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India, US explore development of enhanced M777 howitzers

The 155 mm/39 calibre M777 ultra lightweight howitzer, displayed above undergoing trials with the UK Army, has a maximum range of 24.7 km using unassisted rounds and a sustained rate of fire of 2 rds/min. India and the US are exploring the development of a 155 mm/52 calibre M777 with an extended range. (BAE Systems Landsystems UK)

India and the US are exploring the development of an extended-range, longer barrel variant of the M777 155 mm/39 calibre ultra lightweight howitzer (ULH), manufacturer BAE Systems told Janes.

Ravi Nirgudkar, managing director, BAE Systems – India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, told Janes that discussions have been held [to develop an enhanced version of M777], and the belief is that we will see them [discussions] continue as both parties [India and the US] recognise the potential benefits that an extended-range variant of the M777 could bring”.

According to Nirgudkar, the enhanced version will likely be equipped with a 155 mm/52 calibre. “It is far too early to speculate on any aspect of the programme, as discussions are still under way,” he added, without delving into technical or range-related details.

However, Nirgudkar said that it “would not make sense” to upgrade the Indian Army's existing 39 calibre M777 howitzers to the improved 52 calibre M777s across the whole fleet. “The extended-range barrel provides a different capability [compared with existing 39 calibre M777s], albeit with a common logistics footprint,” he said.

“It is envisaged that the extended-range capability could be offered as a possible kit, but the intention was never to offer this as a [39 calibre M777] fleet-wide upgrade,” Nirgudkar added.

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