Published: August 20, 2014
PTISHORTFALL: The critical howitzer shortage and obsolescence of existing platforms is possibly the worst of the Army’s innumerable deficiencies. Picture shows a Light Field Gun-105/37 MME-2 and Bofors gun 155 MM FH-77 BO2 on display during Kargil Vijay Diwas celebrations in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Indian Army is facing a critical shortage of effective artillery firepower, crucial in a limited war scenario
The Indian Army is making incremental, but confused, progress in upgrading its depreciated artillery profile that has languished gravely since the import of Bofors howitzers in the late 1980s. It recently completed trials for two 155mm/52 caliber howitzer systems and is readying its report on the try-outs in Rajasthan last summer and in Sikkim in February, for presentation to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) by the year end.Howitzer shortage
Depending on the trial reports of whether the howitzers have met the Army’s Qualitative Requirements (QRs), principally of reliably and consistently achieving a strike range of 42 kilometres, the vendors will be shortlisted or rejected. Ideally, thereafter the howitzer price bids submitted early last year ahead of field trials would be opened, cost negotiations launched and the procurement confirmed. But such a smooth and painless eventuality in India’s lugubrious MoD is still a long way off.
Competing for the 155mm/52 caliber towed gun system (TGS) are France’s Nexter, with its Trajan gun, specially modified for the Indian tender, and Israel’s Elbit fielding the ATHOS 2052 howitzer. India plans on acquiring 400 towed howitzers and building an additional 1,180 guns via a technology transfer to the state-run Ordnance Factory Board (OFB).
Vying alongside, in support of the Army’s initial requirement for 100 self-propelled tracked (SPT) howitzers are South Korean Samsung-Techwin’s K-9 Thunder and an upgraded version of Russia’s MSTA-S SP gun modified to 155mm/52cal standards and mounted on a T72 main battle tank chassis.
All four competitors have technical agreements with local companies that are expected to extend beyond providing backup during trials, if any of the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are shortlisted for acquisition. While Nexter and Samsung are collaborating with Larsen & Toubro (L&T), Elbit has an arrangement with the Kalyani Group in Pune. Expectedly, the Russians are in a tie-up with the OFB.