DRDO ATAGS:- India’s Very Own Indigenous Advanced Artillery Gun
The DRDO Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System is a towed 155 mm/52 calibre howitzer that is being developed for the Indian Army will be a joint project of two private-sector corporations. This is a reversal of the usual practice of giving only state-owned companies these kinds of pricey orders. State-owned Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) would develop ATAGS with two private-sector firms, Tata Power SED and the Kalyani Group. Valued at $4.5 billion, the production order could be be a potential windfall for India’s private defense groups, as New Delhi’s army seeks to fill its requirement of over 1,500 towed guns..
The Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS) project was started in 2013 by DRDO to replace older guns in service in the Indian Army with a modern 155mm artillery gun.Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE) partnered with Kalyani Group, Tata Power and OFB for this purpose.
The development of the gun took about 4 years and is expected to be complete by March 2017. The delay in completion of the project was attributed to realization of ordnance and recoil system and supply issue with manufacturing of sub-systems. The gun is expected to start in 2019.
Immediately after the Kargil war, the Army’s Field Artillery Rationalisation Programme was cleared by the Union government, with a budget of Rs 50,000 crore. The target was to equip 169 artillery regiments with over 3,000 advanced-technology 155mm guns by 2020. However, hiccups in artillery programmes have given an upper hand to Pakistan, which has 394 guns of 155mm calibre; India has 380.
The shortage of 155-mm, 52-calibre artillery is widely considered the Indian Army’s most worrying shortfall. Over the preceding 18 years, several international tenders for buying 1,580 towed guns from the international arms market have stalled. Consequently, no new 155-mm guns have entered the army since the purchase of 410 Bofors howitzers 30 years ago. With the spectre of Bofors dogging international procurement, the DRDO charged its Pune-based Armament Research & Development Establishment (ARDE) with the ambitious ATAGS project to develop an indigenous towed gun.
ATAGS is potentially the DRDO’s biggest indigenous project, aiming to meet the army’s need for more than 2,000 towed artillery pieces in the coming decade, generating indigenous manufacture for over Rs 30,000 crore.
Conceived and designed by the DRDO’s Armament R&D Establishment, Pune (ARDE), the gun is mostly built by two private firms. The lion’s share has been won by Tata Power (Strategic Engineering Division), which has built one prototype. The Kalyani Group has built a second prototype.
Development of the ATAGS system has been divided into nine “work packages”, with each package competitively tendered within India. The Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) won the tender to manufacture gun barrels, along with forgings giant, the Kalyani Group.
Other private companies have won roles too. Mahindra Defence Systems will make the recoil system along with Tata Power SED, while Punj Lloyd will make the muzzle brake. During full-scale manufacture, an entire eco-system of smaller Tier-2 and Tier-3 suppliers is expected to come up.
At first look, ATAGS appears similar to the Bofors FH-77B – the famous “Bofors gun” that India bought 410 of in the 1980s. In fact, the ATAGS, a 155-millimetre, 52-calibre gun-howitzer (guns fire at low angle, howitzers at high angle, while ATAGS does both) is significantly bigger than the 155-millimetre, 39-calibre Bofors.
155-millimetres is the “bore” of the gun, or the width of the gun barrel. Calibre relates to barrel length; the higher the calibre, the longer the barrel, and the longer its range. A third parameter is chamber size, which determines how large a projectile can be fired from the gun, and therefore how much damage a round can inflict on the target.
While most globally available 155-millimetre guns, including the French Nexter and Israeli Elbit guns the military has evaluated, have a chamber capacity of 23 litres, ATAGS will have a 25-litre chamber. That would let it fire more high explosive onto the target with each round.
In addition, that makes the ATAGS’s range noticeably higher, especially while firing “extended range full bore” (ERFB) ammunition, with which the range goes up to an astonishing 45 kilometres.
The ATAGS is the world’s only gun with a six-round “automated magazine”, which lets it fire a six-round burst in just 30 seconds. Most other 155-mm, 52-calibre guns have three-round magazines, which must be reloaded after firing three rounds.
Since most casualties are caused by artillery in the initial burst of fire, when enemy soldiers are caught in the open (and not after they dive into their trenches), a high “burst fire” capability is an important attribute.
The ATAGS specifications also require it to fire 60 rounds in 60 minutes in the “sustained fire” mode.
Another first in the ATAGS is its all-electric drive, which replaces the comparatively unreliable hydraulic drives in other towed guns. The ATAG’s all-electric drive operates its automated mechanisms: ammunition handling, opening and closing the breech, and ramming the round into the chamber.
These enhanced performance attributes have increased the weight of ATAGS to 16 tonnes, a couple of tonnes heavier than comparable towed guns. The army is willing to accept a heavier gun that delivers significantly better performance.
Two firing prototypes — Tata Power’s G1 and Bharat Forge’s G2 — made their spectacular debuts. Both prototypes shot out shells to a distance of 47 km at the Pokhran test ranges in Rajasthan. This is the distance between New Delhi and Gurugram, a world record for their class of howitzers which usually fire a shell to around 40 km. In the thin air of the mountains, its designers say, the shells can easily achieve a 25 per cent range addition.
G1 & G2 has also cleared winter trials in Sikkim successfully. In the cold, rarefied air of the Himalayas the guns’s max range was increased to about 58 km. A major roadblock remains in the high weight of the gun.DRDO and two private players are trying to rectify this.
DRDO ATAGS also has module to calculate the trajectory of it’s rounds fired.So that an impact point can be predicted with very high level of accuracy. This computer operated artillery can correct it’s course in minimum time. Its Fire Control System and advanced communication system in ATAGS has been developed by Indian DRDO-CAIR and DEAL.
The Indian Army has Artillery Combat Command and Control System ACCCS named Shakti. This System integrates all data from all the artillery units deployed on a front and the weapon locating radars. Based on this integrated picture of battlespace commanders direct the artillery field positions to achieve maximum effectiveness of a shelling on enemy positions.
The ATAGS is compatible with Shakti ACCCS. Military assessments have showed that in High Altitude ‘limited’ warfare in Himalayas neither the heavy armoured vehicles nor the infantry carriers would make in significant dent. The helicopters at such an altitude would be slow moving making them fodder for MANPADs. The most promising fire support, invading or defending troops can get is that of Artillery.
China currently have an edge over India in these terms and that fuels the confidence of PLA. But not so long, Indians can claim Superiority just like they did it in Kashmir.
Ministry of Defence has given permission for procurement of the first lot of 40 artillery guns made by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in collaboration with two Indian manufacturers.
The Army has given its go-ahead after seeing the performance of the weapon. Any additions or improvements to the gun can be incorporated in later versions. This will include auto-loading of ammunition and certain other specifics like reduction of the weight of this 155 mm, 52-calibre gun.
Reference :-Ajai shukla