155 mm gun purchase: DRDO enters the fray - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Wednesday 28 July 2010

155 mm gun purchase: DRDO enters the fray

The 5.56 mm X 30mm carbine developed by ARDE Pune. for the first time in the INSAS programme, an industrial designer has enhanced ergonomics. It will be built at Small Arms Factory, Kanpur

by Ajai Shukla
ARDE, Pune
Business Standard, 29th July 10

With the international procurement of 155 millimetre towed guns for the Indian Army dogged by controversy and failure, India’s Defence R&D Organisation has made the potentially game-changing decision to jump into the fray. The DRDO’s most productive laboratory, the Armament Research & Development Establishment (ARDE) in Pune, could soon become the hub-centre for developing an indigenous 155 millimetre towed gun, in partnership with private industry giants like Bharat Forge and L&T.

This DRDO project would introduce an Indian consortium into the jinxed 155 mm procurement that has been confined to foreign vendors, many of them attended by controversy. Today, Defence Minister AK Antony informed parliament that the CBI had recommended the blacklisting of four companies that have been involved, at various stages of this procurement: Singapore Technologies Kinetics (STK); German company, Rheinmetall; Israel Military Industries (IMI); and another Israeli company, Soltam. Denel, a South African company, had been blacklisted earlier; and the only other gun on offer, the BAE Systems FH-77B-05 howitzer, is an modernised version of the controversial Bofors gun.

In these circumstances, say MoD sources, an indigenous 155 mm gun could be a politically palatable choice.

Anil Datar, the ARDE Director told Business Standard, “Within the DRDO, we are discussing how to develop a155 mm gun. We can make it, no problem, with the help of Indian industry. A 155 mm gun requires high-class manufacturing; we have Bharat Forge and L&T in and around Pune, which are keen to join us.”

While the ARDE --- the DRDO’s facility for developing small arms, guns, howitzers, and rockets --- has worked on gun technology earlier, now the army too appears to have concluded that indigenous development might be a faster route than international procurement.

The DRDO spokesperson in New Delhi, Ravi Gupta, confirmed to Business Standard, “The DRDO is very keen to develop 155 mm guns for the army. We had formed a team to work on this more than a decade ago, but the army did not give us a firm requirement then. Now, the army has expressed interest in the 155 mm gun project and preliminary work has already begun.”

The selection of a 155 mm towed gun has dragged on for 8 years without result. On Friday, the MoD cancelled army trials of two guns --- the Singapore Technologies Kinetics (STK) IFH-2000; and the BAE Systems FH-77B-05 --- after the CBI’s announcement about STK left only the Bofors gun in contention. MoD insiders say that it was impossible to select that gun on a single-vendor basis.

The contract, worth an estimated Rs 8000 crores, envisages buying 400 towed guns off the shelf and building 1180 in India from transferred technology.

Highlighting the ARDE’s experience in guns and artillery systems, Datar says: “The army is currently inducting our Pinaka multi-barrelled rocket launcher, which is a world-class system. Our 120 mm gun for the Arjun tank has outperformed the T-90 gun in army trials. In 1972, ARDE developed the 105 mm Indian Field Gun (IFG), which was a mainstay of the Indian Army’s field artillery. We assisted with up-gunning the army’s 130 mm gun to 155 mm. And ARDE produced a heavy 185 mm gun, but that never entered service because the army was not interested then.”

Datar claims that ARDE --- given adequate support from the private sector, and from the DRDO’s network of 50-odd laboratories --- could develop a world-class 155 mm gun within 3 – 3½ years. The Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory (DMRL), in Hyderabad, would develop special alloys and materials for the gun. Ammunition would be tested at the Proof and Experimental Establishment (PXE) at Balasore, Orissa; while warheads would be tested at the Terminal Ballistics Research Laboratory (TBRL), Chandigarh.

The ARDE is one of the DRDO’s star laboratories, having developed over 200 items that are in service with the military today. With just 1% of the DRDO’s total budget; and 5% of the DRDO’s manpower (1300 persons, including 220 scientists and 250 technical officers), the ARDE has developed 70% of the equipment that the Ordnance Factories have manufactured for the military.


  1. Is it 3.5 years for development and another 2 years for refining/user trials, or is 3.5 years to production?

  2. Sorry Ajai. This is a fool's errand. Nothing good will come out of this. Even if DRDO develops the best possible system , it will be given a massive run around. There are too many vested interests, lobbyist and agents,both inside and outside the govt and army with too much to lose if this happens. Why it is a loss of a massive 40K to 50K crore opportunity over multiple years along with the kickbacks that go with them.

    The DRDO should learn from the Arjun experience with the Army and simply cut all links with the Army.

    Let DRDO start talking to the Army only after the Army comes to them with hat in hand and behavior suitably modified. Most important of all, make the Army pay for every single paisa spent on the guns' R&D and development. Only then will they have any sense of ownership of anything that comes out of it.

  3. are they planning only to develop the towed gun or all the artillery types that you have mentioned in your previous report?

    if how to procure the artillery - indigenous or otherwise is yet to be decided , why the army send a RFI?

    or is this a standard procedure ?

  4. Army should have seen this coming...If the Army do the same thing again and again and expect different results from our holier than the thou Defence minister ...and his MOD babu...they are mistaken

  5. Thank God!!!!!

    Now some update on the Arjun Tank please.

  6. Cheers!

    Till the coming years Pinaka may hold the post as an additional responsibility.

  7. The very fact that IA were not interested earlier shows how corrupt their procurement is, because they only wanted foreign maal. If today we have a shortage of arti guns then IA is solely responsible for this. Had they shown interest earlier we would have sported homemade stuff. Of course they will wash off their hands saying they wanted to import earlier but do these sell-outs know how much food-grain and mineral resources we will have to export to earn that forex?

  8. maj Gen (Dr.) Bhupinder Yadav28 July 2010 at 22:26

    This is the way to achieve self reliance in Armament production. I wish the MOD had taken such initiative in 1987 post Bofors issue, by now we would have been exporting the Arty Guns.

  9. By posting the picture of carbine you have given away the info on the poster in the background. I hope that poster's info was security-cleared for publishing.

  10. then why not buy the bofors gun mr. antony? is it because madam sonia refuses? are you the defence minister of the nation or a servant of madam sonia?

  11. So finally everyone is waking up after 2 decades. Better late than never.

  12. Why dont you mention how long ARDE took to develop Pinaka. A few Pinaka rounds were tested as far back as the Kargil conflict and the accuracy was horrible. Its only after integration of IMI Trajectory Correction System (TCS) that Pinaka could find its mark. oh..IMI is going to be blacklisted too!

    As for DRDO "could develop a world-class 155 mm gun within 3 – 3½ years" there is simply no precedence of DRDO ever meeting a deadline in its history!!! Point me if there is one.

    Procedures are there to serve a purpose, not to offer excuses to hide behind. If they don't serve their purpose they should be disposed off.

    The way GOI has compromised the nation's defense capability by shying away from politically difficult decisions like accepting FH-77B-05 howitzer which is the need of the hour is not just criminal but treacherous. Some people should be hanged for this. In some countries they really would.

    Why not set up a JPC to break this impasse. Once all political fractions find themselves responsible for readiness of the army no one will be able to raise the phantom of Bofors.

  13. Congrats Ajai sir. This sudden idea must have struck MoD only after they had read your previous article. Hope you positively influence India's def-policy in the years to come.

    Sir will DRDO develop self propelled artillery systems also?

  14. Simranjit Singh29 July 2010 at 00:13

    Thank God...At last :)

    Looks like your articles are now changing MoD thinking....

    Sir, in the poster behind the MSMC....There is that multi caliber weapon to be developed by ARDE,HEMRL,DMRL...

    Can you please tell us something more about that rifle ?? More than one sources have confirmed that DRDO is going to develop multi caliber rifle for F-INSAS programme but some people say that there is no such programme running.....
    Can you please provide some details about this ??


  15. Dear Ajai ji,

    Can you please post the photo of ARDE 185mm gun and its history?

  16. Ajai, can the MSMC image be uploaded into Wikimedia commons according to Wikimedia commons rules?

  17. It is true that no country has ever become a military powwer based on the strenghts of foreign military hardware but does it take a country to start an Arty project 60 years.

    That is the moot point!

  18. Bravo, thumps up to the DRDO team. Let the Army, DRDO, L&T and Bharat Forge get together and let's make the Indigenous 155mm artillery gun within the shortest time frame.

  19. This is excellent news!!!

  20. Ajai Ji,
    Namaste! I have a doubt. Being a military personal (doesn't matter whether ex or present), I guess you are the right one to answer.

    I want to know what are the advantages and disadvantages of 155 mm guns (such as Bofors), Multiple Rocket Launchers (such as Pinaka) and battle tank such as T-90. Basically, all the three work on similar principles and purpose is very similar too. So why do we need three different systems? I am not sure whether the Western military prefers multiple rocket launchers over 155mm Guns?

    Could you please explain?
    Thank you.

  21. Hello Ajay,
    I think they read your last article. You are a game changer ;)
    I think you should be also included in this project. Your involvement can be a big difference. As you stay on ground, cover the ground, look at sky, think and then move.
    I wish AK Antony will read my comment and think about it.

    But yes you are really needed to make people aware about what is correct way for defense objectives. Private sector no doubt can outperform other world class companies, if work with DRDO.
    And I think as a good "Captain/Commander" DRDO should leverage every skill born in INDIA.

  22. Ajai,

    Did the development take place based on your previous article or was your previous article a curtain raiser/teaser?

    - Manne

  23. but what has the ARDE been doing all these years ? after 1972....it was the pinaka in 2008. it has taken almost 30 years to develop the pinaka. Does DRDO have the capaabilty ? it can only do cut paste copy job .....they are good at that !

  24. Anyone know if this is in production yet?

  25. You know the beauty about this? It will give Pak advantage because:

    It will be less reliable than anything imported! The most important thing with Arty is its reliability!!!!

    You ask why?

    Tell me one indian made product that is more reliable than an imported product. Infact even an indian licence assembled product is less reliable that the original imported one.

    Don't believe me talk to any of your relatives who are in the forces (ideally who have seen combat) and who do not follow the mantra of local products blindly.

  26. CBI should be stopped from blacklisting companies. It can blacklist politicians and agents if it wants.
    But the fact that they are blacklisting all, points that they are working to make way for FMS to be the only route for anything and everything.

  27. Ajai Sir,

    Foremost,agree with other readers that your articles are having positive effects on readers inside MoD. Congratulations !

    Next,can you please share MoD's thoughts/plan of record to fill the dire need of 155mm guns 'NOW'? Do they really consider Pinaka as a filler until IA has any sort of (Foreign/indigenous) new 155mm guns? Hope they don't come back with logic-packed response such as "We don't expect any Kargil like situation in next 10 years" If exists, such long-term thinking/logic/vision is bow-worthy. MoD में रहकर वैसी सोच रखने वाले महात्मा के पैर छूने चाहिए |

  28. If the Artillery is facing a dilemma and if the Pinaka is not a feasible substitute, then it may not be a sin to go immediately for the import of 25% of the contract number of guns.

    Let the DRDO and private colleagues compete with the import for the remnant 75% and further futuristic orders. Future is with them.

    This statement shall remain valid till Britain faces the recession. Lol...

    I am afraid that another controversy like T-90 Vs Arjun shall not raise its head.

  29. I hope drdo provide better results .we should support our scientists we cant keep importing everything from tissue papers to aircrafts .look at pak and china they are purchasing inferior quality in bulk made by their own scientists and supporting them and in few years time they may have an industry which can produce far superior products.

    what does the indian army think they are comparable to americans or what. its time for finance ministry to put a curb on defence imports.

  30. Chada Singh jee, less reliable than the best gun is better than no gun at all. The IA should have shed its stubbornness, realised the implications of realpolitik and declared the Soltam / Nexter best suited to its requirement in previous rounds of trial. But the IA stuck to Bofors or nothing. Naturally the Givt opted for nothing.

  31. PackLeader says...

    Building "A Gun" and building a "Good Gun" are two entirely different things. Yes, DRDO will manage to throw something together, but how good will it be?

    Mr Ajay's excellent solution only means postponing the trials for 7 years, or is he suggesting forcing the gun down Army's throat, regardless of how good it is.

  32. Col. Shukla,

    The "Multi Caliber Weapon" depicted in the background FINSAS poster has a bullpup layout.

    On the other hand, the "Multi Caliber Individual Weapon System" depicted in the poster above it has a conventional layout.

    Could you clarify what is going on here? I presume both refer to the same thing - the successor to the INSAS assault rifle for the FINSAS program.

  33. DRDO MAFIA full of cheats and traiters does it again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!They will produce a gun like 75/24 or IFG which have set world record in Barrel bulges,BORE PREMATUREs and will kill own troops

  34. ^^^^^ Anon @ 02:55

    With specific reference to the 155mm gun, the DRDO isn going to throw up just anything or something. They do have credible experience in the area. The 105mm IFG was a hit with IA units, the IA has been managing 155mm gun shortage with 130mm gun upped to 155mm with ARDE involvement and of late the IA has maintained a dead silence on the performance of the Arjun's main gun. Good precedence for a safe bet on the DRDO / ARDE 155mm gun

  35. I would rather have my old 130mm than a new one that is not reliable. Godforbid if it actually causes casulties to the operators. We should simply have a gov to gov deal...we have been doing this for the last 60 odd years and the russians have never let us down...nor their equipment. We are trying to ape the west too much and look at the result. We are like a peasent in the village who suddenly gets money....his behaviour suddenly changes. This is why we have or are in the process of loosing many of our strategic partners....like iran, russia, afghanistan, etc...

  36. Our country is going to the dogs and there seems to be nothing we can do about it.

    I really want to see a revolution of the likes that happened in France and Russia to happen here. Hang all the bloody politicos and bring genuine change.

  37. Did anyone notice the ties that are connecting the gun to its strap? NYLON ROPE.
    Bunch of dumb-asses.

  38. QUOTE>> Ra said...
    Our country is going to the dogs and there seems to be nothing we can do about it.

    I really want to see a revolution of the likes that happened in France and Russia to happen here. Hang all the bloody politicos and bring genuine change.

    30 July 2010 15:42

    OMG, I never said it.

    He may be some Maximilien Robespierre. Lol...

  39. Is there any possibility of ascertaining how many 130mm were upgraded to 155mm and what role did ARDE play in it ? Is there any way to get a photograph or some details of this 185mm gun developed by ARDE? It would be fascinating.

  40. You said:
    what does the indian army think they are comparable to americans or what. its time for finance ministry to put a curb on defence imports.

    What does DRDO think as compred to USA? No answer?

    Who's money does DRDO gazzle? some other finance ministry?

    Who produces IA's eighty percent requirement at third rate quality aka INSAS and thrust it down on them?

    China not importing defense equipment ??? Wow..

    One must be crazy !

    Solution is to do the best for the Country, neither Army nor DRDO. Well if the bosses feel, they do not require 155 mm for another ten years let them be responsible for it. It is a national risk.

    BTW is not it a clear indication for our friends across the border that they can indulge into another Bombay type adventure at no cost ot low cost?

    Soldiers do have a right to express their openion. They are not slaves.

  41. Anonymous 09:08:

    Your comment: "The DRDO should learn from the Arjun experience with the Army and simply cut all links with the Army.... Let DRDO start talking to the Army only after the Army comes to them with hat in hand and behavior suitably modified."

    Come on! This is not a playground disagreement between juveniles. This is simply a matter of slowly, painfully, building trust between the DRDO and the army. Even the many who realise how important the DRDO is to building national defence capability... have to admit that the DRDO is as culpable in the breakdown of trust as the army is: by decades of overpromising, under-delivering, and holding up imports endlessly.

    Today, the DRDO is coming good... even though the army cannot yet see it. But it will... a couple of good, usable systems from the DRDO and the army will change its thinking. Remember, soldiers change their thinking slowly... but when they back something, they back it with complete conviction.

    The army's conviction has to change... from anti-DRDO to pro-DRDO.

    It will happen.

  42. Many have asked about: "In the poster behind the MSMC....There is that multi caliber weapon to be developed by ARDE,HEMRL,DMRL..."

    Alas, I have nothing to say on that subject for now!

  43. @ Anon @ 0908

    "Most important of all, make the Army pay for every single paisa spent on the guns' R&D and development. Only then will they have any sense of ownership of anything that comes out of it."

    Absolutely correct. Also, let every paisa of DRDO salaries and infrastructure costs (including housing, campus and CSD subsidy) be paid out of such R&D investments if it can generate any in a free market. Losing the 'unlimited deep pocket' syndrome should make DRDO efficient and a genuine player.
    Come to think of it, PSUs like HAL / BEL should also be allowed to genuinely compete for the services requirements, with the "cost plus" profit system done away with.

  44. The army's conviction has to change... from anti-DRDO to pro-DRDO.

    It will happen.

    you give us hope Ajai, you give us hope.

  45. that's great ... but one should read the article "Farewell to foreign arms?" in Times of India datwd 1/08/2010
    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/sunday-toi/special-report/Farewell-to-foreign-arms/articleshow/6242138.cms..... It shows the dark side of the DRDO...

  46. Jaigarh Fort was a center of artillery production for the Rajputs and it is home to the world's largest cannon on wheels, the Jaivana. The foundries provide fascinating information for the visitors.

    Hope we check-out the metallurgical info from history if we have any significant historical know-how left.


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