Artillery vehicle

The locally made truck-mounted heavy artillery gun will meet a long-standing requirement

Made locally truck-mounted heavy artillery gun will fulfill a long pending requirement

Atul Chandra

DefExpo 2022 provided an overview of many new land systems being developed with the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO), Defense Public Sector Units (DPSU) and Indian Private Defense Sector . A significant new development with respect to indigenous weapons development was the first sighting of the new 155mm/52 caliber Mounted Gun System (MGS), which is being designed locally through a public-private partnership between the Vehicle Research & Development Establishment (VRDE) and the Kalyani Group.

Defense Minister Rajnath Singh with Baba Kalyani of Kalyani Group

The new MGS aims to meet the long-standing need of the Indian Army, which plans to acquire 814 such systems. As part of the Army’s Field Artillery Rationalization Plan (FARP), the acquisition of approximately 3,000 artillery guns was envisaged. This included 1580 towed gun systems (TGS), 814 mounted gun systems, 180 wheeled self-propelled guns (SPG), 145 ultra-light howitzers (ULH) and 100 tracked self-propelled guns.

Mobile Firepower

The MGS is a cross-country truck-mounted heavy artillery gun system based on the advanced 155 mm / 52 cal towed artillery gun system developed by DRDO (ATAGS). Only one prototype has been manufactured so far and the weapon system was on static display at DefExpo 2022. Many systems on the locally developed MGS have already undergone successful trials. The new weapon system is based on a Tatra High Mobility Vehicle (HMV) 8X8 chassis for increased mobility. The new MGS features an automatic gun alignment and positioning system, an integrated fire control system (FCS), an ammunition handling system, and an onboard silent power supply system. An initial velocity radar is also installed on the MGS.

The MGS can reach a speed of 80 km/h on a paved road and 40 km/h on cross-country terrain. The vehicle can accommodate a crew of seven in its armored cabin. The armored cabin was specially designed for the MGS, according to VRDE officials. To respond to the recoil of the 155 mm/52 cal artillery gun mounted at the rear of the truck, a spade-type shock absorbing electromechanical stabilizer is mounted at the rear of the truck frame. The MGS carries 24 artillery shells in the vehicle and has an automatic ammunition handling system, which enables a high rate of fire. The artillery system, vehicle chassis, armored cabin and all other accessories of the new MGS total approximately 30 tons. This allows the MGS to be used in most terrain the military operates in. But its maneuverability on narrow and hilly terrain remains to be tested.

ATAG

The ATAGS howitzer mounted on the 8X8 HMV chassis can engage targets up to 45 km away (depending on the type of ammunition used). The entire weapon system weapon can be controlled and fired from inside the cabin, allowing for a “shoot and scoot” mission. According to DRDO information, the MGS can be deployed into action in 80 seconds and be ready to move to a new location after firing in 85 seconds.

The ATAGS artillery system can fire High Explosive Extended Range Full Bore (ERFB BT) artillery shells at distances over 35 km and ERFB Base Bleed (ERFB BB) projectiles over 45 km. The ATAGS howitzer in “burst” mode can fire a minimum of three rounds in 30 seconds, while in “intense” mode it can fire a minimum of 12 rounds in 180 seconds. The howitzer has a sustained rate of fire of 42 rounds in one hour and can operate in extreme weather conditions ranging from -4 to +45 degrees. The howitzer has a high chamber volume of 25 litres, with a future top-firing layout. It features fully electric drives (with manual override) for all gun system operations.

Indigenous howitzer

The DRDO proceeded with the development of the ATAGS with two Indian private sector companies, Bharat Forge and Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL) as production partners for this weapon system. This was a change from the traditional way of doing things, in which DPSUs were the preferred production partners for DRDO products.

Proof firing of the ATAGS howitzer took place for the first time in July 2016 and its development was undertaken by the Armament Research & Development Establishment (ARDE), located in Pune. In May, Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL) announced that the 155/52mm ATAGS had successfully completed the Preliminary Personnel Qualitative Requirements (PSQR) firing trials.

In September, the ANI news agency reported that ATAGS was in an advanced stage of user trials. In a first, the locally developed ATAGS was also part of the 21-gun salute at the Independence Day ceremony at Red Fort on 15 August. It is expected that at least 150 ATAGS will be initially ordered at an order value of over Rs3,000 crore. Orders will be split between Bharat Forge and TASL.

K9 Vajra

Paralysis of purchases

The Army has long required an MGS since 2002 and issued another Request for Information (RFI) for the purchase of a 155mm/52 cal MGS in April 2021. The MGS will be used by regiments artillery to provide mobile firepower during high intensity operations with mechanized forces. Any new 155mm/52 caliber MGS would be used in plains, mountains, high altitude areas, semi-desert and desert terrain along the northern and western borders.

According to last year’s RFI, the MGS must be able to operate on the Army’s existing road and rail network. The RFI also calls for an Inertial Navigation System (INS) based sighting system with the ability to orient and fix the location of the gun system. The FCS should also have the ability to provide direct and indirect fire day and night and it should also be compatible with Project Shakti.

The other MGS systems in the running for the needs of the army are the Caesar artillery system, proposed by L&T and Nexter in 2014 and mounted on an Indian Ashok Leyland Defense 6X6 chassis. The old OFB had also presented an MGS in 2018, based on its 155mX45 cal Dhanush (bofors improved 155mmX39 cal FH-77B) mounted on a BEML 8X8 Tatra chassis.

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