Learning lessons from the Russia-Ukraine war, the Indian Army is changing the profile of its artillery regiment to meet challenges emanating from China by inducting modern weapon systems from the indigenous defence industry that offer enhanced precision firepower and target acquisition capabilities. The Ministry of Defence, convinced of comprehensive capability development of the artillery regiment, has allowed the Army to initiate a slew of measures, the key being the shift towards ‘mediumisation’ of guns for 155mm/52 caliber only, which is the global standard for enhanced firepower, sources in the Defence establishment said.

The plan, however, of phased upgradation of indigenous guns such as Dhanush and Sharang — which is an electronic upscaled version of Bofors —, and those that have to be acquired are expected to be complete by 2040, they pointed out. It is learnt that Sharang guns have been up-gunned from 130mm to 155mm caliber already and the Army has bought 25 percent of more than 300 guns contracted so far from a defence PSU.

Dhanush guns

Defence sources stated the delay in the acquisition of Dhanush guns, owing largely to import issues, have been sorted out and the artillery is expected to get five more regiments from the state-owned company, Advanced Weapons and Equipment India Limited (AWEIL), by 2026.

The MoD has floated two Request For Proposals (RFPs) worth ₹300 crore each for more than 600 guns of 155mm/52 caliber; including over 300 Advanced Towed Artillery Gun Systems (ATAGS) which would be split between two private companies, Tata Advanced Systems Ltd (TASL) and Bharat Forge. The pre-bid meeting will happen soon for the ATAGS RFP and the process is expected to close in November for handing out orders, defence sources informed. The other RFP is for over 300 towed guns but its acquisition would take longer than that of the ATAGS.

The artillery regiment is also looking at the expertise of the Indian defence industry to produce 155mm/52 caliber light towed gun systems that would be versatile, given that it can also operate at high altitude terrain in the western sector, and cater to futuristic technological advancements.

‘Shoot and scoot’

The artillery is looking to equip itself with more mounted and self-propelled gun systems, other than its existing regiments, revising the military tactics in favour of ‘shoot and scoot’ to avoid land platforms becoming sitting ducks against aerial attacks as amply demonstrated in the recent wars, Defence sources elaborated. The Defence officials estimated that 20,000 artillery shells are fired by the Russian Army in a day in the unending 18-month-old conflict while Ukraine counters the attack with 4,000 to 5,000 shells.

The modernisation plan of the artillery regiment, hinged on five aspects besides gun upgrades, would also incorporate the development of rockets and missile regiments with longer ranges and precision, acquisition of munitions with increased ranges and accuracy, reorganisation of Surveillance and Target Acquisition (SATA) units. Defence strategic planners believe that the push towards aatmanirbharta in the military industry would be a game changer in case of prolonged wars as it would fulfil the need to continuously feed arms and ammunition supplies.

Increasing range

Sharing details of Pinaka multiple-barrel rocket launcher system, Defence sources stated the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), which developed it, is also exploring increasing its range to 120 km and 300 km, while additional induction of the weapon platform is likely to commence shortly.

Similarly, the missile capability is being enhanced in terms of range and accuracy for both ballistic and cruise missiles developed by the DRDO. This is besides the BrahMos supersonic missiles whose range has already been reportedly extended from 290 kms to 350 kms.

Adequate emphasis has also been given to the development of more lethal and precision ammunition for its ULH gun systems, for its Pinaka rockets, and the upgrading of electronics for which Bharat Electronics Limited have been engaged, Defence sources pointed out.