Howitzer's barrel damaged during trials in Pokhran


An American-made M777 ultra-light howitzer "malfunctioned" recently while it was tested at a firing range in Pokhran, damaging the gun's barrel.

The sources said the barrel of the US-manufactured gun exploded when it was firing Indian ammunition on September 2.

As a part of a Rs 5,000 crore deal, the U.S. will supply 145 M-777 howitzers.

In May and June the barrels of the indigenous Dhanush artillery gun were also damaged by faulty shells, the report said.

Reports say that no army personnel were injured in the accident and a joint investigation team from the Army and BAE Systems, who are the manufacturers of the howitzer, is looking into the issue.

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"The barrel of the gun has been damaged to such an extent that it needs to be assessed by a joint investigation team", army sources said.

A spokesperson for BAE Systems acknowledged the "irregularity" recorded during the field trial.

One of the two Howitzer artillery guns recently procured from the U.S. suffered a damage to its barrell after a defective high explosive shell manufactured by the Defence Ministry's Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) exploded.

"We are working closely with the Indian Army and the USA government to explore the incident", the spokesperson said, adding the company stands ready to provide assistance as required. The Army plans to acquire 414 Dhanush guns with each gun reportedly costing 14 crores. Three more M777 ultra-light howitzers are scheduled to arrive in Delhi in September for trials. Thereafter, induction will commence from March 2019 onwards at the rate of five guns per month till the complete consignment is received by mid-2021.

India had last procured howitzers in the mid-1980s from Swedish defence major Bofors. But the United States $1.4 billion deal was mired in controversy after reports that the Swedish company had paid US$ 9.9 million (Rs. 64 crore) in kickbacks to top Indian politicians. The Army is also pressing the Narendra Modi government to accelerate the modernisation programme.