It looks like India is going to purchase light artillery guns from the US after all. The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) has notified the US Congress of the sale of 145 units of the British Aerospace Land Systems’ M777 howitzer to India for US $ 647 million.
Interestingly, the agency said in its statement, ‘India intends to use the howitzers to modernize its armed forces and enhance its ability to operate in hazardous conditions. The howitzers will assist the Indian Army to develop and enhance standardization and to improve interoperability with U.S. Soldiers and Marines who use the M777 as their primary means of indirect fire. India will have no difficulty absorbing these weapons into its armed forces.’
If one notes the unusual language used [The howitzers will assist the Indian Army to … improve interoperability with U.S. Soldiers and Marines who use the M777 as their primary means of indirect fire. India will have no difficulty absorbing these weapons into its armed forces] it seems that the sale could have been approved, at least partly, in anticipation of joint Indo-US operations, even though the statement ends with a caveat by saying, ‘this notice of a potential sale is required by law and does not mean the sale has been concluded’.
The sale consists of ‘145 M777 155mm Light-Weight Towed Howitzers with Laser Inertial Artillery Pointing Systems (LINAPS) and associated parts, equipment, training and logistical support’. According to the statement, the ‘Government of India has requested a possible sale of 145 M777 155mm Light-Weight Towed Howitzers with Laser Inertial Artillery Pointing Systems (LINAPS), warranty, spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, publications and technical documentation, maintenance, personnel training and training equipment, U.S. Government and contractor representatives’ technical assistance, engineering and logistics support services, and other related elements of logistics support’.
The agency also says, ‘There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale.’ So Indian industry gets no piece of this.
Significantly, the US has only recently approved the sale of an unspecified number of Patriot air defense missiles to Taiwan, angering China. The US DSCA had issued a notification regarding the sale of 330 such units to Taiwan in October 2008, besides notifications regarding a host of other sales, in the last days of the Bush administration. At the time of notification, the value of the missile order was estimated to go up to more than US $ 3 billion.
It would be interesting to see if China has anything to say about the sale of artillery guns to India. On the other side, is this US policy for now, after President Obama’s Beijing visit, Copenhagen, the Yuan and Google, amongst other things?
Also, if the sale is indeed concluded, ST Kinetics would seem to have lost out on this one. The Indian Army chief General Deepak Kapoor said at the Army Day press conference two weeks back that the Indian government was using both Foreign Military Sales as well as the open tender process [in which ST Kinetics had been pitching its Pegasus] to procure the light guns, and would pursue whichever route worked out first.