Military & Aerospace

Visualised Indian Artillery Considering Threats from China and Pakistan
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Issue Vol. 31.1 Jan-Mar 2016 | Date : 03 Aug , 2016

BAe's M777 155mm Lightweight Field Howitzer

The Regiment of Artillery needs to expedite its modernisation process particularly with regard to guns and ammunition. All our guns are more than 25 years old and need to be replaced. The first platform likely to be inducted possibly would be the 155mm M777 Ultra Light Howitzer on a Foreign Military Sales Programme from the United States. These would be about 145 pieces which would enable about eight regiments. These guns would be an asset for the Mountain Strike Corps being raised shortly.

Artillery is a combat arm which has proved its worth in the four wars that India has fought…

Artillery is a combat arm which has proved its worth in the four wars that India has fought as also the Kargil Conflict of 1999. Artillery has also maintained our ascendancy of fires across the Line of Control (LOC) and Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL). It spoke volumes when Pakistan undertook a unilateral cease fire in 2003 due to our accurate engagement of critical targets along the LOC. Yet we have to be prepared for a two-front war against China and Pakistan. It is indeed a difficult task particularly to provide firepower simultaneously on both the fronts. To undertake operations under such conditions, Artillery must be prepared to modernise and enhance its force structure to enable preponderance of firepower.

The task of the Artillery regiments would be to provide surveillance, leading to a judicious selection of targets, appropriate engagement of these targets and further undertake Post Strike Damage Assessment to confirm the state of the target and undertake further engagement to ensure destruction of the selected target. This would require surveillance and target acquisition equipment as also guns, mortars, rockets and missiles. It is pertinent to note that China and Pakistan are modernising their Artillery with state-of-the-art equipment. To match their capabilities we need to modernise our Artillery with speed and military precision.

Modernisation of Firepower in the Indian Context

China and Pakistan are leaving no stone unturned to modernise their armed forces. China has issued ten White Papers and professes peace. However, big nations have big ambitions and their intentions are unknown. Accordingly, India must be prepared to undertake operations in all five dimensions be it land, sea, air, cyber and outer space. Firepower has a place in all these dimensions and Artillery forms an important component of firepower, The Indian Army modernisation plan aims to develop prioritised capabilities through induction of high technology weapons and acquisition of force multipliers with a focus on creation of a lethal, agile and networked force to meet future security challenges.

China and Pakistan are leaving no stone unturned to modernise their armed forces…

Overall, despite multifarious views, India has to be prepared for a two-front war which could comprise cyber attacks, destruction of satellites, overwhelming use of firepower and multiple incursions. To strengthen our Army we need to modernise which entails induction of critical technologies. Therefore, there is a requirement to enhance capabilities across the spectrum to include the following:

  • Battlefield Transparency.
  • Battlefield Management Systems.
  • Night Fighting Capability.
  • Enhanced Firepower.
  • Precision Guided Weapons.
  • Integrated Manoeuvre Capability.
  • Combat Aviation Support.
  • Network Centricity.

Emphasis is also being given to make up deficiencies, upgrade existing platforms, improve infrastructure in border areas especially along the Sino-Indian border and focus on human development to harness cutting edge technologies. A new Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) that has been formulated to expedite acquisition of equipment is to be issued shortly as per the Minister of Defence Manohar Parrikar.

A new Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) that has been formulated to expedite acquisition of equipment is to be issued shortly…

Composition of Artillery

The role of Artillery is to destroy/neutralise/suppress the enemy by synergised and orchestrated application of all fire assets at selected points of decision to physically and psychologically degrade enemy cohesion with the ultimate aim of breaking his will to fight. It is an arm which can attack the centres of gravity which impact the fighting capability of the enemy. To undertake the task, Artillery equipment is based on guns, rockets, missiles and surveillance and target acquisition equipment. The Artillery equipment would be based on the operational requirement of the Indian Army catering to threats in conjunction with terrain.

With regard to guns it would be to enhance the calibre and give the Indian Artillery a 155-mm (52-calibre) as the basic gun replacing the existing 105mm and 122mm field guns. This would provide enhanced range and greater throw off at the target end. There would be other variations which would comprise 155mm Self Propelled Track Regiments for the Armoured Divisions in desert terrain, 155mm Self Propelled Wheeled for mechanised forces in riverine terrain, 155m mm Mounted Gun System for the same force to operate in semi-desert terrain and the 155mm Ultra Light Howitzer for operating in mountains as also Out of Area Contingencies. In addition, there would be regiments of light artillery of 120mm with greater range and capability to move or be mule-packed based on the requirements of the terrain. Furthermore, the rocket regiments would be a mix of GRAD, Pinaka and Smerch units. There would be regiments equipped with the super-sonic cruise missile BrahMos which would be configured for all types of terrain. This merits attention as the Artillery has to be effective at high altitudes, in jungles and in deserts.

Surveillance forms a major component of the responsibility of Artillery regiments. Artillery needs to provide surveillance cover to formations operating all over the country. The Surveillance and Target Acquisition (SATA) Regiments would be scaled at the Corps level and SATA Batteries at the Division level. The surveillance philosophy will guide the future sensor profile of these regiments. Surveillance will focus on battlefield transparency with emphasis on depth battle. Furthermore, it must be disseminated in near real time.

Modernisation of Artillery equipment would have to be a systematic process…

The essential surveillance equipment would comprise:

  • Thermal Imaging Integrated Observation Equipment.
  • Long Range Reconnaissance and Observation Equipment.
  • Battle Field Surveillance Radar – Short, Medium and Long Range.
  • Weapon Locating Radars.
  • Sound Ranging System.
  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.

The composition of Artillery equipment has been planned up to 2027 which would be the culminating year of the 14th Five Year Plan. It would enable the Regiment to build its capabilities systematically over a defined period.

Process of Modernisation

Modernisation of Artillery equipment would have to be a systematic process. Indian Artillery is currently in a Network Centric Warfare (NCW) environment and has to provide Surveillance and Reconnaissance resulting in target acquisition which would lead to engagement which needs to be monitored to undertake Post Strike Damage Assessment and ensure that the target is destroyed. In NCW, Artillery shapes the battlefield, degrades enemy’s war waging capability, destroys his field defences, communication sites, logistics echelons thereby paralysing him and thus accomplishing our mission.

The Artillery Regiment is currently equipped with a variety of surveillance devices, guns, mortars, rockets and missiles. The surveillance devices are a part of the Surveillance and Target Acquisition (SATA) Regiments which consist of four types of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). These are the Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE), Heron UAV and Short Range UAVs Searcher MK I, Searcher Mk II as also four indigenously built Nishant. These UAVs have been operationally optimised and are an extremely useful tool for surveillance. Our current holdings are minimal and their numbers need to be enhanced. The DRDO is currently developing a MALE UAV Rustom which will possibly be inducted in the near future.

Artillery equipment needs to be profiled in accordance with the terrain on which it is to be employed…

The SATA units are currently equipped with Medium Range Battlefield Surveillance Radars (MBFSR) and Weapon Locating Radars (WLR). The MBFSR currently held is the ELM 2140 which is able to detect tanks, vehicles and troops. They are held in minimal quantities and been exploited by mobile masts. The WLR currently held is the ANTPQ-37 which has been optimised with a reasonable degree of success. Furthermore, SATA units are equipped with Long Range Reconnaissance and Observation System (LORROS). This equipment has excellent day and night surveillance capability and has proved its effectiveness in operational areas. The SATA units also have a passive weapons locating system known as Sound Ranging. The system currently held is old and needs to be replaced by state-of-the-art equipment. Bharat Electronics in conjunction with DRDO has developed a Weapon Locating Radar which is undergoing evaluation of trials.

As regards guns, the Regiment is equipped with Field, Medium, Self Propelled, Light and Medium Regiments. The Field Regiments possess either the 105mm Indian Field Gun/Light Field Gun or the 122mm Field Howitzer. The Medium Regiments possess 130mm Medium Gun, 155mm Bofors Medium Gun (39 calibre) and a few regiments of Soltam Guns. The Self Propelled Regiments are equipped with 130mm Catapult and the Light Regiments are equipped with 120mm Mortars. There is also a Heavy Mortar Regiment equipped with 160mm Mortars. The Regiment of Artillery is holding rockets and missiles. The rocket regiments are equipped with 122mm GRAD BM -21 rockets, 214mm Pinaka Rockets and 300 mm Smerch Rockets. The Missile Regiments are equipped with the super-sonic cruise missile BrahMos which has a range of 290 km.

Apart from this, the Regiment hold a variety of ammunition to include High Explosive, Smoke, Illuminating, Cargo, Kransopol Precision Guided Munition (PGM), Terminally Guided Sub-Munition and Fuel Air Explosives. While the surveillance equipment, rockets and missiles are modern, the guns and ammunition are reaching obsolescence and need to be replaced at the earliest. The Regiment has started the process of inducting Artillery Combat Command and Control System for state-of-the-art communications between the Observation Post and Guns.



Artillery equipment needs to be profiled in accordance with the terrain on which it is to be employed and the operational role of the formation to which it is affiliated. Based on the terrain and role, there would be need for multifarious equipment such as the towed gun, Self Propelled (Track), Self-Propelled (Wheeled), Mounted Gun System (MGS), Ultra Light Howitzer and mortars. While all these weapon systems would be used for close support, there would be a need to reinforce them with rockets and missiles.

Artillery has been a frontrunner in the Make in India process…

The Artillery profile has correctly analysed the need to have 155mm (52-Calibre) as the main equipment to replace the 105mm Indian Field Gun, 105mm Light Field Gun and the 122mm Howitzer. A Divisional Artillery Brigade would be equipped with possibly four such regiments along with a Light Regiment. Our 122mm Howitzer has become obsolete and currently there are no spares available. Similarly the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) has stopped producing the 105mm Indian Field Gun and is currently manufacturing only the Light Field Gun.

The trials for the 155mm (52-calibre) date back to the beginning of the 21st century. Currently, trials have just concluded in which two equipment have participated. These are the 155mm Nexter from France and 155mm Gun from Elbit, Israel. Overall there is a requirement of 2,820 artillery pieces in Towed, Mounted, Self Propelled (SP) (Track and Wheeled) and Ultra Light Howitzers. Apart from these, there is a need for additional surveillance equipment, Smerch Rocket Regiments for the mountains and steep-dive Brahmos missiles for use at higher altitudes.

Measures Underway

There are numerous measures being undertaken to address these requirements. Within the constraints of our existing DPP 2013, trials have been conducted recently for the155mm (52 calibre) Towed Gun and the 155mm (52-calibre) (SP) Tracked Gun. Both these guns are under General Staff evaluation. The Ultra Light Howitzer from BAE system is resting at the final stages of procurement from the US under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme. Meanwhile the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) has successfully evaluated the 155mm (45-calibre) Gun and an indent for 444 Guns is being placed by the Indian Army.

A state-of-the-art 155mm gun can be manufactured indigenously but with foreign assistance…

The Self Propelled Gun K-9 Thunder has been selected after trials and commercial negotiations are being progressed. Furthermore, the Request for Proposal (RFP) is being issued for 814 Mounted Gun System. As regards UAVs, two additional troops of Heron are being inducted. Three regiments of BrahMos supersonic missiles have been inducted for the Indian Army and an additional regiment with steep dive- capability is being contracted for use at high altitudes. It is indeed creditable that BrahMos has successfully concluded the steep dive trials. The speed of acquisition needs to be expedited as the equipment currently held needs replacement.

Make in India

Artillery has been a frontrunner in the Make in India process. Currently, the Regiment has 155mm (45-Calibre) Soultam, Pinaka Multi Barrel Rocket Launcher and BrahMos Supersonic Cruise Missiles which are indigenously manufactured. Dhanush, for which an indent is being placed, is manufactured by the OFB.

There are numerous companies involved in the manufacture of 155mm guns with foreign assistance. Tatas have manufactured a 155mm (52-calibre) Mounted Gun System possibly with the help of a South African Company, L&T are manufacturing with the help of Nexter in France and Bharat Forge have produced a 155mm gun with help possibly from Austria and has a consortium with Elbit of Israel. Apart from this, the DRDO is developing an Advanced Artillery Gun and has assisted the OFB in mounting the 130mm gun on the Arjun chassis to provide an alternative to the catapult. All these guns need to be evaluated and thereafter these could be offered for user trials. However, proving any gun is a long process which the companies are well aware of. It is to the credit of Tatas and L&T that they have manufactured the Pinaka Multi Launcher Rocket System indigenously.

There are ranges available for testing of these guns but the procedure for testing needs to be formalised. It is indeed creditable that the upgrade of the 130mm to 155mm is being undertaken as a Buy and Make in India project by Indian companies.

The Regiment of Artillery needs to expedite its modernisation process particularly with regard to guns and ammunition…

Suggested Process for Developing Artillery Guns

The process involving construction of a gun entails manufacturing a barrel, the mounting and carriage (platform) as also state-of-the-art autonomous sighting system. Out of all these components, the most difficult part is the barrel which needs to be auto frettaged to enable it to withstand high pressure of up to 20,000 g which is developed when a shell is fired. A barrel during war may have to undertake sustained fire of about 200-300 shells in a 24-hour cycle. Apart from the auto frettage equipment, the metal used for the 155mm barrel needs to have very high degree of elasticity.

The recoil system particularly for a long barrel like the 155mm (52 calibre) need correct designing to absorb the stress of firing and get the barrel safely back to its original position. The carriage and mounting need accurate designing to hold the barrel correctly at angles of elevation from about three degrees to 70 degrees depression. The sighting system must be autonomous with the capability to automatically lay the barrel for all angles of azimuth and elevation. To add to these components there is a requirement to make the gun mobile to scoot and thereafter shoot to respond to enemy’s counter bombardment. This leads to the addition of an Auxiliary Propulsion Unit (APU) which would be needed with all modern guns. The APU also assists in loading, laying, ramming and closing as well as opening the breech block. All components have to be harmonised to make it a foolproof, fail-safe mechanism. It is undoubtedly a complex process and possibly there are just a score of manufacturers who can undertake the process.

It is to the credit of the Directorate General of Artillery and OFB for developing a 155mm (45-calibre) Gun. Known as Dhanush, the gun has been trial evaluated and is likely to be inducted shortly. The gun has been fabricated with the help of Transfer of Technology documents obtained while procuring the Bofors gun. Approximately 444 pieces of this equipment is to be inducted on acceptance of the developed equipment. Accordingly, a state-of-the-art 155mm gun can be manufactured indigenously but with foreign assistance. The same is true of automobiles, aircraft, ships and spacecraft wherein we have undertaken indigenous manufacture with assistance from foreign companies. Viewing our existing requirement this could be undertaken by either the private or public sector. Alternatively, a Public-Private-Partnership could be undertaken like the 214mm Multi Barrel Rocket Launcher Pinaka. This is developed by DRDO and manufactured by TATA and L&T.

The first platform likely to be inducted possibly would be the 155mm M777 Ultra Light Howitzer from the US…

Going Forward

The Regiment of Artillery needs to expedite its modernisation process particularly with regard to guns and ammunition. All our guns are more than 25 years old and need to be replaced. The first platform likely to be inducted possibly would be the 155mm M777 Ultra Light Howitzer from the US. These would be about 145 pieces which would enable about eight regiments. These guns would be an asset for the Mountain Strike Corps being raised shortly.

The next on the list would be the 155mm 45-calibre to be manufactured by the OFB based on Transfer of Technology documents received during the initial deal with Bofors. The trials are complete and efforts are on to indent 444 Guns to replace the existing field guns, Trials are also complete for the Self Propelled Gun and the 155mm (52-calibre) Towed Gun. An RFP is being issued for the 155mm (52-calibre) Mounted Gun System. Based on the urgency these guns would undergo trials and possibly be ready for induction in another five years. The process of induction would possibly be spread over ten years and by about 2030; we would have a new set of guns and equipment which would replace our existing guns. Our mortars need to be replaced and an RFP needs to be forwarded.

As regards ammunition, we need to seriously examine the introduction of PGMs to ensure destruction of targets by accurate fire. The Regiment of Artillery needs to seriously consider this aspect and evaluate our requirements considering the prevalent operational environment. Further Sensor-Fuzed Ammunition needs to be procured for precise engagements of mechanised targets.

The Smerch Rocket System for the Mountains needs to be acquired. As also BrahMos with steep dive capability needs to be deployed on the Sino-Indian Borders. Our surveillance equipment needs to be beefed up with additional equipment as also there is a dire need for Satellites, Aerostats and Loitering Missiles. The Artillery Combat Command and Control System (ACCCS) will be combining these elements to provide and synergise firepower.

Artillery is a decisive arm which has to be modernised expeditiously…

Procurements in the Immediate Future

The next two years would witness induction of possibly the following:

  • 155mm Ultra Light Howitzer (39calibre) would be procured and the first pieces would be in the Indian Artillery in the next two years. This would be enhancing our flexibility particularly in the mountainous regions as also in Out Of Area Contingencies.
  • 155mm (45-calibre) Dhanush guns would have entered the Indian Artillery.
  • Steep dive regiment of BrahMos would be inducted for the mountains.
  • Indigenously developed Weapon Locating Radar would be inducted in the plains sector.
  • Apart from these RFP would have been issued for the Mounted Gun System and first regiment of 155mm SP K-9 Thunder would be inducted.


Artillery is a decisive arm which has to be modernised expeditiously. The Regiment must strain every sinew to ensure that procurement of equipment takes place with speed and military precision.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Maj Gen PK Chakravorty

former Additional Director General Artillery.

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9 thoughts on “Visualised Indian Artillery Considering Threats from China and Pakistan

  1. I’m wondering if the ammunition will be NATO Std? Also will there be upgrades to 58 Caliber? New NATO equipments will have longer range with greater caliber weapons and rocket assist smart projectiles for precision fires.

  2. India suffered lot of casualty’s in the Kargil war; this is the fact that the Pakistanis had weapon locating Radar? The Pakistanis were able locate your weapons and direct fire on to your Artillery. It does not matter what amount Artillery India has if you are not able to knock out the other side. If India has not learned how to knock out the enemy Artillery then the ground troops will suffer Heavy casualties, the Chinese and the Pakistanis will make it hard for India and do much damage.

  3. Every country is interested to modernize its Armed Forces and India is no exception. There is a long shopping list with Indian Artillery Commanders in a quest of modernization of Artillery equipment but there should be some end. Notions like “India has to be prepared for a two-front war against China and Pakistan” is an impressive theme to attract the attention of Indian Parliamentarians but Indian military Commanders and strategists should never forget that China has already issued a White Paper desiring peace with its neighbours including India. On the other hand Pakistan has already signed agreements with India and does not believe in strike first or an offensive strategy. One needs to understand that foreign powers are misleading New Delhi about India and Pakistan hegemonic military designs.

    With regard to Indian desire purchase 155mm M777 Ultra Light Howitzer from the US, New Delhi should learn lesson from US-Pakistan military pacts including CENTO and SEATO, which provided that the US-military aid would not be used against any third country other than Soviet Union. There is requirement of a clarification before spending public money, if India can use this equipment against Pakistan. The point should be retained in our minds that Pakistan, China and India as well as other countries are neighbours so they should live in peace and try to settle their difference rather than creating tense environment of mistrust and suspicion.

    • I fully agree with Hari Sud. This is a stereo- type article and does not carry any new information. He does not know weapon locating radars will become out- dated once India made the GPS operational. Dhanush gun fitted with equipment to use GPS. I do not think India need any new equipment to fight against China and Pakistan. The China’s adventure at south sea is militarily good for India. So long India keeps good relation with the USA, we need not worry about China and Pakistan. Why is China not able to recapture Taiwan? It is not easy to fight against the USA. A war against the USA will jeopradise the development of China. We requre stream lining the war stratergy with the make in India policy. Army should use all terrien armoured vechicles to minimize war casualitry. Why is IAF using six types of fighter air plnaes. when they are not able to procure spares and cannoblizing the axsiliary equipments to keep the aircraft in service. Canniobilizing the equipment may caue more failures.

      • You are dream land when you say India does not need to worry about Pak-China. Situation could change anytime. Besides you must be as strong as your enemy and you have 2 enemies on your border with whom we have had wars.. It is logical to prepare and cannot get complacent based of some form of speculation.

    • Afzal: sorry but you are misled by your country. China can never be trusted. Just because they have a white paper does not mean they will not attack India. China did attack in 1962 after signing peace treaty with India. please educate yourself. Secondly Pakistan has the official ‘First Use Policy’ but India does not. This means Pak could attack with its nukes anytime. While India will not attack until attacked first by any nation. There is a big difference. Please go beyond your governments propaganda and read about the realities.

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