• Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Artillery Modernisation: The Time for Action is Now

Discussion in 'Indian Defence Forum' started by arp2041, Jun 16, 2012.

  1. arp2041

    arp2041 ELITE MEMBER

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    Warfare consists of two main ingredients: FirePower and Manoeuvre. Both compliment each other for defeating an enemy.

    In the nuclear backdrop however, especially in India’s context, the space for manoeuvre has got limited, leading to the primacy of firepower in a future conflict. Artillery being one of the principal constituents of firepower therefore will play a significant role in the outcome of future conflicts.

    Furthermore, the advancement and development of technology has made firepower more devastating in its application and has also lead to dramatic enhancements in the capabilities of artillery. This in turn has extended the effective reach (range and lethality) of the land forces to almost limitless levels.

    Sophisticated surveillance systems now permit the exploitation of extended reach of artillery platforms, and advanced communications allow the application over the widest possible envelop almost instantaneously.

    Technologically, artillery guns have stabilized at 155mm. This is believed to be the optimum barrel bore for the best mix of range, lethality and platform mobility.

    In terms of barrel length, 45-52 calibres are the trend though it appears that 52 calibre is what most gun manufacturers will eventually offer. This gun is becoming the mainstay of most of the modern armies. A few variants to the standard towed and self propelled tracked have also emerged in the last decade and a half, in the form of the mounted gun system and self propelled wheeled which offer specific terrain related advantages.

    The rocket artillery in the last three decades has also evolved into a spectacular weapon platform. The caliber has gone to 300mm, with its range close to 120km and with advanced smart ammunition, its accuracy and lethality has multiplied manifold.

    In view of the recent technological advancements, and keeping in mind the threat perceptions and terrain obtaining on our borders, the Indian Army had post-Kargil embarked on a transformation programme with Artillery Modernisation forming a key element. The programme includes purchase and manufacture of towed, mounted and ultra- light howitzers as well as self-propelled artillery, both tracked and wheeled, multi- barrel rocket launchers, missiles, surveillance and counter bombardment equipment and most important of all, the ammunition and communication equipment.
    The main highlight in this transformation process is the inclusion of the mounted gun system and wheeled self propelled artillery platforms. The mounted gun system provides a high level of autonomy and shoot and scoot capability and has a distinct advantage in the mountains due to its shorter turning radius compared to the towed gun.

    The wheeled self propelled gun is ideally suited for the plains and semi desert terrain vis a vis the tracked version providing better speed and mobility.

    While the modernisation related to rocket artillery (Russian Smerch and Indian Pinaka), missiles (Prithvi, Agni and Brahmos) and the surveillance equipment (UAVs, Radars for surveillance and weapon locating) is progressing satisfactorily, the main concern and problem area remains the stagnation in the induction of roughly 2820 guns/ howitzers of all types.

    There has been progress with regards to the Ultra Light Howitzer (ULH) and wheeled self propelled guns as trials in both cases have been successfully concluded. The ULH is being acquired under the direct foreign military sales route from US Government/Army.

    There was some delay due to a leaked trial report pointing to some shortcomings in the ULH produced by the BAE Systems (US), but the gun is expected to be inducted soon being a proven gun. It has extensively and effectively been used in Afghanistan.

    A total of 145 ULH are planned for induction for deployment in areas not easily accessible and for out of area contingencies in the neighbourhood. While the bore was kept to 155mm for commonality with other 155mm howitzers being acquired, the caliber selected was 39 to keep the gun light, enabling transportation by heavy lift helicopters as well as transport aircraft.

    In the case of the wheeled self propelled guns, in fray are Germany’s Rheinmetall and Slovakia’s Konstrukta. The induction of the selected gun is expected to commence this year provided there is no war of allegations, and no scandal.

    However no progress has been made with regards to the towed, self propelled track and mounted gun systems.

    The main culprit has been the Bofors’ ghost which continues to haunt the modernisation plans of the Indian artillery, especially the acquisition of 155mm howitzers now for almost a quarter of century. Although the company has changed many hands and the ownership of the erstwhile Swedish company Bofors is now with BAE Systems, a problem emerges in the mindset every time the gun does well or better in comparison to others. Nobody wants to put his seal of approval on it for fear of generating any controversy. Notably, the old Bofors, acquired 25 years ago, did exceedingly well in the 1999 Kargil War and undeniably paved the way for Indian Army’s victory.

    The modernisation process continues to stagnate for various other reasons as well, some beyond the control of the Army.

    The blacklisting of some of the major players in the defence market who are producing state of the art modern artillery gun systems has further set back the modernisation process. To recall, the last major acquisition of guns was that of 400 pieces of 155mm/ 39 calibre FH 77B howitzers from Bofors of Sweden with a range of 30 km in the mid-1980s.

    Today, most of the guns held in the inventory of artillery are either obsolescent or reaching obsolescence.

    While the Russian origin 122mm D30 towed howitzer mainly deployed in the plains is already obsolete, the 105mm Indian field gun (1FG), the mainstay of the artillery and in service for the last three decades is nearing obsolescence. Furthermore its limited range of 17 km is almost irrelevant in the present and future battlefield environment where guns with 30-40 km range would be the need of the hour.

    Most of the armies in the world are today even looking at mortars with enhanced ranges of 12-14 km. The availability of the FH 77B (Bofors) guns bought in 1986 are almost down to approximately half the numbers due to non-availability of spares and cannibalization.

    Indigenous efforts to manufacture 155mm howitzers include that by Ordnance Factories Board (OFB) to produce a 45 calibre 155 howitzer based on the designs for which Transfer of Technology was obtained from Bofors in the 1980s but unfortunately not utilized.

    It is learnt that the Defence Ministry has approved a proposal for the OFB to manufacture 114 howitzers provided the prototypes successfully meet the Army’s requirements in user trials, which have already commenced. It is learnt that BAE Systems has offered to provide all assistance to the OFB in this venture. But then, the gun acquired in the 1980s is an old model, and its production now would only serve a limited – and interim – requirement even though the gun is good. The simple fact is that technology has moved way ahead since the 1980s.

    The only silver lining in this dismal gun acquisition saga is the upgrade of 180 pieces of 130 mm/39 calibre M46 Russian guns to 155mm/45 calibre with the ordnance and kits supplied by Soltam of Israel.

    Despite its initial teething problems, this has been a successful venture giving an enhanced range of 39 km from its original 26 km, though not the ideal solution. However to meet the inescapable operational requirements of additional artillery deployment, specially on our Northern and Eastern borders with China, the Army is acquiring additional 130 mm guns from erstwhile Soviet republics, some of whom are have surplus stocks, and are also moving away to NATO/ US systems.

    Significantly, the Government is encouraging the private industry to come up with gun projects in collaboration with foreign vendors right from providing the required ordnance and accessories to upgunning. Companies like TATA, L&T and Bharat Forge are now offering to produce artillery guns indigenously to Indian Army’s specifications.

    However, the situation is now critical. While the acquisition process of the Indian Air Force and Indian Navy has been going on quite well, according to their Chiefs of Staff, the Army has cancelled a number of RfPs and for one reason or another, the acquisition of the artillery guns is accepted as jinxed.

    Even the Parliamentary Committee on Defence in its recent meetings has expressed anguish over the manner in which artillery modernization has suffered leading to the present criticality.
    Upgunning of additional 130mm guns or tasking OFB with the manufacture of a 100 odd old technology Bofors guns are only stopgap measures and not modernization.

    There is an urgent need for a relook at the blacklisting policy of the government. In numerous cases, a company or a firm (Indian or foreign) is banned/blacklisted for dealings not at all linked with the ongoing trials of major equipment. In such cases, it may be appropriate to impose a severe financial penalty on the company concerned with no effect on the ongoing trials, as is the practice in a number of other major defence importing countries.

    This will ensure that the acquisition of major/ critical weapon systems and the modernisation process will not suffer. It is learnt that the Naresh Chandra led committee on defence reforms is seriously examining this issue.

    The time for decision is now and this cannot brook any further delay.

    ..:: India Strategic ::. Army: Artillery Modernisation The Time for Action is Now
     
  2. ptltejas

    ptltejas FULL MEMBER

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    we have planning for the same. by adding new boforce indigenious version, m 777 if i m not mistake and other mountain gun from USA.