Mod­erni­sa­tion of Ar­tillery

Lt General V.K. Kapoor (Retd)


AS PART OF ITS Ar­tillery Mod­erni­sa­tion Plan, the In­dian Army is look­ing at in­duct­ing sev­eral types of how­itzers through in-house man­u­fac­ture by DRDO/Ord­nance Fac­tory Board, in­ter­gov­ern­men­tal pacts and global ten­ders. The last ma­jor ac­qui­si­tion of towed gun-how­itzers was that of 400 pieces of 39-cal­i­bre /155mm FH-77B how­itzers with a range of 30-km from Bo­fors of Swe­den in 1987. This gun proved its met­tle in the Kargil con­flict. Af­ter about 25 years of ne­glect the ar­tillery mod­erni­sa­tion con­tin­ues to stag­nate.

At­tempts are be­ing made to res­ur­rect and ful­fil its long-post­poned 1999 Field Ar­tillery Ra­tio­nal­i­sa­tion Plan (FARP), un­der which the army aims to im­port, lo­cally de­velop, and li­cence-pro­duce around 3,000, 155mm how­itzers of var­i­ous cat­e­gories to equip 220-odd ar­tillery reg­i­ments for an es­ti­mated 56,000 to 63,000 crore ($8-9 bil­lion). These in­clude 1,580 towed gun sys­tems (TGS), 814 mounted gun sys­tems (MGS), 100 self-pro­pelled how­itzers (SPHs) — all of which are 155mm/52cal­i­bre — and 145 BAE Sys­tems M777 155mm/39-cal­i­bre light­weight how­itzers. Lo­cally up­graded and retrofitted guns will make up ad­di­tional num­bers.

Tri­als of 155mm towed how­itzers of Nex­ter and El­bit Sys­tems

Tri­als in­volv­ing two com­pet­ing 155mm/52-cal­i­bre towed guns for the Min­istry of De­fence (MoD) 2011/12 ten­der for 1,580 such plat­forms con­cluded in Novem­ber 2015. The two guns are cur­rently un­der­go­ing General Staff eval­u­a­tion by the army be­fore one is short­listed and price ne­go­ti­a­tions be­gin. Tri­als for two sys­tems namely the Nex­ter’s 155mm ‘Trajan’ 155mm/52-cal­i­bre how­itzer, and Is­raels ATHOS 2052 gun built by El­bit were re­quired to un­dergo the sup­ple­men­tary tri- als from mid-2015 af­ter com­plet­ing desert and high-al­ti­tude fir­ings in 2013-14. The army plans to ac­quire 400 guns un­der the De­fence Procur­ment Pro­ce­dure’s (DPP) ‘Buy and Make (For­eign)’ cat­e­gory and li­cence-build the re­main­ing 1,180 how­itzers. Nex­ter is a French Gov­ern­ment com­pany for­merly called GIAT has a tie-up with Larsen &Tubro (L& T) and El­bit from Is­rael has tied up with the Kalyani Group/ Bharat Forge in Pune, but who will be the des­ig­nated man­u­fac­turer of the short­listed how­itzer is presently not known.

Self-pro­pelled how­itzers (SPH) K9 Va­jra-T:

In De­cem­ber 2015 the MoD be­gan price ne­go­ti­a­tions with L&T for 100 mod­i­fied South Korean SPHs, worth around

5,600 crore ($800 mil­lion). The K9 Va­jraT, an L&T ver­sion of Sam­sung Tech­win’s K9 Thunder 155mm/52-cal­i­bre gun cus­tomised for In­dia’s 2012 SPH ten­der, was short­listed for ac­qui­si­tion in late Septem­ber 2015 fol­low­ing tri­als the pre­vi­ous year. In these the K9 bested Rus­sia’s MSTA-S selfpro­pelled gun, which had been mod­i­fied to 155mm/52-cal­i­bre stan­dard and mounted on a T-72 tank chas­sis.

Ac­cord­ing to in­dus­try sources the K9, which is be­ing pro­cured un­der the DPP 2012 ‘Buy (Global)’ cat­e­gory, will be built at L&T’s Tale­gaon fa­cil­ity near Pune. This clas­si­fi­ca­tion per­mits do­mes­tic com­pa­nies to en­ter into tie-ups with OEMs to of­fer co­op­er­a­tively de­vel­oped equip­ment and plat­forms to the In­dian mil­i­tary. The K9 is ex­pected to con­tain some 13 ma­jor in­dige­nous sub­sys­tems, in­clud­ing its fire con­trol, am­mu­ni­tion han-

dling, and nu­clear, bi­o­log­i­cal, and chem­i­cal (NBC) sys­tem and muz­zle ve­loc­ity radar, to help it by­pass the 30 per cent off­set obli­ga­tion. Mil­i­tary sources say the SPH deal is likely to be signed dur­ing the up­com­ing fi­nan­cial year, be­gin­ning April 1, and in­cludes a fol­low-on op­tion for an ad­di­tional 50 K9 guns.

Cat­a­pult the in­terim so­lu­tion: In the in­terim the army is ex­pected to in­duct 40 indige­nously de­vel­oped Cat­a­pult Mk II SPHs, which mount a 130mm gun on the chas­sis of the lo­cally de­signed Ar­jun MBT. These will re­place an equal num­ber of Cat­a­pult Mk Is, de­signed in the early 1980s by mat­ing the M-46 weapons onto the length­ened chas­sis of an OFB-built Vi­jayanta (Vick­ers Mk 1) MBT.

145 Ul­tra light how­itzers (M777)

In May 2015 the MoD ap­proved the im­port of 145 M777s along with Selex Laser In­er­tial Point­ing Sys­tems (LINAPS) via the US for­eign mil­i­tary sales (FMS) pro­gramme. On Fe­bru­ary 17, 2016, the United States sub­mit­ted its let­ter of ac­cep­tance (LoA) sanc­tion­ing In­dia’s pur­chase of 145 M777s. Other than the upwardly re­vised ten­der price of around 4,900 crore ($700 mil­lion), the LoA in­cluded de­liv­ery sched­ules, guar­an­tees, and af­ter-sales tech­ni­cal, ma­te­rial, and spares sup­port, BAE Sys­tems is also be­lieved to have sub­mit­ted to the MoD its list of off­set agree­ments with lo­cal com­pa­nies, val­ued at 30 per cent of the over­all con­tract value and es­ti­mated at around 1,400 crore ($210 mil­lion). The LoA also im­posed a 180-day dead­line on the MoD within which to con­firm the deal for the M777s and LINAPS units. The M777 pur­chase to equip the army’s 17 Moun­tain Strike Corps, which is presently be­ing raised for de­ploy­ment along the dis­puted bor­der with China, has an in­dige­nous per­spec­tive. In Novem­ber 2014 BAE Sys­tems an­nounced the trans­fer of its M777 assem­bly, in­te­gra­tion & test (AIT) fa­cil­i­ties from Hat­ties­burg, Mis­sis­sippi, to In­dia, and has se­lected Mahin­dra De­fence as its lo­cal part­ner to op­er­a­tionalise the pro­gramme, ahead of sign­ing the deal. How­ever, some key el­e­ments of the M777 will con­tinue to be sourced from the BAE Sys­tems fa­cil­ity at Bar­row-in-Fur­ness in the United King­dom. Mil­i­tary sources say the M777 num­bers could in­crease to 350-400 units.

The M777 matches the fire­power of cur­rent gen­er­a­tion 155mm towed sys­tems at less than half the weight. The how­itzer is equipped with a 39-cal­i­bre bar­rel. The muz­zle ve­loc­ity (at charge 8 su­per) is 827m/s. The max­i­mum fir­ing range is 24.7 km with unas­sisted rounds and 30 km with rock­e­tas­sisted rounds.

Ex­cal­ibur mu­ni­tions: The M777A2 can fire the Raytheon/Bo­fors XM982 Ex­cal­ibur GPS/in­er­tial nav­i­ga­tion-guided ex­tended-range 155mm pro­jec­tiles us­ing the mod­u­lar ar­tillery charge sys­tems (MACS). Ex­cal­ibur has a max­i­mum range of 40 to 57 km and ac­cu­racy of 10 m. The M777 is able to de­liver up to five rounds a minute un­der in­tense fir­ing con­di­tions and is able to pro­vide a sus­tained rate of fire of two rounds a minute.

In­dige­nous ef­forts to man­u­fac­ture 155mm how­itzer (Dhanush)

OFB have been tasked to pro­duce a 45-cal­i­bre 155mm how­itzer based on the trans­fer of tech­nol­ogy (ToT) ob­tained from Bo­fors in the 1980s. The De­fence Ac­qui­si­tion Coun­cil (DAC) ap­proved a pro­posal from the OFB to man­u­fac­ture 144 pieces of 155mm/45cal­i­bre how­itzers with the op­tion to ac­quire an­other 400 pro­vided the pro­to­types suc­cess­fully meet the army’s GSQR in user tri­als. Mean­while, the DRDO has em­barked on its own ven­ture to de­sign and de­velop a 155mm how­itzer in partnership with a pri­vate sec­tor com­pany.

The ac­qui­si­tion of 814 truck-mounted guns

This has been ap­proved by the DAC in Novem­ber 2014 will be un­der­taken un­der the ‘Buy and Make (In­dian)’ cat­e­gory with ToT. While the first 100 guns will be im­ported, 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 among the pri­vate com­pa­nies in In­dia that are likely to sub­mit pro­pos­als for the project, as re­ported by the me­dia. The to­tal project cost is es­ti­mated to be 15,750 crore.

The De­fence Ac­qui­si­tion Coun­cil ap­proved a pro­posal from the OFB to man­u­fac­ture 144 pieces of 155mm/45-cal­i­bre how­itzers with the op­tion to ac­quire an­other 400 pro­vided the pro­to­types suc­cess­fully meet the army’s GSQR in user tri­als.

(Top) M777 How­itzer (Above) Dhanush 155mm 45-cal­i­bre gun

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