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Artillery Modernization

India's artillery situation is farcical, with the army not receiving any new howitzers since the Bofors scandal. The Army's 180 artillery regiments, each having 18 guns, have not received any new equipment since the last major acquisition of 410 pieces of 39-calibre 155mm FH-77B howitzers from AB Bofors in 1987.

The Army, after years of diligent planning in 1999, came-out with Field Artillery Rationalisation Plan (FARP), an ambitious artillery modernization program. Army through this planned to revamp the capabilities of the force and to equip them to strike at the operational core of the enemies. Under FARP, the army planned to acquire 1,580 towed howitzers, 100 tracked self propelled (SP) guns, 180 wheeled SP guns and 814 mounted guns systems for 180 of its 220 field artillery regiments by 2020.

After close to two decades of FARP being floated, not a single contract had been concluded. A Gordian knot of blacklisting, legal wrangling and bureaucratic ineptitude has created a logjam. Some vendors opted out as fatigue settled in because of India's tortuous procurement process. Furthermore, at least four foreign companies were blacklisted for nontransparent reasons. Successive tenders have been cancelled on grounds of corruption or the competitors having failed to meet the demanding GSR of the army.

With the armed forces shifting their focus on to the eastern borders and the raising of two new mountain divisions by the army for the North East, the situation has further aggravated with no matching availability of artillery for these newly raised formations. The already existing voids, especially in terms of medium artillery, have got further accentuated.

ULWHUltra-Light Howitzer145 import +
290 local
155mm/39 calibre Rs 2,800 crore
$667 mil +
7 medium artillery regiments
TGSTowed Gun System400 import +
1,180 local
155mm/52 calibre Rs 3,200 crore
$1788 mil +
79 regiments
MGSMounted Gun System200 import +
614 local
155mm/52 calibre Rs 8,500 crore
$1900 mil +
40 regiments
SPGWheeled Self Propelled (SP) Gun180 import155mm/52 calibreRs4,700 crore
$960 mil
9 regiments
SPHTracked Self Propelled (SP) Gun100 import155mm/52 calibreRs 3,400 crore
$800 mil
5 regiments

After almost three decades of stagnation, by 2018 there was finally a significant forward movement in the Artillery modernisation and transformational plans, envisaging the induction of approximately 2,800 plus modern artillery howitzers. The success of the indigenously developed 155mm 45 calibre Dhanush gun (upgraded version of the Bofors gun), the induction of the first two 155mm 39 calibre M777 Ultra-Light Howitzers (ULH) out of the 145 contracted for and the signing of the contract for 100 self-propelled (SP) tracked 155mm 52 calibre howitzers are positive developments in Indian Artillerys overall transformation plan.

ATE Factron 720 is a test equipment used for the repair of printed circuit boards and modules of Bofors Guns and its associated equipment. This equipment which is a critical requirement for the overhaul/repair of Bofors weapon system was imported from UK for Rs 7.20 crore as part of engineering support package for Bofors weapon system in 1989. The system developed snags in 1997 and was yet to be repaired. In its absence tests are carried out manually, which requires more time besides limiting the scope and reliability of testing.

India had 100 130mm Catapult guns which is a jury-rigged system of a Russian 130mm gun mounted on a Vijayanta chassis. Artillery officers complain the gun is too heavy for its chassis, which tends to break down regularly. The 155mm Soltam Guns mounted on Tatra vehicle have a range of approximately 40 kms.

The army has substantial artillery forces. The best estimate places the army's towed artillery capabilities at more than 4,000 pieces. In addition to the towed artillery, the army has self-propelled artillery. The Indian Army has 15 independent artillery brigades, which along with organic artillery units assigned to divisions include 1 heavy artillery battalion, 11 self-propelled medium artillery battalions, 3 self-propelled artillery battalions, 66 field artillery battalions, and 39 mountain artillery battalions.

Kalyani Group with its flagship company Bharat Forge Limited and Elbit Systems Land and C4I Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Elbit Systems Ltd, (NASDAQ and TASE: ESLT ) have forged a futuristic and long term relationship for the Artillery Manufacturing in India, through the establishment of a new Joint Venture Company (JVC) called BF Elbit Advanced Systems Pvt Ltd. BF Elbit is specifically committed to address the Indian Ministry of Defence and other potential Indian government customers requirements for the most advanced artillery and mortars systems solutions.

Ultra Lightweight Howitzers (ULH)

Pegasus SLWH ST Kinetics
By 2009, nearly two decades since the Bofors scandal, if the Army was lucky, four guns short-listed will go for trials and a final selection made that could join the Army by 2012. For the ultra-light weight 155mm towed howitzers, UK's BAE Systems will try to impress Indians with its M777 light-weight 155-mm, 39-calibre Howitzer, used by the American and British forces. BAE, which now owns Bofors, may face competition from Israel's Soltam Systems.

On June 5, 2009 the Ministry of Defence released a list of seven firms it has blacklisted for alleged graft charges in the Ordnance Factory Board scam. The firms include Israeli Military Industries (IMI) and Singapore Technologies who are key defence suppliers to India. ST Kinetics had recently emerged as the sole contender for the Indian army's requirement for 140 ultra-light 155 mm howitzers.

India's Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, who heads the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), on 13 May 2015 cleared the acquisition of 145 pieces of BAE's M777 Ultra-Light Howitzers worth Rs 2,700 crore. This will be a government-to-government deal with the US via Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route. However, the maintenance and ammunition would be via Indian systems. BAE had proposed to invest in India by partnering with a private company and setting up a production unit.

India will buy 145 M777 howitzers from the United States, the Indian Defense Ministry said 25 June 2016. The Defense Acquisition Council headed by Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar held a meeting at the Defense Ministry earlier in the day. The council also approved projects on naval dockyards modernization worth 3.86 billion rupees ($56.75 million), bulk production of 155mm Dhanush howitzers, as well as cleared six next generation missile vessels.

After a long wait, internationally combat proven M777 A2 Ultra Light Howitzers, K-9 Vajra-Tracked Self Propelled Guns and 66 Field Artillery Tractors were inducted in the Indian Army on 09 November 2018. The 155mm, 39 Calibre M777 Ultra Lightweight Howitzers (ULH) had been procured from US under government to government Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route. The ULH is indispensable in inhospitable terrain, particularly the mountains. The proposal for two new mountain divisions would require arming them with these modern artillery guns to have a meaningful impact.

Towed Artillery

Bharat 52 Elbit Systems + Bharat Forge
FH2000 ST Kinetics
Dhanush FH-77BOFB
TrajanNexter + Larsen & Toubro
ATAGSDRDO + Bharat Forge / Kalyani
As of 2000 it was expected that a total of up to 3000-4000 new 155mm/52-caliber howitzers will be procured over the next two decades to equip the 185 tube artillery regiments as part of its Field Artillery Rationalization Plan. All SP and towed artillery assets, except for the 105-mm Light Guns used by mountain and parachute units, are to be standardized on a 155-mm/52 caliber ordnance under this plan.

The 105 mm Indian and Light Field Guns (IFG/LFG) were being replaced by 130mm M-46 Field Gun. About 200 of the M-46 guns are purchased each year to replace the 105mm IFG/LFG. Nearly 500 of the M-46 guns were earmarked for upgrade to the 155mm/39-caliber and 155mm/45-caliber by Soltam Systems Ltd. of Israel. But the attempt to upgrade the Russian-supplied 130MM guns to 155MM calibre had been ridden with failures. By early 2009 approximately 180 pieces of 130mm M46 Russian medium guns had been successfully "up-gunned" to 155mm calibre with ordnance supplied by Soltam of Israel. The new barrel length of 45 calibre enhanced the range of the gun to about 40 km with extended range ammunition.

The Army initially planned to acquire 1,500 Bofors FH-77B howitzers, but due to the infamous 'Bofors Scandal' only 410 guns were purchased. Due to the lack of spares, an estimated 100 guns had been cannibalized and were not operational as of early 2002. The 155 mm Bofors guns are the mainstay of the artillery fire power of Indian army. These guns were due for overhaul after 18 years of service-life depending upon their usage. 506 ABW can overhaul 20 guns per annum. The capacity itself is very low to fulfill the overhaul requirement of Bofors gun. The workshop had overhauled only 12 guns as of 2005. The pilot overhaul of first six guns took 19 to 39 months. The time taken in overhaul of the next six guns ranged from four to seven months. With the inadequate capacity and support available, it would take decades to overhaul the entire population of these guns. Thus large number of the guns are likely to be held without overhaul, adversely affecting their operational preparedness.

Despite the increasing obsolescence of artillery guns, mortars and rocket launchers, by 2008 no contract had been concluded for their replacement, even though protracted trials of several 155mm howitzers were carried out over the past few years. In January 2008 the Ministry of Defence (MoD) issued requests for Proposals (RFP) for various types of 155mm howitzers for the mountains and plains, and self- propelled guns for the desert.

The modernisation plan of tube artillery alone is likely to cost Rs 13,000 crores, or USD 3 billion-plus, going possibly to $ 4 billion. The major acquisitions will be of the initial lots of 400 towed howitzers of 155mm calibre, with a barrel length of 52 calibre, costing about Rs 4,000 crore, 140 ultra-light weight 155mm towed howitzers, with a barrel length of 45 calibre, costing Rs 3,000 crore and 180-185 wheeled SP 155mm howitzers costing Rs 5,000 crore. Another account states that the the total deal for 400 guns expected to be in the region of $2 billion. Of these, 140 guns will be of the ultra-light category, 185 of the wheeled version and the balance 175 of the towed version.

As of 2013, a total of 400 guns of 155/52 calibre were to be procured through direct sale and a further 1,180 guns are to be domestically produced with $1.8 billion allocated for procurement only. As part of its modernisation program, the army sought to induct 400 155MM guns of .52 calibre. In November 2005 the Indian Army barred South African artillery major Denel from fresh trials for the acquisition of the upgraded 155MM artillery guns, originally slated for early in 2006. Instead, Swedish SWS and Israeli Soltam were called for an unprecedented fourth trial to be held in Leh in Jammu and Kashmir in February 2006 to test the guns in winter conditions and in Pokhran in June 2006.

The Indian army had been wanting to replace the ageing Bofors guns procured in the 1980s, but has failed to buy a single Howitzer because an earlier international tender for 155mm/52-calibre guns was aborted over the blacklisting of overseas competitors on charges of corruption involving firms including Rheinmetall of Germany, Singapore Technologies Kinetics, Soltam and Denel of South Africa. This pushed the government to look at indigenous development of these guns.

The MoD agreed that there would be no licensed production imported guns. The Army moved ahead with the import of 480 towed artillery guns, under a $ 1.8 billion dollar contract for which France's Nexter teamed with local partner Larsen & Toubro to pitch its Trajan 155mm/52 calibre gun against Israels Elbit Systems, partnered with Bharat Forge.

The Advance Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS) are designed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and manufactured by two Indian private manufacturers Tata Power Strategic Engineering Division (SED) and Bharat Forge. The MoD had sanctioned the ATAGS project in September 2012 and the DRDO partnered with Bharat Forge and Tata Power SED to develop two prototypes G-1 and G-2 which were tried out. One of the prototypes was part of the Republic Day Parade in 2017. The ATAGS is aiming to fire at close to 60 kms, nearly double that of the first Bofors guns.

Wheeled Mounted Gun Systems

Archer FH-77BW L52 BAE + Mahindra
ATMOS-2000Bharat Forge + Soltam Systems
CaesarNexter + Larsen (L&T) + Ashok Leyland
T5-52 Condor Tata SED + Denel Land Systems
On 22 July 2010 the Indian Army sent out a fresh Request for Information (RFI) to global gun makers for self-propelled 155m/52cal guns. The self-propelled gun deal is for 120 units, which first fell through as far back as 2005 when Denel was blacklisted. Likely contenders: the French Nexter CEASAR (which has the distinction of being mentioned in the RFI!, which confusingly is for "towed" artillery), the Swedish BAE-Bofors FH77-BW-L52 Archer, possibly the Israeli Soltam Atmos 2052.

In July 2013 the Army issued a RFI seeking technical offers of 155mm/52-cal MGS from interested international OEMs teamed up with Indian industrial vendors. BAE systems in partnership with Mahindra contested with its FH-77BW L52 Archer. France-based Nexter formed a consortium with Larsen and Toubro (L&T) and Ashok Leyland for offering its Caesar howitzer. Bharat Forge with Soltam Systems offered its ATMOS-2000 howitzer. Highlight in the MGS category was the Tata SED and Denel Land Systems manufactured Condor T5-52 howitzer.

In 2015, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, chairing his maiden Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) meet, cleared the purchase of 814 Mounted Gun System (MGS) at an estimated cost of Rs 15,750 crore. Of the planned 814 guns, 100 guns were to be imported from foreign vendors and the rest 714 are to be manufactured locally under an elaborate ToT agreement. The MGS competition involved off-the-shelf purchase of 200 x 155mm/52 calibre guns, followed by indigenous manufacture of another 614 mounted gun systems. Available in the world market are Swedens Archer, French Caeser, SAerbian Nora Gun Systems and the latest Indian entry, the Tata Power SED gun system.

The decks for the Indian armys proposal for 814 155mm/52 calibre mounted guns systems (MGS), at a cost of Rs 15,750 crore ($2.55 billion) were cleared by the former defence minister Manohar Parrikar at DAC meeting. Some of the mounted guns were to be imported, but most to be made in India under `Buy and Make in a collaborative effort between foreign companies and domestic manufacturers.

Wheeled Self-Propelled Gun Systems

RWG-52 Rheinmetall Defence
Zuzana Konstrukta Defence
Under FARP, the army planned to procure 400 155mm wheeled SP gun systems. This deal has however met with limited success following the scuttling of successive tenders. MoD has shown little interest in the program. The wheeled self-propelled gun is ideally suited for the plains and the semi-desert terrain vis-a-vis the tracked version providing better speed and mobility. The relief of the Indian territory does not allow the wide use of wheeled vehicles.

In the early 1990s the Indian Armys (IA) Directorate of Artillery realised that technological advancements in wheeled all-terrain vehicles had made the wheeled/motorised self-propelled howitzer a viable option. So the IAs first GSQR for a potential 155mm/45-calibre wheeled/motorised self-propelled howitzer (SPH) procurement program, formulated in 1994 and amended in 1998, resulted in breaking down the requirement into two components: 180 wheeled SPHs and 814 mounted SPHs, with the latter requirement being renamed as the Mounted Gun System, or MGS. This was further amended in November 2001 to change the desired calibre length from 45-calibre to 52-calibre for both types of SPHs.

In September 2011, the MoD indefinitely suspended the Rs.4,726-crore RFP for buying 180 wheeled SPHs after allegations surfaced about manipulations in the evaluation processes of the field-trials.

Blacklisting of some of the major players in the world market producing state-of-the-art modern artillery gun systems has been the main culprit. With the cancellation of the acquisition process for the 180 x 155mm/52 calibre wheeled self-propelled (SP) guns, due to the guns not meeting the technical requirements and certain infirmities in the trial process itself, any flickering hopes of artillery transformation that may have existed had been dashed.

In fray for the wheeled SP gun were Germany's Rheinmetall Defence and Slovakia's Konstrukta Defence. Also, during the trials Rheinmetall Defence was blacklisted by the defence ministry for its dealings related to air defence equipment, resulting in a single vendor situation and rendering the process null and void.

By 2013 the Ministry of Defence(MOD) had begun with the procurement of Wheeled Self-Propelled 155 mm guns and re-floated a fresh global Request for Information (RFI). This was the fourth attempt by the MoD with regard to this procurement. These guns will equip nine regiments.

Tracked Self-Propelled Howitzer

2S19 Msta-S 152-mm SPHUraltransmash
Artillery Gun ModuleKrauss-Maffei Wegmann
AS90 Bravehart BAE
AUF2 GCTNexter
K-9 VajraSamsung
PzH 2000Krauss-Maffei Wegmann
RTG-52 Rheinmetall
T6-52/BhimDRDO + Denel
In the artillery of the Indian Army, there is a noticeable bias in the direction of towed guns. The units operate several thousand cannons, howitzers and mortars of various models. At the same time, the total number of English-made FV433 Abbot self-propelled artillery mounts, Soviet 2S1 Gvozdika and Indian M-46 Catapult does not exceed two hundred. Thus, the Indian self-propelled artillery can be considered not only small, but also backward from similar weapons of neighboring states. To justify India, it must be said that regular attempts are being made to remedy this situation.

From time to time there are rumors that the Indian military department is going to try or even buy one or another foreign-made ACS. However, over the past years, no such rumors have been confirmed, and the newest self-propelled guns in India continue to remain rather outdated M-46 Catapult in the amount of about one hundred units.

In the summer of 1996, Vickers Shipbuilding & Engineering Ltd (now owned by BAE Systems) demonstrates on a no-cost-no-commitment basis its 155mm/52-cal tracked self-propelled howitzer (SPH), comprising the AS-90 turret mated with the hull of a T-72M1 main battle tank (MBT). During firepower trials in the plains, the SPH fires a family of 155mm rounds out to 41.6km. The mobility trials in the desert, however, show the SPH to be underpowered. GIAT Industries, with its GCT turret mounted on a T-72M1 hull, and Denel/LIW with a similarly mounted T-6 turrettherefore decide not to demonstrate such hybrid, tracked SPHs in India.

In 2014 there were two contenders for the tracked requirement, including South Korea's K9 (in partnership with L&T) and a modified MSTA-S from Russia (based on a T-72 chassis). Trials for both concluded late in 2013. A procurement of 100 of the 155 mm Self-Propelled Tracked Guns to arm its five regiments was underway, for which a fresh RFP had been issued in 2009 after the indigenous DRDO Bhim program (Denel G-6 gun on Arjun tank chassis) was scrapped in 2006.

The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) in August 2016 green lighted the purchase of 100 K-9 Vajra tracked self propelled (SP) guns at a cost of $750 million. Vajra is a modified version of the Korean operated K-9 Thunder and has incorporated several components to meet the Indian operational environment.

The first ten K9 Vajra 155mm/52 calibre guns have been imported from Hanwha Techwin of South Korea in Semi Knocked Down state and assemble by L&T in India. The balance 90 Guns will be largely manufactured in India with some major assemblies coming from South Korea.

Artillery Rockets

The first Pinaka regiment was raised in February 2000. A regiment consists of three batteries of six Pinakas each, plus reserves. It was expected that one regiment will be added each year as the oldest BM-21s are withdrawn from service.

The awesome fire power of the artillery rocket barrage was demonstrated and exploited to the full by the Soviet Army with its famous `Katyusha" rockets during the World War II. The post war era has brought about further refinements and the free-flight artillery rockets and multi-barrel launcher systems form a powerful adjunct to the field artillery and medium artillery guns. In keeping with this trend Indian Army, too, has inducted Multi Barrel Rocket Launcher Systems in its service. ARDE has successfully developed its SS-20 122mm rocket with HE fragmentation warhead. A battery of six launchers can deliver a salvo of 240 rockets in 20 seconds to a maximum range of 20 km and saturate a target area of the size of a football field with more than four tonnes of steel fragments and high explosives.

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Page last modified: 01-03-2019 18:38:44 ZULU