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The Indian Army has recently made a strategic decision to rule out the procurement of additional British/American-supplied M777 155-mm, 39-calibre towed artillery guns for high-altitude regions. Instead, it has turned its focus towards upgrading the existing M777 howitzer to a 155mm/52 calibre ER (Extended Range) variant. This decision comes amidst rising tensions along the border with China, where the deployment of Chinese troops has prompted calls for additional artillery capabilities.

The M777 Howitzer has proven its worth in high-altitude regions, making it an important asset for the Indian Army. However, the upgrade to the 155mm/52 calibre ER variant is seen as a more cost-effective and locally sustainable solution. The upgrade will significantly increase the maximum firing range of the M777 howitzer, enhancing its firepower and range of engagement.

Indian Army’s trials of the locally developed 155mm/52 calibre ultra-light howitzer (ULH) by Kalyani Strategic Systems Limited (KSSL) have shown promising results. Named the Mountain artillery gun-extended range (MArG-ER), it is an upgraded version of the 155mm/39 calibre ULH known as the mountain artillery gun (MArG). The MArG-ER comes in both towed and truck-mounted variants, offering enhanced mobility and versatility.

The decision to prioritize local production of the MAG-ER howitzer is driven by several factors. Firstly, the lower cost per unit of locally manufactured guns makes them economically advantageous. Moreover, the ease of maintenance and repair during wartime adds to the appeal of the locally produced artillery. In the event of hostilities, having indigenous production capabilities ensures a steady supply of spares and support, reducing reliance on foreign suppliers.

The recent stand-off with China has underscored the importance of bolstering artillery capabilities along India’s eastern border. In addition to the MArG-ER, the Indian Army is also evaluating the performance of the Dhanush Guns, which are already deployed along the eastern border with China. These indigenous towed guns have shown promise, and their successful deployment has further boosted confidence in locally produced weaponry.

Additionally, the Indian Army has plans to procure 300 ATAGS (Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System) towed guns by 2024. The combination of the MArG-ER, Dhanush Guns, and ATAGS will provide a formidable artillery force, capable of countering potential threats along the border with China.
With the completion of trials for the MAG-ER howitzer, the Indian Army is considering the procurement of 500 units. This step reflects a strategic shift towards self-reliance and bolstering indigenous defence capabilities.

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