After the induction of two types of foreign-origin artillery guns, the Indian Army will focus on the next lot of guns that are totally made in India and will expectedly form the bulk of long-range artillery firepower over the next three decades.
Such guns fire at targets that are 40 to 45 km away. To put it in perspective, the distance between Chandigarh and Ambala is about 45 km.
Top sources told The Tribune that the focus is now on the Dhanush that is made at Ordnance Factory Board and the Advance Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS) designed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation and manufactured by Tata and Bharat Forge. Both have been tested in all conditions and production orders will be given anytime now.
The idea is that even if the locally made 155 mm artillery gun meets 90 per cent of requirements, accept it and improve on it. For India, this is the first manufacture of 155 mm gun. “At the first stage, the Indian-made gun cannot match the one produced in Sweden, France or US, hence the focus on accepting Dhanush and ATAGS and improving on them,” said a senior functionary.
In case of Dhanush, a modified version of the Bofors gun purchased in the 1980s, user trials were completed on June 7 this year. It’s being evaluated at the Army headquarters before a bulk production clearance (BPC) is okayed. Dhanush has a maximum effective range of 40 km, onboard computer, electronic suite to enable real-time as regards moving and static targets.
The MoD is also positive on the ATAGS and will very soon place an order for guns for the Army to start using it before suggesting any changes. The Army has given its go-ahead after seeing the performance of the weapon. Any additions or improvements to the gun can be incorporated in later versions. This will include auto-loading of ammunition and certain other specifics like reduction of the weight of this 155 mm, 52-calibre gun.
The MoD had sanctioned the ATAGS project in September 2012. A prototype was part of the Republic Day parade in 2017. Two types of foreign-origin guns were inducted at a ceremony at Deolali, Maharashtra, on November 9. These are the M777 ultra-light howitzer (145 guns) produced by the BAE systems in the US and the self-propelled tracked gun K9 Vajra-T made under a joint venture between Larsen and Tourbo and South Korea’s Hanwha Techwin.