Mod­erni­sa­tion of Ar­tillery and In­fantry in the In­dian Army

At­tempts are now 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


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 the De­fence Re­search and De­vel­op­ment Or­gan­i­sa­tion (DRDO)/Ord­nance Fac­tory Board (OFB), in­ter-gov­ern­men­tal pacts and global ten­ders. The last ma­jor ac­qui­si­tion of towed gun-how­itzers was that of 400 pieces of 155mm/39-cal­i­bre 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 crore to ₹ 63,000 crore. These in­clude 1,580 towed gun sys­tems (TGS), 814 mounted gun sys­tems (MGS), 100 self-pro­pelled how­itzers (SPHs) — all of which are 155mm/52-cal­iber, and 145 BAE Sys­tems M777 155mm/39cal­i­bre light­weight how­itzers for the moun­tains. 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’s (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 “Tra­jan” 155mm/52-cal­i­bre how­itzer, and Is­raels ATHOS 2052 gun built by El­bit were re­quired to un­dergo the sup­ple­men­tary tri­als from mid-2015 af­ter com­plet­ing desert and high-al­ti­tude fir­ings in 2013-14. The army plans to ac­quire 400 guns un­der the De­fence Pro­cure­ment Pro­ce­dure’s (DPP) ‘Buy and Make’ cat­e­gory and li­cence-build the re­main­ing 1,180 how­itzers. Nex­ter is a French Gov­ern­ment com­pany for­merly called GIAT has a tie-up with Larsen & Toubro (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 Larsen & Toubro for 100 mod­i­fied South Korean SPHs, worth around ₹ 5,600 crore. 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 in Ma­ha­rash­tra. This clas­si­fi­ca­tion per­mits do­mes­tic com­pa­nies to en­ter into tie-ups with the orig­i­nal equip­ment man­u­fac­tur­ers (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 han­dling, 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 Novem­ber 16, 2016, the Cab­i­net Com­mit­tee on Se­cu­rity chaired by Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi cleared the ac­qui­si­tion of the guns from the US in a gov­ern­ment-to-gov­ern­ment deal worth $737 mil­lion (ap­prox ₹ 5,000 crore). Of the 145 M777 how­itzers, 120 will be as­sem­bled, in­te­grated and tested in In­dia with BAE Sys­tems se­lect­ing Ma­hen­dra as its busi­ness part­ner. The first two how­itzers will be de­liv­ered af­ter six months of the con­tract be­ing inked, with the oth­ers fol­low­ing at the rate of two per month.

The United States sub­mit­ted its let­ter of ac­cep­tance (LoA) sanc­tion­ing In­dia’s pur­chase of 145 M777s in De­cem­ber 2016. Other than the up­wardly re­vised ten­der price, 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 ($215 mil­lion). The deal in­volves a sig­nif­i­cant ‘Make in In­dia’ com­po­nent. Mahin­dra is ex­pected to bag a ma­jor share of the con­tract. The M777 pur­chase is meant to equip the army’s 17 Moun­tain Strike Corps, which is presently be­ing raised for de­ploy­ment along the line of ac­tual con­trol (LAC) with China.

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 827 m/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)

The Ord­nance Fac­to­ries Board has been tasked to pro­duce a 155mm/45-cal­i­bre 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.

Ac­qui­si­tion of 814 Truck-mounted Guns

This has been ap­proved by the DAC in Novem­ber 2014 will be un­der­taken un­der the ‘Buy and Make in In­dia’ cat­e­gory with trans­fer of tech­nol­ogy. 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.

In­fantry Mod­erni­sa­tion

The Fu­ture In­fantry Sol­dier as a Sys­tem (F-INSAS) project was mooted in 2005 and it aimed at de­ploy­ing a fully net­worked, all-weather, and all-ter­rain in­fantry, with en­hanced fire­power and the mo­bil­ity to op­er­ate in the dig­i­talised bat­tle­field. This in­volved a mix of im­ported and lo­cally de­vel­oped sys­tems, to equip all bat­tal­ions of in­fantry and Rashtriya Ri­fles with a mo­du­lar, multi-cal­i­bre suite of weapons and body ar­mour.

The en­tire ca­pa­bil­ity de­sired in­cludes tar­get ac­qui­si­tion, com­mu­ni­ca­tions, and por­ta­ble sur­veil­lance equip­ment — in­clud­ing third-gen­er­a­tion night-vi­sion de­vices, as well as com­put­ers ca­pa­ble of trans­mit­ting and up­load­ing voice, data, and video clips on wrist dis­plays for sol­diers and clip­boards for com­man­ders. Ad­di­tion­ally, in­te­grated bal­lis­tic hel­mets with head-up dis­plays (HUDs), minia­ture ra­dios, global po­si­tion­ing sys­tems, and por­ta­ble power packs com­plete the F-INSAS makeover. The con­cern is that not even a sin­gle part of the project has made any progress.

As­sault Ri­fles

Army is on the look­out for as­sault ri­fles (AR) to re­place the INSAS 5.56mm ri­fles with tech­no­log­i­cally su­pe­rior weapons. The MoD is­sued the ten­der for 66,000, 5.56mm multi-cal­i­bre as­sault ri­fles (with in­ter­change­able bar­rels of 5.56mm and 7.62mm cal­i­bres) out of a to­tal re­quire­ment of about 2,00,000 as­sault ri­fles in Novem­ber 2011 to 43 over­seas ven­dors. Five ven­dors re­sponded pos­i­tively. How­ever, all five ven­dors com­pris­ing Ital­ian man­u­fac­turer Beretta’s ARX160, the Czech Repub­lic-based CZ’s 805 BREN, Is­rael Weapon In­dus­tries’ (IWI) ACE, and US-based Colt’s Com­bat Ri­fle were re­jected by the army fol­low­ing field tri­als in the western Ra­jasthan desert and in high-al­ti­tude re­gions.

The mil­i­tary wis­dom till now was that the 5.56mm ri­fle was bet­ter for con­ven­tional war be­cause it gen­er­ally in­jured an en­emy sol­dier, ty­ing down at least two of his col­leagues to carry him in the bat­tle­field. Con­versely, the 7.62mm ri­fle was bet­ter for counter-in­sur­gency since ter­ror­ists had to be killed at the first in­stance, elim­i­nat­ing the risk of “sui­cide bomb­ing”. Sol­diers largely use the 7.62mm AK-47 ri­fles for coun­terin­sur­gency op­er­a­tions in Kash­mir and the North East, even though the in­fantry is sad­dled with the in­dige­nous glitch-prone 5.56mm INSAS (In­dian small arms sys­tem) ri­fles. The fully-au­to­matic DRDO de­signed Ex­cal­ibur, which fires 5.56 x 45mm am­mu­ni­tion, is a much-im­proved ver­sion of INSAS ri­fle that en­tered ser­vice in 1994-95. But the army now wants 7.62mm ri­fles for greater lethal­ity. Thus the army has re-launched its quest for a mod­ern im­ported as­sault ri­fle, af­ter re­cently re­ject­ing the in­dige­nous Ex­cal­ibur, in or­der to plug a vi­tal op­er­a­tional gap. The army is once again send­ing out its global re­quest for in­for­ma­tion (RFI) for 7.62x51mm as­sault ri­fle.

The is­sue that was dis­cussed in April 2016 dur­ing the Army Com­man­ders’ Con­fer­ence was whether the force re­quired a 7.62mm ri­fle that could kill the en­emy or a 5.56mm ri­fle that could in­ca­pac­i­tate the en­emy sol­diers and the de­ci­sion was in favour of the for­mer cal­i­bre. The Army Com­man­ders unan­i­mously opted to im­port the more pow­er­ful 7.62x51mm ri­fle for its in­fantry bat­tal­ions and its100 odd coun­terin­sur­gency units (both Rashtriya Ri­fles and As­sam Ri­fles).

The in­dige­nous Ex­cal­ibur is an up­graded ver­sion of the DRDO-de­signed In­dian Small Arms Sys­tem (INSAS) 5.56x45mm as­sault ri­fle. The INSAS was re­jected by the army in 2010 for be­ing “op­er­a­tionally in­ad­e­quate”. The gas-op­er­ated, fully au­to­matic ri­fle has a fold­able butt, a Pi­catinny rail for sights, sen­sors and bipods, and its poly­car­bon­ate mag­a­zine is su­pe­rior to that of the INSAS ri­fle, known to fre­quently crack in ex­treme hot and cold cli­mates. The Ex­cal­ibur’s bar­rel is 4mm shorter than the INSAS model and its hand guard is smaller. The DRDO is also de­sign­ing a sec­ond ver­sion of the Ex­cal­ibur, the AR-2 that fires 7.62x39mm rounds used by AK-47. The AR-2 will be of­fered as an al­ter­na­tive to the AK-47, Rus­sian ori­gin, as­sault ri­fle. Till the new as­sault ri­fle be­comes a stan­dard weapon Ex­cal­ibur may be used in the in­terim to re­plen­ish stocks.


For over five years the In­dian Army has op­er­ated with­out a CQB car­bine, a ba­sic in­fantry weapon, es­sen­tial to a force which claims to be among the best in the world, ever ready to take on any chal­lenge.

The Min­istry of De­fence can­celled the De­cem­ber 2010 ten­der for 44,618, 5.56mm close quar­ter bat­tle (CQB) car­bines and 33.6 mil­lion rounds of am­mu­ni­tion on Septem­ber 29, 2016. Of­fi­cial sources said the MoD now aims to ‘fast-track’ the long-de­layed CQB pro­cure­ment for the In­dian Army via an ‘em­pow­ered com­mit­tee’, within the next 12-14 months. But the re­quest for pro­posal (RFP) for the same quan­tity of car­bines and am­mu­ni­tion, likely to be dis­patched by early 2017 will not in­clude re­flex and pas­sive night sights and vis­i­ble and in­vis­i­ble laser spot des­ig­na­tors that will be ac­quired sep­a­rately.

The orig­i­nal pro­cure­ment, for which the Is­rael Weapon In­dus­tries (IWI) ACE car­bine was short­listed along with the ri­val Ital­ian Beretta’s ARX-160 model fol­low­ing the 2011-14 tri­als, was ter­mi­nated fol­low­ing dif­fer­ences over the weapon sys­tems sights and ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in the eval­u­a­tion process. The MoD’s Direc­torate Gen­eral of Qual­ity As­sur­ance (DGQA) had cer­tain ob­jec­tions which scut­tled the pro­cure­ment process.

The pro­posed CQB car­bine RFP is ex­pected to be on the same lines as the ear­lier one in which the car­bine was re­quired to weigh less than 3 kg, fire 600 rounds per minute to a dis­tance of 250-300 me­tres and be ca­pa­ble of op­er­at­ing in ex­treme cold and hot tem­per­a­tures. It would also need to be fit­ted with a Pi­catinny rail for the sights, which would be pro­cured sep­a­rately, and mul­tipur­pose de­tach­able bay­o­nets. The weapons will be ac­quired un­der the De­fence Pro­cure­ment Pro­ce­dure (DPP) 2016 ‘Buy and Make’ cat­e­gory. The se­lected CQB ven­dor would be re­quired to trans­fer tech­nol­ogy, in all like­li­hood, to In­dia’s state-owned OFB to li­cence­build some three to four lakh car­bines. These would equip the In­dian Army’s 359-odd in­fantry bat­tal­ions and its 66 spe­cialised Rashtriya Ri­fles or counter-in­sur­gency units and even­tu­ally In­dia’s paramil­i­taries and provin­cial po­lice forces.

In De­cem­ber 2015 the MoD be­gan price ne­go­ti­a­tions with Larsen & Toubro for 100 mod­i­fied South Korean SPHs, worth around ₹ 5,600 crore

Tra­jan 155mm/52-cal­i­bre towed gun from Nex­ter Sys­tems

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