Purchase of military equipment in India is a complex issue and acquiring the weapons take a long time because of the guidelines set for defence procurement.
Several military experts have time and again called for streamlining the process, and the work in this direction is in progress.
When it comes to purchasing artillery guns, defence apparatus had to be extra cautious as the previous purchase some three decades back had spiralled out into a major political issue as it involved Bofors guns.
In May 2017, Indian Army received the first two ultra-light howitzers from the US as part of an order for 145 long-range guns. Ministry of Defence had cleared the proposal for buying 145 guns for US$660 million on 11 May 2012.
About M77 Howitzer:
The M777 is manufactured by BAE Systems' Global Combat Systems division. It is a 155mm ultra light howitzer manufactured by the UK based company having 70 to 90% of USA made components. It is a tested and proven on different conditions from mountainous to plains and performed at its peak in all temperatures may it be 50 or -2 degree Celsius.
Why it was preferred over indigenously developed Dhanush ?
To answered this, we must delve into specifications of both the guns. Dhanush, developed by Ordnance Factories Board, is a 155 caliber gun capable of targeting enemy posts up to 38 kms.
DRDO 155 mm artillery gun or Version 2 of the Dhanush is under development. It will upgrade the current 155 mm/45 caliber gun to 155 mm/52 calibre. Dhanush v2's larger calibre ordnance will increase the strike range by 4 km (taking the range upto to 42 km).
The main drawback of Dhanush is its weight, as it uses heavier materials which takes its weight to close to 12,000 kgs.
The M777 howitzers are ultra-light-weight towed artillery guns which are manufactured by BAE systems. The gun weighs a mere 4.2 tonnes and this makes it possible to be rapidly deployed at a short notice.
M777 weights 4200 kg due to the use of Titanium alloys as compared to Dhanush's weight of 12,000 kg. M777 weighs a third of what Dhanush weighs.
How does this impact battle situation?
In a battle scenario, speed with which guns can be placed at strategic locations is of paramount importance. The M777 Howitzer can be transported using an Ch-47 chinook Chopper. This can be of great importance in battles as getting your striking assets on time to the battle field is extremely crucial to gain tactical upper hand.
Even in Kargil battle, our Artillery corps used 155mm Bofors AB's Haubits FH77u. That gun was heavy and it took a while for troops to place them in strategic locations. Moreover, the 155 mm, 39-calibre M77 guns will fire Indian ammunitions.
There is no doubt that Dhanush is a potent gun and army has placed a massive order for it to be deployed in other parts. But in regions where logistics are challenging and transportation is difficult, light weight M777 Howitzers would be preferred.
Moreover, tests are still being conducted on Dhanush, and it will take time for it to be ready for full-fledged mass production.