The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has embarked upon developing a 155-mm field gun. The development costs would be around Rs 300-400 crore.

In the last 25 years, India has not produced its own field gun. The last field gun, Bofors Howitzer, bought from the Swedish firm in the mid-1980s raised a big controversy. While the gun performed well in the Kargil conflict in the late 1990s, off the battlefield it took a heavy political toll. It also resulted in no import and indigenous effort.

Further, several global vendors were blacklisted for various reasons. There are just one or two options to buy, hence it is imperative to make our own gun, argues V.K. Saraswat, Director General, DRDO, which has a string of 50 national labs.

The ambitious project has been kick-started this year, with the Armaments Research and Development Establishment as the nodal agency. The ordnance factories and private industry would be involved in the development and production, Saraswat told Business Line.

The indigenous gun will have better firepower, higher penetration capabilities and autonomous features. It will take a couple of years to demonstrate the first prototype version. At present, the development and production partners as well as automation requirements have been identified and work is in progress, he said.

The project is a public-private initiative. In addition to the Armaments Establishment, Bharat Forge, ordnance factories, L&T have been identified to participate in the venture.

The Indian Army has been in serious need of guns and ammunition according to the last Army Chief Gen. V.K. Singh. With options of buying from abroad very limited, the Army will have to wait a few more years, say experts.

In the past, the Defence Research Organisation led by the Armaments Establishment designed and developed the 120-mm rifle bore guns for the MBT Arjun Tanks. The last gun developed was the 105-mm type till the Bofors gun was introduced. The Army could import a 130-mm gun sometime ago.

Somasekhar.m@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on November 26, 2012)
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