Defence Ministry probing irregularity charges in Rs 3,000 crore howitzer deal The Defence Ministry is probing allegations of irregularity involving a top retired Army official in the Rs 3,000 crore deal to procure 145 ultra-light howitzers from the US under an inter-governmental agreement. The M-777 howitzers are being procured by the Army through the Foreign Military Sales route for deployment in the mountainous boundaries with China and Pakistan and are expected to be part of a new Strike Corps to be raised along the China border. The deal is at an advanced stage and India and the US authorities are negotiating the offsets and other aspects of the contract. While the negotiations are underway, the defence ministry received an anonymous letter alleging irregularity on part of a top Army officer who has since retired. Taking cognizance of this complaint, the Defence Ministry is probing the allegations through in internal inquiry, sources told PTI here. The Ministry is also likely to seek comments of the Army headquarters on this issue, they said. The proposed deal has been mired in one controversy or the other since its early days. The Rs 3,000 crore deal was approved by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) in October last year. Prior to its approval, the Defence Ministry had sought the report of a committee on whether to go ahead with the procurement after the leakage of the trial reports of the M-777 howitzer. The leaked report had suggested that the guns had underperformed during the trials and the Army was not happy with it. The Ministry had then formed a Committee under then DRDO chief V K Saraswat to submit a report whether the procurement should be realised or not. The deal was given a go ahead only after Saraswat gave it clearance. The Ultra-Light Howitzers of 155 mm 39 calibre are being acquired for deployment in high altitude areas in Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh. The M777 guns, serving in the US Army, can be airlifted easily and be used for quick deployment of assets in mountainous regions. After the Bofors controversy in 1986, no new gun has been procured by the Army for its artillery. The Army is also hoping to induct the Bofors guns manufactured indigenously by theOrdnance Factory Board at its facilities in Jabalpur.