From ATAGS to Ultra-Light Howitzers, how Indian Army is upping artillery game at borders

Faced with an increasingly belligerent China, the Indian Army has increased its firepower by deploying a variety of rockets and artillery, and plans to further acquire diverse weapon systems

FP Explainers September 28, 2022 15:33:08 IST
From ATAGS to Ultra-Light Howitzers, how Indian Army is upping artillery game at borders

The indigeneously-made Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System. ANI

The Indian Army is upping its firepower on the northern and eastern borders by deploying rockets and making plans to secure weapon systems such as the 100 K9 Vajra howitzers and UAVs.

Already the Indian Army’s artillery units have put into action K-9 Vajra Tracked Self-Propelled Howitzers, Ultra-Light M-777 howitzers, Pinaka rocket systems and Dhanush gun systems.

Sources said the army is set to procure a new batch of 100 more K9 Vajras howitzers, in addition to 100 such guns ordered in 2017.

“The Defence Acquisition Council has cleared the proposal for ordering 100 more K9 Vajras. The Request for Proposal (RFP) will be issued soon,” the source said.

Sources said the Army is also in the process of procuring Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System, commonly known as ATAGS, and Mounted Gun Systems (MGS).

Faced with an increasingly belligerent China, the Indian Army has increased its firepower by deploying a variety of rockets and artillery, and plans to further acquire a variety of weapon systems.

Let’s take a closer look:

ATAGS

“My friends, today we heard this sound after 75 years of independence for which our ears were yearning to hear. For the first time after 75 years, the Made in India cannon has saluted the Tricolour from the Red Fort. Will there be any Indian who will not be inspired by this sound?” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi on India’s 76th Independence Day.

The prime minister was referring to the indigenously-made Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS), used alongside the traditional British-origin ’25 Pounders’ artillery guns, when he made these remarks.


Howitzers is an umbrella term for a category of long-range artillery guns, as per Indian Express.

As per Eurasian Times, the 155 mm ATAGS is the brainchild of India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and developed by its  Armament Research Development Establishment (ARDE) and Armament Combat Engineering Systems (ACE) in Pune.

Bharat Forge Ltd (of Kalyani Group) and Tata Advanced Systems Ltd are also part of its manufacturing.

DRDO’s Sangam Sinha told the outlet the ATAGS howitzer is a “game changer” as it is the first in the world to have a 45 kilometre range, it is self-propelled and can be towed easily.

It is said to be more lethal than the Bofors in every respect, as per the outlet.

ATAGS comes with electric drives to ensure maintenance-free and reliable field operations even in the extreme cold. The gun incorporates compact thermal imaging sight and surveillance system, Software Defined Radio (SDR) based advanced communication, high power, compact ‘auxiliary power’ unit for achieving enhanced cross-country mobility, walking-beam suspension for negotiating difficult terrains, simultaneous voice, and data communication and fire control computer.

It is also equipped with an “Integrated Fire Control system” consisting of an INS-based Automatic Gun Alignment and Positioning System (AGAPS), Muzzle Velocity Radar (MVR), and Ballistic Computer to carry out online computations.

Sources said the ATAG is in ‘advanced stages’ of trial and has many firsts to its credit — 25-litre chamber, long range, as also rapid and sustained rates of fire.

Sources said the user trials on the gun systems have been satisfactorily conducted and that there are few procedural issues that are being taken care of.

K9 Vajras

The K9 Vajras were originally procured for deployment in deserts, but following the eastern Ladakh standoff, the army deployed a significant number of the howitzers in that high-altitude region.

The sources said minor adjustments were made for deployment of the tracked howitzers in eastern Ladakh.

“We are also procuring winterisation kits so the howitzers work in sub-zero temperature,” the source said, adding the Vajra guns are roaring in high altitude area along Northern borders.

From ATAGS to UltraLight Howitzers how Indian Army is upping artillery game at borders

The K9 Vajra supplied by Larsen and Toubro. ANI

As per The Print, the Indian Army is set to order 100 more K9 Vajra Tracked Self-Propelled Howitzer from Larsen and Toubro (L&T).

“We have got the clearance from the Ministry of Defence to order for 100 more Vajras. The Request for Proposal (RFP) will be issued to L&T soon after which the cost negotiations will be carried out. We will fast-track the process and hope to have the deliveries started soon,” a source in the defence and security establishment told the outlet.

L&T won the Rs 4,500-crore contract to supply 100 units of K9 Vajras under the ‘Make in India’ initiative in 2017 for which it signed a transfer of technology contract with South Korean company Hanwha Corporation.

According to L&T, K9 Vajras are delivered with more than 80 per cent indigenous work packages and above 50 per cent indigenisation (by value) at the programme level.

Pinaka weapon systems

They said induction of more advanced Pinaka weapon systems is in the offing, adding six more regiments of the systems are being procured and their delivery would commence soon.

The six new systems will cost Rs 2,580 crore and bolster the existing four, as per The Times of India.

Sources said the new Pinaka regiments will be equipped with electronically and mechanically improved weapon system capable of firing variety of ammunition over longer ranges.

One regiment of Pinaka has been inducted along Northern borders in high altitude area after extensive validation, they said, adding the defence ministry has already approved procurement of guided extended range rockets for Pinaka.

“We are raising six more Pinaka regiments with longer range rockets, up from 36 km to 48 km. Then there are guided extended range rockets that can hit targets 75 km away. This is all indigenous. These new regiments will be equipped electronically and mechanically improved weapon systems capable of firing variety of ammunition over longer ranges,” a person familiar with the matter told Hindustan Times.

“The rocket would be capable of firing at longer ranges with significant accuracy,” the source said.

M777 ULH, Dhanush system, LMS

As per The Hindu, the army has deployed the M777 Ultra-Light Howitzers (ULH) in the Rest of Arunachal Pradesh (RALP) near the Line of Actual Control (LAC) .

Weighing just four tonnes, the M777 is a 155-mm, 39-calibre towed artillery gun.

It is thus light enough to be airlifted underslung from Chinook helicopters.

India has contracted 145 M777 guns from the BAE Systems and over half of them have been inducted, as per the report.

The M777 gives significant flexibility in the employment options for long range fire power, an officer told the outlet. “It can be airlifted to any forward location when required which is especially useful in RALP given the uneven terrain and thick forest cover,” the officer added.

As per MSN, the Indian Army in 2019 signed a deal to procure 114 Dhanush 155 mm/45-calibre towed howitzers and has inducted 18 of them thus far.

From ATAGS to UltraLight Howitzers how Indian Army is upping artillery game at borders

File photo of Dhanush artillery gun. Image courtesy: News18

The guns, which have a strike range of 38 kilometres,  were manufactured at the erstwhile Jabalpur-based Gun Carriage Factory (GCF) at a cost of Rs 14.50 crore, with each shell costing 1 lakh.

The army has already operationalised its first Dhanush regiment along the China border, and is now looking at raising a second regiment with 18 guns by March 2023, those familiar with the matter told Hindustan Times.

“The Dhanush gun system has been inducted and operationalised in high altitude along the northern borders (with China). The gun is an electronically and mechanically upgraded version of the Bofors gun. It represents a huge step towards self-reliance in defence manufacturing,” the newspaper quoted one individual as saying.

Dhanush Gun Systems has been inducted and operationalised in High Altitude along Northern Borders.

Dhanush gun is an electronically and mechanically upgraded version of the Bofors gun and the first regiment inducted along Northern borders after extensive validation.

Dhanush Gun System is a major milestone in the history of indigenous development of Artillery Guns and a huge step towards Atmanirbharta in defence manufacturing.

Sharang gun is also going for enhancement of 130 mm gun system and with a successful up-gunned gun with better range, accuracy and consistency corroborating Indigenous Defence Capability.

The army is also in the process of procuring ‘Loitering Munition System’ thereby augmenting its surveillance, target acquisition and precision strike capability.

Deliveries of these precision-strike loitering munitions –y smaller and cheaper explosive-armed kamikaze drones that wait to select high-value enemy targets and then crash into them – are set to begin under an emergency procurement contract inked with an Israeli-Indian private joint venture last year, as per The Times of India.

Ukrain has used Switchblade 300 and Phoenix Ghost loitering munitions supplied by the US as well as locally-assembled weapons to turn back Russian troops, as per the report.

“We are also in the process of procuring indigenously designed and developed Loitering Weapon System with enhanced strike capability,” the source said.

Sources in the defence establishment also said the army plans to equip its Artillery units along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) with a range of up to 90 kilometres.

“We are looking at procuring UAVs having a range of 15-20 kms as well as those having capabilities to carry out surveillance at a range of up to 80kms having an endurance of four hours,” said a source.

At present, almost all UAVs in the Army’s inventory are being operated by the Army Aviation units.

With inputs from agencies

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