New Delhi: National Cadet Corps (NCC) cadets march during rehearsals for the upcoming Republic Day parade 2019, on a cold morning, at Rajpath in New Delhi, Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. (PTI Photo/Kamal Singh)
New Delhi: National Cadet Corps (NCC) cadets march during rehearsals for the upcoming Republic Day parade 2019, on a cold morning, at Rajpath in New Delhi, Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. (PTI Photo/Kamal Singh)

New Delhi: Newly-acquired M777 howitzers and K-9 Vajra self-propelled artillery guns would be on public display for the first time along with other weapons at the Republic Day parade that boasts of many “firsts”. In November last year, the Indian Army inducted its new howitzers three decades after the induction of the Bofors guns. The 155mm, 39 calibre ultra-light howitzers have been procured from the US under government to government Foreign Military Sales (FMS) and will be assembled in India by BAE Systems in partnership with Mahindra Defence.

The versatile M777 gun system, with a range of 30 km, is a towed gun that can be lifted by helicopters and service aircraft, thereby providing the much needed flexibility in deployment in various terrains. The howitzer is currently in service in the US, Canadian, Australian and several other armies, besides proving its mettle in Afghanistan and Iraq. The 155mm 52 calibre tracked, self-propelled K-9 Vajra is capable of firing three rounds in 30 seconds in the “burst” mode, 15 rounds in three minutes in the “intense” mode and 60 rounds in 60 minutes in the “sustained” mode.

It has a maximum range of 28-38 km and requires five personnel to operate the gun as against eight personnel needed to operate a Bofors gun. The 155mm gun is also capable of direct firing with a range of one kilometre and would facilitate mechanised operations in desert terrain. Vajra have been imported from Hanwha Techwin of South Korea in a “semi knocked down” state and have been assembled by Larsen & Toubro in India.

Another new entry this year is that of the Surface Mine Clearing System (SMCS). The system is mounted on Infantry Combat Vehicle BMP-II and can be detached at convenience. Indigenously designed by Bharat Earth Movers Ltd, the SMCS can clear in a single pass up to 98 per cent anti-personnel and 100 per cent anti-tank mines. The BMP-II, which can also float on water, will be displayed separately. Fitted with a 30mm rapid fire cannon and a 7.62mm machine gun, it is capable of destroying tanks and combat helicopters.

Its main weapon is the anti-tank guided missile, Konkurs, that can destroy enemy tanks up to four kilometres away. Also on display would be the Main Battle Tank (MBT) T-90. The Russian origin tank can fire four types of ammunition and can also launch a missile from the gun. The 46-tonne lethal giant can hunt and kill at night effectively with the help of thermal imaging sight and can move in all types of terrain. The made-in-India Akash Weapon System will also be on display. The system is capable of firing short-range surface to air missiles against enemy aerial platforms. It is also capable of carrying out surveillance of airspace.

India’s military might will be on full display with some newly-acquired weapons and old war horses strutting down Rajpath in the company of military bands and with attack choppers and fighter jets roaring above in the sky. In the sky, a flypast by MI-17 and Rudra armed helicopters besides a number of IAF fighter jets such as MiGs and Su-30 Mki doing breathtaking manoeuvres will enthral the viewers. The contingents of the Army, Navy, Air Force and paramilitary forces marching to martial tunes in perfect rhythm will add glamour to the parade.

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