Indian artillery gun shines in trials, to be displayed on Republic Day - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

Home Top Ad


Wednesday 28 December 2016

Indian artillery gun shines in trials, to be displayed on Republic Day

The ATAGS --- ready to fire

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 28th Dec 16

After 18 years of having failed to buy a towed artillery gun from the global arms market, top army generals are finally reassured that their most worrying operational shortfall will soon be met from within India.

This belief comes after a week of successful “engineering trials” of the Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS), from December 13-20, at the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) ranges in Balasore, Odisha. Army observers witnessed the trials.

“We are on track in designing and building an international quality gun through the ATAGS project. If it continues like this, India will be a major gun supplier in the world market, instead of a major buyer”, asserts a senior army procurement manager.

The army is usually restrained in its endorsement of on-going DRDO projects.

So pleased is the ministry of defence that it has ordered the two existing ATAGS prototypes to be transported post-haste to New Delhi and displayed in the Republic Day Parade this year.

ATAGS is potentially the DRDO’s biggest indigenous project, aiming to meet the army’s need for more than 2,000 towed artillery pieces in the coming decade, generating indigenous manufacture for over Rs 30,000 crore.

Conceived and designed by the DRDO’s Armament R&D Establishment, Pune (ARDE), the gun is mostly built by two private firms. The lion’s share has been won by Tata Power (Strategic Engineering Division), which has built one prototype. The Kalyani Group has built a second prototype.

Development of the ATAGS system has been divided into nine “work packages”, with each package competitively tendered within India. The Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) won the tender to manufacture gun barrels, along with forgings giant, the Kalyani Group.

Other private companies have won roles too. Mahindra Defence Systems will make the recoil system along with Tata Power SED, while Punj Lloyd will make the muzzle brake. During full-scale manufacture, an entire eco-system of smaller Tier-2 and Tier-3 suppliers is expected to come up.

At first look, ATAGS appears similar to the Bofors FH-77B – the famous “Bofors gun” that India bought 410 of in the 1980s. In fact, the ATAGS, a 155-millimetre, 52-calibre gun-howitzer (guns fire at low angle, howitzers at high angle, while ATAGS does both) is significantly bigger than the 155-millimetre, 39-calibre Bofors.

155-millimetres is the “bore” of the gun, or the width of the gun barrel. Calibre relates to barrel length; the higher the calibre, the longer the barrel, and the longer its range. A third parameter is chamber size, which determines how large a projectile can be fired from the gun, and therefore how much damage a round can inflict on the target.

While most globally available 155-millimetre guns, including the French Nexter and Israeli Elbit guns the military has evaluated, have a chamber capacity of 23 litres, ATAGS will have a 25-litre chamber. That would let it fire more high explosive onto the target with each round.

In addition, that makes the ATAGS’s range noticeably higher, especially while firing “extended range full bore” (ERFB) ammunition, with which the range goes up to an astonishing 45 kilometres.

The ATAGS is the world’s only gun with a six-round “automated magazine”, which lets it fire a six-round burst in just 30 seconds. Most other 155-mm, 52-calibre guns have three-round magazines, which must be reloaded after firing three rounds.

Since most casualties are caused by artillery in the initial burst of fire, when enemy soldiers are caught in the open (and not after they dive into their trenches), a high “burst fire” capability is an important attribute.

The ATAGS specifications also require it to fire 60 rounds in 60 minutes in the “sustained fire” mode.

Another first in the ATAGS is its all-electric drive, which replaces the comparatively unreliable hydraulic drives in other towed guns. The ATAG’s all-electric drive operates its automated mechanisms: ammunition handling, opening and closing the breech, and ramming the round into the chamber.

These enhanced performance attributes have increased the weight of ATAGS to 16 tonnes, a couple of tonnes heavier than comparable towed guns. The army is willing to accept a heavier gun that delivers significantly better performance.

Notwithstanding the army’s enthusiasm, the ATAGS faces a stiff regimen of trials before entering service. In June, “range and accuracy trials” will be conducted to evaluate its accuracy and its effect on the target. Its performance will be evaluated in varying terrain conditions, like deserts, plains, mountains and high altitude; both in summer and winter. The gun’s mobility, and that of the Ashok Leyland tractor that tows it, will also be evaluated. Maintenance evaluation trials (MET) will follow.

Traditionally, indigenous weapon projects have been dominated by the DRDO. In ATAGS, however, the DRDO functions as a project manager and concept designer, while private firms handle much of the systems development. With the workload thus shared, the project is expected to escape the delays that have bedevilled past projects that were exclusively handled by an overloaded DRDO.

A look at the Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS)

Designed by DRDO, built mainly by private industry

1,500 – 2,000 guns needed by army

Rs 15-18 crore per gun, total cost about Rs 30,000 crore

ATAGS is a 155-millimetre, 52-calibre gun-howitzer

45-kilometre range with “extended range” ammunition

Fires six rounds in 30 seconds, fastest in the world

World’s first towed gun with all-electric drive

Weighs 16 tonnes, 2-3 tonnes heavier than comparable guns

Fires 60 rounds in 60 minutes in “sustained fire” mode

25-litre chamber for larger projectile


  1. LHM Sir - This gun was unveiled by Tata at the Maneckshaw Centre in Delhi in 2012, according to a Sandeep Unnithan report. Curious if it has been in trials since then. Also, the Dhanush (the Indian version of Bofors made by OFB) has a 39 km range, a 45 mm calibre and is presumably lighter. Will making two separate guns with slightly different capabilities not complicate the supply chain? Finally, what's the broad difference between wheeled, towed and mounted guns? Thank You.

  2. @ajaishukla
    Sir, any information on planned production rate for this Gun ?

    And by when it's expected to entertain Paki's ?

  3. LHM Another curiosity. The gun which Tata displayed in 2012 was a Denel (South African company) design. Exactly the same specifications as explained in this article - but articles from that year questioned its quality, compared to the other contenders. Kalyani was at that time in talks to make a gun with Elbit (Israli company). Punj Loyd was talking to a Russian company and L&T was talking to Nexter for the Ceaser. Did the others send their guns for trials? Why did Kalyani abandon Elbit? The backstory here seems more interesting than the gun itself.

  4. An excellent article. It had all the good components.

    1. Great Subject/topic - Something that is going to solve problems for the Military in a more tactical and shorter term. We may see these in operation if border situations flare up.

    2. Great Detail - best part of Broadsword vs other Defence blogs is that we get little nuggets of detail which is explained in a simple way for commoners like me to comprehend. Most articles only give headlines and branch of into something else or narrate the backstory. Eg: Features of the weapon system ( unique six round magazine, 45KM Range of ER Ammunition), status of trials and evaluation, who is manufacturing it, how is it being manufactured.

    3. Great Insights - that the average editor is not able to deliver. This is where Col Shukla's military experience proves invaluable. For example - even if a reporter, would have told us about the six round magazine feature, there would never have been an explanation of why initial burst of artillery is so crucial/fatal. Or that the DRDO is over loaded and that this type of work share type of development model is proving to be a successful one,so far.

    I hope The editor continues to focus on such topics. As readers, we can get updates and strategic opinion peices (call it "street/fast/junk food") from other places. But for those who are looking for the occasional wholesome goodness of a home/langar/offr Mess cooked meal, Broadsword continues to be the number one destination for it.


  5. Mr Jamon Joseph,

    Clarification on your both posts
    1) ATAGS is newly designed and developed artillery gun system by DRDO (ARDE, Pune). The prototypes of the gun are manufactured by two separate vendors (TATA Power SED & Bharat Forge Ltd), QTY 1 each. The OFB is also manufacturing armament system as 3rd vendor. The tata - denel gun is entirely different gun and has no connection with ATAGS. The specifications of ATAGS are much more lethal than any other similar gun in the global market. The parameters such as range (45+Km with conventional ammunition), accuracy and rate of fire are much better than any other gun in global market today.
    2) The OFB dhanush, is completely based on FH77B with only change in Barrel Length and up gradations in electronics (User Interface) of the gun. The max range of dhanush with conventional ammunition is less than 39Km and rate of fire is same as FH77B. ATAGS is advanced weapon system developed to suffice the present and future requirements of Indian Artillery.
    3) The all other private vendors have joint ventures with global companies and they will also be competing for the towed artillery system tender along with DRDO. However, ATAGS has complete indigenous content and all other guns are dependent on foreign firm for the technology and manufacturing.
    4) Towed gun - towed by a truck (the gun has limited self mobility around 10 km/hr)
    mounted - a) track mounted - mounted on tank chassis (greater mobility like tank)
    b) wheeled mounter- mounted on wheeled truck (greater mobility around 50Km/hr)
    5) The dhanush is lighter because, the fire power is less and ATAGS has more fire power and more weight.

    @ Ashish
    ATAGS is under final stage of development and the gun will undergo the trial and evaluation by army and then only mass production will begin. The production rate can be increased to great extent as major manufacturing is done by private companies based on technology of DRDO. The deployment on LOC dependents on performance of the gun in user trials, if everything goes smooth, probably in next 2-3 years, the gun will entertain pakis. :)

  6. An excellent beginning . Now on we should continuously improve this gun. Make it lighter, improve barrel life, longer range, more accurate, better electronics etc. the target should be a new generation of gun every 5 years.

  7. @ Jaimon Joseph

    I trust Mr Gupta's clarifications have removed your doubts? He is correct.

  8. @ Jean Luc Picard

    Thank you for your fulsome and unstinting praise! I'm glad Broadsword is serving up that wholesome langar meal.

  9. @ ashish vikas

    Too early for that yet. Trials will take at least another 18 months.

  10. Ajai Sir (1)can you confirm whether or not we are still upgrading the M-46 gun to 155/45 caliber standard? work started? (2)why don't we replace it with Dhanush, ATAGS? Or there is a need for M-46 type towed gun in IA.

  11. The army is usually restrained in its endorsement of on-going DRDO projects.

    Of course with very good reasons and a troubled history. I sincerely hope this is not another INSAS in the making.

    However, what appears to give hope this time is that DRDO is only coordinating the project and there are good names like TATA SED, Bharat Forge and Ashok Leyland involved in manufacturing the systems.

    Another aspects the bigger the chamber, the bigger is the explosive and the bigger id EFC which will reduce barrel life and increase wear and tear for the barrel. Still that is secondary. Secondly, the weight is a major factor in Indian terrain particularly when when we are a leggard in infrastructure development in our mountainous terrain.

    Last but not the least, Indian Army Artillery can not wash their hands off the close support role for which these guns would not foot the bill. Larger the shells, bigger is the margin of / increase in safety. We are hundreds years away from "Artillery winning the Battles".

  12. Private Industry Involved ? Yay!

  13. Hi shukla,
    Why not include private industry in a big way for other crucial projects as well like AMCA, PAK FA (Indian version), LCH... This would make a world of difference...

    Private Industry has the knack of getting things done, steal, beg or borrow :)

  14. I have no idea on the status of the M-46 conversion, but IIRC, it was $200K/gun; probably more now. ATAGS $2.2-million/gun. Clearly ATAGS is a whole lot better, but M-46 conversion is inexpensive way of upgrading arty with a much more powerful piece.

    Col. Shukla, you thoughts?

    1. 130mm gun is under upgrade to 155mm x 52 cal.

  15. Hi,
    Posting here,as can't write everything on twitter. Have been reading your articles for some time now & enjoy them too. You have written separately on the different guns/howitzers in production/in trial/ordered by the Army of late.I had a few questions:
    a)Just how many guns of various types does the Army requires to equip itself well for any future conflagration
    b)With the modernization plan going go,can one seriously expect the Army to be better equipped in the next 2-3 years
    c) This may have political connotations, but just WHY these steps weren't taken earlier. Clearly Army's firepower has been compromised
    And a request:
    Can you do a comparative assessment of the various guns i.e. M777,Dhanush,Bofors,ATAGS,K9


  16. NSR says ---

    Col. Shukla,

    A stupendous job in getting details and writing it finely for the common folks...

    wish you a Happy New Year - 2017!!!

    Narotham Reddy, Ph. D.

  17. Hi, is it 100% confirmed that the chamber volume will be 25 litres like the G6-52L?

    Have the DRDO people talked about the ranges from different shells? Like what range can be expected from a ERFB-BT, ERFB-BB and RAP/V-LAP, also what charge system will they be using? AFAIK we don't produce anything similar to the M64 BMCS that was designed to be used with the M9 shells in the 25 litre chamber G6-52L.

  18. Plenty of inaccuracies and/or missing infos in this article, e.g. :

    1) Chamber volume actually governs the amount of propellant, and not necessarily the mass of the projectile.

    2) As far as the projectile is concerned, it would be a wise move to adhere to existing ballistic options (JBMOU or ERFB), which probably precludes exotic shells with *bigger bang*.

    3) It's not clear whether the 45km range stated in the article is achieved used Base-bleed or not. If with base-bleed, then it's a very modest increase over JBMOU-compliant 155mm/52 guns (41km max. for ATMOS, 42km max. range for CAESAR).

    4) There's no information on such critical design parameters as chamber pressure (at std / max.) which has a huge impact in terms of gun performances.

    On a final note, 16 tons for a towed howitzer is grossly excessive. considering a couple more tons is all you need for a 6x6 CAESAR with similar (and combat-proven) gun performances.

    Yet another bridge too far IMHO...

    1. The critical parameters cannot be disclosed, however it is significantly more than contemporary guns. It presented great challenge, however Scientist tackled those in a handsome way.

      45 km is with base bleed.

  19. A good beginning, can you put a table comparing the contenders for the erstwhile towed artillery ?
    16 ton at first shot looks heavy, but this is the first iteration. It should be improved in steps. It i
    We have technology in house and can improve it with lower cost.
    Is the APU indian ? Hopefully TATA motors made it, maybe the imported one in Bofors can also be replaced by this one.

  20. Thanks for the detailed information about DRDO project "Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System" as this gun system will deferentially increase our army strength.


Recent Posts

Page 1 of 10412345...104Next >>Last