Moderni­sa­tionM of Ar­tillery i 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

SP's LandForces - - FRONT PAGE - Lt Gen­eral V.K. Kapoor (Retd)

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 220-odd ar­tillery reg­i­ments for an es­ti­mated 56,000 crore to 63,000 crore ($8-9 bil­lion).

THE PAST 15 YEARS or so have se­verely de­graded the war fight­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the In­dian Army. The army’s ‘crit­i­cal short­ages’ and ob­so­les­cence of its cur­rent equip­ment in­clude 155 mm ar­tillery how­itzers, light util­ity he­li­copters, at­tack he­li­copters, air de­fence as­sets, var­i­ous cat­e­gories of am­mu­ni­tion, anti-tank and AD mis­sile sys­tems, in­fantry’s ba­sic weapons such as, close quar­ter bat­tle (CQB) car­bines, as­sault ri­fles, ma­chine guns, sniper ri­fles, and anti ma­te­rial ri­fles. To this de­plorable state you may add an­other neg­a­tive and that is that we do not have any night fight­ing ca­pa­bil­ity as there are no night sights on any in­fantry weapon held presently.

The ar­tillery how­itzers, cur­rently held i.e. 155 mm, 39 cal­i­bre, FH 77B (Bo­fors), are more than 30 years old be­cause af­ter ac­quir­ing these how­itzers In­dia has not ac­quired any new ar­tillery gun/how­itzer. The re­cent deal of ac­quir­ing 145, M777, Ul­tra Light How­itzers, man­u­fac­tured by BAE Sys­tems, from the US, for the moun­tain­ous re­gions will take an­other three to four years to fully fruc­tify. As a re­sult the ar­tillery as a com­bat sup­port arm, vi­tal in war, is cur­rently equipped with out­dated and ob­so­les­cent weapons which do not have the ca­pa­bil­i­ties for fight­ing on fu­ture bat­tle­fields. This ar­ti­cle per­tains to the mod­erni­sa­tion of ar­tillery.

Mod­erni­sa­tion Plan

As part of its Ar­tillery Mod­erni­sa­tion Plan, the 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. Even af­ter about 30 years of ne­glect the ar­tillery mod­erni­sa­tion con­tin­ues to stag­nate be­cause on the ground there is no change.

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 (USD8-9 bil­lion). These in­clude 1,580 towed gun sys­tems (TGS), 814 mounted gun sys­tems (MGS), 100 self-pro­pelled how­itzers (SPHs) – all of which are 155 mm/52 cal­i­bre – and 145 BAE Sys­tems M777 155 mm/39 cal­i­bre 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 155 mm/52 cal­i­bre towed guns for the MoD’s 2011/12 ten­der for 1,580 such plat­forms con­cluded in Novem­ber 2015. The two guns are cur- rently un­der­go­ing Gen­eral Staff eval­u­a­tion by the army be­fore one is short­listed and price ne­go­ti­a­tions be­gin. Tri­als for two sys­tems namely the Nex­ter’s 155 mm Tra­jan 155 mm/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 DPP’s ‘Buy and Make’ cat­e­gory and li­cence­build the re­main­ing 1,180 how­itzers. Nex­ter is a French gov­ern­ment com­pany for­merly called GIAT has a tie-up with Lar­son & Tubro (L& T) and El­bit from Is­rael has tied up with the Kalyani Group/Bharat Forge in Pune. We have now learnt that fresh tri­als have been or­dered for which two how­itzers each from Nex­ter and El­bit Sys­tems have been po­si­tioned.

Self Pro­pelled How­itzers (SPH) K9 Va­jra-T:

In De­cem­ber 2015 the Min­istry of De­fence (MoD) be­gan price ne­go­ti­a­tions with Larsen & Toubro (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 in west­ern In­dia. 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 han­dling, and nu­clear, bi­o­log­i­cal, and chem­i­cal (NBC) sys­tem and muz­zle ve­loc­ity radar, to help it by­pass the 30 per cent off­set obli­ga­tion. It is learn that the con­tract has al­ready been signed, 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 (al­most 5,000 crore). Of the 145 M-777 how­itzers, 25 guns will be given in com­pleted con­di­tion while 120 will be as­sem­bled, in­te­grated and tested in In­dia with BAE sys­tems se­lect­ing Ma­hen­dra as its busi­ness part­ner. The first two how­itzers have al­ready ar­rived in In­dia and are be­ing used to for­mu­late range ta­bles with indigenous am­mu­ni­tion.

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 1,400crore, ($210 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 How­itzer is a towed 155mm ar­tillery piece, man­u­fac­tured by the USbased BAE Sys­tems. It is one of the most ca­pa­ble guns in its class, cur­rently be­ing used by the US, Aus­tralia and Canada. Ac­cord­ing to re­ports, United Arab Emi­rates is also in the process of ac­quir­ing the gun.

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 ex­tend­e­drange 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 Man­u­fac­ture 155 mm How­itzer (Dhanush)

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

Me­dia re­ports in Au­gust 2017, state that Dhanush 155mm/45-cal­i­bre ar­tillery gun has failed on three oc­ca­sions in a row in the last three months when the shell of the gun hit the muz­zle brake in one of the six pro­to­type guns cur­rently un­der­go­ing user tri­als. In view of the prob­lems be­ing faced the in­duc­tion pro­gramme may get de­layed. As per this pro­gramme, out of 114 How­itzers in the ini­tial or­der, the first batch of 18 guns were slot­ted to be in­ducted this year, an­other 36 guns in 2018 and 60 guns in 2019, com­plet­ing the ini­tial or­der.

The Ac­qui­si­tion of 814 truck-mounted guns

This has been ap­proved by the De­fence Ac­qui­si­tion Coun­cil in Novem­ber 2014 will be un­der­taken un­der the ‘buy and make in In­dia’ cat­e­gory with trans­fer of tech­nol­ogy (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.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: US Army

BAE Sys­tems M777 ul­tra-light­weight how­itzer in ac­tion

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