Country’s first Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS) is expected to be ready for the crucial field trials of the army, said a senior official of the Defence Research and Development and Organisation (DRDO), reports Times of India.

“A team of scientists from the Pune-based Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE) and army officers from the Corps of Artillery conducted a key user assistant technical trial (UATT) of the gun between 20 May and 5 June at the firing range in Pokhran in Rajasthan. The gun has achieved critical technical objectives such as accuracy, range, day and night firing, and mobility. We have tested all types of ammunition. The gun has hit a target at a 45 km distance,” added the official.

The ATAGS is the first indigenously built 155 mm/52-calibre towed gun and one of the few in the world that has the six-round automated magazine that fires in 30 seconds. The existing 155 mm/52-calibre guns have three-round magazines which need to be reloaded manually, often resulting in casualties during the exercises due to maximum burst.

Future For The Indian-Made Artillery Gun

Gun Carriage Factory Senior General Manager SK Singh said that 12 guns would be supplied to the Army in the current fiscal while the total number for the initial phase is 114 guns.

He said that, under an agreement to be inked soon, a total of 414 Dhanush guns would be supplied to the Army.

Manufactured by the Jabalpur-based Gun Carriage Factory (GCF), each of the 155-mm gun costs about Rs 14.50 crore while each shell costs Rs one lakh, a former top official of the factory said.

The Dhanush project has received support and active cooperation from other ordinance factories and PSUs such as SAIL, BEL, and many private sector companies. Their support has made the project a huge success.

The gun has been developed by the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), Kolkata, after going through design documents running into over 12,000 pages.

These documents were given to India as part of the first phase of Transfer of Technology (ToT) under the Bofors gun deal inked in the late 1980s, he added.

The Swedish Bofors company (now owned by Britains BAE System) could not complete the ToT for the 155mm x 39mm calibre howitzer as the deal got embroiled in a major political row over alleged kickbacks.

Subsequently, the OFB struggled for long to produce the howitzer indigenously, he said.

This was despite the fact that it had manufactured and supplied several components and spares to keep the Bofors howitzers operational in India, especially during the Kargil War.

The Army had been desperately looking for 155 mm howitzers for more than three decades. It had roped in an Israeli company, Soltam, to upgrade the imported, Russian-made 130 mm gun to 155 mm at GCF. But the project, after the upgraded guns trial, ran into issues of alleged kickbacks.
- the former official claimed.

Six years ago, the Defence Acquisition Council had decided to look for artillery guns within the country and asked OFB to start manufacturing howitzers.

Towards that end, former defence minister AK Antony inaugurated a 155-mm gun manufacturing facility at GCF on September 22, 2012.

According to defence experts, the Army needs a huge number of howitzers of different types, and Indian firms, some in partnership with foreign manufacturers, are in the race to fulfil the demand.

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