WORLD DEFENSE REVIEW: India to build own 155mm Howitzers
At a time when the defence preparedness of the nation's armed forces has become a controversial matter, the Ordnance Factory Board has taken up the task of indigenously manufacturing 155 mm Howitzers, similar to the Bofors gun which had blazed a trail of controversy in 1986.
Slated to be manufactured in India, the Howitzer will have the same specifications as the Bofors gun which was used in the Kargil conflict in 1999. If everything goes according to plan, two giant Howitzers would be given to the Indian Army for field trials in the current financial year. This will be the first time that large calibre Howitzers are being manufactured entirely in India.
Sources revealed that the Howitzers would be made using a transfer of technology (TOT) agreement already in place with the Swedish original equipment maker AB Bofors after the guns were procured in the mid-1980s.
The OFB will also make the spare parts which will result in the repairs and maintenance of the gun becoming cost effective and less time consuming. The step was taken to encourage indigenous production for curtailing procurement costs. The production is expected to be undertaken at the Gun Carriage Factory at Jabalpur, which makes the 105mm Indian Field Guns, the only indigenously developed Howitzers. Earlier, the factory had upgraded the existing 155x45 guns purchased from Sweden to 155x52 mm and 130 mm guns to 155 mm, a source said.
While refusing to go into the details of the project, general manager, Ordnance Factory, Dehradun, R Rajasekharan, acknowledged that the factory was involved in the trials. There were problems related to the functioning of the gun in cold areas but these have been sorted out and a programme for scaling up the production will be under-taken soon.
Speaking to The Pioneer, former Indian Military Academy Commandant, Lt Gen (retd) GS Negi said that it is good sign that OFD is undertaking the project but added that Indian defence system cannot bear delay or compromise with quality. Echoing the same views, former Colonel Commandment, Garhwal Regiment, Lt Gen (retd) MC Bhandari, said that OFD should meet the deadline and sell in the international market.
The 155x45 mm Howitzers are identified by their barrel diameter, the first figure (155) referring to the diameter of the barrel and the second (45) indicating the length of barrel that is 45 times the diameter. This fires a shell up to 30,900 miles with a lethality of 50 metres. The 12,000 kg giant armament can fire upto three rounds in just 14 seconds and is operated by an eight-member crew.