Wednesday 17 July 2019, 01:02 PM
New weapons and artillery guns for the Indian Army
By Sushil Sharma | Bharat Defence Kavach | Publish Date: 2/16/2018 3:18:21 PM
New weapons and artillery guns for the Indian Army

India’s plans to modernise equipment and weapons of its Army has finally seen some positives in artillery, armoured, battlefield management system and Arming of the Infantry with better offensive and defensive gear.The last two – the Battlefield Management System and Arming the Infantry – are basically two separate programmes which were earlier clubbed as the Futuristic Infantry Soldier As a System (F-INSAS) project.Projects have picked up pace and things are showing on ground. From here on – over the next 24 months – will change the Army’s profile, weaponry and also equipment.  

Arming and equipping the Infantry  

Indian Army soldiers will finally have  a latest rifle, The Defence Acquisition Council, the top decision making body of the Indian Ministry of Defence, on Janaury16 okayed a Rs 3547 crore project to acquire two separate types of rifles for the Indian Army.The DAC, headed by Nirmala Sitharaman, has okayed the procurement of 72,400 assault rifles for the infantry rifle  and another 93,895 carbines for close quarter encounters in built up areas – largely fighting insurgency. 

The assault rifles will replace the Army’s standard assault weapons, this will replace  the existing INSAS (Indian Small Arms System) rifle a 5.56 calibre which was designed some three decades ago.  The new rifle will be 7.62 calibre, meaning can fire bigger ammunition.The carbines are seen as replacement for the Russian made AK 47 assault rifles.  These will weigh less than 3 kgs and have the ability to fire at distances upto 200 metres.Besides the numbers okayed today, the Army needs another 6 lakh assault rifles and the 3.25 lakh carbines. 

The remaining quantity will be made in two tranches – 25 percent by the Ordnance Factory Board and the remaining by the Indian private industry.The one developed in India will eventually be the standard issue for the forces and also the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF’s). This will mean some 15-18 lakh such rifles in all.The Army needs 7.62x51 mm assault rifles to replace its INSAS rifles. A global request for information (RFI) was issued in the June 2016 and it contains modified requirements including the facility of a detachable 40 mm under-barrel grenade launcher, holographic sights allowing a sniper-shot, compatible eye-visible laser-target pointers and with a design, metallurgy and performance parameters to remain relevant for at least the next 25 years.

The Army has also started the process to procure around 1,500 anti-materiel lightweight rifles capable of damaging targets like battle tanks, low-flying helicopters and bunkers.  A Request for Information (RFI) for purchasing the rifles has been issued in December 2017 asking for weapons should have a range of at least 1.8 kilometres with a calibre of 12.7 mm/0.50. 

South African firm Denel was banned by the UPA government in 2005 after allegations that it had paid kickbacks to secure a deal with the Indian Army in 2002 to sell 1,000 NTW-20 anti-materiel rifles. Only 400 rifles had been inducted into the army and the remainder put on hold after the 2005 blacklisting.

The Army’s attempts to procure bulletproof jackets for its infantry soldiers have moved closer to conclusion. A tender for 1.86 lakh jackets has moved to the negotiation stage. Three Indian companies are in the fray. The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) had given approval for the procurement in 2009. In 2015 the Army cancelled the Request for Proposal (RFP) due to rejection of all samples in the trials.

The Army needs 3,53,765 new BP jackets sanctioned as per plan of 2009. Off these 1.86 lakh jackets were to be supplied in the 11th plan (2007-2012) and another 1.67 lakh jackets were to be supplied during the 12th plan (2012—2017). The DRDO has now come up with a prototype bullet-proof jacket, as per the newer technical specifications, using different state-of-the-art ballistic materials. Though the 12th plan having ended in March last year, only 50,000 have been ordered from TATA Advanced Materials Ltd.  

Artillery guns

The year 2017 has been fruitful. In March 2017, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) approved the acquisition of specialised artillery guns that will move on tank-type tracks to accompany tanks and mechanised regiments to battle. These are called the “tracked self-propelled” artillery guns. Indian company Larsen Toubro (L&T) will produce the gun in collaboration with a foreign partner. The project for 100 guns will cost around Rs 4,200 crore. Deliveries will be completed within three years. The gun, “K-9 Vajra-T”, is a 155-mm/52-calibre self-propelled howitzer. It can hit targets at a distance of 45 km. 

This will be the second major artillery gun programme that has started bearing results. The first one, the 145 of the M-777 ultra-light howitzers (ULH) from the US supplier BAE started coming in mid-2017 year. Costing about US $ 737 million, this is through the foreign military sales (FMS)  route from the US.This was first formal arrival of a 155-mm gun since 1986 when 410 pieces of the Swedish company Bofors’ FH-77B 155mm/39 calibre howitzer were purchased for Rs 1500 Crore.

The third is order is for 114 pieces of the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) gun, the Dhanush, a variation of the Bofors design and transfer of technology. The Army was carrying out exploitation-trials.  Defects were found in the muzzle brake of two of the nine guns being tried out. The OFB guns were tested at Pokhran,  Babina field firing ranges and the Leh high-altitude range with three guns at each location. 

Fourthly, the  locally made gun the Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS), jointly developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the private sector, has kicked-off winter trials in Sikkim. The 155mm 52-calibre the ATAGS set a record during summer trials   fired shells to a range of 48 km, against Army’s requirement of 40 km.

The defence ministry sanctioned the ATAGS project in September 2012 and the DRDO has partnered with Bharat Forge and Tata Power (Strategic Engineering Division) SED to develop two prototypes of the towed artillery guns.Army’s Field Artillery Rationalization Plan, drawn in 1999,  aimed to acquire 2,800-3,000 155 mm/52-calibre guns of all kinds and 155 mm/39-calibre lightweight howitzers by 2027. The projection includes 814 truck mounted guns, 1580 Towed Guns, 100 tracked Self Propelled guns,180 wheeled Self Propelled guns and 145 Ultra Light Howitzers.

The Battlefield Management System

The two private consortiums have submitted their projects in Mid-2017 and the MoD is studying the detail. The US $ 6 billion system will be built under the “Make in India” category. Two proposals made by Tata Power SED with Larsen & Toubro, and state-owned Bharat Electronics with Rolta India are being studied by the MoD and the Army's Integrated Project Management Team. Under the ‘make in India’ the Government funds 80 percent of the prototype development and the development agencies cover the rest. Prototype development is estimated to cost $300 million

Once fully developed and proved, battlefield management systems – some 600 needed -- will be critical elements of the Army's network-centric warfare program and will link infantry level troops on the battlefield to the command headquarters. It will also network ground troops with the various Army command headquarters and integrate all elements in a battlegroup, providing real time tactical scenarios. BMS will be able to receive and transmit data, voice and images from multiple sources, including radar, cameras, laser range-finders and ground sensors, allowing the soldier on the battlefield access to real time information simultaneously with the command headquarters.

Each BMS prototype will have four variants: for the infantry battalion group, combat group (armour), combat group (mechanized infantry), and special forces group.   Technologies to be included in each prototype include a geographical information system, multi-sensor data fusion system, rugged computing devices, and a software defined radio-based communication system for soldiers.The BMS prototypes will be developed and tested in the next 40 months

Tanks and BMP upgrade 

The Army, in November 2017, released a request for information (RFI) for getting 1770  Future Ready Combat Vehicle (FRCV). It has down-scaled its requirements to make it more realistic  and the latest document supersedes the RFI  of 2015. The 2015 RFI has spoken about having 11 variants that has now been whittled down to five. The Army is looking for a baseline MBT platform to have a combat weight of between 42.5 and 58 tons, the same range as the in-service T-72M1s. The platform will be used for need-based variants like bridge layer tank, trawl tank with mine ploughs, armoured recovery vehicle and self-propelled base for other arms.

A foreign supplier will partner an Indian company to make the product in India. In the race could be Russian T90-MS  -- an upgrade of the T-90 that is licence produced in India; the South Korean K-2, Japan type -10.  Also the MoD in mid-2017 awarded public sector OFB and Bharat Electronics (BEL) a contract for upgrading 693 BMP-2 infantry combat vehicles at a cost of Rs 2,400 crore. These will be fitted with anti-tank guided missile systems and newer engines, improved  transmission, gear and suspension system, cooling system, weapons system and ammunition, gunner sighting (day and night), commander sighting besides protection against anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM’s).


Sushil Sharma



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