Indian Artillery’s modernisation programme has faced considerable delays leading to no worthwhile acquisition since Bofors guns were purchased in 1987. The three decade non-acquisition patch has led the outdated equipment and a diminished the edge over own adversaries. As the acquisition of guns continued to suffer from decision delays and blacklisting of firms for various reasons, variable options for development of an indigenous gun were explored with defence PSUs as well as the private sector. Even though the blueprint plans of Bofors guns were available with OFB, Jabalpur since 1980s as part of technology transfer, it seems that visible interest was not shown by the stake holders to manufacture an indigenous gun. As delays compounded, a number of private companies like L&T and TATAs envisaged interest in manufacture and supply of 155 mm guns with foreign collaborators and had showcased their efforts at the Defence Expo in February 2014.
One of the key components of Defence Procurement Policy (DPP) 2013 has been focused thrust towards higher degree of indigenisation. The make and Buy Indian Category is expected to provide a much needed emphatic push towards achieving a sound defence manufacturing base. Though the private firms are now actively participating in the provision of weapon systems, one of the reasons for their reluctance in injecting funds has been the perceived absence of a level playing field due to supposedly natural inclination by the Department of Defence Production towards Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs). Even after six decades, the DPSUs had not been able to create a high quality manufacturing hub due to lack of competition from the private sector as well as low levels of technology absorption capability. A limited interaction with the service HQs during the weapon development stage often resulted in longer gestation period, deviations from initial requirement as well as low quality finished product. The INSAS small arms system is one such example that even after numerous years of research and development, a high quality carbine and a light machine gun is yet to be successfully developed.
Hence, the first user-developer collaboration for development of an indigenous 155 mm gun is a welcome trend changer towards achieving self reliance. In a major departure from the existing norms, Directorate of Artillery was actively involved in development process from the inception stage with DRDO and OFB. A well thought out strategy by taking on board all stake holders resulted in a synergized effort between the user, designer, producer and quality control personnel. The capability of the private firms to provide requisite higher end technology complimented the overall effort. Thus, a detailed road map was drawn up for development of the indigenous 155 mm gun in March 2011. The first step was to upgrade two existing gun systems with manual and electronic upgrade modules by February 2012. The next step involved manufacture of two 155/39 prototype guns based on the available blueprints by December 2012 and the third step was to manufacture of two 155/45 prototypes by June 2013 incorporating the latest available technologies. Since blueprints of Bofors gun were available since 1980s, the updation and the manufacture of two 155/39 prototypes was completed within the stipulated time frame and the validation firing cleared the path for manufacture of 155/45 prototypes. The 155/45 prototype dubbed, Dhanush, has undergone under extensive user trails and its acceptance may pave the path for full scale production and availability of an indigenous 155 mm gun for modernisation.