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India poised to become manufacturing hub for cutting edge artillery ammunition

By Vivek Raghuvanshi
New Delhi, Feb 18: India is slated to become the prime manufacturing hub for advanced 155mm artillery ammunition for all types of [155mm] artillery guns which are operated by over 75 armies worldwide.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has recently selected five domestic ammunition manufacturers to supply around two thousand 155mm terminally guided munitions (TGMs) for the Army’s in-service 155mm guns of 39/45/52 calibre artillery guns.

The 155mm TGM is the most advanced artillery ammunition and its technology was denied to India in the past.

Each indigenously made-in-India 155mm TGM projectile would cost around Rs.80 Lac which is expected to be the most advanced and cheapest globally. Typically, a western and Russian TGM projectile costs just double while the US-made artillery ammunition costs three times more.

To achieve full self-reliance in ammunition manufacturing, MoD is now encouraging private companies to set up new production facilities to meet the ammunition demands of armed forces and paramilitary forces, which was the earlier monopoly of the erstwhile government-controlled Ordnance Factory Board. Besides, the Army has been solely dependent on the import of advanced artillery ammunition from overseas.

Therefore, the private sector is now invited to fill critical shortages in some areas of ammunition and companies will be given long-term demand contracts for supply of a varletry of ammunition Five domestic companies – state-run Munitions India Ltd, and private sector companies Adani Defence Systems and Technologies Ltd (ADSTL), Bharat Forge Ltd, Economic Explosive Ltd, Premier Explosives and SMPP Ltd have been issued Project Sanction Orders (PSOs) by Army under the industry funder Make-II procurement scheme to develop 25 rounds of 155 mm TGMs along with four fire control systems in one year and participate in the trials on a cost-no-commitment basis. The porotypes must have 50 per cent indigenous technology.

Industry analysts said a host of overseas original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) – Nexter of France, Rosoboronexport of Russia, Nammo AS of Norway, of the United Kingdom, Saab Bofors Dynamics. of Sweden, Elbit Systems of Israel, Diehl Defence of Germany, Denel of South Africa, Yugoimport SDPR of Serbia, Arsenal of Bulgaria, and Raytheon/ BAE Systems Inc of the US are exploring industrial partnership for bulk production of 155mm TGM projectiles with domestic companies in India.

The Army intends to place contracts with two companies for the supply of around two thousand 155mm TGM projectiles (delivered at the rate of 197 TGM per year), 170 fire control systems, 87 projectile simulators, and 87 projectiles for its in-service artillery guns. The entire programme is expected to cost around Rs. 1600 crore and formal contracts will be placed in mid-2024.

The Expression of Interest (EoI) for 155mm TGM says the requirement of this ammunition will increase manifold as the majority of artillery regiments convert to 155mm calibre [in line with] the upgrade of Indian artillery [capability]. Thus, the sustenance of industry will be ensured due to continuous demand.

Indian Army inducted GPS-guided M982 Excalibur rounds from Raytheon Technologies of the US for its M777 155 mm/39-calibre ultra-light howitzers only in 2019. The Indian Army’s artillery regiment currently has no TGM capability.

(Vivek Raghuvanshi specialises in Indian and global military industry. He had been the India Bureau Chief of Defense News, a US weekly publication from 1995-2018.)

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