Elbit's 155mm/52 Calibre Autonomous Towed Howitzer Ordnance System (ATHOS) artillery gun

India lifts ban on the Import of Artillery guns

In a setback to ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ (Self Reliant India) government lifts the embargo on the import for 155 mm, 52 calibre Artillery Guns for 1 year.

In order to give push to Atmanirbhar Bharat Defence Minister on 9 August introduced a No Import list on 101 defence equipment.

The major highlights from 101 equipment import ban are Towed Artillery Guns (155mm × 52 cal), Light Combat Aircraft, Light Combat Helicopters to Conventional Submarines and Assault Rifles 7.62 × 39mm.

This embargo, however, is put off for a year by an “office memorandum” dated August 21, posted on the MoD website. This document puts a date of December 2021 for the start of the embargo on importing any 155-mm, 52-calibre towed artillery guns.

Postponing import embargo on 155 mm, 52 calibre artillery guns will enable the purchase of 1,580 Israeli made ATHOS 2052 Artillery Guns costing around Rs 23,700 Crore from Elbit systems.

The chief executive of an Indian defence company said to Business Standard that there could be only one possible purpose for postponing the gun import embargo by a year: To import a gun during the extra year granted for imports.

This step from Government is very demotivating for Private Player who is investing time and money to develop weapon system indigenously in India for our armed forces.

“We cannot understand why the government is facilitating the import of artillery when our indigenous guns are doing so well in development,” says an official associated with the ATAGS program.

Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS) is a towed 155 mm/52 calibre howitzer that is being developed for the Indian Army by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and manufactured by Bharat Forge.

ATAGS is the only 155mn, 52 calibre Artillery Gun that set a world record for the longest range of 48 kilometres. ATHOS 2052 or other 155 mm artillery have the maximum range of only 40-45 KM.

This 48 KM range achieve by ATAGS is possible because of bigger 25 litre volume chamber used in the gun. ATAGS or Bharat-52 (another 155mm, 52 calibre gun by Kalyani Group) is equipped to maintain every requirement of Indian Army.

According to the Business Standard, the Indian defence entities that are cooperatively building the Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS), an indigenous alternative to the Israeli gun, had welcomed the August 9 ban on importing 152-millimetre (mm), 52-calibre towed artillery guns from December 2020. With the ATAGS priced at about Rs 15 crore per gun, an order for 1,580 ATAGS would generate business worth Rs 23,700 crore for the Indian defence production eco-system.

Without any proper proof many import lobbyists started questioning ATAGS, after it met with an accident of barrel burst during trials in September. This is not an unusual event while developing an artillery gun. The barrel burst was caused by defective ammunition, and the gun has been found fit for continued trials.

However, the imported American M777 Howitzer also experience a barrel burst during trials, interestingly at that time no one came to question the capability of M777 as it was a imported gun.

If Army actually imports 1580 ATHOS 2052 from Israel and give a small order for ATAGS, then this will going to shatter the confidence and hopes of private sector defence industry in India.

If government keeps changing tracks like this, then the Atmanirbhar Bharat or making India self reliant in defence manufacturing will remain only a dream.