India's first indigenous, long-range artillery gun "Dhanush" has passed its final test at Pokhran, paving the way for its induction into the Army, a senior official said today.
India’s first indigenous, long-range artillery gun “Dhanush” has passed its final test at Pokhran, paving the way for its induction into the Army, a senior official said today. Between June 2-6, fifty rounds of shells each were fired from six Dhanush guns, Gun Carriage Factory (GCF) Senior General Manager SK Singh told reporters here today. Dhanush is a 155mm x 45mm calibre artillery gun and is also called the “desi Bofors”. “Six guns in battery formation (at one go and at one target) successfully fired 101 rounds on June 7,” Singh informed.
He said that the GCF got the Dhanush project in October 2011 and the first prototype was made in 2014. Later, 11 more prototypes were made from which 4,200 rounds were fired. The gun has passed tests under severe cold conditions in Sikkim and Leh and in hot and humid weather in Balasore, Odisha, Babina in Jhansi and in the desert of Pokhran in Rajasthan, Singh said.
He said that during the trial in Pokhran a year ago, the muzzle and barrel of the howitzer exploded two times. A probe by different Ministry of Defence departments into the two incidents, however, did not find any fault with the gun, Singh said, adding that Dhanush is among the finest artillery guns in terms of accuracy.
It has a strike range of 38 kilometres and 81 per cent of its components are indigenously sourced, the official said. This, he said, would be scaled up to 90 per cent by 2019. Singh said that 12 guns would be supplied to the Army in the current fiscal while the total number for the initial phase is 114 guns.
He said that, under an agreement to be inked soon, a total of 414 Dhanush guns would be supplied to the Army. Manufactured by the Jabalpur-based Gun Carriage Factory (GCF), each of the 155-mm gun costs about Rs 14.50 crore while each shell costs Rs one lakh, a former top official of the factory said.
Besides features like electronic gun-laying and sighting systems, the indigenous gun’s hitting range was 11 km more than the imported Bofors guns, he added. “The Dhanush project has received support and active cooperation from other ordinance factories and PSUs such as SAIL, BEL, and many private sector companies. Their support has made the project a huge success,” he said.
The gun has been developed by the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), Kolkata, after going through design documents running into over 12,000 pages. These documents were given to India as part of the first phase of “Transfer of Technology” (ToT) under the Bofors gun deal inked in the late 1980s, he added.
The Swedish Bofors company (now owned by Britain’s BAE System) could not complete the ToT for the 155mm x 39mm calibre howitzer as the deal got embroiled in a major political row over alleged kickbacks. Subsequently, the OFB struggled for long to produce the howitzer indigenously, he said. This was despite the fact that it had manufactured and supplied several components and spares to keep the Bofors howitzers operational in India, especially during the Kargil War.
“The Army had been desperately looking for 155mm howitzers for more than three decades. It had roped in an Israeli company, Soltam, to upgrade the imported, Russian-made 130mm gun to 155mm at GCF. But the project, after the upgraded gun’s trial, ran into issues of alleged kickbacks,” the former official claimed.
Six years ago, the Defence Acquisition Council had decided to look for artillery guns within the country and asked OFB to start manufacturing howitzers. Towards that end, former Defence Minister A K Antony inaugurated a 155-mm gun manufacturing facility at GCF on September 22, 2012. According to defence experts, the Army needs a huge number of howitzers of different types, and Indian firms, some in partnership with foreign manufacturers, are in the race to fulfil the demand.