ATAGS consists of duel power system where hydraulics is used for mobility and gun In/out action whereas electrical power is used for Gun laying and Ammunition Handling System

by Lt Gen J P Singh

The Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS) program commenced in 2012 by DRDO, with two strategic partners Bharat Forge Limited and Tata Power SED. This product was developed in a record time of30 months and has gone through extensive trials over the last four years and performed admirably with remarkable consistency. ATAGS is one of the most advanced and the world’s first gun which can fire BMCS zone 7. It has achieved a firing range of 48 km which is a record of sorts in the 155mm family.

ATAGS consists of duel power system where hydraulics is used for mobility and gun In/out action whereas electrical power is used for Gun laying and Ammunition Handling System. The system is configured with an all- electric drive that will ensure maintenance free and reliable operation over longer periods of time. The gun system has automatic setting up, laying with high end INS system and automated ammunition handling system which loads shell, charge and primer simultaneously with manual back up for laying system. The gun system has advanced hydraulic drive system which provides effective manoeuvrability in different terrains such as on road, cross country, desert and high altitude areas. The high power Auxiliary Power Unit (made in India) provides effective self-propelled speed, rapid deployment and short response time.

ATAGS has greater than 95% indigenous content. The complete supply chain from raw material to end product lies within the country making it a true embodiment of Make in India’ in Defence Systems. The ATAGS gun system comprises 7463 components of which 4977 are manufactured parts involving about 30,000 manufacturing processes and more than 2,00,000 inspection parameters.

The project now in TRL stage 10 (as per DRDO TRL stages) has been put through mandatory trials over the period of last five years and has completed them successfully. Earlier this month, it entered into its last stages of trials, viz- PSQR (Preliminary Staff Qualitative Requirements) trial, which is done prior to induction of the system. The Gun has already been through rigorous pre-PSQR trials with the user and DRDO team. In these trials BFL Developed Gun system fired a total of 130+ rounds, mostly in Zone 7, and the feedback was that the system has either met the parameters. The Gun fielded by TATA Aerospace and Defence Limited too succeeded in firing 99 rounds. At the 100 th round which was fifth of the rapid fire practice, the gun tube sheared off, thus creating the first unfortunate incident during the entire process of design and development. The cause is being investigated. Some experts blame it on ammunition, while the others wish to look at the tube and the immense pressures it has to withstand. It must be noted that the guns which have till now fired almost 2000 rounds between them can easily withstand pressures up to 560 mega pascals and are the only ones to fire munitions with Zone 7.

As part of the development process, an investigation to identify and rectify the causes is a must. However, it would be premature and detrimental to the cause of building Atmanirbhar Bharat to delay or disrupt the process of development of ATAGS. ATAGS is the first weapon platform which has been designed and developed from scratch and can boast of being truly Indian. Developed by DRDO and two Indian industry partners nurturing a well-established ecosystem of Indian vendors and sub vendors, ATAGS is nation’s pride. We own the design, its IP and all the data which is nearly impossible to get. Assistance from abroad comes at a hefty price and it will be foolhardy not to build on the success that we have achieved so far, notwithstanding minor setbacks. These are well within our capability to resolve.

While it is true that most of the guns that have undergone trials and even during practice fires guns coming from US, France, Germany, Israel, Czech Republic have all had similar incidents and at Lower Zones of firings involving Lower pressures. Blaming higher pressure of ATAGS thus is a bit far-fetched. In almost every case the investigation reports pointed towards ammunition. It is worth mentioning that none of these guns were fired at Zone-7 and neither of them fired as many rounds as ATAGS.

It is in fact a good opportunity to examine the quality and suitability of ammunition which is being produced in India. Without insinuating, or casting aspersions on any organization, it must be noted that India is relatively new to making artillery munitions, fuses and charges (BMCS in this case). Given the extremely high pressures, every part of the munition, be it the shell, driving bands of the projectile or the fuse which has to withstand extremely high angular velocity, every component and subcomponent must respond with zero error. This precision and expertise comes with real time experience and trials. It is unlikely that a foreign vendor will part with core technologies or data to make India Atmanirbhar. In the nation’s interest and of course for the Indian Army’s sake, let us learn to take such incidents in our stride and make a firm resolve to press ahead with determination. India’s ATAGS must succeed.

The author is former Deputy Chief Of Army Staff. Views expressed are personal