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Artillery Guns on Upward Trajectory

The recent induction of types of artillery guns signals a momentum for the Make in India in defence production. Besides boosting the artillery power of the Indian Army after almost 31 years, the indigenous production will equip units with cost-effective platforms and even open avenues for export.

 Indian Army has about 200 artillery regiments, equipped with three variants of Arty Guns, i.e., 105 mm, 130 mm and 155 mm Guns. The field artillery need to be highly maneuverable both strategically & tactically, and the Army has been looking to replace the existing 105mm guns light fields guns and 130 mm Guns with a mix of towed, mounted and wheeled artillery Guns of 155 mm Calibre. Field Artillery Rationalization Plan (FARP)  envisaged acquiring about 3,000 numbers of  155mm/52-cal towed, motorized and tracked howitzers for field artillery regiments as under:-

  • 155 mm Towed Guns-1580 numbers
  • 155 mm Air Mobile Ultra Light Howitzers-145numbers
  • 155 mm Wheeled Guns-400 numbers
  • 155 mm Self-propelled tracked guns-180numbers
  • 155 mm Mounted gun systems-814numbers

Also, there is a requirement to  upgrade of about 300 numbers of 130 mm Guns at the cost of Rs 700 crores.

 

The Upward Trajectory

The army plans to make 155-mm its basic gun due to the obvious advantage of logistics and end results in terms of range and lethality. The recently inducted, the K9 Vajra, M-777,  Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS), and Dhanush' will be part of artillery weapons mostly produced in India. The induction of these types of artillery guns also signals a momentum for the Make in India agenda in defence production. These guns are expected to boost the artillery power of the Indian Army after a lull of nearly 31 years since the Bofors guns were inducted. Once the indigenous bulk production picks up the Units will beequipped with cost-effective platforms and industry will have avenues for export. The need, employability, features and procurement Progress of the above guns are as under:-

M777  155mm 39 caliber Howitzer

The Indian Army has placed an FMS order worth about Rs. 5000 Crores for 145M  777 Howitzer a 155mm 39 caliber towed gun ultra-light guns with BAE Systems under the 'Make in India' programme. Out of these 145 howitzer guns, 25 will come in a flyaway condition, and the rest 120 will be assembled in India at the Mahindra Defene facility. Under the 'Make in India', the foreign original equipment manufacturer BAE Systems has tied up with India's private sector firm Mahindra Defence for the completion of the $750 million deal. The first five guns on the 145 foreign military sales have now been handed over to the Indian Army.

 

The maximum unassisted range of the M777 is 24.7 km, while the assisted range is of more than 30 km and the gun can be used to fire five rounds per minute for up to 2 minutes. The first batch of M777 howitzer guns was inducted into the Indian Army in November 2018.

Highly portable M777 howitzer guns can be carried easily over land, air, and sea by airlift on a Boeing Chinook heavy-lift helicopter and deployed along high altitude borders. The Indian Air Force (IAF) has recently inducted the first batch of Chinook helicopters. This means that at a very short notice, both troops and artillery guns can be transported by Chinooks to border areas in Jammu and Kashmir, giving India ready.

Out of 145 guns, the 25 guns will come to India in a fly-away condition by manufacturer BAE Systems in two years. The remaining guns will be assembled in India between 48-54 months by BAE partner Mahindra Defence Land Systems at their plant in Faridabad, Haryana.  Mahindra M777 facility will also ensure that the life cycle support is available locally thereby enhancing operational availability of the guns. BAE systems have also offered to make India global center for assembly, integration, and testing (AIT) and Sources of Spares for current operators of the gun.

OFB Dhanush

Director General Ordnance Factories (DGOF) has issued of the first batch of six 155mm x 45 Cal FH Gun Dhanush guns, the first indigenously-produced long-range artillery gun from Gun Carriage Factory (GCF) Jabalpur to Indian Army. OFB received the bulk production clearance of manufacturing of 114 guns.

'Dhanush' a 'Make in India' marvel is a new generation towed Artillery gun with indigenisation to the extent of over  81% a rare achievement in indigenous development programmes.

 

DHANUSH has the following features:-

  • Can fire older as well as next-generation charges.
  • Laying speed, firing accuracies improved.
  • Can correct itself using data even as it fires.
  • Target impact area increased by 100% over Bofors.
  • Modified loading trough for all types of charges.
  • Modified double baffle muzzle brake limits stress on the structure.
  • Gun can auto lay and has a fire control computer on board.

The later batches of OFB manufactured Dhanush Howitzer will get upgraded to 52 caliber barrels from DRDO's ATAG Program. An indent for 114 Dhanush guns already placed with the OFB, and the order could increase to as many as 400 guns.

Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS)

ATAGS is a 155-millimeter, 52-calibre gun-howitzer, designed by DRDO, and the subsystem produced mainly by private industry, i.e., TATA Power SED & Bharat Forge Ltd. The Gun with 45-kilometer range with "extended range" ammunition. Fires six rounds in 30 seconds, fastest in the world. World's first towed gun with all-electric drive weighs 16 tonnes, 2-3 tonnes heavier than comparable guns.  The production of 10 ATAGS, a 152mm 52-caliber gun, has been sanctioned as part of the development process shared between the two firms developing the gun  Kalyani Group and Tata Power SED. The MoD has cleared an initial order for 150 guns, subject to successful trials. The lowest bidder will get to build 107 guns, while the more expensive bidder will make the remaining 43, at the lowest bidder's price. Some of the significant features of the ATAGS gun are an all-electric drive, high mobility, advanced communications system, and automated command and control system.

The army could eventually induct over 1,500 of these powerful, 155 mm, 52 calibers towed guns, to  130 mm and 105 mm guns.

Self-Propelled Artillery Gun K9 Vajra

A contract for  100 self-propelled155 mm, 52 caliber artillery guns K9 Vajra under Buy Global category, worth about  Rs 4,366 crore contract was signed in May 2017 with  Larsen and Toubro partnership with South Korea's Hanwha Techwin. The first 10 K9 Vajra self-propelled artillery guns have been imported from Hanwha Techwin of South Korea in a semi-knocked down condition and have been assembled by L&T in India, while the remaining 90 guns will be mostly manufactured in India with 50 percent indigenous component. It is expected the next 40 guns will be delivered by  2019 end, and the remaining 50 by the end of 2020.

Mounted Gun System

The MGS is a regular 155-millimeter gun fitted onto a high mobility vehicle, allowing it to move faster and start firing quicker than a conventional towed gun. This system provides a high level of autonomy and shoot and scoot capability. The estimated requirement is about  814Truck-Mounted Gun Systems (MGS) for Rs. 15,750 crore is to be procured under 'Buy and Make category with the transfer of technology. The first 100 guns will be bought outright; the remaining 714 will be produced in India. Tata Power SED with its 155mm truck-mounted gun system and L&T-Ashok Leyland-Nexter with their 155mm gun are likely contenders.

 

155 mm/52caliber Towed Howitzer

The army requirement is about 1580 How, and it plans to acquire 400 guns under the 'Buy and Make' category and license build the remaining 1,180 howitzers. The Howitzer from  Nexter of France tied with  Larson & Toubro (L&T), and  Elbit of Israel tied up with Kalyani Group/Bharat Forge are under evaluation.

Ammunition Production

Most of these Artillery guns systems will fire standard NATO 155 mm ammunition and can accommodate the bi-modular charge system (BMCS) that has increased its range. The Guns with out current variant of Ammunition are of limited utility. There is the urgent need to, enhance domestic ammunition production capability by involving the private sector in the manufacturing of modular charge system, Electronic Fuzes and different varieties of precision munitions as well. The RFP issued for procurement of Ammunition over a year back needs to be expedited. The defence Armament manufacturing in Defence PSUs as well as in private Industry on a competitive basis is emerging as an area of core competency in India to meet domestic as well as global demand. The defence manufacturing has immense potential for the MSMEs to develop a manufacturing ecosystem around these weapon systems.

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