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‘MAKE IN INDIA’ ON TRACK IN ARTILLERY PROJECTS

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Artillery is the only Arm whose 'Make in India' project are on track. This would lead to early de-induction of obsolescent equipment and enhance the Firepower capabilities of the Indian Army at the time when India is plaguing by two front War and need to be fully prepared.

Artillery has completed 190 years since its raising and is currently on the threshold of a new era with modernisation moving at a steady pace. The Regiment is currently equipped with a variety of Guns, Mortars, Rockets surveillance devices and Missiles.  The Regiment has been closely monitoring and expediting the modernisation process particularly with regard to Guns and Ammunition.

Artillery Guns

The Gun Regiment are mainly equipped as under:-

  • The Field Regiments possess either 105 mm Indian Field Gun / Light Field Gun or 122mm Field Howitzer.
  • The Medium Regiments possess 130 mm Medium Gun, 155 mm Bofors Medium Gun (39 calibre) and a few regiments of 155 mm (45 calibre) Soltam Guns.
  • The Self Propelled Regiments are equipped with 130 mm Catapult.
  • Light Regiments are equipped with 120 mm Mortars.
  • The 105 mm, 120 mm Mortar, Soltam and the Catapult are made in India and the 130 mm is being upgraded to a 155 mm (45calibre) Gun in a Make project of Indian origin.

The 155 mm (45 calibre) Dhanush Gun systems designed, developed and Made in India by the Ordnance Factory Board, 6 Guns have been inducted and have an indent for 114 of these Guns. The equipment is under final phase of extensive evaluation trials. This is to be followed by a further order of about 300 Guns.

DRDO developed Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System. (ATAGS) in partnership with Bharat Forge and Tata Strategic Engineering Division have successfully undergone trials. With successful winter trials in High Altitude it is reported that about two regiments of these Guns will be inducted.

The Ultra Light Howitzer (ULH) is manufactured by BAE Systems and is being procured by the Foreign Military Sales Route from the United States (US).  The process of induction has commenced. While a few pieces would be obtained from the Original Equipment Manufacturer, the remaining would be Made in India by Mahindra Defence. The Gun is extremely light and can be helilifted by a helicopter Chinook, CH 47 C which is being procured by the Indian Air Force. It is expected that 145 pieces would be added to the inventory.

The K 9 Vajra is a Self Propelled (SP) Gun is an indigenised version of a South Korean SP Gun which would be made in India by Larsen and Toubro Limited. The Gun would be utilised in the desert regions bordering our Western Front and would be the first SP Gun after the 105 mm Abbot and the 130 mm Catapult to be inducted into the Indian Army. About 100 pieces would be the initial order. The Contract has been signed and the Gun would be manufactured at the Larsen and Toubro plant at Talegaon, near Pune. Assistance will be provided by Samsung Techwin for the project.

Rockets and Missiles

The Rocket Regiments are equipped with 122 mm GRAD BM -21 rockets, 214mm Pinaka Rockets and 300 mm Smerch Rockets. The Missile Regiments are equipped with the Super Sonic Cruise Missile BrahMos which has a range of 290 km. Recently India has joined the Missile Technology Control Regime which has resulted in trials for extending the range up to possibly 400 Km. The BrahMos is an outstanding Cruise Missile Made in India.

The Supersonic Cruise Missile BrahMos has qualified in the user trials for the steep dive version of the missile, thereby enabling the equipment to be deployed in the mountains. Further the missile in a current test has ranged 400 Km. There is a requirement to enhance the range to 600 km to engage suitable depth targets across the borders. It should be possible to achieve this range without changes to current equipment configuration.

Surveillance Devices

Indian Artillery is currently in a Network Centric Warfare (NCW) Environment and has to provide Surveillance and Reconnaissance resulting in Target Acquisition which would lead to engagement which needs to be monitored to undertake Post Strike Damage Assessment and ensure that the target is destroyed. In NCW, Artillery shapes the battle field, degrades enemy's war waging capability, destroys his field defences, communication sites, logistics echelons thereby paralysing him and thus accomplishing our mission.

The surveillance devices are a part of the Surveillance And Target Acquisition (SATA) Regiments. The SATA units are currently equipped with Medium Range Battlefield Surveillance Radars (MBFSR) and Weapon Locating Radars (WLR). Both these items are currently made in India by BEL Bangalore.  The MBFSR currently held is the ELM 2140 which is able to detect tanks, vehicles and troops. They are held in minimal quantities and been exploited by mobile masts. The WLR currently held is the ANTPQ-37 of the United States which has been optimised with a reasonable degree of success. The Indian WLR Swathi has reportedly been approved for the plains and 28 have been ordered for induction. Further SATA units are equipped with Long Range Reconnaissance and Observation System (LORROS). This equipment has excellent day and night surveillance capability and has proved its effectiveness in operational areas. The SATA units also have a passive weapon Locating system known as Sound Ranging. The system currently held is old and needs to be replaced by state of the art equipment

The other devices currently are Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) which are of four types. These are the Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE), Heron UAV and Short Range UAVs Searcher MK I, Searcher Mk II as also four indigenously built Nishant. These UAVs have been operationally optimised and they are an extremely useful tool of surveillance. Our current holdings are minimal and their numbers need to be enhanced. The DRDO is currently developing a MALE UAV Rustam which will possibly be inducted in the short term. Recently development trials of the UAV were undertaken by Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) at Chitradurga near Bangalore. It is reported that DRDO is also developing an Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV) Aura. Though an Air Force project it serves the interest of the Indian Artillery also.

Challenges

The 73 days Doklam issue which China threatened to fight a War have made the Indian Artillery realise that it has to be fully prepared for a full spectrum two front War. The battle space is likely to be:-

  • Short notice, high tempo and high intensity.
  • Enhanced Battle Space Transparency.
  • Deeper and wider contact zones with Non Contact Warfares.
  • Greater use of precision weapons.
  • Network Centricity both of platforms and systems.
  • Asymmetric Nature.
  • To be fought against a backdrop of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Warfare.

Way Ahead

It is time now to think about the future. The ongoing cases would possibly fructify in the next decade. What are the issues we must get involved to ensure that we are not left behind? These are as follows:-

  • Must complete the mediumisation of the Artillery by completing the General Staff evaluation of the 155 mm (52 calibre). It is sad that the Request for Proposal (RFP) for the 155 mm (52 calibre) Mounted Gun System has lapsed. This is an extremely important system as the Gun could be employed universally and has the Gun mounted on the vehicle. It is reported that the RFP is being re issued. The trials of 155 mm (52 calibre) has been completed and the same has been referred to an empowered Committee.
  • The Extended Range Pinaka Rocket of 60 Km is also shaping well in the trials undertaken by DRDO. The Pinaka and the Smerch must be configured for deployment in the mountains and the Gunners need to address this issue with deliberation.
  • We also need a long range Mortar for which suitable efforts must be put in. In addition we need to analyse the cause for barrel bursts taking place which could be due to equipment or ammunition failure.
  • The Regiment also needs Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAVs) and Loitering Missiles. To enhance our surveillance of Depth Areas we would need Aerostats which would help us in acquitting targets. Our surveillance equipment needs to be beefed up with additional equipment as also there is a dire need for Satellites to provide surveillance and target acquisition. The Artillery Combat Command and Control System (ACCCS) will be combining these elements to provide Synergise Firepower. The system needs to be updated and introduced in all formations.
  • There is need to seriously examine the employment of Precision Guided Munitions (PGMs) to ensure destruction of targets by accurate fire. The Regiment of Artillery needs to seriously consider this aspect and evaluate our requirements considering the prevalent operational environment. Further Sensor Fuzed Ammunition needs to be procured for precise engagements of mechanised targets.
  • There is a need for Hypersonic Cruise Missiles. The Directorate General of Artillery must ensure that BrahMos Aerospace works towards this end.
  • Development of 200 Km Gun using rocket projectiles.

There is a need to develop Direct Energy Weapons particularly Microwave Weapons which can be used on Missiles, lasers on UCAVs and the electromagnetic rail gun.

Conclusion

The modernisation process of the regiment of Artillery has taken off with the numerous indigenous projects fructifying. As far as the Indian Army is concerned the Artillery is possibly the only Arm whose Make in India projects are on track. This would lead to early deinduction of obsolescent equipment and enhance the Firepower capabilities of the Indian Army. The process of indigenisation will stand the Artillery in good stead during active operations.

Article published in Magazine issue “Mar-Apr 2018 “.

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