‘Artillery Rationalisation Plan was first perceived in the year 2000 wherein, medium guns with 155mm calibre were made the standard gun system’

Lt General Naresh Chand (Retd), Senior Technical Editor, SP’s Land Forces in an exclusive interview with Lt General P.K. Srivastava, Director General of Artillery, who spoke comprehensively on artillery’s modernisation programme and challenges thereof

Issue 4 - 2018 Photo(s): By Indian Army

SP’s Land Forces (SP’s): Conceptually within Artillery you now speak of degradation and destruction rather than neutralisation. What are the reasons for this change in concept?

Director General of Artillery (DG Arty): Neutralising the enemy aims at basically restricting his observation and hampering his mobility for a limited period of time which can be achieved by inflicting approximately 15 to 20 per cent casualties. This is an old concept when armies had limited fire support and most outcomes were a result of physical contact of ground forces. Degradation or destruction on the other hand, aims at causing 50 to 60 per cent or more casualties to the enemy forces and equipment making them useless for a protracted period of time. This shift has risen out of the need to win battles while minimising physical contact as casualties are no longer acceptable to nations. This necessitates artillery to have the capability to acquire targets at long ranges and cause their destruction with highly accurate long range weapon systems. It is, with this aim that great emphasis is being laid to surveillance, target acquisition and damage assessment along with mediumisation of artillery and the induction of long range vectors i.e, rockets and missile systems having ranges in excess of 200 km.

SP’s: It appears that the Government is ready to revive and push the Field Artillery Rationalisation Plan (FARP), under which the army aims to import, locally develop, and licence-produce some 2,820-3,000 assorted 155mm howitzers to equip its artillery regiments. What has been the progress on FARP?

DG Arty: Artillery Rationalisation Plan was first perceived in the year 2000 wherein, medium guns with 155mm calibre were made the standard gun system. This lead to mediumisation of artillery, which is very much on track. We have adopted a multipronged approach wherein strengths of the public and private sectors have been leveraged along with limited procurements from foreign agencies to usher in state-of-the-art technology. This plan has seen the successful procurement of 155mm/39 calibre ultra light howitzers from US Government and 155mm/52 calibre tracked (self-propelled) artillery guns from L&T. Indigenous gun systems like the 155mm/45 calibre Dhanush and the 155mm/52 calibre ATAGS are also being pursued.

SP’s: What has been progress on M777 ultra-light howitzers trials with Indian ammunition as there were media reports that the ammunition burst in the barrel?

DG Arty: The incident on the 155mm/39 calibre M777 ultra light howitzers that occurred while preparing firing tables, has been investigated in detail by a Joint Investigation Team of experts from the US Government and Government of India. The gun and ammunition have been cleared while some recommendations for improvement have been incorporated in the manufacturing processes. Deliveries of the gun systems have not been affected in any way by the incident and are to commence very shortly.

SP’s: What is the progress on induction of South Korea’s K9 Vajra-T self-propelled (Tracked) artillery gun?

DG Arty: The procurement of 155mm/52 calibre K9 ‘Vajra’ self-propelled (tracked) gun is progressing well. Deliveries of the gun system have commenced and will greatly enhance our capabilities in the near future.

SP’s: Defence Acquisition Council has approved 150 numbers of indigenously designed and developed 155mm Advanced Towed Artillery Guns Systems for the Indian Army at an approximate cost of 3,364.78 crore on August 25, 2018. These guns have been indigenously designed and developed by DRDO and will be manufactured by production agencies, as nominated by DRDO. They are likely to be the mainstay of artillery in the near future. Would you like to elaborate on this statement which is given in the press release of the Ministry of Defence?

DG Arty: The Advanced Towed Artillery Gun Systems has been designed to take care of futuristic requirements of the Artillery. We are whole heartedly supporting development of the same and are hopeful that the gun system would continue to get refined so that they become the mainstay of Indian Artillery and takes care of our requirements for the next two to three decades.

SP’s: What steps are being taken for the modernisation and the capacity building of Artillery Ammunition?

DG Arty: The modernisation of Artillery ammunition systems is another ongoing project that is being realised through a series of measures. These include, development of a number of precision munitions for guns, mortars, rockets and missiles. In addition, endeavours are on by the indigenous defence PSUs to develop ammunition capable of longer ranges and improved lethality. All these needs to be supported by better and more accurate acquisitions means and meteorological systems to optimise capability.

SP’s: Does the above steps include precision guided munitions (PGMs)?

DG Arty: Yes, precision guided munitions are a part of the overall plan to improve artillery ammunition. Precision ammunition system will be for a part of the arsenal of not only missile and rocket regiments but also medium regiments equipped with 155mm/52 calibre gun systems. PGMs will play a very important role in all future degradation operations.

SP’s: What are the measures being taken to improve the surveillance, target acquisition and target damage assessment?

DG Arty: Surveillance, target acquisition and target damage assessment contribute immensely to real time situational awareness, battlefield transparency and effective targeting. Therefore, this is one of the ‘key result areas’ for all of us. Towards this, we are in the process of developing multi-dimensional, multi-spectral and all weather capability for the same along with the two other services to ensure interoperability as well as the capability to cover the entire battle space. We are developing suitable ground based, airborne and satellite capabilities having sensors ranging from battle field surveillance radars, electrooptical sensors, optical devices and weapon locating and synthetic aperture radars. We are constantly monitoring developments in this field both within our country and in the international market to remain updated and upgrade our existing systems and stay ‘current’ in this very important facet of Artillery.

SP’s: Is the Artillery Battle Management System being modernised with the latest Digital Data System?

DG Arty: Yes, the Artillery Battle Management System is using the latest technology. The Battle Field Surveillance System has been automated through real time transmission of target data which can be transmitted over radio, optical fibre cable or through satellite. The details required through the surveillance resources like satellite, unmanned aerial vehicle, Battle Field Surveillance System, Long Range Recce and Observation System and Thermal Imaging Integrated Observation System are automatically transmitted through various ruggedised state of art computers connected with these equipment. The information is then collated on a command decision support system at various levels which results in a coordinated Battle Field Management.