Artillery Today
Maj Gen (Retd.) P K Chakravorty
Introduction

The Indian Artillery has ever been performing creditably during war and peace. Its motto ‘Sarvatra’ signifies its employment in all operations including Low Intensity Conflicts. Artillery is actively involved in surveillance, reconnaissance, engagement of targets and post-strike damage assessment. It has been used to detect militant hideouts, track them and ensure engagement By Small Arms as also carry out post-strike damage assessment through Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and other devices. Being an arm capable of manoeuvre and fire power, its versatile application enables the Arm to optimise operational tasks for the Indian Army.

Modernisation of the Indian Amy is being undertaken to meet the two front threats from China and Pakistan. To undertake this, the focus is on Network Centric Warfare (NCW). Like other combat Arms, the Indian Artillery is currently in a NCW environment and has to provide surveillance and reconnaissance resulting to perform target acquisition, followed by engagement and post-strike damage assessment to see that the target is destroyed. In NCW, Artillery shapes the battle field, degrades enemy’s war waging capability, destroys his field defences, communication sites and logistics echelons, thereby paralysing him in accomplishing the overall mission.

Make-in-India Projects of the Artillery

Artillery has been in the forefront with regard to Make-in-India projects. It started in its current form with the development of the Multi Barrel Pinaka Rocket, followed by the Soultam Gun, BrahMos Supersonic Cruise Missile and a host of other projects. Numerous projects are on, which would lead to modernising the Regiment of Artillery.

Surveillance

The Regiment is currently equipped with a variety of surveillance devices, guns, mortars, rockets and missiles. The surveillance devices are a part of the Surveillance and Target Acquisition (SATA) Regiments. The devices currently held comprise the UAVs which are of four types. These are the Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) Heron, Short Range Searcher Marks I & II, and indigenously built ‘Nishant’ UAVs. These UAVs have been operationally tested and they are extremely useful tools of surveillance. The current holdings are minimal and the numbers need to be enhanced. The DRDO is currently developing a MALE UAV ‘Rustam’ which will possibly be inducted in the short term. Recently, development trials of the UAV were undertaken by the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) at Chitradurga near Bangalore. It is reported that DRDO is also developing an Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV) named ‘Aura’. Though an Air Force project, it serves the interest of the Indian Artillery also.

The SATA units are currently equipped with Medium Range Battlefield Surveillance Radars (MBFSR) and Weapon Locating Radars (WLR). Both these items are currently made in India by the BEL Bangalore. The MBFSR currently held is the ELM-2140 type which is able to detect tanks, vehicles and troops. These are held in minimal quantities and are being exploited with help of mobile masts. The WLR currently held is the American ANTPQ-37 which has been optimised with a reasonable degree of success. The Indian WLR ‘Swathi’ has reportedly been approved for the plains sectors and 28 have been ordered for induction. Further, SATA units are equipped with Long Range Reconnaissance and Observation System (LORROS). This equipment has excellent day and night surveillance capability and has proved its effectiveness in operational areas, particularly in detection of infiltrating militants.

Guns

As regards guns, the Regiment is equipped with Field, Medium, Self Propelled, Light and Medium Regiments. Field Regiments possess either 105 mm Indian Field/Light Field Gun or 122mm Field Howitzer. The Medium Regiments possess 130 mm Medium Gun, 155 mm Bofors Medium Gun (39 calibre) and a few regiments of 155 mm (45 calibre) Soltam Guns. The Self Propelled Regiments are equipped with 130 mm ‘Catapult’ and the Light Regiments are equipped with 120 mm Mortars. The 105 mm, 120 mm Mortar, Soltam and the Catapult are made in India while the 130 mm is being upgraded to a 155 mm (45 calibre) Gun under a ‘Make’ project.

Recently the Regiment has inducted six 155 mm (45 calibre) ‘Dhanush’ Gun systems manufactured by the Ordnance Factory Board. It is also reported that there is an indent for 114 of these Guns, to be followed by a further order of about 300. The Gun is designed, developed and made in India which enhances the indigenous capability of manufacturing state-of-the-art equipment. The equipment has undergone extensive evaluation trials and is expected to attain a maximum range of about 38 km.

The other guns pertain to the 155 mm Ultra Light Howitzer (39 calibre) (ULH) and the Self Propelled Gun K-9 Vajra (52 Calibre). The ULH is manufactured by the BAE Systems and is being procured by the Foreign Military Sales Route from the United States (US). The Letter of Acceptance (LoA) has been received and the process of induction has commenced. While about 20 pieces would be obtained from the Original Equipment Manufacturer, the remaining 125 would be made in India by Mahindra Defence. The Gun is extremely light and can be heli-lifted by Chinook CH-47 C helicopter which is being procured by the Indian Air Force. It is expected that 145 pieces of ULH would be added to the inventory. The Range Tables have been prepared and the Gun is being inducted into the Indian Artillery shortly.

The K-9 Vajra Self Propelled (SP) Gun is an indigenised version of a South Korean SP Gun which has been made in India by Larsen and Toubro (L&T) Limited. The Gun would be utilised in the desert regions bordering our Western Front and would be the first SP Gun after the 105 mm Abbot and the 130 mm Catapult to be inducted into The Indian Army. About 100 pieces would be the initial order. The contract has been signed and the Gun has been manufactured at the L&T plant at Talegaon, near Pune. Assistance will be provided by Samsung Techwin for the project. This is a thundering moment for the Indian Artillery which has broken the glass ceiling and taken a Great Leap Forward in the field of modernisation. The Gun is likely to be inducted shortly.

Rockets and Missiles

The Regiment of Artillery is also holding rockets and missiles. Rocket Regiments are equipped with 122 mm GRAD BM-21 Rockets, 214 mm Pinaka Rockets and 300 mm Smerch Rockets. As stated earlier, the Pinaka Rockets are made in India. The Missile Regiments are equipped with the Super Sonic Cruise Missile BrahMos which has a range of 290 km. Recently, India has joined the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) which has resulted in trials for extending the range up to possibly 400 km. The BrahMos is an outstanding Cruise Missile made in India.

Issues which Merit Importance

The Doklam contest in which China threatened to fight a war have made the Indian Artillery realise that it has to be fully prepared for a full spectrum two-front War. The battle space is likely to be:-

  • Hybrid, asymmetric nature;
  • Short notice, high tempo and high intensity;
  • Enhanced battle space transparency;
  • Deeper and wider contact zones and non-contact warfare;
  • Greater use of precision weapons;
  • Network centricity both of platforms and systems;
  • To be fought against a backdrop of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Warfare.
Modernisation

The Indian Artillery is currently on the threshold of a new era with modernisation moving at a steady pace. The Regiment has expedited the modernisation process particularly with regard to guns and ammunition.

As far as indigenous development is concerned, with the development of Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS) by the DRDO, there has been a great break through. Two prototypes have been developed by Bharat Forge and Tata Strategic Engineering Division. During the development trials in September 2017, the Bharat Forge Gun has achieved a range of over 48 km. With successful winter trials in high altitude, the Defence Acquisition Council has approved 150 pieces of the Gun to be inducted into the Regiment of Artillery. Meanwhile, the Ordnance factory manufactured 155 mm (45 calibre) Dhanush has passed the mandatory evaluations, and the induction process would commence.

The other achievement has been in the field of the Supersonic Cruise Missile BrahMos. It has qualified in the user trials for the steep dive version of the Missile, thereby enabling the equipment to be deployed in the mountains. The missile in a current test has ranged 400 km; there is a requirement to enhance the range to 600 km to engage suitable depth targets across the borders. It should be possible to achieve this range without changes to current equipment configuration.

Challenges

The 155 mm (52 calibre) Mounted Gun System has the Gun mounted on a vehicle. It is an extremely important system as the Gun could be employed universally. Trials have been completed and referred to an empowered Committee. It is reported that the Request for Proposal (RFP) has been re-issued. There is need for a long range Mortar for which suitable efforts must be put in. In addition, there is the need to analyse the cause for barrel bursts taking place which could be due to equipment or ammunition failure.

The extended range Pinaka Rocket of 60 km is also shaping well in the trials undertaken by the DRDO. The Pinaka and the Smerch missiles must be configured for deployment in the mountains and the Gunners need to address this issue with deliberation.

The Regiment also needs UCAVs and Loitering Missiles. To enhance surveillance of depth areas Aerostats are needed which would help us in acquiring targets. Surveillance too need to be beefed up to meet the dire need for satellites to provide surveillance and target acquisition. The Artillery Combat Command and Control System (ACCCS) will be combining these elements to provide synergic firepower. The system needs to be updated and introduced in all formations.

As regards ammunition, the need is to seriously examine the employment of Precision Guided Munitions (PGMs) to ensure destruction of targets by accurate fire. The Regiment of Artillery needs to seriously consider this aspect and evaluate its requirements considering the prevalent operational environment. Further, Sensor Fuzed Ammunition needs to be procured for precise engagements of mechanised targets.

Way Ahead

To meet the challenges discussed above while numerous projects fructify, there is the need to modernise the surveillance system, guns, mortars, rockets, missiles and ammunition. It is time now to think about the future. The ongoing cases would possibly fructify in the next decade. What are then the issues involved to ensure that the Artillery is not left behind. These are listed as follows:-

  • Must complete the mediumisation of the Artillery by completing the General Staff Evaluation of the 155 mm (52 calibre);
  • PGMs could be co-developed between the DRDO and Raytheon. The 155 mm Excalibur is an excellent PGM which could be made in India, making it an excellent weapon against targets needing precise engagements, including terrorist hideouts across the Line of Control.
  • UCAVs are the need of the hour. These could be made in India with initiative taken by the Directorate General of Artillery, like in the case of UAV.
  • Artillery needs to plan for the future. Loitering missiles with zero circular error of probability must be developed by the DRDO in consortium with the MBDA, France, or with Israel.
  • There is a need for hypersonic cruise missiles. The Directorate General of Artillery may ensure that the BrahMos Aerospace works towards this end.
  • DRDO could co-develop 200 km gun using rocket projectiles with Lockheed Martin which has developed a 62 calibre naval gun and is keen on Make-in-India.
  • There is a need to develop Direct Energy Weapons - particularly microwave weapons which can be used on missiles, lasers on UCAVs - and the electro-magnetic rail gun. Artillery must get involved to ensure that they continue in their race forward.
Conclusion

For the Artillery to win wars, its equipment, to a large proportion, must be indigenous. Make-in-India has ensured that this would take place gradually. With the numerous indigenous projects fructifying, the modernisation process of the Regiment of Artillery has taken off. As far as the Indian Army is concerned, the Artillery is possibly the only Arm whose Make-in-India projects are on track. This would lead to early de-induction of obsolescent equipment and enhance the firepower capabilities of the Indian Army. The process of indigenisation will stand the Artillery in good stead during active operations.

(The paper is the author’s individual scholastic articulation. The author certifies that the article/paper is original in content, unpublished and it has not been submitted for publication/web upload elsewhere, and that the facts and figures quoted are duly referenced, as needed, and are believed to be correct). (The paper does not necessarily represent the organisational stance... More >>


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