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Indian Army’s Artillery Modernization Programme

The hiccups in the procurement process and cancellation of numerous tenders in past owing to issues of  alleged irregularities,  have severely affected the artillery inventory.  In the backdrop  author highlights some initiatives from Indian Industry.

Indian Army's artillery modernization programme has been a saga of numerous issued and cancelled tenders owing to issues of corruption and alleged malpractices associated with the procurement of artillery guns. As a result, till date Indian Army's artillery inventory continue to remain in woefully dismal state with the land force failing to induct any new artillery guns since the last major acquisition of 410 pieces of 39-calibre 155mm FH-77B howitzers from Sweden's AB Bofors in 1987.  Presently, the Indian artillery is saddled with guns of various calibres, a mix of 105mm field guns and 130mm  & 155mm howitzers (400+35) of different vintages in its inventory which are either obsolescent or reaching obsolescence.

CHRONOLOGY OF EVENTS  ARTILLERY ACQUISITION FOR INDIAN ARMY

 155mm Towed Artillery Gun 2001: First RFP issued in December 2001.
2002:2007 (Trials): The trials were carried out in four phases over 4 years between May 2002 - 2007 resulting in inordinate delay with none of the guns could meet certain technical parameters of the GSQR.
2007: In Oct 2007, MoD withdrew the RFP and foreclosed the case for procurement of the gun.
2008: New RFP was issued in March 2008 based on revised GSQR.
2010: Army HQ in July 2010 retracted the RFP due to single vendor situation.
2011: Fresh RFP was issued on 28 January 2011 based on revised GSQR.
 Self Propelled Guns (Wheeled) 2002: RFP was issued in January 2002.
2005: the procurement process was closed by Ministry in July 2005 due to ban on  M/s Denel
2007: Another RFP was issued in February 2007.
2007: RFP was retracted due to single vendor situation,
2008: A fresh RFP was issued in February 2008
2010-2011: Trials of two vendors were completed.
2011: MoD cancels RFP in Sep 2011 after allegations surfaced about manipulations in the evaluation processes of the field-trials.
2012: RFI re-issued
 Self Propelled Guns (Tracked)
1994: A global RFP is issued
1995 (July-Sep): Trials  conducted.
1997: None of the guns were found to fulfill requisite parameters.
1998: GSQRs are amended.
1999: held from July September 1999
2002: In June 2002, RFP issued to M/s Denel and M/s BEML.
2005: Procurement comes to end as Denel getting blacklisted.
2007: New RFP is issued in May 2007 but subsequently retracted on 19 September
2007 owing to single vendor situation.
2008: MoD re-issues RFP in August 2008
2009: RFP is withdrawn as only one vendor responded.
2011: Fresh RFI is issued in mid-January.
 155mm Mounted Gun System 2002: MoD issues RFP on February 18, 2002.
2013: Previously issued RFP withdrawn and a RFI is re-issued in June 2013.
 155mm Ultra Light Howitzer
2008: MoD issues RFP in January 2008  ST Kinetics and BAE Systems responded.
2009: Contract was scrapped as MoD due to single vendor situation
May 2011: Government initiates procurement of BAE's M777 through FMS route.
2013: Procurement gets DAC approval. Contract yet to signed.

Even though the army in 1999 initiated an USD 8 Billion Artillery Modernization Program or Field Artillery Rationalization Plan (FARP) aimed at acquiring between 2700-3600 guns over the next 15 to 20 years (2020-25) but things have virtually remained stalled with there being no new inductions. Key acquisitions planned under the FARP include:

  • 155mm/39-Calibre Ultra-Light Howitzers (ULH)
  • 155mm/52-Calibre Wheeled
  • 155mm/52-Calibre Towed Guns
  • 155mm/52-Calibre Self-Propelled Tracked And Wheeled Guns
  • 155mm/52-Calibre Mounted Gun System (MGS)

There is no denial of the fact that several attempts has been made in past by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for procuring different types of howitzers by way of global tendering for the above listed acquisitions, however, the procurements not making progression due to various reasons. Table highlights the delay  during  each acquisition.

Market Opportunities: With thrust on “Make and Buy” & Make (Indian) Programmes, the foreign OEMs have already started revisiting their strategies to stay relevant to the Indian market by collaborating with the Indian companies. The onus now lies on the prime contractor (Indian companies) to have tie-ups with the foreign players to bring in the required technologies and create and run manufacturing lines/final assembly lines in the country. Table throws light on the programmes elaborately of 155mm Howitzers pertaining to the Indian Army's Artillery Modernization Programme:

TypeTotal Quantity
Category
Tentative Cost
Likely InductionLikely Contenders/Vendors
 155mm Towed Gun
 Total: 1580
400 (Direct Purchase) + 1180 (to be built through ToT)
 Buy and Make   $1.78 Bn
30% Offset
 2016-17   French Nexter CEASAR
Swedish BAE-Bofors FH77-BW-L52 Archer
Israeli Soltam ATHOS 2052 led by Elbit Systems
155mm Tracked  Gun  100  Buy-Make  $750-778 Mn
  2019-20  Larsen & Toubro (L&T) tied up with South Korean company Samsung Techwin, Bharat Earth Movers Ltd. (BEML) has partnered with Slovakian company Konstrukha and Russia's Rosoboron export.
 155mm Wheeled Self Propelled  Gun  Total: 400
180 (Direct Purchase) + 220 (to be built indigenously)
 Buy-Make (Global)
 $889 Mn  Delivery within three years from the date of order.  Konstrukta Defence  Konštrukta; SpGHZuzana 2; Nexter CAESAR; Rheinmetall - RWG-52; BAE-Bofors FH77 BW L52 Arche; Samsung Techwin and Soltam
 155mm Mounted  Gun  Total: 814

200 (Direct Purchase) + 614 (to be built indigenously)

 Buy-Make (Indian)
 $1.9 Bn  2018-19
 Tata Power SED with DENEL Land Systems for customised version of the T-5-52 Mk2000 Condor, Mahindra Land Systems has teamed up with BAE for FH-77BW L52 Archer,  and L&T has teamed up with Nexter for Ceaser gunerbia's Yugoimport SDPR teamed with Punj Lloyd for Nora-B52K1, Krauss Maffei-Wegmann teamed with Ashok Leyland for  AGM (on a 6 x 6 truck)
 155mm Ultra Light Howitzer   145  Buy (through FMS)  $647 Mn
 2015-16
 BAE Systems

Indigenous Development of Artillery Guns
Having failed to make much headway with foreign procurements coupled with the  size of the Army's artillery procurement  has lately prompted the Indian industry  both public and private firms  to enter the gun manufacturing.   The Indian industry is keen, to not only participate, but also contribute towards self reliance with the state-of-the-art equipment. The private sector has been gearing up by creating state-of-the-art defence and aerospace manufacturing facilities that too without any assured orders.

Dhanush: The  development of 155mm 45 calibre howitzers, called the Dhanush, undertaken by the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) utilizing the drawings/design and manufacturing technology earlier procured from Bofors. The project is expected to be worth Rs 1260 crores with the initial order for 114 guns already  placed by the Army which could be enhanced further to 414 guns if the gun proves its mettle. As of now, the winter trials for the gun are on-going in Sikkim which is expected to finish by March, to be followed by summer trials in the desert in Pokharan in May/June 2014.
This 45 calibre gun has a range of 38 km compared to the 27-km range of the original Bofors gun and has an electronic sighting and laying system for aiming the gun at the target. The Gun Carriage Factory, Jabalpur is the integrator and is establishing production for 18 guns a year in 2015 and would be doubling that capacity in 2016.

Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS): In addition to this, the Defence Research & Development Organization (DRDO) along with the Army is also developing a fully indigenous 155mm/52 calibre towed gun. ARDE,  the Pune based DRDO lab, is spearheading this project known as Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS) and as of now, the gun's specifications have already been firmed with its basic design being finalized. DRDO has also selected private firms - Bharat Forge, L&T and Tata Power (SED)  will be playing a pivotal role in the development of ATAGS. The gun is likely to  be developed as seven work packages, with each of these sub-systems being developed and manufactured by the Indian public and private entities. DRDO is hopeful to begin the in-house trials of the gun by 2016 and offer the gun to the army for user trials by early 2017. If everything goes well then Army would initially be placing an order of over 140 such howitzers after the successful completion of the trials. This gun will have a range of 60 km with a weight of just 12 tonnes, making it ideal for the narrow, twisting roads along which it would have to be transported along Indian's Himalayan frontiers.

Besides OFB and DRDO guns, two private entities - Tata Power SED and Bharat Forge have also successfully demonstrated capability in developing artillery guns on their own. Manufacturing of weapon systems have been the sole preserve of government sector which had the technological infrastructure but with the entry of these  vendors has clearly implicated that the Indian private sector has the requisite technical and manufacturing skills and capable of taking on the challenge.

TATA's Mounted Gun System (MGS): Tata Power SED has developed a prototype 155mm 52 calibre truck-mounted gun  howitzer called as the mounted gun system (MGS). Mounted on a 8X8 truck, the gun is 52 percent indigenous and has undergone  dynamic firing  followed by road trials. The weapon system has tactical and road strategic mobility and has a range of 600 km without refueling, travelling at speeds of up to 85 km/hr. It can fire all types of 155mm NATO standard rounds, standard HE ammunition, Extended Range (Base Bleed) ammunition and Rocket Assisted Ammunition to the desired range. The platform has on board ammunition, carrying capacity of 26 projectiles and 26 charges. The main weapon along with its sub-assemblies is planned to be manufactured in India on ToT.

45-48
The company plans to offer the gun for the Army's tender for 814 such truck-mounted guns worth over Rs 8,500 crore. The firm has already presented the Government with a detailed roadmap for the indigenous production of its mounted gun.

Bharat Forge's Bharat 5: As for Bharat Forge, it is developing/producing a towed version of a 155 mm howitzer, named as Bharat 52, to meet the demand of the Indian Army and has a deadline of 2015 for its completion. The company imported an entire gun, the GHN-45 to absorb technology; while simultaneously buying and importing an entire production line from RUAG of Switzerland. As of now, the gun is to undergo testing and the company has already put its request to MoD for testing facility. The system uses self-propelling capability and automatic laying, enabling rapid 'shoot and scoot' even with towed guns. The self propelling system can move the cannon at a speed of up to 30 km/h, and provide sufficient mobility for change of positions. The system weighs 14 tons and has a maximum firing range of 41 km, with 3-5 rounds per minute rate of fire.
However, considering the fact that the shortfalls in the artillery are alarmingly high and escalating as most of the guns are obsolete, these indigenous developments could provide much needed respite, even though it will take at least five years before the Army gets the indigenous guns.

There is no denying the fact that private sector companies have demonstrated greater and highly-effective resource planning and resource utilisation. Comprehensive project management coupled with better supply-chain management, results in avoiding time and cost over-runs.  The public and private sectors should complement each other with spirit of creating healthy competition to meet the requirements of the Armed Forces. In the past lack of indigenous capability has made the MoD to take on the import route for artillery procurements which however till date have not yielded any results. With upgrades and modernization for its artillery systems long overdue and the capability being shown by the public and private entities in developing indigenous howitzers, there definitely does not seem any further requirement of going the import way for the procurement of  some variants of artillery guns to meet the requirements of the Army. Rather, on the other hand, the Government should provide the requisite funding and encouragement to private vendors to come up with the manufacturing and subsequently opening up for production line of guns. This in turn will not only save the long and expensive global tendering process and dependency on imports but also the country will be able to develop the much required strong DIB.

Ritika Behal

Ritika Behal

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