India has to fast track its artillery modernisation plan with stress on self-reliance by manufacturing the guns within the country, artillery chief Lt General TK Chawla said here on Monday.
He also said the army is handholding two programmes to develop indigenous guns including Dhanush and Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System(ATAG). These projects are running behind schedule.
Addressing a news conference on the eve of the Gunners’ Day here, the artillery chief said the army is keen that the two projects succeed.
Elaborating upon the delay, he said the summer trials of the ATAG could not meet the required parameters and will go for more modifications. The parameters needing improvement include firing and non-firing parameters, Chawla said. The trials were conducted in Pokhran, Rajasthan.
He also said it was difficult to put down a timeline for the induction of the guns into the Army. Chawla said the issues were flagged to the DRDO, adding the army wants a robust and reliable gun capable of firing accurately.
The ATAG programme took off in 2012.
As regards the Dhanush gun, Chawla said he discussed some issues with the Gun Carriage Factory, Jabalpur which is manufacturing the gun. The army had placed an order for 114 Dhanush guns in 2019 and so far only 12 of them with long range firing capability have joined service.
These two projects are part of the Field Artillery Rationalisation Programme (FARP). As per the FARP, the Army has planned to procure a mix of around 3,000-3,600 155mm howitzers — with different calibre types by 2025-27.
The K9 Vajra and M-777 lightweight howitzers projects part of the FARP are on track. The K-9 Vajra howitzers, manufactured by Larsen and Toubro in collaboration with a South Korean firm are now inducted.
On the US made M-777, assembled by India’s Mahindra Defence, the artillery chief said half of those ordered have reached the Army, adding that the Covid pandemic caused a delay.
He ruled out the Army looking at ordering more M-777s, adding that three regiments of the howitzers have been deployed along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).