Military & Aerospace

The pitfalls in evolution of Indian Army-III
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After 1962 a big fillip was given to the project by setting up a production infrastructure in the way of tooling facilities and extensive proving trials of prototypes. Production was started on an emergency basis under an energetic retired brigadier of artillery, and the first 75-mm Indian pack howitzers were ready for commissioning in the later half of 1967. The gun had a range of 12,800 metres and a shell weight of about 14 pounds. In addition to being towed it could be carried by mule pack. Despite its crude appearance it proved an accurate and sturdy weapon to withstand sustained firing.

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Along with the development of this gun the development of road communications in the Himalayan border regions was pursued at a fast pace. As the gun became available for introduction in the field force a road network also came into being, allowing for flexibility in moving heavy guns in operational areas. At its very birth however a cry was raised that the new gun was redundant. Formation commanders now demanded a weapon with a heavier shell to deal with defences with overhead cover instead of a 14-pounder which on exploding made hardly any impact on the type of defences likely to be encountered in the region.

Book_India_wars_sinceBy this time a factory had been set up and a large number of these guns were on the production line. The manufacturing process could not be reversed and the mountain formations had to be satisfied with a gun they were reluctant to accept. The replacement of the 25-pounder was also engaging the attention of the authorities. The manufacture of a 105-mm field gun was also vigorously pursued, and the first lot off the production line was put into service in late 1972.


  1. Asian Recorder, Vol XII, No 23, “New Chief of Army Takes Cver,” p. 7176.
  2. Asian Recorder, Vol XII, No 22, “New Mountain Gun,” p. 7102.

But production was not sufficient to replace the 25-pounder completely. The replacement process perforce had to be slowed, and as a result the majority of field regiments continued to be armed with the obsolescent gun. The Indian 105-mm gun was a hotch-potch of several known foreign designs and heavier than others of equivalent calibre, but it was an Indian gun, and that is what mattered most. Its ammunition inventory, especially of the sophisticated variety, was experiencing teething troubles, but those were bound to be solved. Of the mortar units, the 4.2-inch World War lI mortar was replaced by the 120-mm Tempela and Brandt, of Finnish and French design respectively.

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Facilities were later created for manufacturing the Brandt under licence and eventually to phase out the Tempela. The Soviet 130-mm field gun was selected to equip new medium regiments for the infantry divisions operating in the plains and to equip independent artillery brigades created to increase the firepower of the field force. Established regiments equipped with the British 5.5-inch howitzer were relegated to support the mountain divisions earmarked for operations in the Himalayas, where road conditions and crest clearance constraints forbade the use of the Russian gun. In view of the importance attached to developing an Indian 105-mm field gun the manufacture of a medium gun was temporarily shelved.

The failure of the Pakistani guerilla operations can be attributed to lack of popular support in the valley. Indiscriminate Pakistani burning of houses further alienated the local population.

In the sphere of defence against aerial attack the Army had inherited one heavy ack ack (HAA) regiment equipped with the British 3.7-inch HAA gun integrated with an early warning and gun control radar system well tried out in the Battle of Britain. The system was meant to take on high-flying aircraft, mainly bombers, especially in the hours of darkness or when visibility was poor. At a low level there were six to eight regiments equipped with 40-mm light ack ack (LAA) Bofor guns of Swedish make. The sighting of this weapon was visual and firing control manual. For early warring, a ring of observation posts was established all round protected vulnerable points. The gun system and the concept were mainly meant for pistonpropelled aircraft flying at slow speeds compared with jetcraft. These units were allocated on an ad hoc basis, some to field formations, some for defence of air bases, and yet others for civilian targets.

Very little effort was made initially to build integrated air defences for vulnerable areas jointly by the Air Force and the Army. Radar cover for early warning with both service wings was very scanty, and no effort was made to organize manual observation with fast communications along the border to alert the Air Force and air defence guns in time. As a result each was left to fend for itself. After the Chinese invasion the authorities became aware of air defence requirements, especially the glaring shortcomings brought out by an air defence exercise carried out in 1963 in conjunction with the United States Air Force. The Americans employed the latest sophisticated air defence systems and demonstrated their efficacy against likely threats with telling effect, bringing home the serious gaps in Indian thinking and actions.

As follow-up action, India procured some early warning radar systems and tried to create a communications network to serve the minimum requirements of early warning and co-ordinate the activities of the executing agencies. Only a beginning had been made when war broke out in 1965. The air defence units gave a good account of themselves individually against Pakistani air attacks wherever employed and won national acclaim, but the shortfall in the performance of early warning, and the overall integration of air defence resources was revealed glaringly.

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Since the air attacks penetrated deep to take on civilian targets the Government soon became alive to the problem and speeded up followup action. The responsibility for air defence was divided between the Air Force and the Army. Defence against high-level attacks went to the Air Force, which in addition to the air-to-air aspect took over ground-to-air weaponry. It acquired the Russian SAM-3 guided missile to raise a number of air defence missile units. The Air Force was rapidly expanded, and some different flying cadres were transferred to ground jobs created by the programme of expansion. The only surviving heavy air defence regiment on the Indian Army strength was consequently converted into a light air defence regiment and discarded the outmoded 3.7-HAA gun.

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