New Delhi: India’s much-delayed project for indigenous artillery seems to be finally reaching its conclusion, with the towed howitzer, Dhanush, clearing firing trials and the Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS) set to begin its last round of testing this month.

The Army had, in 2018, placed an initial order for 114 of the 155mm x 45mm Dhanush, manufactured by the Ordnance Factory Board’s Gun Carriage Factory (GCF) in Madhya Pradesh’s Jabalpur — now known as Advanced Weapons and Equipment India (AWE) Limited. However, the delivery was hit by production quality issues flagged by the force and hence needed fresh firing trials before being deployed fully.

Sources in the defence and security establishment said two Dhanush guns, which have a strike range of 38 km, fired 90 rounds each “flawlessly” as part of the second line of firing in Zone 6 at the Pokhran firing range. This meant that all decks have been cleared for its induction.

Now, decades later, and after considerable delays, the Indian Army is getting the Dhanush. The Army has cleared the Dhanush after a successful firing demonstration on March 8. The first 12 guns, manufactured indigenously by AWE is likely to arrive in May or June and another 6-8 shortly after (probably in July) to ensure the first Dhanush regiment is in place.

The transfer of technology from Bofors allowed the manufacture of 414 howitzers, but after considerable delays, an order of 114 came through. The technology remains the same except that the barrel will not be 39 calibre, but 45 calibre, which is a little longer.

The 114 howitzers will provide five regiments of much-needed artillery to the Army. It is indigenously produced and is, therefore, in line with the current Atmanirbharta or self-reliance policy of the government.

The second part of the Dhanush program will begin after the 114 guns are delivered. The guns manufactured after that will be 52 calibre, increasing range. The arrival of the guns is particularly relevant as the 410 Bofors howitzers are now 35 years old and while the Army has got M777 ultra-light American weapons and the K9 Vajra is being readied, there is still a shortage.