The nearly 17-month standoff with China in eastern Ladakh has prompted the Army to look more intently for mounted artillery systems, which will be easier to manoeuvre in high-terrain areas.
Director-General of Artillery Lt Gen TK Chawla Monday said: “We are looking at mounted gun systems. Especially in mountain terrain, it will give advantage in getting in and out of action.”
In the case of towed guns, he said, “the train” to carry them “becomes very long”.
Mounted guns can be deployed in a variety of terrain — plains, mountains, high-altitude, desert and semi-desert regions. The Army had issued a Request for Information for more than 800 such guns earlier this year.
India had also ordered 145 ultra-light M777 howitzer towed guns for nearly $750 million in 2016.
Chawla told reporters that these guns would be part of seven regiments, and three of them are already operational. More than half of the ordered guns have been delivered, he said, adding that a fourth regiment is being raised. The 155-mm artillery piece is being deployed along the Line of Actual Control.
“They give that extra advantage of mobility due to their weight,” Chawla said. He also added that “the training is going on in moving guns from one sector to another with the Chinook helicopters”.
On the .45 caliber Dhanush howitzer, being manufactured by the Ordnance Factory Board, Chawla said the Army has “already given an indent for 114 guns” in 2019. He said: “There are few teething issues which they need to iron out. But it is good work in progress. As long as they are able to iron out those issues, we can go down to some confidence firing, that is what has been agreed to with OFB.”
He asserted that, “very recently had a very fruitful and constructive” discussions with OFB and mentioned that “we as the user are looking forward to it fructifying sooner than later”.
Chawla said that the DRDO-developed Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS) had firing trials in July and August in Pokhran. While “some parameters were achieved, some needed further improvement”. DRDO is working with its development partners, he said, in order to achieve these firing and non-firing parameters.
“We have informed the DRDO and they have agreed to work on it. We are looking at a robust gun, reliable gun which can fire accurately, consistently and reliably. I am very optimistic in the case of ATAGS. The DRDO will work towards overcoming what could not be achieved at Pokhran.”
Chawla said that in case of the artillery “a lot of handholding has been done by the Army, both for ATAGS and Dhanush”. He said, “I had a detailed discussion last week with the OFB and ARDE (Armament Research and Development Establishment)” of the DRDO.
Speaking about another indigenously designed system, the Pinaka multi-barrel rocket launcher, Chawla said four regiments have already been operationalised, and six more have been ordered.
A new version of the Akash Missile, Akash Prime, was successfully flight tested Monday from the Integrated Test Range, Chandipur, Odisha. The missile intercepted and destroyed an unmanned aerial target mimicking enemy aircraft in its maiden flight test after improvements.
DRDO said in a statement that Akash Prime is equipped with an indigenous active RF seeker for improved accuracy, and other improvements ensure more reliable performance under low-temperature environments at higher altitudes.