Indian artillery on an upward trajectory, to become modern and more deadly

Updated: January 12, 2019 12:13:09 PM

To every discerning Indian, even a mention of the two-decade-old Kargil conflict evokes memories of the fire and fury unleashed by Artillery.

Indian artillery on an upward trajectory, to become modern and more deadly (Reuters)

By Lt Gen Anil Ahuja (Retd)

A major augmentation of Artillery firepower would take place with maturing of indigenous development programmes of: `Dhanush’ (155/45mm gun being developed for Artillery by the Ordnance Factories Board) and ATAGS (Advanced Towed Artillery guns System), a 155/52 mm gun system designed by DRDO. These guns, to be inducted in very large numbers to replace existing Indian Field Guns, would pave the way for the development of nascent private gun manufacturing industry, says Lt Gen Anil Ahuja (Retd) on the eve of Indian Army Day.

To every discerning Indian, even a mention of the two-decade-old Kargil conflict evokes memories of the fire and fury unleashed by Artillery. Pictures o `Tiger Hill’ lit up by the direct firing 155 mm guns still inspire many a young man and woman, in and outside uniform. Creditably, Artillery has not only maintained an `upward trajectory’ in procuring modern weapon systems an equipment, but has successfully evolved concepts to emerge as a vital `firearm’ of the Indian Army, with a potent arsenal of guns, rockets, missiles an UAVs to engage targets, with precision, in-depth areas, well beyond the contact battlespace.

Maintaining an unwavering policy of upgrading most guns to 155mm calibre Artillery in early November 2018 began induction of K- 9 Vajra Self Propelled (SP) guns, manufactured indigenously by L&T in cooperation with Hanwha Techwin of South Korea. 100 of these guns, possessing mobility matching that of Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFVs), will augment firepower of mechanised formations on our Western borders, in desert and semi-desert terrain. After Artillery’s peripheral experience with rudimentary self-propelled guns: vintage British 105 mm Abbot Guns and the `Indian juggad’ Catapult SP guns (Sovie 130mm guns mounted on Vijayanta tank chassis), this is the first real experience with such guns. Fortunately, this also comes packaged with the creation of indigenous manufacturing capability and potential for exports Likewise, to meet the firepower needs of Army along Northern borders in mountainous terrain, where infrastructure still remains underdeveloped.

Artillery is inducting 145 heli portable, 155/39mm M 777 Ultra-Light Howitzers Imported from the United States, these light (approximately 4.5 tons as agains the 12 tons of the 155mm FH 77B Bofors) guns are being assembled integrated and tested by BAE Systems with Mahindra Defence Systems. Thes guns will augment now ageing FH 77B guns and would also be an asset, shoul there be any `out of area’ contingencies in future.

A major augmentation of Artillery fire power would take place with maturin of indigenous development programmes of: `Dhanush’ (155/45mm gun bein developed for Artillery by the Ordnance Factories Board) and ATAG (Advanced Towed Artillery guns System) , a 155/52 mm gun system designe by DRDO. These guns, to be inducted in very large numbers to replace existin Indian Field Guns, would pave the way for the development of nascent private gun manufacturing industry. Immense potential has also been displayed within th country for developing `Mounted Gun System (MGS), suited to plains an mountainous terrain alike. These however would get inducted in a appropriate order of priority.

Gun manufacturing in Defence PSUs as well as in private Industry is emergin as an area of core competency in India to meet domestic as well as globa demand since no other country has such challenging standards of weathe and terrain for which Indian guns are suited. An immense potential is als being created for the MSMEs and start – ups to develop a manufacturing eco system around these weapon systems.

To complement guns, Artillery has an impressive array of Multi Barrel Rocket Launcher (MBRL) Systems and missiles: BM- 21 (20 to 40 Km), Pinaka (40 to 6 Km), Smerch (90 Km) and Brahmos (Approx 300 Km). Long range, unobserve Artillery fire from these rocket and missile systems is delivered using the indigenous Swathi Weapon locating radar. DRDO designed and develope Pinaka weapon system, manufactured indigenously, is today a pride of India Army. Matured capability in this field presents an opportunity for friendl foreign countries.

As is well known, the real weapon of Artillery is its ammunition. Afte struggling with major deficiencies, indigenous ammunition productio capability is being enhanced, both in the DPSUs and in the private sector Gradual transition to the modular charge system, universal fuzes and growin focus on different varieties of precision munitions is helping Artillery becom self-reliant and to emerge as a potential exporter of high quality munitions.

Multi domain warfare of today requires effective Artillery fires to be delivere in depth, well beyond the range of ground based observers. Although th erstwhile `Air Observation Posts’ earlier integral to Artillery have now bee placed with Army Aviation, the direction of Artillery fire still remains their primar task on the battlefield. The future requirement however is of directing artiller fire using radars and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, using designators for precisio guidance. Placement of these resources centrally with Artillery obviates th handicap of critical time lag inherent in sensor-shooter integration.

Equippin Artillery with armed UAVs should be a natural progression in deliverin effective fires in depth and in un-held areas. Artillery Commanders, it i presumed, are also developing capabilities of coordinating the delivery of fir power of Air Force and if required, of Naval guns in support of land base operations. Development of Artillery Combat Command and Control Syste (ACCCS), Shakti, has immensely improved delivery of fires in a net centri environment.

Surveillance and Target Acquisition (SATA) is a significant Artillery function. In our limited resource environment all Opto-electronic target acquisition resources and surveillance systems held with Artillery need to be optimised t carry out all-weather battlefield surveillance along with the direction of fire Current concept of surveillance and target acquisition, which is based o operating with meagre resources, needs to be matured for the foreseeable future.

On the occasion of the Army Day, as serving and veteran soldiers introspect and rededicate themselves, the success story of the Indian Army in strengthening its Artillery arm needs to be replicated in other branches. A comprehensive review of the life- cycle of current weapon holdings, evolving of a long term vision of capabilities to be designed and developed and in the medium term, relentless and unwavering implementation of plans in the pipeline is perhaps the secret of success! Also, this potent arm needs its place of pride as an `Arm’ rather than being confined to a support role on the transformed battlefield o today.

[Lt Gen Anil Ahuja (Retd) is a former Deputy Chief of Integrated defence Staff (Policy Planning and Force development) and Senior Colone Commandant of Regiment of Artillery]

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