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.
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…
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.