The evolution of the artillery as a dominating force on the battle field has been a momentous journey. The advent of gun powder and its use in warfare has been one of the greatest revolutions in military affairs.
After a long wait, internationally combat proven M777 A2 Ultra Light Howitzers, K-9 Vajra-Tracked Self Propelled Guns and 6×6 Field Artillery Tractors were inducted in the Indian Army on Friday.
The decks for the Indian army’s proposal for 814 155mm/52 calibre mounted guns systems (MGS), at a cost of Rs 15,750 crore ($2.55 billion) were cleared by the former defence minister Manohar Parrikar at DAC meeting a couple of years ago.
As had been reported by FE earlier, some of the mounted guns were to be imported, but most to be made in India under `Buy and Make’ in a collaborative effort between foreign companies and domestic manufacturers.
The guns were dedicated to the nation at Devlali Field Firing Ranges, by defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman in the presence of Chief of Army staff Gen Bipin Rawat, senior serving officers of the Indian Army and Ministry of Defence, representatives of manufacturing Industries as also dignitaries from the government of USA and South Korea.
The 155mm, 39 Calibre Ultra light Howitzers have been procured from US under government to government Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route, as has been reported by FE earlier and will be assembled in India by BAE Systems in partnership with Mahindra Defence.
The Gun System is versatile, light weight and can be heli lifted, thereby providing the much needed flexibility in employment in various terrains obtainable in the country. The Howitzer is in service in the US, Canadian, Australian and some other armies of the world. It has proven its mettle in difficult going areas of Afghanistan and Iraq.
The first ten K9 Vajra 155mm/52 calibre guns have been imported from Hanwha Techwin of South Korea in Semi Knocked Down state and have been assemble by L&T in India. The balance 90 Guns will be largely manufactured in India with some major assemblies coming from South Korea. Its induction will give a huge fillip to the firepower capability of Indian Army on our western borders.
Calling it a good day when two major guns were inducted in the artillery of the army, talking to FE, J D Patil, whole-time Director, and Senior Executive Vice President for L&T’s Defence Business said that, “It’s a good day, two major systems were inducted. Work has already started on the next batch of guns: 11 &12 which are now being made in India and will have 60-70 % indigenous components. Almost 14,000 critical components have been made in India.”
While assuring that the rest of the guns would be supplied within the time frame given by the Ministry of Defence, Patil said that the next phase of delivery will be in Dec this year. The deal has not just boosted the government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative, but it has also made South Korea a major defence collaborator with India.
The technology to develop the K-9 Vajra-T guns has been provided by the South Korean defence company, and out of the 100 that has been ordered, 90 will be completely developed by L&T in their Strategic Systems Complex at Talegaon near Pune in Maharashtra.
When L&T was working Samsung Techwin (now Hanwha Techwin), to develop a desert gun for the Indian Army and to other countries, it was at that time testing the guns in private ranges as they had not got a nod for user trials.
The 6×6 Field Artillery Tractor has been indigenously developed by Ashok Leyland and will provide the much awaited replacement for the ageing fleet of Artillery Gun Towing Vehicles. Today’s dedication ceremony of these equipment to the nation will give a major impetus to ‘Make In India’ initiative of the government.
The event included and impressive display of equipment and firepower by the Guns of the Indian Artillery. Also on display were indigenous Gun Systems/Surveillance & Target Acquisition Systems that have been recently introduced in service.
On the induction of India’s first three M777 Ultra Lightweight Howitzers (ULH), Joe Senftle, vice president and general manager of BAE Systems’ weapon systems business, said that “The Indian Army is receiving an extremely reliable and battle-proven artillery platform. The M777 brings a new level of capability to the artillery unit by offering rapid deployment and extreme accuracy. It can operate in areas that are difficult to access and is also very easy to maintain.”
“The M777 ULH is more than a very effective piece of artillery technology,” said Nik Khanna, managing director India, BAE Systems. “With the M777 program, BAE Systems has made the first step of our substantive Make-in-India commitment, which includes our pledge to develop a network of Indian suppliers for our global supply chain and deepen our relationship with industry in India. We are committed to a strong and collaborative working relationship between BAE Systems, the Indian Armed Forces and Indian industry.”
Said SP Shukla, Group President – Aerospace & Defence Sector, Mahindra Group, and Chairman – Mahindra Defence Systems, “In this program each of the M777 howitzers have value addition from Mahindra Defence. I believe that this is the first step towards Make-in-India with much bigger programs to follow.”
The Indian army has been wanting to replace the ageing Bofors guns procured in the 1980s, but has failed to buy a single Howitzer in the past years because an international tender for 155mm/52-calibre guns earlier was aborted over the blacklisting of overseas competitors on charges of corruption involving firms including Rheinmetall of Germany, Singapore Technologies Kinetics, Soltam and Denel of South Africa. This has pushed the government to look at indigenous development of these guns.