing the lucrative Indian defense market like other nations in the fray with the Indian government's decision to modernize the army at a whopping cost of INR 20,000 crore. India also seems all set to approach Washington for another FMS deal to acquire ten C-17 Globemaster-III giant strategic airlift aircrafts priced at over a $220 million apiece.