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Indian Army’s new US-made M777 howitzer in trouble, barrel explodes at Pokhran range

Indian Army’s new US-made M777 howitzer in trouble, barrel explodes at Pokhran range
SOURCE: Hindustan Times

The army’s new M777 ultra-light American howitzer was partly damaged when a 155mm artillery round misfired and exploded in the barrel during a drill early September.The gun is one of the two howitzers that arrived in New Delhi in May as part of a $750-million contract signed with the US in November 2016. India has ordered 145 howitzers. The gun was firing Indian ammunition in Rajasthan’s Pokhran ranges.

“During the firing on September 2, the projectile, which was fifth of the series, exited the barrel in multiple pieces,” an army officer said on Tuesday. No one was injured. He said an investigating team is assessing the damage to the gun. A detailed input from the gun’s manufacturer, BAE Systems, would follow. “BAE Systems is aware of an irregularity recorded during routine field firing of the M777.

We are working closely with the Indian Army and the US government to explore the incident,” a company spokesperson said. The M777 order is the first contract for artillery guns in almost 30 years after the Bofors scandal unfolded in the late 1980s. The two guns are part of the 25 ready-built weapons that will be supplied by the US over the next two years. The remaining 120 howitzers will be manufactured in the country under the government’s Make in India initiative, in collaboration with Mahindra Defence.

The 155mm, 39-calibre howitzers are inducted to increase the army’s capabilities in high altitude. These will be deployed in the northern and eastern sectors. The army’s new mountain strike corps, raised in West Bengal’s Panagarh, will be equipped with the new guns. Built with titanium and aluminum alloys, the howitzers weigh 4,218kg, providing them superior tactical mobility. In contrast, 155mm towed howitzers weigh twice as much. The howitzers can be underslung from helicopters and swiftly deployed in high-altitude areas. More than 1,090 M777s are in service globally.

The howitzers have been used during operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. India is the latest user of the guns used by the US, Australian and Canadian militaries for accurate artillery fire support.

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