The 5.56 mm X 30mm carbine developed by ARDE Pune. for the first time in the INSAS programme, an industrial designer has enhanced ergonomics. It will be built at Small Arms Factory, Kanpur
by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 29th July 10
With the international procurement of 155 millimetre towed guns for the Indian Army dogged by controversy and failure, India’s Defence R&D Organisation has made the potentially game-changing decision to jump into the fray. The DRDO’s most productive laboratory, the Armament Research & Development Establishment (ARDE) in Pune, could soon become the hub-centre for developing an indigenous 155 millimetre towed gun, in partnership with private industry giants like Bharat Forge and L&T.
This DRDO project would introduce an Indian consortium into the jinxed 155 mm procurement that has been confined to foreign vendors, many of them attended by controversy. Today, Defence Minister AK Antony informed parliament that the CBI had recommended the blacklisting of four companies that have been involved, at various stages of this procurement: Singapore Technologies Kinetics (STK); German company, Rheinmetall; Israel Military Industries (IMI); and another Israeli company, Soltam. Denel, a South African company, had been blacklisted earlier; and the only other gun on offer, the BAE Systems FH-77B-05 howitzer, is an modernised version of the controversial Bofors gun.
In these circumstances, say MoD sources, an indigenous 155 mm gun could be a politically palatable choice.
Anil Datar, the ARDE Director told Business Standard, “Within the DRDO, we are discussing how to develop a155 mm gun. We can make it, no problem, with the help of Indian industry. A 155 mm gun requires high-class manufacturing; we have Bharat Forge and L&T in and around Pune, which are keen to join us.”
While the ARDE --- the DRDO’s facility for developing small arms, guns, howitzers, and rockets --- has worked on gun technology earlier, now the army too appears to have concluded that indigenous development might be a faster route than international procurement.
The DRDO spokesperson in New Delhi, Ravi Gupta, confirmed to Business Standard, “The DRDO is very keen to develop 155 mm guns for the army. We had formed a team to work on this more than a decade ago, but the army did not give us a firm requirement then. Now, the army has expressed interest in the 155 mm gun project and preliminary work has already begun.”
The selection of a 155 mm towed gun has dragged on for 8 years without result. On Friday, the MoD cancelled army trials of two guns --- the Singapore Technologies Kinetics (STK) IFH-2000; and the BAE Systems FH-77B-05 --- after the CBI’s announcement about STK left only the Bofors gun in contention. MoD insiders say that it was impossible to select that gun on a single-vendor basis.
The contract, worth an estimated Rs 8000 crores, envisages buying 400 towed guns off the shelf and building 1180 in India from transferred technology.
Highlighting the ARDE’s experience in guns and artillery systems, Datar says: “The army is currently inducting our Pinaka multi-barrelled rocket launcher, which is a world-class system. Our 120 mm gun for the Arjun tank has outperformed the T-90 gun in army trials. In 1972, ARDE developed the 105 mm Indian Field Gun (IFG), which was a mainstay of the Indian Army’s field artillery. We assisted with up-gunning the army’s 130 mm gun to 155 mm. And ARDE produced a heavy 185 mm gun, but that never entered service because the army was not interested then.”
Datar claims that ARDE --- given adequate support from the private sector, and from the DRDO’s network of 50-odd laboratories --- could develop a world-class 155 mm gun within 3 – 3½ years. The Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory (DMRL), in Hyderabad, would develop special alloys and materials for the gun. Ammunition would be tested at the Proof and Experimental Establishment (PXE) at Balasore, Orissa; while warheads would be tested at the Terminal Ballistics Research Laboratory (TBRL), Chandigarh.
The ARDE is one of the DRDO’s star laboratories, having developed over 200 items that are in service with the military today. With just 1% of the DRDO’s total budget; and 5% of the DRDO’s manpower (1300 persons, including 220 scientists and 250 technical officers), the ARDE has developed 70% of the equipment that the Ordnance Factories have manufactured for the military.