How Army’s artillery modernisation plan, stuck in a rut after Bofors, is picking up pace

By The Print

The Indian Army’s artillery modernisation plan — first drafted over two decades ago — is back in the spotlight following a report that the indigenously developed Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS) is ready to fire again after an accident in September.

The Business Standard report has stated that the gun has undergone changes — after a barrel burst during trials in September — and is ready to fire again. The September incident was followed by a detailed probe conducted by a multi-agency Failure Investigation Committee and the changes have followed that.

India’s artillery acquisition had stalled for nearly two decades after the Swedish Bofors guns were acquired in the late 1980s. The deal was mired in corruption allegations and it led to a fear in the civil services, which, combined with political apathy, prevented India from buying heavy guns at least until 2010.

The Bofors guns proved their mettle during the 1999 Kargil conflict, particularly with their “shoot-and-scoot” technology — the ability to fire a shell and then move away from the location by up to three kilometres.

The Army subsequently in 1999 drafted a Field Artillery Rationalisation Plan to acquire around 3,000 pieces of 155 mm weaponry, including tracked self-propelled guns, truck-mounted gun systems, towed artillery pieces and wheeled self-propelled guns in over two decades.

The plan was to have 1,580 towed gun systems, 814 mounted gun systems, 100 self-propelled Howitzers and 145 M777 155mm/39 calibre lightweight Howitzers for the mountains.

This meant equipping 169 artillery regiments with medium artillery weapons or as defence experts put it, a “mediumisation” of artillery.

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