India has cleared a proposal to buy 145 M777 Ultra Lightweight Howitzer artillery guns from BAE Systems in a deal worth an estimated $750 million.

Under the deal, 120 of the 145 guns will be assembled in India, said the source, who asked not to be identified in line with defence ministry rules.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to upgrade the country’s military hardware by replenishing its range of artillery weapons after years of delays in ordering new equipment.

The M777 howitzer is a towed 155mm artillery piece, since 2005 successor to the M198 howitzer in the United States Marine Corps and United States Army.

The M777 is also used by the forces of Canada and Australia. It made its combat début in the War in Afghanistan.

The M777 is manufactured by BAE Systems’ Global Combat Systems division. Prime contract management is based in Barrow-in-Furness in the UK as well as manufacture and assembly of the titanium structures and associated recoil components. Final integration and testing of the weapon is undertaken at BAE’s facility in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

A senior Indian defence ministry official said:

“DAC has approved progressing of ongoing case of procurement of 145 ultralight howitzers through the foreign military sales (FMS) route from US. DAC directed independent progressing of offset. The delivery of these guns will be in India which will help in substantial saving of transportation cost.”

The M777 began as the Ultralight-weight Field Howitzer, developed by VSEL’s armaments division in Barrow-in-Furness, United Kingdom. This company was bought by BAE which ended up responsible for design, construction and assembly (through its US-based, BAE Systems Land and Armaments group). The M777 uses about 70% US-built parts including the gun barrel manufactured at the Watervliet Arsenal.

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