More Mus­cle for Ar­tillery

SP's LandForces - - FRONT PAGE - Lt Gen­eral P.C. Ka­toch (Retd)

The Army is cur­rently in the process of in­duct­ing 145 x M777 Ul­tra Light­weight How­itzers from BAE Sys­tems at a cost of about $750 mil­lion. K9 Va­jra-T 155 mm/52 cal­i­bre tracked self-pro­pelled gun sys­tem is also un­der in­duc­tion. De­vel­oped by L&T in con­junc­tion Hanwa Tech Win of Repub­lic of Korea, the K9 VA­JRA-T is a vari­ant of K9 Thun­der ca­pa­ble of with­stand­ing 14.5 mm ar­mour piercing rounds.

The Army is cur­rently in the process of in­duct­ing 145 x M777 Ul­tra Light­weight How­itzers from BAE Sys­tems at a cost of about $750 mil­lion. K9 Va­jra-T 155 mm/52 cal­i­bre tracked self-pro­pelled gun sys­tem is also un­der in­duc­tion. De­vel­oped by L&T in con­junc­tion Hanwa Tech Win of Repub­lic of Korea, the K9 VA­JRA-T is a vari­ant of K9 Thun­der ca­pa­ble of with­stand­ing 14.5 mm ar­mour piercing rounds.

THE IN­DIAN ARMY RE­QUIRES some 3,000-4,000 ar­tillery pieces over the next 15 years. Four type of guns and how­itzers are presently un­der in­duc­tion: one, M777 155mm ul­tra light how­itzer (ULH), two, K9 Va­jra Self-Pro­pelled 155mm Tracked How­itzer, three, 155mm/52 cal­iber Ad­vanced Towed Ar­tillery Gun Sys­tems (ATAGS), and; four, 45 cal­i­bre Dhanush 155 mm Gun and Up­gunned 45 Cal­i­bre 155 mm Dhanush how­itzer. The Army is cur­rently in the process of in­duct­ing 145 x M777 Ul­tra Light­weight How­itzers from BAE Sys­tems (USA) at a cost of about $750 mil­lion. K9 Va­jra-T 155 mm/52 cal­i­bre tracked self-pro­pelled gun sys­tem is also un­der in­duc­tion. De­vel­oped by L&T in con­junc­tion Hanwa Tech Win (HTW) of Repub­lic of Korea (ROK), the K9 VA­JRA-T is a vari­ant of K9 Thun­der ca­pa­ble of with­stand­ing 14.5 mm ar­mour piercing rounds, 152 mm shell frag­ments, and anti-per­son­nel mines; main ar­ma­ment of 155 mm/52 cal­iber; max­i­mum firing range of 40 km; mo­bil­ity range of 75 km and; CBRN pro­tec­tion.

In Septem­ber 2015, L&T emerged as sole qual­i­fied bid­der and fi­nal­ist based on the per­for­mance of the K9 Va­jra-T; the 4,500 crore ($800) mil­lion con­tract be­ing for sup­ply of 100 how­itzers to the In­dian Army. The MoD had given the con­tract to L&T in May 2017. Un­der the con­tract, L&T was asked to de­liver 100 guns with over 50 per cent indige­nous com­po­nents, in 42 months. Un­der the con­tract, L&T is de­liv­er­ing 25 guns now. On Au­gust 25, 2018, the De­fence Ac­qui­si­tion Coun­cil (DAC) chaired by De­fence Min­is­ter ap­proved pro­cure­ment of 150 x 155mm/52 cal­i­bre Ad­vanced Towed Ar­tillery Gun Sys­tems (ATAGS). The ATAGS have been de­vel­oped in­dige­nously by the De­fence Re­search & De­vel­op­ment Or­gan­i­sa­tion (DRDO) part­ner­ing with Bharat Forge Ltd, Tata Power SED and Mahin­dra De­fense Naval Sys­tem un­der the ‘Make in In­dia’ ini­tia­tive. Ac­qui­si­tion cost of 150 ATAGS will re­port­edly be around $490 mil­lion although con­tract for their ac­qui­si­tion is yet to be con­cluded by Min­istry of De­fence (MoD).

De­vel­op­ment of ATAGS hav­ing com­menced in 2013 was com­pleted by March 2017 and user tri­als have been con­tin­u­ing since. Six pro­to­types of the ATAGS have been man­u­fac­tured to date. ATAGS is a how­itzer gun ca­pa­ble of firing five rounds in short du­ra­tion with an ef­fec­tive range of up to 40 km, de­pend­ing on the am­mu­ni­tion type. Given its light weight, it is well suited for de­ploy­ment in moun­tain­ous re­gions. ATAGS will sup­ple­ment the indige­nous ‘Dhanush’ which is 155mm/45 cal­iber ar­tillery gun, Dhanush, an im­proved de­riv­a­tive of the FH-77B 155 mm/39 cal­i­bre Bo­fors, 414 quan­tity of which In­dia ac­quired from Swe­den between 1987 and 1991. In 2014, pro­to­type of Dhanush was made ready for user trial and eval­u­a­tion. But tri­als were marred by in­ci­dents of mis­fires. First, the shell burst within the bar­rel. Sub­se­quent rounds of tri­als were held suc­cess­fully but again dur­ing user ex­ploita­tion in 2017 there were two in­ci­dents of muz­zle hits, which led to a fur­ther set back. The in­ci­dents were re­ported to be due to am­mu­ni­tion prob­lems and not the gun though doubts nat­u­rally rose about met­al­lurgy of the bar­rels. The am­mu­ni­tion too is pro­duced un­der aegis of the OFB, and there have been hosts of com­plaints of faulty am­mu­ni­tion over the years with dif­fer­ent types of weapons. Af­ter in­ter­nal tri­als at Bala­sore range in Odisha dur­ing March 2018 by the GCF, the guns were again pre­sented to the Army in first week June. The trial firing con­tin­ued for five days and with no in­ci­dent re­ported, the OFB hopes that the army would fi­nally clear the weapon sys­tem.

On June 7, 2018, Dhanush com­pleted the fi­nal round of user ex­ploita­tion tri­als with a full bat­tery of six guns firing 300 rounds at Pokhran ranges. No ma­jor is­sues were re­ported dur­ing firing and as per the OFB, ac­cu­racy and con­sis­tency of the guns were ex­cep­tional, and the guns are ready for in­duc­tion into the Army. The gun has been de­vel­oped by Gun Car­riage Fac­tory (GCF), Ja­balpur comes un­der the OFB, with lat­ter un­der the Depart­ment of De­fence Pro­duc­tion (DoPD) of MoD. Dhanush re­port­edly has max­i­mum ef­fec­tive range of 38 km in salvo mode, ca­pa­ble of firing eight rounds per min­utes and needs crew of six to eight. Dhanush was re­port­edly de­clared ready for in­duc­tion in June 2018 but the con­tract is yet to be signed by MoD.

The Army re­port­edly wanted to or­der 114 x Dhanush how­itzers in the first batch this year. DRDO ex­pects MoD to or­der a to­tal of 414 Dhanush how­itzer guns. An up­graded vari­ant of the Dhanush how­itzer gun, des­ig­nated Dhanush Ver­sion 2 (V2) with a larger cal­i­bre (from 45 to 52mm) and a slightly in­creased range of 42 km is cur­rently un­der de­vel­op­ment. Over­all field­ing of th­ese guns and how­itzers will take con­sid­er­able time, but once com­pleted, it will in­crease the fire­power of the Army sub­stan­tially.

The Army re­port­edly wanted to or­der 114 x Dhanush how­itzers in the first batch this year. DRDO ex­pects MoD to or­der a to­tal of 414 Dhanush how­itzer guns.

PHO­TOGRAPHS: US DoD, L&T Heavy En­gi­neer­ing, OFB

(Left, top) M777 155 mm how­itzer in ac­tion; (above) K9 VA­JRA-T 155mm 52 cal­i­bre gun and (right) Dhanush 155mm ar­tillery gun.

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