An indigenously designed, developed and manufactured truck mounted howitzer is to undergo its maiden firing trials shortly this year

Senior Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) officials told India Today that the internal firing trials at the Proof Establishment in Balasore would validate not just the gun but also its integration with the 8x8 Tatra vehicle on which it is mounted.

The test of a new gun system - the fifth type in a series of Army howitzer requirement projected nearly two decades ago - comes at a time when the Army has begun receiving its first guns in over 30 years.

This year the Army will start inducting M-777 Ultra Light Howitzers and K-9 Vajra self-propelled howitzers and has received a first batch of six Dhanush howitzers, India's first indigenously developed long range howitzer, after they successfully completed firing trials in Leh and Pokhran.

No new artillery had been purchased since the bribery scandal that followed the March 1986 deal for 41 FH-77B Bofors howitzers.

Mounted Gun System (MGS)

Unlike towed artillery which have to be hauled into the battlefield by multi-wheeled trucks, MGS' are guns mounted on a high-mobility truck. These guns can be brought into battle much faster, carry 18 artillery shells on board and are useful to support mobile infantry in the plains and deserts.

The MGS has a range of over 40 km and will be offered to the Army for user trails after several rounds of internal trials.

The gun has a modular design with shoot and scoot capability and can fire in all weather conditions and by day and night. It has a GPS aided Inertial Navigation System and a day and night firing capability.

It carries a backup emergency power pack and its all-wheel drive ensures maximum traction in cross-country operations. The specially modified truck has hydraulically operated rear stabilisers to steady the vehicle while firing. The cabin has been reinforced to withstand the shock waves during operations.

Designed by GCF Jabalpur, the MGS builds on the OFB's successful Dhanush 155x45 mm howitzer. The Dhanush was built from blueprints supplied by the Swedish gun maker as part of the 1986 purchase. The Army has indicated a total requirement of 414 howitzers.

Buy And Make Program

As many as 200 guns are to be bought off the shelf and the remainder to be built within the country through technology transfers to an Indian partner with all deliveries to be completed by the end of the 13th five-year defence plan ending in 2022.

OFB officials say they will pursue the MGS as an export case, in case the Army does not want the gun. The Dhanush, they say, has already received preliminary inquiries from prospective buyers in the Middle East.

Field Artillery Rationalisation Plan

The MGS is part of a massive purchase of over 2,800 howitzers as part of its Field Artillery Rationalisation Plan (FARP) launched after the Kargil War in 1999.

The FARP envisages standardising the artillery regiments into four types of howitzers-towed by trucks, mounted on a tank chassis, on a wheeled vehicle and ultra-light guns that can be airlifted into battle by helicopters.

Two of the Army's biggest procurements in the past four years were for howitzers - 145 M-777 Ultra-Light Howitzers for $737 million from the US in November 2016 and an April 2017 deal worth Rs 4,600 crore for 100 K-9 'Vajra' tracked howitzers from South Korea's Hanwa-Tecwin.