On 8 April, 2019, at the Gun Carriage Factory, Jabalpur, Mr Saurav Kumar DG Ordnance Factories and Chairman OFB flagged off not one gun but a whole battery of six to the Army. In attendance were, Ajay Kumar, Secretary, Defence Production, Lt Gen PK Srivastava Director General Artillery and Lt Gen RS Salaria Commandant School of Artillery.
It takes 18 guns to make an artillery regiment. These 18 are divided into three lots of six each to make three batteries of the regiment. The battery is the basic fire unit of the artillery to deliver the firepower required to neutralise, pulverise and destroy the enemy before infantry men or mechanized troops close in to seal the victory.
At the ceremony in the premises of the GCF, the most notable aspect beyond the six-gun battery driving out to symbolically depict their being now a part of the Army’s inventory, was the elated spirit that pervaded the environment. It was indeed an historical occasion for every man and woman who are or were, a part of the project.
For the army, these guns will help turn the tables squarely on forces that may threaten our borders tomorrow. The army has already started receiving the 155mm Ultra-Light Howitzers of BAE Systems and K9 155mm Self-propelled Howitzers of L&T. The contract so far for these variants are 145 & 100, respectively. As yet, orders have been placed for 114 Dhanush guns.
Dhanush is based on the design of 155mm FH77O2 Guns of Bofors that we had inducted in the 1980s. However, we had not utilised the ToT gainfully, till very recently, when we decided to pursue the designing of Dhanush. However, the current model that the OFB has finally fielded is a far more advanced version of the Bofors model. The gun has one of the best sighting systems that meets most requirements. It has a day camera CCD, night camera, laser range finder, narrow field of vision and wide field of vision sighting capabilities incorporated in the system.
The gun weighs 700 kg more than the Bofors model. However it ranges upto 38km as it fires its rounds through a 45 calibre barrel. The Bofors model ranged approximately 30 km with certain types of ammunition. Incidentally, range is a huge advantage while undertaking deep penetration maneuvers in the deserts. Similarly, it’s also a bonus for supporting cross-border Special Forces raids in fair depth.
With artillery equipment induction having been in limbo for over thirty years, our requirement of replacement of dated equipment is quite massive. Having adopted the philosophy of 155mm caliber as the standard field artillery profile, there is a need to induct atleast 2000 guns in the next couple of years.Mr. Saurabh Kumar DG & Chairman OFB, rightly pointed out in his talk about the need to increase the capacity for production steeply. In addition, there is huge export market that could be tapped. The Indian Defence Industry, be it Public or Private will only be able to take long strides if it is most competitive. However, to achieve such success, the cost of equipment will need to be competitive. The fact that the Indian Army has accepted the equipment will serve as a huge certification, since our army’s stringent processes are pretty well known abroad.
In addition to the manufacture of 155 mm Dhanush, the OFB is also involved in up gunning of 130 mm guns to 155 mm caliber. 130 mm guns that we have are of Russian origin and have been in service for decades. These are being upgraded in conformity with the artillery philosophy of switching to 155 mm being the basic gun system.
The DG Artillery felicitated the multiple organisations and their personnel who have been involved in the project. The Secretary, Defence Production insisted with continuing on the path that the Dhanush has opened. He emphasised on more and more IPR being generated by the OFB.
The Dhanush is an example of the success of Make in India. With its largely Indian design, and the fact of the entire manufacturing/assembling processes being undertaken within the country, it’s definitely a milestone for the arms industry in India.
The Secretary, Defence Production had used an apt phrase in his talk: “Winners win against all odds. Losers have reasons for the loss”. OFB, undoubtedly, has emerged a Winner.
Brig SK Chatterji (Retd)