Dhanush gun clears army trials, Ordnance Factories Board to build 114 - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Monday 27 April 2015

Dhanush gun clears army trials, Ordnance Factories Board to build 114

The Dhanush 155 mm howitzer at Defexpo 2014 in New Delhi in February 2014

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, April 28th, 2015

The Indian Army’s most worrying operational gap --- that of field artillery guns to support infantry and armour in battle --- is gradually being filled. An Indian 155 millimetre, 45-calibre artillery gun called the Dhanush has cleared its field trials and is ready for manufacture in numbers.

Talking to Parliament’s consultative committee on Monday, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said “Dhanush has successfully met all technical parameters during the winter and summer trials. Dhanush incorporates many improved features than the guns [that] the Army is possessing at present”.

The Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) has built the Dhanush from manufacturing blueprints that Swedish company, Bofors, supplied India as part of the controversial 1986 purchase of 410 FH-77 howitzers. The OFB was going to build over a thousand of these howitzers in India, but allegations of kickbacks scuttled that plan; for years, OFB sat on the blueprints.

Now, it has not only figured out how to build these guns, but has upgraded these from the FH-77’s original 39-calibre to a more robust 45-calibre howitzer.

A higher calibre denotes a longer barrel and, consequently, a longer range. OFB officials say that upgrading the 39-calibre FH-77 into the 45-calibre Dhanush has increased the gun’s range from 27 kilometres to 38 kilometres, using enhanced range ammunition.

The OFB, it is learnt, will now receive an order for building 114 Dhanush guns, to equip 6 artillery regiments. If these guns perform to the army’s satisfaction, the order could go up to about 400 guns.

So far, the army is satisfied with the performance of the Dhanush during winter trials that were carried out in Sikkim and summer trials in Rajasthan last year.

Overall, the artillery consists of 264 regiments, many of them holding 105 and 130 millimetre guns. However, it has been decided that its basic gun will be 155 millimetres, so that their heavier shells can pulverize a piece of ground before infantry soldiers or tanks move to capture it, reducing casualties.

The artillery lobs shells from as far away as 20 kilometres, but has historically caused more battlefield casualties than any other arm.

With India having concluded no big artillery purchase since the 1980s, a range of tenders are now out for procuring modern artillery.

The purchase of 145 ultralight howitzers (ULH) from BAE Systems is being processed with the US government. With BAE Systems demanding close to $700 million (Rs 4,500 crore), the government has told parliament the price is too high.

Even so, the ULH is considered essential for the army’s new, but now-curtailed, mountain strike corps. Weighing only 4.2 tonnes (compared to the Dhanush’s 10 tonnes) the ULH can be transported rapidly by helicopters in the mountains.

Separately, the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) is partnering private firms like L&T, Bharat Forge and Tata Power SED in a Rs 700 crore project to build the Advanced Towed Artillery Gun (ATAG). This 155-millimetre, 52-calibre gun could have a planned range of 60 kilometres, while weighing just 12 tonnes.

In November, Parrikar sanctioned the purchase of 814 mounted gun systems (MGS) for an estimated Rs 15,750 crore. In this tender, Indian companies will establish joint ventures with foreign gun-makers.

To equip the artillery until the indigenous projects fructify, tenders have been floated in three more categories of 155 millimetre guns. These are for purchasing (a) 1,580 towed guns; (b) 100 tracked (self-propelled) guns; and (c) 180 wheeled (self-propelled) guns.

Towed guns are for regular use in plains and gentle mountains; tracked (self-propelled) guns are mounted in armoured vehicles to support tank formations; wheeled (self-propelled) guns are for fast-moving, non-armoured formations; The MGS is a regular 155-millimetre gun fitted onto a high mobility vehicle. This allows it to move faster and start firing quicker than a conventional towed gun.


  1. NSR says ---

    The shortfall of 155mm guns are in thousands...

    Why just 114???
    Go for an uninterrupted production lines of OFB and a private company to produce at least 240 each year (120-OFB and 120-private)...

    When the advanced ATGM gun comes up and meets the specs, then go for its manufacturing...

    There is no need to wait at all...

    Urgency is of importance...

    Involve private companies in all phases of guns and ammunition...

    This will get the needed guns quickly instead of waiting forever...India waited for almost 30 years...

    Also replace INSA rifle with AK-47 completely by paying for the intellectual property...
    It is better to do that then lose the life of a brave soldier...

  2. ulh... too high price... too high inaccurate...

  3. So the gun cleared the winter and summer trials. What about the monsoon , spring and autumn trials. Unless those are cleared these are useless. IA should order American guns immediately.

  4. Ajai sir,
    To your multiple critics I would like to point out that way back when the Mountain Strike Corps (MSC) was announced and progressively raised, you had questioned it's raison d'etre and the fact that its funding would be debilitating, in an increasingly technological battlefield.. Seems like someone heard your reasoning, and it's now being re-looked at - something that's alien to our big-gesture-oriented bodies.
    It takes courage to make the tough calls, and the firestorms they invite - and your latest writeup on the promotion policies will trigger the inevitable personal attacks.
    Pls keep up the good work !

  5. India Government should give the design & drawings to private sector and get them to make these guns. At least 40-50% of requirements should be these guns.

  6. @NSR - The reason for only 114 guns is rather very simple and is in many ways most central to Indian Armed Forces Lack of trust in the Government PSUs like HAL, DRDO and largely OFB.

    While the armed forces appreciate new prototypes created by DRDO and other Government bodies, the quality of the product seriously deteriorates when they go into mass production.

    Manufacturing agencies like OFBs and government factories uses the cheapest materials available and maintain a ill equipped and ill trained workforce to bring down the operating costs.

    This to a large extent, this happens in India's civil sector also. eg : lack of safety norms in cars. Food adulteration, no checks at petrol pumps etc. However, in the civil free market, the public has the option of switching vendors which in lay man's terms is known as voting with your rupee. This ensures some level of quality control.

    In the case of OFB, its pretty much a monopoly and any new vendor selection will take the armed forces on a decade long journey at the minimum.

    For instance the MCIWS or INSAS, the rifle though may look good on paper, when supplied en masse it will jam all the time. why ? because different types of metal will be used to ensure lower cost. each metal will behave differently at a certain temperature and it will jam.

    Furthermore, OFB factories look like small time museums where everything is rotting away. in order to ensure lower cost no upgrades to machinery will be made nor will the management employ good HR practices i.e. hire and retain skill and fire swill.

    Bottom line - great prototype, bad product. Hence to ensure a quality standard, Army will only order in small installments and keep foreign vendor as credible deterrent to ensure some level of quality control.

    This also a very serious problem in ammunition too.

  7. Dear Editor,

    I think the former Army Chief Gen VK Singh and his staff deserve a mention in this article.

    It was Gen VK Singh, who on his tour of an OFB factory "discovered" (i say that becuase it must be displayed on countless visits, but im guessing no inspecting dignitary must have bothered ) the blue prints for making the gun and asking OFB to build one.

    This is mentioned in his autobiography "Courage and Conviction" I have been following the development of Dhanush closely ever since and the story corroborates to the extent google informs me.

    I think it would be a fitting gesture
    of magnanimity and class of the Regiment of Artillery, if they could recognize his efforts by appointing an honorary Colonel of the Regiment of Artillery for life, if only Just the title and no other benefits to be intended as a form of recognition.

    Of course by Gen VK Singh, I also mean certain folks in his staff who must have worked hard behind the scenes to make this possible, must also be recognized for their efforts.

    After all, the lack of these guns were a 30 year old (older than me :)) serious crisis for the Army and the Regiment of Artillery.

    It would serve as an example for future senior officers, in an army where examples in good senior leadership is diminishing.

  8. @Anon 21.30

    Defense is not an area for shady businessmen to loot taxpayers' money. If they are keen to enter defense production, they need to come up with their own designs and not piggyback on ambiguous "Make in India" policies which only benefit corrupt foreign and Indian companies at the expense of Indian taxpayers.

  9. NSR says ---

    @ Jean Luc Picard,

    You are right on the money about quality of manufacturing...

    That is why I proposed hald to OFB and half to private company...
    So as the manufacturing goes on the better one will win over and the loser will be shut or privatized forever...

    I think India needs drastic steps in aerospace and defense manufacturing...

    Don't wait forever...tie up with a foreign company to get started until India builds indigenous technology and manufacturing...

    Go for two track uninterrupted manufacturing...

  10. @Anon 16:07 29th April

    Still it is better than direct buying from overseas. At the end we are buying from private vendors from aboard. And if competition increases automatically price will come down !! And as far as taxpayers money is concern every Rupee spent on defense is taxpayers' money. You have no problem if the money goes to some foreigners' pocket but you have problem if it goes to some India's pocket !! Very good observation !! Lastly please write your name, mentioning you as a time like 16:07 29th April is not ethical but I don't have any other choice !!

  11. this is really amazing, this gun is very strong and will be giving tough fight to enemy.


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