Induction of new artillery guns shows promise for indigenous defence firms - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Tuesday 5 February 2019

Induction of new artillery guns shows promise for indigenous defence firms

Besides imported guns, a bouquet of indigenous guns, such as the ATAGS await trials

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 6th Feb 19

For the third year running, new artillery guns have featured in the Republic Day parade, signalling that the army’s debilitating shortfall of modern artillery guns – the most effective battlefield weapon since the American Civil War – could soon be alleviated.

The parade saw the debut of two new artillery guns. One is the Korean-origin K-9 Thunder self-propelled gun, a 155 millimetre (mm), 52-calibre gun that Larsen & Toubro (L&T) is building under licence in their Talegaon plant, near Pune. These guns are mounted on tracked vehicles to keep pace with fast-moving tanks of the strike corps, providing uninterrupted fire support even as armoured spearheads move deep into enemy territory.

Just 100 K-9 Thunder guns are on order, enough only for one Indian strike corps. With three Indian strike corps awaiting modern self-propelled guns; the order to L&T could well be trebled.

Also making its Republic Day debut this year was the M777 ultralight howitzer (ULH) – a 155 mm, 39 calibre gun, built largely of titanium, that is light and manoeuvrable enough for the mountain borders. BAE Systems Inc. has an order for 145 M777 guns but, given the need to equip four recently raised mountain divisions, this order, too, could be doubled or more.

Meanwhile, the army’s most crucial new gun – the Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS) – made its debut in the 2017 parade. The army could eventually induct over 1,500 of these powerful, 155 mm, 52 calibre towed guns, to replace the old, lighter, shorter-range, less destructive 130 mm and 105 mm guns that has largely comprised the army’s arsenal for several decades.

For now, however, the ministry of defence (MoD) has ordered just 10 ATAGS howitzers, shared between the two firms developing the gun – Kalyani Group and Tata Power SED. The MoD has cleared an initial order for 150 guns, subject to successful trials. The lowest bidder will get to build 107 guns, while the more expensive bidder will build the remaining 43, at the lowest bidder’s price. 

Using this order as a springboard into artillery production, the Pune-based Kalyani Group has invested Rs 500-600 crore into gun fabrication facilities. Group chairman, Baba Kalyani, who had earlier had earlier bought and transported to Pune an entire factory from Austrian gun-manufacturer, RUAG, told Business Standardhe has recently bought another facility from the UK.

“We have completed the acquisition of a BAE Systems facility in Barrow-in-Furness, UK, which is a submarine and artillery plant,” stated Kalyani.

Kalyani, who makes no secret of his ambition to be the Krupp of India, has tasked his engineers to build various guns in order to develop design and fabrication skills. Besides the on-going ATAGS project, Kalyani Group has already developed six other types of guns.

“These include two 155 mm guns – called the Bharat-52 and Bharat-45. We have also mounted a lighter 105 mm gun on a truck. We have built three ultralight howitzers – one of titanium, another called the Hawkeye ULH, and finally a 155 mm, 39 calibre, all-steel ULH”, says Kalyani.

One of these came after army chief, General Bipin Rawat, on a visit to Kalyani Group, wondered whether it would be feasible to mount the all-steel ULH on a truck, for mobility in mountainous terrain. 

Kalyani says he has met Rawat’s request by integrating a 6.8-tonne, all-steel ULH onto a 7.5-tonne Ashok Leyland carrier. By March, it will be offered to the army and could go into testing.

Kalyani Group is also pitching in the ULH segment, having developed an all-titanium ULH that, at 4.8 tonnes, is only marginally heavier than the 4.5-tonne M777. Kalyani claims this gun would become lighter as development proceeds.

Both Kalyani Group and Tata Power SED officials complain the Rs 15 crore the MoD is paying for each ATAGS will not even cover manufacturing costs. But they remain in the project in the expectation of large orders ahead.

Meanwhile, the MoD is paying the OFB more generously – Rs 14 crore for each 155 mm, 45 calibre Dhanush howitzers it is manufacturing, even though that gun is smaller and less complex than the ATAGS. The OFB developed the Dhanush from the technology blueprints provided by Bofors in 1986, and is now building 114 guns for the army.

“After decades, there is movement on multiple fronts in artillery development. Now let us see how quickly we can get these guns into service,” says a senior army planner who deals with equipment induction.


  1. MoD has cleared an initial order for 150 guns, subject to successful trials. The lowest bidder will get to build 107 guns, while the more expensive bidder will build the remaining 43, at the lowest bidder’s price. .......



  2. Artillery is success story since there was continuous botch up in acquisitions.
    Yes , Tata and Kalyan’s need to offer a truck mounted version . Then almost whole artillery will become localised.
    We should order atleast 500 more K-9, induct them at a slow rate of 50-75 per year.

    By the way what is the total savings we as a nation get if 1500 of these are bought ?
    how many jobs design creates ?
    This information is a must in such a blog.

    Repeat the process for assault rifles. Ask kalyani to design one based on AR-15.

  3. Several things I don't understand here. I hope Col Shukla that you can answer these

    1. Why did the Army buy American M777 if they knew there was an indigenous equivalent system available?

    2. What is the Army's Artillery plans? How many and how many different types of towed, wheeled, tracked artillery are they going to buy?

    3. If there are 2 competing solutions for a ULH system. One of them foreign and its analogous solution which is indigenous, shouldn't preference be given to the indigenous solution? In this case the Kalyani group ULH

    4. Is the army looking to limit the types of caliber of their artillery systems? It seems that there are far too many 155mm x 52mm, 155mm x 45mm, 155mm x 39mm, 130mm, 122mm, 105mm. Standardizing ammunition will also help them save costs wouldn't it?

    5. Now that we are inducting newer and retiring older artillery pieces how much manpower will be saved per new artillery piece in total?

    I do apologize if I sound silly. But please do let me know.

  4. it is heartening to see progress on artillery inductions and we must keep our fingers crossed because so far no one is crying scams yet. if a large order is given then all hell will break loose. we must give piecemeal orders at regular intervals to keep the lines running.

  5. Dear People above, please study the subject do your homework before making random comments

    1. MoD cant follow ATAGS model in fighter jet acquisition because ATAGS is a product under development which will take at least another 5 years to prove itself. Whereas the RAFALE / EURO TYPHOON you are talking about are proven products which are in-service world-wide.(I feel silly to have answered this)

    2. Don't go by the comments from companies about ready products available. Question is how many of them have & are meeting the Army requirements and how many have qualified during the trials? The answer is none. ATAGS also has only gone through DRDO trials not the User trials.

    3. Most of the Guns mentioned in the article are just claims. None of them (except ATAGS) have been fired even once in India. Hence the only job it can do is be a display piece in expos and exhibitions and be used by general public to click selfies.

  6. Even so a development and production contract given to the Kalyani's for the ULH to meet the Army's requirements will give far more dividends compared to ordering more M777 from BAe Systems.


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