Indigenously made truck-mounted heavy artillery gun will meet long pending requirement
DefExpo 2022 provided an insight into many of the new land systems under development with the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO), Defence Public Sector Units (DPSU) and Indian private defence sector. An important new development with regards to indigenous weapons development was the first sight of the new 155mm/52cal Mounted Gun System (MGS), which is being indigenously designed under a public-private partnership between the Vehicle Research & Development Establishment (VRDE) and the Kalyani Group.
The new MGS is aimed at fulfilling the long-pending need of the Indian Army, which has plans to procure 814 such systems. Under the army’s Field Artillery Rationalisation Plan (FARP), the acquisition of approximately 3,000 artillery guns was envisaged. This encompassed 1580 Towed Gun Systems (TGS), 814 Mounted Gun Systems, 180 wheeled Self-Propelled Guns (SPG), 145 Ultra-Light Howitzers (ULH) and 100 tracked self-propelled guns.
The MGS is a cross country truck-mounted heavy artillery gun system based on the DRDO developed 155mm/52cal Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS). Only a single prototype has been manufactured so far and the weapon system was on static display at DefExpo 2022. Many systems on the indigenously developed MGS have already undergone successful trials. The new weapon system is based on a Tatra High Mobility Vehicle (HMV) 8X8 chassis for enhanced mobility. The new MGS features an auto-gun alignment and positioning system, integrated Fire Control System (FCS), ammunition handling system and onboard silent electric power system. A Muzzle Velocity Radar is also fitted on the MGS.
The MGS can achieve a speed of 80 kmph on a metalled road and 40 kmph on a cross-country terrain. The vehicle can accommodate a crew of seven inside its armoured cabin. The armoured cabin has been specifically designed for the MGS, according to VRDE officials. To cater for the recoil of the 155mm/52cal artillery gun mounted on the rear of the truck, a spade type shock absorbing electro-mechanical stabilizer is fitted on the rear of the truck chassis. The MGS carries 24 artillery rounds within the vehicle and has an automatic ammunition handling system, which allows for the high rate of fire. The artillery system, vehicle chassis, armoured cabin and all other accessories for the new MGS totals up to approximately 30 tonne. This allows the MGS to be used on most of the terrain that the army operates in. But its manoeuvrability in narrow and hilly terrain remains to be tested.
The ATAGS howitzer mounted atop the 8X8 HMV chassis can engage targets as far away as 45km (depending on the type of ammunition used). The entire weapon system weapon can be controlled and fired from inside the cabin--allowing for ‘shoot and scoot’ mission. As per DRDO information, the MGS can be deployed into action in 80 seconds and be ready to move to a new location after firing in 85 seconds.
The ATAGS artillery system can fire High Explosive Extended Range Full Bore (ERFB BT) artillery rounds to ranges over 35 km and ERFB Base Bleed (ERFB BB) projectiles to more than 45 km. The ATAGS howitzer in ‘burst’ mode can fire a minimum of three rounds in 30 seconds, while in ‘intense’ mode it can fire a minimum of 12 rounds in 180 seconds. The howitzer has a quoted sustained rate of fire of 42 rounds in one hour and can operate in extreme weather conditions ranging from -4 to +45 degrees. The howitzer has a high chamber volume of 25 litres, with future provision of up gunning. It features all-electric drives (with manual override) for all operations of the gun system.
The DRDO proceeded with the development of the ATAGS with two private sector Indian firms, Bharat Forge and Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL) as the production partners for this weapon system. This was a change from the traditional way of doing things, wherein DPSUs where the preferred production partners for DRDO products.
The proof firing of the ATAGS howitzer took place for the first time in July 2016 and its development has been undertaken by the Armament Research & Development Establishment (ARDE), located in Pune. In May, Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL) announced that the 155/52 mm ATAGS had successfully completed Preliminary Staff Qualitative Requirements (PSQR) firing trials.
In September, the news agency ANI, reported that the ATAGS was in the advanced stage of user trials. In a first, the indigenously developed ATAGS was also part of the signature 21-gun salute during the Independence Day ceremony at the Red Fort on August 15. It is expected that at least 150 ATAGS will be ordered initially at on order value in excess of Rs3,000 crore. The orders will be split between Bharat Forge and TASL.
The army has a longstanding requirement for an MGS since 2002 and released another Request for Information (RFI) for procurement of a 155mm/52 cal MGS in April 2021. The MGS will be used by artillery regiments to provide mobile firepower during high intensity operations with mechanized forces. Any new 155 mm/52 cal MGS would be employed in plains, mountains, high altitude area, semi desert and desert terrain along the northern and western borders.
As per last year’s RFI, the MGS must be capable of operating on the army’s existing road and track network. The RFI also calls for an Inertial Navigation System (INS) based sight system with the capability to orient and fix the location of the gun system. The FCS should also have capability to provide day and night direct and indirect firing and it should also be compatible with Project Shakti.
Other MGS systems in contention for the army requirement are the Caesar artillery system, offered by L&T and Nexter in 2014 and mounted on an Indian Ashok Leyland Defence 6X6 chassis. The erstwhile OFB had also showcased an MGS in 2018, based on its 155mX45 cal Dhanush (upgraded Bofors 155mmX39 cal FH-77B) mounted on a BEML 8X8 Tatra chassis.
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