Indigenous artillery gun ATAGS to undergo winter trials in Sikkim
A locally made gun is set to undergo crucial trials in January at a time when the army has sharpened its focus on its long-delayed artillery modernisation programme.
The indigenous 155mm 52-calibre Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS), jointly developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the private sector, will kick off winter trials in the Sikkim sector, a senior army officer said.
The ATAGS set a record during trials in Rajasthan’s Pokhran in September, firing shells to a range of 48 km, against army’s requirement of 40 km.
The defence ministry sanctioned the ATAGS project in September 2012 and the DRDO has partnered with Bharat Forge and Tata Power (Strategic Engineering Division) SED to develop two prototypes of the towed artillery guns.
The two prototypes underwent their maiden structural stability trials in December 2016 at Proof & Experimental Establishment, a government test facility at Balasore in Odisha.
A letter of intent has been given to the DRDO for 150 ATAGS, an army source said.
The value of DRDO-developed/upgraded systems inducted into the armed forces during the last three years stands at Rs 1.1 lakh crore, the government told Lok Sabha on Wednesday. These systems do not include strategic weapons.
The army’s field artillery rationalisation plan (FARP), cleared in 1999, lays down the roadmap for inducting new 155mm weaponry, including tracked self-propelled guns, truck-mounted gun systems, towed artillery pieces and wheeled self-propelled guns.
The Rs 50,000-crore FARP seeks to equip 169 artillery regiments with a mix of nearly 3,000 guns over the next decade.
The army is looking to induct another indigenously developed 155mm 45-calibre towed artillery gun called Dhanush. But the programme has been delayed as the gun was involved in mishaps during trials. (Here, 155 mm denotes the diameter of the shell and calibre relates to barrel length.)
The force is awaiting a report on an accident involving its new M777 ultra-light howitzer. The BAE Systems-manufactured gun was partly damaged when a 155mm artillery round misfired and exploded in its barrel during a drill at the Pokhran firing ranges in September.
The M777 order is the first contract for artillery guns in almost 30 years after the Bofors scandal unfolded in the late 1980s. India signed the Rs 5,000-crore deal with the US in November 2016 for 145 howitzers.