Inputs indicate that the Indian army is presently at the stage of cost negotiation for procuring 1580 artillery guns called ATHOS (Autonomous Towed Howitzer Ordnance System) 2052 manufactured by the Elbit company of Israel.
The procurement is expected to be 400 Guns in fully assembled condition and remaining 1,180 under the ‘make in India’ in partnership with Bharat Forge. This deal is expected to cost Rs 9000-10,000 crores. When compared in capabilities to similar calibre guns already under induction, the Elbit produced ATHOS does not offer any major advantage.
The Indian artillery is presently inducting 100 K9 Vajra self-propelled guns, 145 ultra-light M 777 Howitzers from the US, 114 Dhanush 155mm guns and 300 Sharang, which is the ‘poor man’s’ 155 mm gun, up gunned from the existing 130 mm guns.
Trials of the Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS) are presently in an advanced stage and the gun would also be inducted shortly. The K9 Vajra are being assembled by L and T at its factory in Gujrat, the Ultra-light M 777 by Mahindra Defence, whereas the Dhanush, Sharang and ATAGS are domestically developed and produced.
This spurt in artillery procurement has been a pending requirement for the armed forces for a long time. The last gun to be inducted was the Bofors in the early eighties. For decades artillery procurements were halted solely due to the ghost of the Bofors. AK Anthony, as the defence minister, cancelled tenders, trials and even negotiations solely on fear of kickbacks, which could tarnish his image.
It was the present government which seriously began the process of upgrading the artillery in its first tenure. The pace has continued. Artillery has always been a battle winning factor and as Napoleon stated, ‘God fights on the side with the best artillery.’