100 New Howitzers is but a Drop in the Sea of Indian Artillery Modernization

BM30 SMERCH - soon to be locally produced in India?
THe Indian OFB will finally embark on local production of the FH-55B Howitzers

Indian Army Chief General V.K. Singh complained recently to his superior, defense minister A.K. Antony, about delays in setting up the national counter-insurgency school, shortfall of quality ammunition and ordnance, lack of potent cyber warfare units, failure to modernize T-72 tanks delay to upgrade Arjun tanks, lack of modernization in artillery and delay in procurement of infantry weapons.

The delay in modernizing the Indian Army artillery for over two decades is of significant concern. By late February, the Army placed an order with the OFB for 100 artillery FH-77B guns of 155mm/ 52 caliber, after having failed to acquire howitzers for two decades following the Boforse scandal. The Army issued several tenders for procuring different types of howitzers but has failed to follow-on with selection and contracts. The Indian authorities admitted Bofors has provided all the documentation related to the transfer of technology for local production of these guns, but the Army and OFB did not pursue local production, due to the suspension of the Swedish company. This matter has recently settled, at an investment of 376 Crore ($75 million) in the artillery production line at OFB factory unit in Jabalpur, central India, paving the way for the establishment of local production capability at OFB. OFB is required to Build 6 prototypes of the new 155/52 howitzer and deliver them to Indian Army by the end of next year (2013) for evaluation.

According to Minister of state for defense, M M Pallam Raju, the current order is for Boforse guns to be locally produced by the OFB. He said the Army will continue alongside the indigenous development and production of these howitzers. OFB is locally producing most of the gun’s components, including the barrel, breach mechanism, muzzle break, loading trough, recoil system and elevation and traversing cylinders.

As part of the artillery modernization, nine artillery regiments were already upgraded to the 155mm, as part of the Artillery Profile 2027.

The Indian Pinaka multiple-launch rocket system

Multiple launch rocket systems are being fielded, including the indigenously developed Pinaka system. The fielding of the Pinaka regiment has been stalled last year due to lack of funding. In parallel, local production of the 300mm SMERCH rocket system is expected to begin in India in the coming months. The Smerch rockets are capable of striking targets at a range of 90km. Ordnance Factory Ambajhari (OFAJ) of the government run OFB received an order to manufacture Smerch rockets with a range up to 90km. The group is seeking permission from the MOD to enter into a joint venture (JV) with the Russian partner. The Army is also inducting the land-mobile version of the BrahMos missile.

Under the planned 20,000 crore modernization, India is currently planning to buy about 145 ultra light weight howitzers, 180 self propelled howitzers and 400 towed howitzers. Initially the Indian Army considered buying light howitzers from Singapore Technology Kinetics, but this plan failed following the restriction and later blacklisting of ST/K.

Russian BM30 at the firing range.