Ukraine war influences Indian artillery upgrade
Hindustan Times|September 17, 2023
EMPHASIS ON MOBILITY, PRECISION ATTACKS, RANGE
Weighty lessons learnt from the Ukraine conflict, which entered its 570th day on Saturday, have influenced the Indian army’s plans to advance its firepower, with a greater emphasis on mobility, precision attacks, range, quick strikes and survivability as it ramps up efforts to buy an array of weapons, officials tracking the artillery’s modernisation said on Saturday. The linchpin of this capability boost, which will cost thousands of crores, is a five-pronged strategy evolved after an assessment of what the artillery regiments need for battlefield supremacy.
The strategy hinges on equipping all regiments with advanced 155mm artillery gun systems, inducting missiles and rockets with longer ranges and precision, lethal nmunition, reorganisation of surveillance and target acquisition units, and shortening the sensor-to-shooter loop for swift detection and destruction of targets, said one of the officials.
The Ukraine conflict has clearly reaffirmed the primacy of firepower as a battle winning factor, and the army has drawn some lessons relevant to its operations, said a second official, who also sought anonymity.
“Global militaries have focussed their attention on artillery equipment with longer ranges, higher volume of fire and greater precision. We have revised the profile of weaponry we want to deploy after analysing the developments in the Russia-Ukraine war,” he said.
The chief lessons wn after a careful analysis of the 19-monthold war include the need to deploy more self-propelled and mounted gun systems for improved mobility, missiles and rockets with superior range, ensuring increased survivability against the enemy, optimising the use of drones and staying prepared for prolonged military operations.
The artillery’s focus is on pursuing modernisation through indigenisation with the goal of staying ahead of India’s adversaries, the officials said. All gun systems bought during the past five years, and those in the process of being procured, to enhance the artillery’s lethality, reach and versatility are indigenous, except the M777 ultra light howitzers imported from the US.
The urgent priorities for the army include the speedy induction of 155mm weaponry, including the indigenous advanced towed artillery gun system (ATAGS), buying more self-propelled K9 Vajra-T guns manufactured by Larsen & Toubro with technology transfer from South Korean firm Hanwha Techwin, mounted gun systems, modern towed gun systems, and equipping more regiments with Dhanush artillery pieces and upgraded Sharang guns, the officials said.
The Defence Research and Development Organisation began the ATAGS project in 2013 to replace older army guns with a modern 155mm artillery gun. It partnered with two private firms -Bharat Forge and Tata Advanced Systems – to manufacture the gun, which has a range of 48 km. The army is looking at inducting around 300 of these locally made 155mm/52-calibre howitzers for which a tender was floated in August and responses from vendors are expected by November, said the first official. Here, 155mm denotes the diameter of the shell and calibre relates to barrel length. The army’s order for the ATAGS will be split between the two vendors in a 70:30 ratio.
“The ATAGS has a raft of advanced features including an electric drive for ammunition loading and firing. It derives electric power through installed batteries and has the necessary back-up for contingencies,” the first official said.
The army has inducted 100 155mm/52 calibre K9 Vajra-T guns under a 2017 contract worth $720 million, and several of them have been deployed in Ladakh after carrying out upgrades to enable operations in ountains, he said.
The purchase of mounted gun systems with shoot-and-scoot capabilities and towed gun systems that will be lighter, versatile and packed with modern technology is also in the works, the officials said.
The army, which has deployed its first regiment of 155mm/45-calibre Dhanush towed guns near the China border, has set a target of raising five more regiments over the next three years, HT has learnt. It has ordered a total of 114 such guns, which have a range of 38 km. The India-made Dhanush is an electronically and mechanically upgraded version of the imported 155mm FH 77 BO2 guns, better known as Bofors.
Upgraded Sharang artillery guns are an important element of the ongoing artillery modernisation. The army is also on course to induct longer range Pinaka rocket systems, precision ammunition, loitering munition, reconnaissance and observation systems, remotely piloted aircraft systems, swarm drones, latest weapon locating radars and battlefield surveillance radars.
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