The Indian Army has inducted the M777 (155mm) ultra light howitzer in the harsh terrain of the northern borders. The gun is highly transportable for rapid deployment to meet any operational contingency. File | Photo credit: PTI
Over the next five years, the Indian Army Artillery Regiment would see a major increase in strength with the induction of several guns, including native guns. These include the Dhanush, Sharang, M777 Ultra Light Howitzer (ULH), additional K9-Vajra howitzers and the Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS).
The seventh regiment of M777s is underway and the induction of all 145 guns should be completed in the next few years, a defense source said. Likewise, with their deployment and performance in high-altitude regions, the army will now purchase an additional 100 K9-Vajra tracked self-propelled howitzers.
A regiment of indigenous Dhanush artillery systems, developed on the basis of Swedish Bofors guns, was inducted and operational in the high altitude area along the northern borders after extensive validation. By March 2023, the army is expected to receive 18 guns to form Dhanush’s second regiment, the source said.
Of the Sharang guns, artillery guns from 130mm to 155mm, 45 caliber guns, three regiments have been operationalized so far with the ongoing 4th regiment. The 300-gun firing command is executed by three different DPSUs from the former Ordnance Factory Board.
“Three regiments of Sharang should be delivered per year and 15 artillery regiments should be equipped with Sharang. So it should be done in five years,” the source explained. The army received the first Sharang pistol in February 2020, and the entire process of acquiring these weapons is expected to be completed in four years.
On that note, the source stressed the need to increase the capabilities and capabilities of the domestic industry and the need to develop a “conglomerate or consortium culture.” “That’s what’s going to compress timelines.”
At the same time, defense sources said the war in Ukraine had no impact on their ammunition supplies. Several types of ammunition and rockets are imported from Russia, but their use is limited and stocks are sustainable, a source said.
On the ATAGS system that completed validation testing in May, officials said they were speeding up the remaining process for faster induction. Following this, Electromagnetic interference/ Electromagnetic compatibility ( NDE/ EMC) testing has been completed, followed by maintainability testing by the Corps of Electronics and Mechanical Engineers, the source explained.
Currently, the Director General of Quality Assurance (DGQA) assessment is underway and includes environmental testing. They are in the process of shortening the evaluation and should be completed in another two months, the source said, after which the preliminary requirements would be converted into General Staff Quality Requirements (GSQR) and commercial offers would be sought. .
This would be followed by cost negotiations and the initial order of 150 weapons would be split between the lowest bidder (L1) and the second (L2) in a ratio of 70:30, the source added.
The ATAGS is a 155mm, 52 caliber heavy artillery gun jointly developed by the Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE), the Pune-based laboratory of the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO ), in partnership with Bharat Forge and Tata Group. In May, the pistol successfully completed validation runs to meet Army specifications and is now ready for induction.
For long-range firepower, the Army is considering other indigenous Pinaka Multi-Rocket Launch System (MRLS) systems, to be added to the four regiments in service. Another six Pinaka regiments have been engaged and they would be inducted within the next 4-5 years, sources said.
The Department of Defense also approved the purchase of the Pinaka Extended Range (ER) rockets. The range of Pinaka rockets has expanded significantly, as have the types, officials said. The range of the original Pinaka rockets is 37 km, the improved Mk-1 over 45 km and the guided ER has a range of 75 km.