The Indian Army got a shot in the arm today with the defence ministry clearing its long-pending $660 million (Rs.3,000 crore) proposal to buy 145 ultra-light howitzer guns to add teeth to its ageing inventory.
This is the first time the army is buying artillery guns in 27 years, since the Bofors guns payoff scandal broke out in the late 1980s, defence ministry sources said here.
The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), headed by Defence Minister A.K. Antony, cleared the deal for the M777 BAE Systems guns that will be bought through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route of the US government.
The purchase comes in the wake of Indian Army chief Gen. V.K. Singh writing to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in March highlighting the gaps in its preparedness.
Being light in weight, the 155mm 39-calibre guns can be easily airlifted and will be deployed in the high altitude mountainous areas in the northeast and in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir bordering China.
A couple of weeks ago the defence ministry had approved infrastructure development projects in the northeast, including strategic roads and rail lines that will enable easy and quick mobilisation of troops.
The DAC cleared the M777 gun following a favourable report by a committee headed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) chief V.K. Saraswat that studied the suitability of the weapon system.
The army had recommended the gun following a series of rigorous trials.