Indian defence ministers have cleared the country's purchase of 145 M777 howitzers from BAE Systems' Global Combat Systems division - potentially the Indian armed forces' first such acquisition in 25 years.
These ultra-light artillery systems would be supplied via the Foreign Military Sale program, through which the US makes indigenous weapons, services and training projects available to overseas militaries.
India is presently overhauling its armed forces, with multiple new technology acquisitions either concluded or in progress, nudging out the older systems currently in service. Although still not yet fully firmed-up, its Dassault Rafale combat jet order is a truly massive contract-in-waiting and, in March 2012, SIPRI (the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute) labelled India 2011's top global arms importer.
M777 Howitzer Artillery System
The M777 howitzer artillery system was a landmark technology when first introduced in the mid-2000s, setting a new weight precedent in being lighter than any of its predecessors. With a five round-per-minute firing rate, it can launch 155mm ammunition across a 30 kilometre range - each projectile passing down the barrel at a speed of 827 metres a second - and it's currently in service with the US and Canada, making its combat debut at the end of 2007 in Operation Enduring Freedom.
Extensive use of titanium makes the M777 over 40 per cent lighter than the preceding M198 howitzer and it's also smaller in size, making it much more battlefield-deployable. That same size reduction also aids with storage and reduces the number of armed forces personnel needed to operate it to just five - almost 50 per cent fewer than required before.
Indian M777 Deal
The Indian M777 deal hasn't yet been entirely approved - clearances from the Ministry of Finance and the Cabinet Committee on Security are still required. However, the Indian Defence Ministry clearance represents a major step towards acquisition and the deal, if it goes ahead, has a value of $660m.
The clearance announcement follows an extensive series of Indian Army M777 trials, which yielded positive results.
Image copyright US Army