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US, India Ink $737 Million Weapons Deal for Ultralight Howitzers

© Wikipedia / Sgt. Jose E. GuillenM777 howitzer
M777 howitzer - Sputnik International
On Wednesday India signed a highly anticipated defense contract for acquiring 145 M777A2 LW155 ultralight howitzer artillery pieces from the US. The $737 million contract awarded to the American subsidiary of BAE Systems, the original equipment manufacturer.

Though New Delhi's Ministry of Defence (MoD) has not announced it’s plans for the weapons, they want the guns delivered as soon as possible, and over the next 15 years India’s Army hope to acquire a total of 220 ultralight howitzers. 

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The portable weapon can fire up to five rounds in two minutes, has an assisted range of over 30 km and a maximum unassisted range of 24.7 km. The Financial Express quotes independent defense and aerospace consultant Colonel KV Kuber saying, "The modern artillery was much needed for the Indian army."

Mahindra Defence Systems, an India-based private sector defense company will be helping assemble 120 howitzers in partnership with BAE, and over the next three years 25 more of the guns are expected to be supplied. 

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An unnamed Ministry of Defence official told Defense News that Washington is slated to sign a formal Foreign Military Sales (FMS) agreement on Thursday.

The howitzer deal marks the first overseas artillery gun procurement in about 30 years, and comes after a previous 2005 contract competition was cancelled amid corruption allegations by Singapore Technology Kinetics, which lead to the defense company being blacklisted by India.

BAE also won a $384 million contract to provide specialized sights for US Army weapons.

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