Despite many advances made in developing missiles, Gun systems remain a popular alternative given the rate of fire that can be brought on the target, in addition to the cost to kill ratios particularly against UAVs. Terminal targeting of missiles can also be achieved through use of gun fire.
The Indian Army holds at present varied types of gun systems to include the 40mm L70, 23mm twin-barrelled guns, the 23mm quadruple guns mounted on the Schilka chassis and tracked Tunguska gun missile system Gun regiments are planned to be reorganised to Gun-Missile (GM) regiments. The philosophy of GM mix is to make optimum use of the characteristic of both guns and missiles. However, the progress of this plan is not very satisfactory though a beginning has been made.
The Tunguska gun- missile system is the most modern available in the AAD and is employed effectively to accompany armoured columns in deserts and semi desert terrain mounted on GM 352 M chassis, radar system IRL 144 (NATO Hot Shot), dual 2A38M 30mm cannons and also has two 9M 311-M1 missile with a range of 10 km.
Qualitative up-grade of guns manifests in multiple domains - ordnance, superstructure, laying and target tracking systems, enhancement in range and reach parameters, hours of operability and so on.
Up-grade of air defence gun systems, namely the L-70 and ZU23 guns and the Schilka Weapon System includes quality enhancement of Electro-Optical Fire Control System (EOFCS), complete with its day camera, night camera, laser range finder and fire control computer), besides enhancement in drives and power banks.
Upgrades of L/70 guns and ZU-23mm (Twin) guns are also being carried out by BEL to remove night blindness amongst other areas. The deficiency of ammunition is also being addressed.
Proposal for manufacture of L 70 and ZSU 23 mm guns indigenously in under consideration with private sector firms Bharat Forge and Punj Lloyd are keen to manufacture a new gun system.
The ZSU-23-4 Schilka Air Defence System has been upgraded by Bharat Electronics Limited, Bengaluru and the first system is handed over to Army in November 2014. As a part of the upgrade, the radar, analog computer and engine were replaced with advanced systems. An air conditioner has been added for crew comfort. The addition of an electro optical system that can operate in tandem with the radar, enables accurate identification, acquisition and tracking of targets while operating in a hostile electronic environment.
Upgraded Schilkas can fire on aerial targets while moving as also engage enemy aircraft and helicopters in all weather conditions both by day and night. The first phase of upgradation will see 48 Schilkas undergo upgradation. The remaining 42 will be upgraded in the second phase. An upgradation adds normally 10 years to the life of equipment and it is essential that the Directorate General of AAD utilises this period of time for developing a new system based on futuristic technology.
The overall emphasis on upgrades implies that induction of new gun or gun-missile systems is not planned for now.
Very Short Range Air Defence System (VSHORADS) of AAD
Very Short Range Air Defence System (VSHORADS) are short range SAMs which are man portable and allocated at present mainly to special forces and in the future could be allocated to infantry battalions particularly mechanised forces following in the wake of an armoured assault in the desert and plains. These will also be very pertinent for deployment along with elements of the Mountain Strike Corps on the Northern borders. The Indian Army is also envisaged twin launcher use and basing the VSHORADS on a high mobility vehicle.
VSHORADS also provide the required gun-missile mix at the terminal end of the point defence deployments, provide flexibility, enhancement in range, surprise and can engage opportunity targets like the unmanned aerial systems or UAS very effectively.
Indian Army’s present inventory comprises of Russian made Igla which is dated. The Army has completed the trial evaluation of a new VSHORADS under the $ 1.5 billion acquisition caters for 1000 launchers and 5175 missiles. 2,315 missiles will be bought off the shelf, 260 in a semi- knocked down condition and 1,000 missiles in completely knocked down condition while 600 will be produced in India as per Defense News.
French MBDA Mistral, Sweden’s SAAB RBS 70 NG and Russia’s new generation Igla-S participated in the trials. Field evaluation trials were conducted at Rajasthan (hot weather), Ladakh (high altitude, cold weather), and Vishakapatnam (coastal trials). System trials of sights and sensors were undertaken at Bengaluru and Dehradun. The QR included multiple target detection, tracking by day and night, providing data to the missile and engagement of aerial targets.
On progress of the VHORADS acquisition process Vivek Raghuvanshi of Defense News has indicated that in the commercial bid opening Rosoboronexport is the lowest bidder against Saab of Sweden and MBDA of France. However Raghuvanshi reports that as the Russian Igla S was not compliant as it failed in missile locking and direct hit repeatedly, confirmation from other sources is awaited.