Artillery modernization of the Indian Army has assumed significance given extensive employment of guns, rockets and missiles in the War in Ukraine over the past 19 months. Russia as well as Ukraine have significantly used artillery given the attrition battles that have marked the second stage of the War after Moscow annexed four Ukrainian provinces. Mind boggling figures of 10,000 to 20,000 rounds being fired on a single day have indicated employment of guns in role of destruction and not just neutralization.
Indian Armed Forces despite the Integrated Battle Doctrine wherein employment of firepower will be synergized between and within the services seem to continue to rely on the artillery arm for supporting the ground troops for close as well as general support.
Yet modernization of the Indian Artillery is moving at snails pace with reliance on the 105 mm calibre field guns which have limited impact on the defences that are encountered on the modern battlefield.
The Indian Army’s Field Artillery Rationalisation Plan drafted in 1999 envisaged “mediumisation” or conversion of all gun regiments reportedly around 260 plus to the 155mm caliber for destructive effect on the target.
A mix of 1580 towed, 814 mounted, 180 self-propelled wheeled, 100 self-propelled tracked, and 145 ultra-light 155 mm/52 calibre artillery guns was planned in the initial stages.
This was modified based on the Artillery Profile 2027 Acquisition Plan prepared in 2008 which kept the mediumisation adding on to varied calibre. This profile has a mix of 155mm/39 calibre, 155mm/45 calibre and 155mm/52 calibre gun system.
Despite the planning having commenced almost two and a half decades back, progress has been slow and utilization of artillery in Ukraine implies that the Indian Army needs to accelerate the process.
The time line of 2040 that is planned now cannot be acceptable given developments on the Line of Actual Control with China and the rapid deterioration of India China relations witness absence of Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G 20 summit in Delhi, continued Three Warfare Strategy by China unilaterally publishing maps including Indian territory and denial of visa to Wushu players from Arunachal Pradesh.
More over based on a capability building paradigm mediumisation of the artillery assumes importance irrespective of the threat posed - manifestation or otherwise.
Here is a look at actual inductions of the artillery in the Indian Army.
145 numbers of M777 ultra light howitzers have been inducted while 100 self-propelled K9 Vajra-T guns manufactured by Larsen & Toubro with technology transfer from South Korean firm Hanwha Techwin have also been absorbed by the Army.
A supplementary order of 100 SP K9 Vajra is said to be in pipeline. The Army has seven M777 ULH and five K9-Vajra regiments operational with the latter likely to go to ten regiments.
In addition, first regiment of 155mm/45-calibre Dhanush towed guns has been deployed as per the Hindustan Times with five more regiments in the offing as the Army has placed orders for 114 guns which have been manufactured based on designs of the Bofors procured by India in the 1980’s.
The Sharang project upgraded130mm M46 towed artillery pieces to 155mm/45-calibre standard is to make up for 300 guns with four regiments reportedly inducted. 15 Sharang regiments are planned to be raised.
300 advanced towed artillery gun system [ATAGS] are to make up rest of the gun inductions so far which will together count for 15 regiments.
ATAGS designed and developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in partnership with Bharat Forge Limited and Tata Advanced Systems Limited is now under final stage of testing and possibly trial production.
An ATAGS modification is the Mounted Gun System [MGS] on a Kolos Tatra tractor for which 814 orders are expected but the state of development is not clear so far. Kalyani Group and Tata Advanced Systems are also developing the MGS to compete for the same and there could be a mix that could be inducted.
The overall shortfall in the guns with the artillery would be evident with only 120 of the 1580 towed, 100 self-propelled tracked, and 145 ultra-light guns inducted.
Indeed a massive upgrade in production by multiple agencies including corporatized Advanced Weapons and Equipment India Limited which has inherited the mantle of Field Gun Factory Kanpur, Gun Carriage Factory Jabalpur and Gun and Shell Factory Cossipore along with multiple private sector companies would have to be engaged if the Indian Artillery requirement is to be met as the DRDO chips in with the ATAGS.
Another critical concern is on the ammunition front. With scaling down from the 40 (I) to 10 (I) or Intense some years back munition stocks are expected to be low if the expenditure is even a fraction of what was experienced during the War in Ukraine. More over in the mountains requirement of ammunition is much more than in the plains and thus additional stocks will have to be catered for.
Attendant problem is storage of such large stocks of munition which was one of the reasons due to which the overall scales were brought down to 10 (I).
Thus, there are multiple challenges that the Indian Artillery and the Army faces to implement the lessons of primacy of fire power from the War in Ukraine which need urgent attention and remediation.