Indian Artillery – Current and Future Status

Accordingly, ‘Artillery Profile’ was conceived and promulgated with emphasis on ‘Mediumisation’ of Artillery. The plans were rather ambitious and involved the acquisition of about 3,000 plus guns by 2025 at an estimated cost of $8 billion.

Issue: 6 / 2017By Lt General Naresh Chand (Retd)Photo(s): By L&T
L&T’s K9 Vajra-T 155mm/52 calibre gun

There has ben no acquisition of guns for the Indian Artillery since 1987 when 410 pieces of 39-calibre 155mm FH-77B howitzers were acquired from Sweden’s AB Bofors. The contract was embroiled in issues of corruption and alleged malpractices which prevented all efforts for modernization of Artillery. This lead to large voids in fire power of the Indian Army. The alarming state of voids resulted in the evolvement of Field Artillery Rationalization Plan (FARP) in 2000 As part of FARP, 155mm calibre was made the standard gun system for Indian Artillery. Accordingly, ‘Artillery Profile’ was conceived and promulgated with emphasis on ‘Mediumisation’ of Artillery. The plans were rather ambitious and involved the acquisition of about 3000 plus guns by 2025 at an estimated cost of $8billion. These include 1,580 towed gun systems (TGS), 814 mounted gun systems (MGS), 100 self-propelled howitzers (SPHs) and 145 BAE Systems M777 155 mm/39 calibre lightweight howitzers for the mountains. Expect for M777, all other gun systems were of 155mm/52 calibre or 45 calibre. Locally upgraded and retrofitted guns will make up additional numbers.

Tapping the Indian Industry

It was decided to tap the Indian Industry to give impetus to the growth of military industry complex in India; become self contained in armaments by encouraging indigenous development; encourage competition amongst the government and private industry to attain efficiency; gainfully employ the experience and infrastructure of India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Defence Public Sector Undertakings, and speed up the output of guns to meet the target of about 3,000 guns in a reasonable time frame. The last aspect would be achieved by giving the manufacturing contract for the same system to more than one company. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had unfurled his ‘Make in India’ vision. Such advance systems could not be developed and manufactured by purely Indian companies in a desirable time frame thus the Indian companies were allowed to collaborate with foreign companies for transfer of technologies with they being the prime contractor. This has resulted in accelerated progress towards achieving the objects of FARP.

Current Status of FARP

M777 155 mm/39 Calibre Ultra Lightweight Howitzers (ULH). The contract for procurement of 145 numbers 155mm/39 calibre ULH was signed with US Government in November 2016. These howitzers are being procured under US Foreign Military Sales Programme. As per the contract, US Government will deliver 25 fully formed howitzers from USA/UK and balance 120 howitzers will be assembled in India. The delivery of these howitzers will be completed over a period of four years.

Dhanush. Ordnance Factories Board (OFB) as been tasked to produce a 45-calibre 155 mm howitzer based on the Transfer of Technology obtained from Bofors in the 1980s. The Defence Acquisition Council 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. The gun has completed the Field Evaluation Trials less DGQA trials of Automatic Gun Sighting System and Digital Intercommunication System. The guns are currently undergoing the user exploitation to test the robustness and efficacy of the system. During the summer trials in 2017 two incidents were noticed during the user exploitation phase at Pokhran and investigation has been ordered to establish the cause. Once the investigation is completed, remedial action will be taken and user exploitation will be resumed. Post successful GS Evaluation and user exploitation, the Bulk Production Clearance for 144 guns will be granted to OFB.

55mm/52 calibre Towed Howitzer

Nexter of France has offered their gun and have tied up with Larson & Toubro (L&T). Elbit of Israel has offered their gun AT HOS 2052 and have tied up with Kalyani Group/Bharat Forge. Howitzers of both Nexter and Elbit Systems underwent competitive trials in response to the Ministry of Defence’s tender of 2011/12 for 1,580 guns which was concluded in November 2015. The two guns are currently undergoing General Staff evaluation by the army before one is shortlisted and price negotiations begin. The army plans to acquire 400 guns under the DPP’s ‘Buy and Make’ category and license build the remaining 1,180 howitzers. It is now reported 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 began price negotiations with L&T for 100 modified South Korean SPHs, worth around 5,600 crore ($800 million). The K9 Vajra-T, an L&T version of Samsung Techwin’s K9 Thunder 155mm/52 calibre gun customized for India’s 2012 SPH tender, was shortlisted for acquisition in late September after undergoing trials along with Russia’s MSTA – self-propelled 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 DPP2012 ‘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.

As a major boost to ‘Make in India’ in Defence, the Defence Acquisition Council, chaired by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in its meeting on January 16, 2018, has cleared a simplified ‘Make-II’ procedure which will enable greater participation of industry in acquisition of defence equipment

The K9 is expected to contain some 13 major indigenous subsystems, including its fire control, ammunition handling, and nuclear, biological, and chemical system and muzzle velocity radar, to help it bypass the 30 per cent offset obligation. It is learnt that the contract has already been signed, and includes a follow-on option for additional 50 K9 guns.

814 Truck-mounted guns. The Acquisition of 814 truck-mounted Guns has been approved by the Defence Acquisition Council in November 2014 and 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.

Catapult — The Interim Solution for Self-Propelled Howitzers (SPH)

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 mounting the 130mm gun onto the extended chassis of an OFB-built Vijayanta (Vickers Mk 1) MBT.

155/52 calibre Self Propelled Howitzer

L&T is expected to develop this system.

155 mm/52 Calibre Advance Towed Artillery Gun System (ATA GS). ATAGS is India’s first indigenous 155mm/52-caliber towed gun system which is being developed by Defence Research and Development Organization along with two private-sector firms, Tata Power SED and the Kalyani Group/Bharat Forge. During January 2017, two ATAGS prototypes had been made and were under trials. During September 2017, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman also attended the trial along with the COAS and the DG Artillery. Finally there will be a requirement of 1,500 towed guns costing about $4.5billion but the initial order is for the immediate requirement of 114 guns.

Ammunition

All ammunition for the guns will be made in India. Efforts are also on include the private sector in the manufacture of ammunition.

Boosting ‘Make in India’ in Defence Production by Make-II

As a major boost to ‘Make in India’ in Defence, the Defence Acquisition Council, chaired by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in its meeting on January 16, 2018, has cleared a simplified ‘Make-II’ procedure which will enable greater participation of industry in acquisition of defence equipment. This process will greatly help import substitution and promote innovative solutions. This simplified ‘Make-II’ procedure will amend the existing ‘Make Procedure’ in Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP)-2016.The revised procedure has been finalized after a series of consultations held with industry and is aimed ‘better bang for the buck’.