India invests in heavy artillery

By Dmitry Fediushko, Lucknow

India’s military is largely investing in the development of heavy artillery, both towed and self-propelled. The company Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) has unveiled its new 155 mm wheeled self-propelled howitzer (SPH) designated “Salient” (photo on top). The system is armed with a 155 mm L/52 gun mounted on a BEML Tatra 8×8 chassis. It reaches a range of no less than 38 km, when firing the BMCS [Bi-Modular Charge System] Zone 6 [new-generation] charges” said a spokesperson for the OFB, who also added that the Salient is “indigenously designed, developed, and manufactured”.

The Salient SPH has been designed with the “shoot and scoot” capability in mind. It is based on a modular configuration and is compatible with the Indian Army existing artillery platforms in terms of ammunition and disposables. The manufacturer claims the weapon provides high all-terrain manoeuvrability and increased (when compared to legacy artillery) accuracy. “The [Salient] gun provides support to infantry under all weather conditions,” said the OFB’s representative.

The system has been fitted with a solid sensor suite comprising a GPS receiver, an inertial measurement unit, a muzzle velocity data managing unit, a gun autolayer, a thermal imager, a laser rangefinder, and a daylight camera. “The Salient is compatible with the Artillery Combat Command Control System [ACCCS] designed by India’s company Bharat Electronics Limited [BEL],” said the OFB’s representative; however, he detailed neither firing rate nor maximum firing range.

The new SPH carries 18 ready-to-use ammunition and 18 ready-to-use BMCS Z-6 propellant charges. “The howitzer is compatible with a wide range of ammunition and charges,” said the OFB’s spokesperson.

The refurbished M46 130 mm gun

At DefExpo 2020, the OFB also unveiled a refurbished Soviet-age M46 130 mm gun. In October 2018 the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) ordered the upgrade of 300 such guns with the installation of a 155 mm L/45 barrel. The upgraded howitzers are to be delivered to the MoD by 2022. “The firing range of the gun has been increased to 36 km from 27 km of the baseline model,” said another OFB’s spokesperson.

The ATAGS 155/52 mm howitzer

India’s Defence and Research Development Organisation (DRDO) has showcased the ATAGS (Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System) 155 mm L/52 howitzer, which is reported to be passing through operational evaluation and trials. The gun fires at a 32-45 km range (depending on the round). The ATAGS has a sustained firing rate of 60 rounds per hour and can fire five rounds in 45 seconds in the multiple round simultaneous impact (MRSI) mode. “The gun features only electric drives,” said a representative of the DRDO. It is manned by a seven-strong crew and features a thermal imager and a gunner’s firing control system with a multifunctional display and a ballistic computer.

All photos by Dmitry Fediushko