User trials of India’s new indigenously designed and developed towed howitzers kicked off last Friday.
The Indian Army and Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) are conducting user trials of the indigenously designed and developed 155 millimeter/52 caliber Advanced Towed Artillery Gun Systems (ATAGs) at the Indian military’s test range at Pokhran in the Thar Desert region in northwestern India, according to local media reports.
Two ATAGs howitzers are currently undergoing user trials with two more guns slated to undergo firing tests in a month. During the last set of user trials, the ATAG reportedly fired three shells out to a record distance of 47.2 kilometers, according to the Indian military. This month’s trials are slated to be completed on Tuesday. As I noted last year:
The howitzer gun is capable of firing five rounds in short duration with an effective range of up to 40 kilometers, depending on the ammunition type. Given its light weight, the new ATAG can be deployed to mountainous regions to support mountain warfare operations.
India’s Defense Acquisition Council (DAC) approved the procurement of 150 ATAGs in August 2018. Development work on of the ATAG began in 2013 and was completed by March 2017. The ATAG is being developed on two parallel tracks with prototypes being built by Indian defense firms Bharat Forge Limited and Tata Power Strategic Engineering Division.
Both companies have contracts to build ten ATAG prototypes as part of the development process.
The ATAG is a supplement to the indigenously-produced 155 millimeter/45 caliber artillery gun, Dhanush, a derivative of the FH-77B 155 mm/39 caliber towed howitzer built by the Swedish defense contractor Bofors (now BAE Systems). The Indian Army procured a total of acquired 414 between 1987 and 1991.
Last month, the Ordnance Factories Board (OFB), the Indian Ministry of Defense’s (MoD) defense equipment manufacturer, handed over the first six of 114 Dhanush howitzers to the Indian Army. The Dhanush is the first long-range howitzer to be built in India. As I noted in April:
The howitzer is based on schematics supplied by Bofors/BAE Systems under a technology transfer agreement concluded in the late 1980s. The Dhanush howitzer is a reverse-engineered upgraded variant of the original Bofors design weighing less than 13 tons.
The 45-caliber Dhanush howitzer reportedly has a maximum effective range of 38 kilometers in salvo mode compared to the 39-caliber, 27-kilometer range of the FH-77B howitzer guns. The Dhanush howitzer is capable of firing eight rounds per minutes and needs a crew of six to eight artillerymen.
Production of the first batch of 36 Dhanush howitzers is expected to be completed by December 2019, with an addition 48 guns to be produced in 2020.