Evaluating the arsenal

News: The Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Indian Army are assessing procurement of another 100-200 mobile SP howitzers. The additional 200 guns would equip 10 medium artillery regiments.

Historical trends

(1) Medieval Times

In 1526, Babur defeated the Sultan of Delhi, Ibrahim Lodhi and won the First Battle of Panipat.

Babur was able to do so simply by deploying and employing artillery skilfully.

Whereas Ibrahim Lodhi failed to register victory despite having a large number of troops, and war elephants because he had no field artillery in the battle.

(2) Modern Times

India´s modern military learnt the importance of artillery usage from World War II and India’s experience in the 1947-48 Kashmir campaign, the 1962 Sino-Indian war, 1965 war and 1971 war when India hardly had any artillery.

In the 1999 Kargil War, the artillery demonstrated its utility. For example, Bofors FH77 gun destroyed or degraded the enemy´s combat potential.

Artillery numbers 

Today, India has about 226 artillery regiments. India is looking to increase the artillery regiments to 270. Each regiment would have about 18 artillery guns plus two reserve guns. Thus, the total arsenal will amount to 5,400 artillery pieces.

Mediumisation of all the artillery regiments has been done in wake of the Kargil War. This involves replacing 105 mm and 130 mm field guns with 155 mm medium guns.

Multi-barrelled rocket launchers: Their number is growing. For example, 6 units of the indigenous Pinaka, 3 Russian SMERCH regiments and 5 Russian GRAD BM21 regiments.

In addition, there are three units of BrahMos cruise missiles, and a fourth under raising.

Sophisticated surveillance and target acquisition (SATA) systems. This picks up and locates enemy guns and radars that can then be destroyed by counterfire. India has indigenous Swati weapon locating radar.

India has LOROS (long-range recce and observation system) systems which have been imported from Israel. They are used to detect locations of enemy guns and batteries.

Over the last five years. The Indian army’s five artillery regiments have been equipped with 100 guns called as K 9 Vajra.

What are the issues?

The army has long been deficient in artillery, which is the most lethal killer in today’s modern battlefields.

The Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Ordnance Factory Board have failed to design and manufacture affordable, long-range artillery guns in India. Therefore, the army is lacking in firepower.

At the same time, the MoD has failed to address the shortfall by acquiring guns from the international market.

For example, the present acquisition of the artillery gun is inadequate, given, each strike corps is authorised four medium SP regiments, each with 20 howitzers.

Way Forward

(A) Increasing gun performance:  The chamber size of the artillery gun can be increased. This would increase the range and capability of guns. More chamber size allows burning of more propellant, creating greater pressure on the projectile, propelling it further. That increases the range of the ammunition.

For example, the DRDO’s Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS) has a 25litre chamber.

(B) Precision of the artillery gun can be improved: A gun with greater precision needs to fire less ammunition for achieving the desired effect on a target. This can be done using following technologies:

The Excalibur ammunition: the projectile is guided precisely to the target with the help of onboard inertial and GPS guidance. However, it is not in service with us.

– Krasnopol: This is another type of guided ammunition. The projectile is guided onto the target with a laser designator. However, India´s stocks of Krasnopol have been destroyed because they were now outdated.

Increase projectile range without increasing chamber capacity or the length of the barrel: This can be done by putting a ramjet on the rear of the projectile. For example – BAE Systems is already doing that.

(D) Higher performance explosives can be placed in projectiles in order to improve the lethality. The DRDO´s High Energy Materials Research Laboratory is working on the bimodular charge systems.

Source: The post is based on an article “Evaluating the arsenal” published in the Business Standard on 3rd June 2022.

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