For the first time, a home-grown howitzer gun will be used for the ceremonial 21-gun salute during the Independence Day ceremony at Red Fort, Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar said on Wednesday. The Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS) has been developed under the government's 'Make in India' initiative by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

The ATAGS will give the ceremonial 21-Gun Salute along with the British guns which are being traditionally used till now, Kumar said.

The defence ministry said the initiative to use the gun will stand as a testament to India's growing capacity of developing arms and ammunition indigenously.

The gun has been especially customised, with certain technical specifications being tweaked for the ceremony.

The ministry said a team of DRDO's Armament Research & Development Establishment, Pune, led by scientists and artillery officers worked in the project to make use of the gun possible for the Independence Day ceremony.

The ATAGS project was started in 2013 by the DRDO to replace older guns in service in the Indian Army with a modern 155mm artillery gun.

This specialised gun system is compatible with C4I systems like the Artillery Combat Command and Control System called Shakti for technical fire control, fire planning, deployment management, operational logistics management of the Indian Army.

The defence secretary also said NCC cadets from all districts of the country have been invited to attend the main event at Red Fort.

These cadets will be seated at 'Gyan Path' in front of the Red Fort's ramparts in a geographical formation of the map of India.

Kumar said the cadets will adorn local dresses, symbolising India's cultural diversity, to carry forward the message of 'Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat'.

In continuation to the initiative taken during Republic Day 2022, the section of society, which is usually overlooked, has been invited as special guests for Independence Day as well, he said.

"These include anganwadi workers, street vendors, mudra scheme borrowers, mortuary workers etc. They have been invited to attend the main event at Red Fort," Kumar said.

Kumar said a total of 26 officers and supervisors and 127 cadets from 14 countries -- US, UK, Argentina, Brazil, Fiji, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, The Maldives, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nigeria, Seychelles, the UAE and Uzbekistan -- are already in India for the Independence Day celebrations.

Apart from attending the main event at Red Fort, the youth will be visiting places of cultural and historical importance in Delhi and Agra.