“The need of the hour is a 25-year vision for the armed forces – spelling out India’s role in the global world order and cascading it down to conventional and non-conventional capabilities, on land, sea, air and outer space,” said Amber Dubey, head of aerospace and defense practice in India at KPMG.
"India does need Ordinance Factory because in defence sometimes you have to keep capacities idle only on condition that you have to suddenly ramp it up. It's very difficult task for a private sector to be kept holding because the interest payment becomes a problem. There is a requirement of Ordinance factory."
"Prices have risen despite an ongoing indigenisation programme that has met all its targets. The reason, it emerges, lies in the nature of the manufacturing contract signed with Sukhoi, which was to see a progressive enhancement of Indian content through four phases. Yet, even though Phase IV has recently been achieved, this provides for only limited indigenisation. While Sukhoi was bound to transfer technology for building the fighter, the contract mandates that all raw materials - including titanium blocks and forgings, aluminium and steel plates, etc - must be sourced from Russia.
This means that, of the 43,000 items that go into the Sukhoi-30MKI, some 5,800 consist of large metal plates, castings and forgings that must contractually be provided by Russia. HAL then transforms the raw material into aircraft components, using the manufacturing technology transferred by Sukhoi. That results in massive wastage of metal. For example, a 486 kg titanium bar supplied by Russia is whittled down to a 15.9 kg tail component. The titanium shaved off is wasted. Similarly a wing bracket that weighs just 3.1 kg has to be fashioned from a titanium forging that weighs 27 kg.
Furthermore, the contract stipulates that standard components like nuts, bolts, screws and rivets - a total of 7,146 items - must all be sourced from Russia. The reason for this is that manufacturing sophisticated raw materials like titanium extrusions in India is not economically viable for the tiny quantities needed for Su-30MKI fighters."
The inability of the original manufacturers from Russia to meet Indian requirements and the declining quality of service, had led to the Indian military to look for other military suppliers from the US, Israel and France. This means that on any given day, just over 350 of the approximately 700 combat aircraft in the air force’s inventory are in a state to fly and undertake operations. There is also a shortage of 2.17 lakh boots (high ankle), 4.47 lakh balaclavas and 65,978 durries (thick cotton quilts), all basic requirements in high-altitude areas. Besides, there’s a shortage of 13.09 lakh canvas shoes and mosquito nets.
For instance, in 2004, the Army issued a tender for 168 light utility helicopters to replace the obsolete fleet of Cheetahs and Chetaks inducted into service in the mid-60s. The proposal required the chopper to hover uninterruptedly for 30 minutes, a capability no helicopter in the world possessed at the time. The maximum hover time then available, with a U.S. helicopter, was seven minutes. The Army was forced to withdraw the tender soon after.
In 2013, the request sent to at least five overseas vendors to replace the Army’s obsolete Bofors 40mm L-70 and Soviet ZU-23mm 2B air defence guns had to be scrapped. All five vendors declared the requirements to be unreasonable, as they demanded a firing rate of 500 rounds per minute, a capability no gun in the world possessed.
Most global defense companies prefer licensed manufacturing in India because they don’t want to risk losing a “prized innovation,” according to Rahul Madhavan, a senior manager at the Washington-based U.S.-India Business Council, which represents the top 10 American defense manufacturers.
After two decades, a contract for 1,58,279 light-weight ballistic helmets, worth around Rs 170 crore is to be inked. These are ‘Mukut’ Reduced Blunt Trauma helmets with 13mm Behind Armour protection, manufactured by Nato-supplier MKU (a subsidiary of India's GKG group); which will be nearly 1 kilo lesser than the old ones and will be bolts-less. These have been certified by HP White Laboratories, USA.
After 2005, troops had a helmet that stopped most sniper bullets and nearly everything else. This was a tremendous boost to morale, especially because there were more and more incidents of soldiers shot in the head and surviving. The new helmets have increased protection (often against high speed rifle bullets favored by snipers) while becoming more comfortable to wear, more accommodating of accessories (especially personal radios and night vision gear) without becoming heavier. Combat helmets were long considered low-tech but that has changed since the 1980s. The appearance of new materials plus advances in the design and construction of helmets have been accelerating, especially since 2001.
- Future Infantry Combat Vehicles (FICV)
- A new generation of missile interceptor or LR-SAM (with two-pulse rocket motor) for the INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier and IAF's ground based air defence.
- Naval medium-range surface-to-air missile (MR-SAM
- January 2011 : INS Vindhyagiri, a frigate, sinks near Mumbai after ramming a freighter
- August 2013 : INS Sindhurakshak, a Kilo-class submarine, sinks and 18 crewmembers killed due to a massive fire and multiple still unexplained explosions in Mumbai naval dockyard, and operational issues with several other aging submarines, the navy has been left with just 13 conventional diesel-electric submarines, 11 of which are 20-27 years old.
- December 2013 : INS Konkan, a minesweeper, suffers extensive interior damage after a fire on board.
- December 2013 : INS Talwar, a stealth frigate, rams and sinks a fishing vessel off Maharashtra. The captain is relieved of command.
- January 2014 : INS Airawat, a tank landing ship (LST) runs aground in Visakhapatnam, damaging its propellers. The captain is relieved of command.
- February 2014 : INS Sindhuratna, a Kilo-class submarine, suffers a fire on board that kills two officers and injured 7 sailors.
- 2007: Malpractice reported in the supply of rations to troops in high altitude areas
- 2009: Controversy erupted over Adarsh Housing Society in Mumbai. Meant for widows of, retired and serving army personnel, flats in the skyrise located in a prime area were allotted to scheming officials; several rules were flouted in the process
- 2009: Alleged kickbacks paid in deal for supply of components for Arjun battle tanks bought from SIFL and AMW-MGM
- 2012: Alleged bribery charges in deal to buy 600 trucks from British firm Tatra Sipox
- 2013: Violations in procurement of 12 VVIP choppers from Anglo-Italian firm AugustaWestland
- 2014: Rolls Royce disclosed that it had hired Singapore-based Aashmore Private Limited and its executive Ashok Patni as its "commercial adviser" for over 50 orders for Rs.7,400-crore, bagged from HAL's Industrial Marine and Gas Turbine (IMGT) division, which handles all civilian aero-engine repair and overhaul work. Under Indian defence procurement procedures, hiring of a consultant or agent for lobbying to bag contracts is strictly prohibited. However, hiring of consultants for civilian contracts is permitted in India. The suspension of the contract is likely impact the maintenance of Hawk Advanced Jet trainers ( AJT). HAL had purchasing Adour MK871 engines - which power the Hawk trainer - for an estimated Rs.10,000 crore.
Indian army's programme to acquire 1.86 lakh bullet proof jackets for Rs 900 crore, to bridge the gap in its requirement of 3.53 lakh jackets, has been pending since 2009. Each jacket costs between Rs 50,000-60,000 and protects up to 10 metres against a 7.62 mm bullet and 5 metres against a 9 mm bullet. It will be ultra light and easier to wear during combat situations, that will also provide protection to the neck, chest, and groins. In 2016, after waiting for 10 years, 50,000 bulletproof jacket was procured for Rs 140 crores from Tata Advanced Materials Limited, under "emergency" procurement. The delivery of the jackets will start from August 2016 and must be completed by January 2017.
An earlier tender for the "capital procurement" of 1.86 lakh modular jackets was scrapped in October 2015 because the samples offered by 6 vendors "failed" to clear GSQRs (technical parameters or general staff qualitative requirements) field trials. However, as all the samples failed to meet requirements, the Army vice-chief's existing financial powers were "relaxed as a one-time exception" to ensure the fast-track purchase of 50,000 jackets based on older technical specifications. Several parliamentary committees have taken a dim view of the "critical shortage" of bullet-proof jackets, slamming the government for "playing with the lives" of soldiers. The shortages in the bullet-proof jackets have been termed "critical".
Bullet proof jackets currently being tested for the Indian Army to be produced by Gujarat Forensic Science Limited
Larsen and Toubro has already built the hull for India's first indigenous submarine and received orders for a further two. The Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) has now come up with a prototype bullet-proof jacket, as per the newer technical specifications, using different "state-of-the-art ballistic materials". This under-development prototype aims to protect against AK-47s and self-loading rifle bullets. 12 Indian companies have been issued industrial licenses for the manufacture of bullet proof jackets. 1,86,138 bullet-proof jackets are being planned to be procured.
The protective vests used in Vietnam and late in the Korean War reduced casualties by about 25% compared to World War II and improved vests and helmets meant that by the 1990s the risk of getting killed or wounded has been cut in half since World War II. Much better medical care (especially rapid evacuation of casualties by helicopter) has made a major contribution as well and that meant the ratio of combat dead to wounded went from 1:3 during World War II to 1:7 today.
The fourth generation helmets, currently in service, use better synthetic materials and more comfortable design. The ACH, like MICH/FAST are smaller and lighter (they weigh about the same). ACH was developed from the earlier MICH (Modular Integrated Communications Helmet) which the U.S. Army Special Forces (Special Operations Command) pioneered and was so successful that the rest of the army began buying them. With many nations now using the ACH design and modifying it, along with civilian firms who make ACH-like helmets for police and firefighters, the technology continues to advance. Formerly called the Gallet, after the designer, and eventually known as the FAST ballistic helmet, the manufacturer has long been known for designing helmets for fire, police, and rescue personnel. When first issued to troops in 2004 the MICH was 14 percent lighter (at 1.36 kg/3 pounds) and more comfortable than the PASGT. MICH was most appreciated because it can be worn for long periods without becoming uncomfortable.
In 2011 an improved version, ECH showed up. The ECH made use of a new thermoplastic material (UHMWP or Ultra-High Molecular Weight Polyethylene), which is also used in the current FAST helmet. UHMWP is lighter and stronger than the Kevlar used in the ACH and earlier PASGT and, it turned out, provided much better protection as well. ECH was not 100% bullet proof but it was 40% resistant to projectiles and 70% stronger than the previous ACH helmet.
India is also looking for air-conditioned jackets for special force soldiers who operate for long hours in hot areas. The US Army is already using jackets, worn underneath body armour, which provide cooling to soldiers. A small battery that fits inside the armour powers the system.
The artillery’s modernisation programme includes purchase and manufacture of towed, mounted and ultra-light howitzers as well as self-propelled artillery both tracked and wheeled, multi-barrel rocket launchers, missiles, surveillance and counter bombardment equipment and important of all — the ammunition and communication equipment. However, my thrust would be on status of guns/howitzers, the main problem area in the modernisation process.
Three entities are also competing for a Rs 720-crore order to upgrade the Army’s vintage 130mm M-46 artillery guns to the 155mm standard. This ‘up-gunning’ move will increase the gun’s range and ability to deliver heavier explosives.
Towed Gun: The Rs 8000 crore project was to buy 400 numbers of 155mm/52 calibre towed artillery guns, to be followed by indigenous manufacture of another, 1,180 howitzers for 79 artillery regiments. This will form the core of the artillery inventory replacing the 105mm 1FG and the 122mm guns. As is known, four rounds of trials conducted earlier came to a naught in 2007. Fresh tenders have been floated since then but the trials are yet to commence.
The Army also plans to induct 1,580 towed artillery guns at a cost of Rs 12,460 crore. A 155mm 52-calibre towed system jointly developed by L&T and French firm Nexter Systems is pitted against a gun developed by Bharat Forge and Israeli company Elbit for the order.
Truck-Mounted Gun Systems: This project involves off-the-shelf purchase of 200 numbers of 155mm/52 calibre guns, followed by indigenous manufacture of another 614 mounted gun systems for arming 40 regiments. In this case even the global tender has not been floated so far. Available in the world market are Sweden’s Archer, French Ceaser, Bosnia’s Unis gun systems and South Africa’s Denel (presently blacklisted).
Truck-mounted guns are another key requirement which is vital for supporting offensive operations in semi-desert terrains. However, the project has made little progress despite the defence ministry granting its ‘acceptance of necessity’ (AoN) to a Rs 15,750-crore plan for buying 814 systems of the kind in November 2014. The AoN for weapons is the first step towards making the proposed procurements. The AoN for the truck-mounted gun systems has expired and a fresh file will need to be moved to restart the process, said another officer tracking the project.
Self Propelled (SP) Guns (Tracked & Wheeled): This is the weakest link in the artillery inventory today. There is no worthwhile equipment held in this category. The trials for the tracked 155m/52 calibre SP guns also came to a naught due to blacklisting of Denel. Fresh tenders have been issued but trials are yet to commence. Requirement is of 100 numbers of 155mm/52 calibre tracked SP guns for five regiments. However, as per reports, the trials for wheeled SP guns (155m/52 calibre) have been completed. Plan is to induct 180 wheeled SP guns to equip nine regiments for plains and semi-desert terrain. In fray are the Germany’s Rheinmetall Defence and Slovakia’s Konstrukta Defence. If all goes well the selected gun should commence induction by end of this year.
Ultra Light Howitzer (ULH): Requirement is to buy 145 lightweight howitzers, 155 mm/39 calibre for deployment in areas which are not easily accessible and for out of area contingencies in the neighbourhood to equip seven regiments. While the bore was kept to 155mm for commonality with other 155 mm guns being acquired the calibre selected was 39, to keep the gun light enabling transportation by heavy lift helicopters as well as transport aircraft. Initially, in fray, were the Singapore technologies Pegasus lightweight howitzer and BAE Systems’ M777 lightweight howitzer. The blacklisting of Singapore Technologies by the Indian Government in July 2009 left the field open to BAEs M777. The same is now being acquired under the foreign military sales (FMS) route. The recent leak of the field trials report listing some shortcomings of the gun is again a setback. However, the M777 is a proven gun and the FMS route should ensure its timely induction. In fact, the process for acquisition of heavy lift helicopters (American Chinook and Russian MI-26) for transportation of these guns is already underway by the air force.
Nearly 27 years after the controversy over the purchase of howitzers from Swedish-based AB Bofors the Government of India approved today the purchase of 145 M77 155/39-caliber howitzers at a total cost of $650 million from BAE Systems. The decision to go ahead with the procurement of US made howitzers under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route was taken at a meeting of the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) headed by Defence Minister AK Antony. The projects approved by the DAC will now be put up before the Finance Ministry for clearance before they are taken up by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) for final approval.
These lightweight guns are expected to deploy in the states of Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir that have a border with China. It is widely believed that the deployment of the M777 in the areas bordering China is a direct reply to China’s forward deployment in these areas for the last 3 years.
The maximum firing range of the gun is 24.7km with unassisted rounds and 30km with rocket-assisted rounds. The M777A2 can fire the Raytheon / Bofors XM982 Excalibur GPS/Inertial Navigation-guided (GPS/INS) extended-range 155mm projectiles using the Modular Artillery Charge Systems (MACS). Excalibur has a maximum range of 40km and accuracy of 10m. The M777 matches the firepower of current generation 155mm towed systems at less than half the weight. The Howitzer is equipped with a 39-calibre barrel. The muzzle velocity (at Charge 8 super) is 827m/s. The Towed Artillery Digitization (TAD) artillery improvement package including a digital fire control system with onboard ballistic computation, navigation, pointing and self-location, providing greater accuracy and faster reaction times. TAD also includes a powered projectile rammer, a breech mounted laser ignition system, replacing conventional chemical primers and electric drives for the howitzer’s traverse and elevation.
At an overall weight of 3,745kg the M777 can be transported by helicopter, transport aircraft or ship. On land the howitzer can be towed by standard air-braked 4×4 vehicle greater than 2.5t. The gun is mounted on hydrostrut suspension system provided by Horstman Defence Systems of the UK, allowing travelling on road at a maximum speed of 88km per hour, or towed cross-country at a speed of 50km/h. The load on the towing eye is rated at 60kg. The towing ground clearance is up to 660mm.
In Feb 2011, press reports indicated that the Army had sought concessions for the government to push through the M777 since it had failed certain firing tests. This followed a brief controversy where an anonymous letter with xeroxed copies of sections of the M777 Indian trial report, landed on Indian Defence Minister AK Antony's table, forcing an internal inquiry. That inquiry apparently found the involvement of "suspected vested interests". Then again, 145 artillery pieces in a black hole that's hungry for thousands of heavier howitzers, is a bit of a lark. It's a start.
The acquisition for 145 M777 ultra light howitzers from the U.S.-arm of BAE Systems has also been initiated for “sword arm” formation.
Indian Army's SPT howitzer programme suffered a major setback in 2005 when the MoD banned South Africa's Denel, which had successfully developed the Bhim SPT in the late 1990s by mating its T-6 155/52 turret to the chassis of a locally designed Arjun tank, over alleged wrongdoing in a separate contract to supply the Indian Army with 400 anti-materiel rifles. The ban was lifted in 2014 after the Central Bureau of Investigation was unable to prove any wrongdoing, but it was too late to resurrect Bhim.
A mainstay of Indian artillery regiments is the 105mm Indian Field Gun (IFG) built by the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB). The limited 17km range of the IFG makes it largely irrelevant on today’s battlefield as the envelope of battle contact at the tactical level has almost doubled to over 30 km. Besides, many armies had inducted mortars with enhanced ranges of 12-14 km, virtually neutralising at minimal cost the IFG’s marginally-longer-reach. The Gun Carriage Factory (GCF) at Jabalpur has bagged an order to supply over 150 units of 105-LFGs to the Army over a period of three years starting from May 2010.
After a long spell of over two decades, the need for artillery upgrade was first felt in 2008, when the defence ministry issued three global tenders for 155mm howitzers for the mountains, the plains and self-propelled guns for the deserts. As part of its over Rs 20,000-crore artillery modernisation plan, the army looked for 400 towed artillery guns (worth Rs 3,200 crore), 100 tracked guns (costing Rs 3,400 crore), 814 mounted truck guns (Rs 8500 crore), 145 ultralight guns (Rs 2500 crore) and 180 wheeled guns (Rs 4700 crore). Just when a deal for 120 tracked and 180 wheeled self-propelled (SP) 155mm guns was about to be concluded after years of protracted trials, South African arms manufacturer Denel, a leading contender for the contract, was found involved in a corruption scam in an earlier deal for anti-material rifles and was blacklisted . The other two howitzers in contention, Soltam of Israel and BAE systems (which own Bofors of Sweden), did not meet the laid-down criteria and the army headquarters recommended fresh trials. This set the artillery upgrade programme back three to four years.
Sudhir Choudhrie was investigated by the CBI in 2007 over allegations that an Israeli firm had paid him a commission of more than $ 150, 000 for an Indian government artillery contract. He was let off due to lack of evidence. In a fresh tender floated, BAE Systems, one of the favourites for the towed artillery contract, chose not to bid, citing 'watered-down' parameters that would allow inferior guns also to chip in and meet the qualitative requirements. Another contender, Singapore Technologies Kinetics, was not invited to bid in wake of allegations of its role in corruption cases related to the former chairman of the Ordinance Factory Board, Sudipta Ghosh. Till last year, the army had made four attempts to procure 400 towed artillery howitzers but all failed. There is a cumulative requirement for 3,000 artillery pieces by 2027 under the Field Artillery Rationalisation Plan.
Pakistan, on the other hand, has been modernizing its artillery in recent years to bolster its mechanized formations. Using the garb of war against terrorism, Pakistan bought 115 used M-109A5 155mm self-propelled howitzers under a $56 million deal with the US in 2006 using the garb of war against terrorism. It had also locally manufactured Turkish MKEK Panter towed 155mm howitzers after getting 12 guns for evaluation in 2007. A combination of the Singapore Technologies Kinetics assisted Turkish Panter (modified FH-2000) howitzers, along with the American AN/TPQ-36 Firefinder and Chinese SLC-2 radars, has improved the accuracy of Pakistan's long-range artillery. The US-made M-109 A5 155 mm howitzers has given Pakistan an edge over the Indian Army. In 2004, according to a defence report, India had 4,175 towed artillery and 200 self-propelled guns while Pakistan had 3,952 towed artillery and 260 self-propelled guns—almost on a par with India.
China was far ahead of India in 2004 as it had 14,000 towed artillery and 1,700 self-propelled guns. In total, China owns 6,000+ towed artillery pieces and 1,700 SPHs. The PLA has traditionally operated Soviet 122mm, 130mm and 152mm artillery calibres, although its newest SPH is notable for being of 155mm calibre. This signals that China is switching over to 155mm for future designs. The system in question is the 35-tonne PLZ05 (Type 05) from NORINCO, which features an U52 gun. It can fire laser-guided munitions based on the Russian Krasnopol design, with the WS-35 round reputedly having a 1OOkm range. Also new for the PLA is the 22.5-ton PLZ07 (Type 07) 122mm SPH introduced by NORINCO in 2007. China has also brought the PLL05 120mm mortar howitzer into service, this being based on a WZ551 6×6 chassis; it was first noticed deployed in 2008.
Artillery is essential for South Korea, which is confronted by the threat of massed North Korean artillery strikes capable of raining down 500,000 rounds per hour on the capital Seoul. Samsung Techwin is well known for its 46.3-tonne K9 155mm SPH, which is also being built under license in Turkey as the T-155 Firtina according to a 2001 contract.
The army is expected to acquire up to 4000 howitzers in total to equip its 185 tube artillery regiments under the artillery modernisation programme. Under the first phase of its Rs200bn ($4bn) Field Artillery Rationalization programme, the Army is planning to acquire a total of 400 towed howitzers, along with 180 self-propelled and 145 ultra-light versions to upgrade its artillery divisions.
Defence Minister Arun Jaitley stated, “The case for procurement of Ultra-Light Howitzer (ULH) guns through US Government has not progressed due to cost issues and because the vendor has not been able to come up with a proposal fully compliant to the offset requirements.” Alternatives to the M-777 guns can be found for half the cost.
Though in a different class, the indigenous Dhanush howitzer for instance is being manufactured at a cost of Rs 14 crore per gun. The OFB-manufactured, Dhanush is a 155mm/45 "enhanced calibre" variant of Bofors gun that can fire a “extended range, full-bore” ammunition up to 38 km. While the original 155 mm/39 calibre Bofors gun had a maximum effective range of 27 km. The ministry had in mind the blueprint of the technology that was transferred to the OFB at the time of the Bofors deal in 1986. As the military top brass desperately look around for solutions to the crippling shortage of artillery guns, they stumbled upon the fact that India actually has the entire drawings of the Bofors guns, and had paid for the transfer of technology to manufacture the gun in India. But the Ordnance Factory Board sat on the drawings all these years, never attempting to make the gun in India.
Indian Army has awarded a contract to OFB to manufacture 100 howitzer variants, after failing to acquire a single howitzer in the last 20 years following the Bofors scandal in 1987. Indigenous development programme of the howitzers would continue alongside trials by the OFB. OFB was given the clearance by the ministry in 1999 to produce the BMCS, with South Africa's Denel as technology provider and November 2001 was set as deadline to complete the project. Denel was later blacklisted following allegations of corruption in June 2005, after which Israeli Military Industries (IMI) was selected as the partner to supply the technology in 2007, but was also banned by the ministry on similar grounds.
An OFB official was quoted by the Press Trust of India as saying that OFB Nalanda will indigenously develop the bi-modular charge systems (BMCS) required for firing artillery shells from heavy guns, in Bihar, India.
"The technology would be provided by the Nainital-based DRDO laboratory, High Energy Materials Research Laboratory (HEMRL)," the official added.
According to OFB officials, by August 2012 OFB Nalanda will start operating its first plant, where some key components required for making the final product will be manufactured.
The materials and chemicals required for developing BMCS have also been developed by other OFBs and a small number of the finished products, in test-tube quantity, have already been sent to Balasore in Odisha for initial assessment trials (IATs), the officials added.
The IATs are scheduled to be conducted in May 2012, following which the equipment will be subjected to the quality parameters set by the Directorate General of Quality Assurance under the Defence Ministry.
Costing around Rs 14 crore apiece, the Dhanush is about 83% indigenous. The only imported parts are the auxiliary power units, electronic dial sights and some others. There was a major hiccup in the project when a Dhanush prototype’s barrel burst during firing trials at Pokhran in August 2013. But a detailed analysis showed the problem was due to the usage of 12-year-old ammunition rather than the howitzer itself.
Then, in March, the government blacklisted leading contenders Singapore Technologies Kinetics and Rheinmetall Air Defence, for their alleged role in a 2009 corruption scandal at the government-run Ordnance Factory Board.
The Delhi High Court, meanwhile, blocked plans to spend $647 million on purchasing 145 M777 155-mm howitzers manufactured by the United Kingdom's BAE Systems, and laser pointing systems built by Selex.
The end result has been the Army's artillery wing being degraded to a point of near-helplessness. Less than half of the 400-odd Bofors howitzers purchased in the 1980s are now in use. The 180 Soviet Union-made 130mm M-46 field guns used by India's artillery regiments were upgraded in the hope of giving them characteristics similar to 155mm howitzers, but insiders say their performance is far from satisfactory. For the most part, India's regiments are dependent on unmodified M-46 guns, D-30 122mm guns, and 105mm field guns — all designs dating back decades.
The Bofor’s bogey continues to haunt the modernisation plans of the Indian artillery especially the acquisition of 155mm howitzers for almost a quarter of century. The modernisation process continues to stagnate for various reasons, some beyond the control of the army. This is largely attributable to different scandals continuing to stymie the long delayed acquisition of the 155mm howitzers, despite the lessons learnt during the Kargil conflict of 1999, where artillery fire power had undeniably paved the way for victory. The last major acquisition of guns was that of 400 places of 155mm/39 calibre FH 77B, howitzers from Bofors of Sweden with a range of 30 km in the mid-eighties.
Today, most of the guns held in the inventory of artillery are either obsolescent or reaching obsolescence. While the Russian origin 122mm D30 towed howitzer mainly deployed in the plains is already obsolete, the 105mm Indian field gun (1FG), the mainstay of the artillery and in service for the last three decades is nearing obsolescence. Furthermore its limited range of 17 km is almost irrelevant in a future battlefield environment where guns with 30-40 km range would be the need of the hour. Most of the armies in the world are today even looking at Mortars with enhanced ranges of 12-14 km. The FH 77B (Bofors) guns bought in 1986 are almost down to approximately half the numbers due to non-availability of spares and cannabalisation.
If one were to take a purely transaction-oriented approach to the Bofors deal, one will wonder what the fuss is all about. Even Sten Lindstrom, the Swedish police office who blew the Rs 64 crore payoff cover-up, says the 155 mm field gun was good. The howitzers proved their worth during the Kargil war with their shoot and scoot capability. Chitra Subramaniam-Duella, the journalist who investigated the story, says the price that India paid - $1.3 billion - for the 415 guns was competitive. India was not sold a lemon. Our soldiers did not come to harm. National security was not compromised. Should we worry about the payoff?
That depends on how you view it. If you call it a bribe you will get agitated. The presumption then is that the payoff was an imposition on the Indian taxpayer and if it were not paid we would have got a discount on the deal. But what if came from Bofors' profits? If we regard it as a commission, as a payment to ensure that a good deal is not scuttled, will it smell odious? We should then worry not so much about the payoff, as the defence procurement process that allows a deal to be held up despite passing the tests. Of course someone at the top was paid. Yes there was a cover-up. Certainly middlemen should not have been employed (as the rules barred them). It is the kind of piety that it inserted into government contracts without thought.
The only silver lining in this dismal gun acquisition saga is the successful upgrade of 180 pieces of 130 mm/39 calibre M46 Russian guns to 155mm/45 calibre with the ordinance and kits supplied by Soltam of Israel. Despite its initial teething problems, this has been a successful venture giving an enhanced range of 39 km from its original 26 km.Army has a mix of 155mm/39 calibre, 155mm/45 calibre and 155mm/52 calibre gun system.
One problem with competitive torpedoes that are equipped with older-generation batteries is that to achieve the energy for their missions and countermeasures, they need long batteries, which add so much to their length that they no longer fit into launchers. The torpedo must also have enough energy left once it has reached its target to attack and sink high-value targets such as aircraft carriers and frigates. This explains the importance of the primary battery as the energy source. The UK, Russia, US and Sweden have chosen thermal systems as their energy source. France specified the electric system because it is safe and silent. This system enables a totally silent attack.
The threat from diesel-electric and later air-independent propulsion submarines in the demanding littoral warfare arena, enhanced by increased sonar performance, is casting fresh light on the need for new generation heavy-weight torpedoes or upgrade kits for in-service weapons. Required are speeds of around 50 knots, ranges superior to 50 km and sophisticated acoustic guidance.
DCNS dual-purpose F-21 is a newer-generation HWT when compared to the WASS-built "Black Shark" heavyweight torpedoes. The F21 feature an electrical propulsion system based on the DCNS-supplied MU-90 lightweight torpedo Aluminium-Silver-Oxide technology battery, providing 50+km range and 50+ knots speed, according to DCNS. Equipped with a planar array and fully digital acoustic head, the F21 is also to comply with demanding nuclear-powered platform safety requirements, including insensitive warhead and safe detonation technology. In shallow waters there are “parasite” sounds that confuse torpedoes, which home in on targets acoustically. The F-21 treats the sound signals digitally with the same up-to-date processing as in modern warship sonars, which enables the F-21 to largely overcome this difficulty. The F-21 has also been ordered by the Brazilian Navy.
India's Pipavav has teamed up with Germany's Atlas Elektronik to pitch the "SeaHake mod4 (DM2A4 )" heavy torpedo with uncertainty over the French F21 heavy torpedo deal going through. 98 Whitehead Alenia Sistemi Subacquei (WASS) Black Shark heavyweight torpedoes for for the IN’s six Scorpene SSKs. The first 20 Black Sharks will be delivered directly by WASS, while the MoD-owned Bharat Dynamics Ltd will licence-assemble the rest from WASS-supplied completely knocked-down kits.
ATAS is considered an indispensable anti-submarine capability for warships operating in Indian waters, where a particularly sharp temperature gradient bends sonar waves through refraction, with the returning signal often getting lost. ATAS overcomes the temperature gradient, since it is towed by a cable that extends deep below the surface, into the cooler layers where submarines lurk. With the sensors themselves in the colder water layers, there is no “temperature differential”. Even the faintest return signal from a submarine is detected.