World record “gun salute” to incoming defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Monday 4 September 2017

World record “gun salute” to incoming defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman

Prototypes of the Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS) that broke world range record on Monday

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 5th Sept 17

On Monday, in trial firing at the Pokhran Ranges in Rajasthan, the advanced towed artillery gun system (ATAGS) being indigenously developed for the Indian Army demonstrated its potential to be a world-beating system.

The 155-millimetre, 52-calibre gun-howitzer fired three shells out to a world-record distance of 47.2 kilometres from the gun position. This was achieved using special, long-range ammunition called “high explosive – base bleed” (HE – BB).

In comparison, 155-millimetre, 52-calibre guns in service worldwide fire this ammunition to maximum ranges of 40-45 kilometres.

The achievements coincides with the appointment of Nirmala Sitharaman as defence minister.

The ATAGS is being developed by the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) on two parallel tracks – one prototype in partnership with Tata Power (Strategic Engineering Division) and another with Bharat Forge. The prototype that broke the record was the Tata Power (SED) gun.

Earlier, on Saturday, the same gun had broken another record by firing “high explosive – boat tail” (HE – BT) ammunition to a range of 37.2 kilometres.

Range, accuracy and consistency are the key attributes of an artillery gun. A longer range allows more area to be engaged from a “gun position”, without having to redeploy (or shift) the guns.

The secret of the ATAGS longer range is its larger chamber – 25 litres, compared to 23 litres in most 155-millimetre guns like the French Nexter and Israeli Elbit guns the military has evaluated. A larger chamber packs in more high explosive propellant, which shoots out the warhead further.

The need to cater for this higher “shock of firing” makes the ATAGS a heavier gun. It weighs in at 17-18 tonnes, while comparable guns worldwide weigh 14-15 tonnes.

So promising is the ATAGS that both existing prototypes were paraded on January 26 in New Delhi.

After the gun successfully completes development and firing trials, the army is likely to procure at least 2,000 ATAGS. At an estimated Rs 15 crore apiece, that will result in Rs 30,000 crore in business for the production eco-system, benefiting a large number of private defence firms.

With the current round of “summer trials” having successfully concluded in Pokhran, the ATAGS will now undergo modifications and prepare for “winter trials” in December, probably in Sikkim. Each vendor will build three more ATAGs gun prototypes to expedite trials.

The first ATAGS firing trials were carried out in Balasore, Odisha, last December.

While ATAGS looks much like the Bofors FH-77B – the infamous “Bofors gun” that India bought 410 of in the 1980s before scandal derailed indigenous construction – the ATAGS is in face significantly bigger than the 155-millimetre, 39-calibre Bofors.

When talking about a 155-millimetre, 52-calibre gun, the first figure denotes the “bore” of the gun, or the width of the gun barrel; while calibre relates to barrel length. The higher the calibre, the longer the barrel and, therefore, the greater 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.

Another global first in the ATAGS is its all-electric drive, which supersedes the more unreliable hydraulic drives in other towed guns. The all-electric drive operates all the ATAGS’ gun controls: ammunition handling, opening and closing the breech, and ramming the round into the chamber.

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

A high “burst fire” capability will provide the army a significant advantage since artillery causes most casualties in the initial burst of fire, when enemy soldiers are caught in the open (and not after they dive into their trenches).


  1. Record for India perhaps (well done), but not the word record as there are several artillery guns, howitzers with longer range.
    India's Gun Cannot even in range, beat the 100 year old record of the Paris Gun, which still holds the title of the longest shots fired in anger, It fired a 106 kg shell to a range of 130 km and a maximum altitude of 42 km.
    The NATO KRAB artillery system integrates a 155mm/L52 howitzer firing all standard Nato 155mm ammunition. It is also fitted with ZZKO TOPAZ fire-control system, 12.7mm machine gun, and smoke grenade launchers. The KRAB can destroy targets within the range of 50km with an intense rate of fire of six rounds per minute.
    But Congrulations anyway in indigenous production, we all have to start somewhere!

  2. BAE Systems has an advanced range gun of 155mm calibre which can fire at a range of 83 miles.
    The munitions are highly accurate, with a circular error probable (CEP) of 50 m (160 ft) or less. Lockheed Martin's flight test of the munition in July 2005 had a reported a flight distance of 59 nautical miles (109 km; 68 mi).

  3. Great news. Thank you, Ajai Shukla. Always great to hear about Indian-made weapons performing brilliantly. Any idea by when the ATAGS will get operational, if all trials go well?

  4. Looks like Bofors you mention. So it is a Bofors derivative? Is the design of the Bharat Forge version same or different?

  5. So why are we buying a Samsung .Korean + L&T SP gun ? Also why not entrust both Tatas and Bharat forge to make good range of assault rifles, MG and other small arms . Bharat Forge is the world's largest forgings manufacturer , why are we averse to it ? No bribes to the IAS and Army ? Not a DRDO stooge ?

  6. @Pucca Ghati: ATAGs is a towed gun system, thereby allowing larger weight and hence more caliber(thus more range). What L&T-samsung will deliver is a self-propelled gun, which obviously means lower weight, lower caliber and hence smaller range. Noth systems have their own place in artillery.

  7. Pucca Ghati... please don't comment on Army in a generalised manner

  8. Finally, something to cheer about! One saw the ATAGs gun for the first time in the Republic Day parade, and it is one magnificent piece of weaponry.

    Also, this is a perfect example of public - private partnership in the defence domain, and what close synergy between the two can achieve. Also, the MoD should uphold the American model of having two private entities developing two prototypes of the same weapons system as an example for developing other weapons platforms as well; the Indian Armed Forces will benefit by this competition.

    And as someone suggested in an earlier post, why can't Bharat Forge and Tata now be entrusted with the development of critical small arms like assault rifles, MGs etc. instead of issuing and cancelling RFPs for these weapons.

  9. Sooner we mount the ATAGS on the Arjun Chassis and revive the Bhim SPH the better it will be for India. Time is ripe for DRDO to capitalize on its success. Possibly the Directorate of Artillery is more level headed than the DGMF.

  10. When will the manufacture of these towed artillery guns begin ?
    It should not become like LCA or Arjun. That test this test Initial clearance semi final clearance etc etc

  11. all this OK, but what about:
    1. dispersion at the target end
    2. mobility cross country.can it operate in deserts? what about turning radius for mountain roads?
    3. does it have an APU for shoot and scoot capability?
    I am sceptical since our other attempts have been useless.

  12. Sir,

    Your blog is a good place to follow defence news and upcoming transformations at the service level.

    Some points need to be updated. As others have pointed out, the longest range arty gun is the Denel 25 litre G6-52. In trials they achieved a range of 50,150 mts using M9 ERFB-BB projectiles with M64 Bi-modular Charge (Zone 6) and muzzle velocity of 1050m/sec.

  13. Gret news..

    2000 pieces is great big order. I am sure export potential will also be explored.

  14. why are you politicising DRDO's achievement with defence minister. she has nothing to do with the gun as of this achievement..

  15. When will our armed forces stop all these tamasha of display to dignitaries. We are wasting manpower on these preparations and then we claim our revenue budget is on higher side.

    Simple Guard of Honour and on to job, that should be the protocol. I think these instructions should come from RAM only.

  16. "World record". Really?
    Reminds me of a line from a 80's Mel Brooks movie "World famous in Poland".
    The fact is, we are more than a 100 years behind the rest of the world in artillery development.
    So let us just call a spade a spade - first indigenous 52 caliber 155mm gun which has been successful in trials till now.


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