BAE's M777 Ultra-Light Howitzers are currently undergoing user acceptance test at Pokhran

by Shishir Arya

Nagpur: A muzzle hit occurred in the M-777 ultralight howitzers procured from the US, during trials in the Pokhran desert last week. The first batch of the guns, made by BAE Systems, was delivered in May this year as a part of the deal to buy 145 pieces in all. M-777 is the first acquisition of high calibre howitzers after Bofors.

A senior official in army's artillery wing confirmed the incident. It is a small incident and most probably due to faulty ammunition." A joint investigation is being carried out to ascertain the cause," the officer told TOI.

The muzzle is fixed on the top of a barrel. If a shell dashes through it, the range is reduced considerably and the muzzle gets damaged too.

A similar issue was seen in Dhanush, the Indian gun designed on the lines of the Swedish Bofors by the ordnance factory. The howitzer is being made at the Gun Carriage Factory (GCF), Jabalpur. 

During trials in July, there was muzzle hit in the Dhanush guns. Prior to this, there was an incident in May also. The preliminary report over the May incident in Dhanush had blamed the ammunition.

Last month, there was as barrel burst in K-9 Thunder guns during trials in Korea. Guns of the same make are being acquired for India. 

On the K-9 guns, the army official said, "The incident took place outside India. As the Korean ammunition and loading systems were in use, the incident has to be taken independently."

Top sources in the army say Dhanush is expected to be inducted within six months to a year. An investigation is being conducted and it is suspected that even in the Indian gun, faulty ammunition may be the cause.

Repeated incidents of muzzle hit and one barrel burst in Dhanush has pushed back its final induction. Even in the original Bofors, nearly 40 cases of muzzle hit were reported. If final report for Dhanush blames the ammunition, doubts can be set aside on its design, said sources.

Apart from making Dhanush, the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) has also tied up with BAE Systems to make mounted howitzers of 155x52 mm calibre. It will be having a higher range than Dhanush due to length of the barrel. Bharat Earth Movers Limited will be making the vehicle on which the gun will be mounted.

As the army has to replace the ageing Bofors guns, the weapons are being made by private as well as government entities. These include Dhanush by ordnance factories, K-9 Vajra by Larsen and Toubro in collaboration with Korean Hanwa Techwin, ATAGS of Bharat Forge-Tata Power SED, apart from M-777 of BAE Systems.

Gun That Created A New World Record

The 155x52 mm howitzer jointly developed by Bharat Forge and TATA Power SED has created a new world record by achieving a range of more than 48 km. The trials were held last week. This surpasses all the previous records for any 155mm artillery in the world, said a statement issued by development partners of the gun. The project was started in 2014.

The guns are being made by Bharat Forge, a Kalyani Group Company and TATA Power SED as development partners of Armament Development Research Establishment (ARDE), Pune. The over 48 km range was achieved with the basebleed version of the ammunition.