Tuesday, 27 July 2010

The Indian Artillery Project: An Indian journey sans Bofors baggage


A Pinaka multi-barrelled rocket launcher firing a single rocket. The Pinaka was developed by the ARDE in Pune (Photo: courtesy Military-Today)

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 27th July 10

In adversity, the saying goes, lies opportunity. Applying that principle, India’s indigenous defence complex is at a crucial moment where a resolute decision could make it a genuine supplier of high-end artillery equipment, instead of a mere spectator to a global shopping spree by the Indian military.

Last Friday, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) signalled (if confirmation were needed) that it lacks the political will to cast aside procedure in selecting a 155-millimetre artillery gun for the army. With the CBI proceeding against Singapore Technologies Kinetic (STK), one of the two remaining companies in the fray, the MoD restarted the entire process of tendering and trials rather than awarding the contract to the sole vendor remaining, UK-headquartered BAE Systems, which offered the politically contentious Bofors gun.

It is time to end this long-playing farce of trial and rejection and to put the MoD --- and global vendors of artillery systems --- out of their misery. The Indian Army must be frankly told that it will receive no 155 mm guns for the next 5-7 years. And a predominantly Indian consortium must be brought together to build an Indian gun within that period.

There are systems that remain beyond the capability of India’s defence establishment. Aircraft engines, even tank engines, have proven too complex for India to develop. The DRDO has also been unable to produce world-class night vision devices; electro-optic sensors; and electronically scanned radars. But India’s growing technological capability has given it the capability to take on projects that were unthinkable two decades ago: fourth-generation fighters; advanced warships; even a tank with a gun that has proven to be world class.

India has the skills for building a 155 mm artillery gun; leadership is needed to bring them together. The DRDO, increasingly sophisticated and technologically capable, is yearning to harness the proven manufacturing skills of India’s private sector. Global majors like Bharat Forge and L&T are straining at the leash, willing to put in money and muscle into what they have identified as a promising business vertical.

The Pinaka multi-barrelled rocket launcher (MBRL) has already proven how effectively the DRDO can leverage the private sector’s manufacturing skills. A state-of-the-art system, with electronics that are superior to even Russian frontline MBRLs, a single Pinaka regiment can obliterate a target 40 kilometers away by pouring down 72 rockets onto it in just 44 seconds. The DRDO’s choice of L&T and Tata Power as industrial partners in the Pinaka project ensured that a quality design was enhanced by skilled manufacture. In the past poor manufacturing practises, especially those of the public sector Ordnance Factory Board, had tarnished the reputation of otherwise well-designed DRDO products like the 5.56 mm INSAS rifle.

The MoD must bring together a public-private consortium, forming a joint venture (JV) --- call it, for now, the Indian Artillery Project (IAP) --- in which the DRDO, the Indian Army, and the prime private sector participants have financial stakes. The structure of the JV must allow for quick and flexible decision-making, without crippling regulations that mandate multi-vendor tendering and L-1 (lowest cost) procurement. And, most importantly, a project management group must be drawn from the IAP partners to set and monitor timelines ruthlessly.

The army will understandably resist this project, being desperately short of artillery and wanting guns yesterday. The most crucial component of combat capability, artillery guns --- firing high explosive shells at faraway targets --- have caused three quarters of all battlefield casualties over the last century of wars. But the soldiers will come around, given assurances about delivery within a clear time frame. Their choice is a stark one: continuing trials of foreign guns with no light certain at the end of the tunnel; or an official moratorium of 5-7 years, followed by the simplified procurement processes of indigenous equipment. The army is also aware that an indigenous 155 mm gun can be integrated ground-up into the overarching Artillery Command, Control and Communications System (ACCCS) that networks artillery resources into a seamless whole.

If that is acceptable to the army, it must frame its requirements realistically, rather than demanding a system so advanced that it remains a dream. If a range of 40 kilometers will suffice tactically, it is self-defeating to hold up the project by asking for 50 kilometers. The DRDO too, with its institutional love for living in the future, will have to be firmly pegged to the here and now.

Constituting and financing the Indian Artillery Project will be small change, given what the MoD plans to pay global vendors for the four different 155 mm guns that the army needs. Multiple procurements are simultaneously unfolding under the MoD-sanctioned Artillery Modernisation Plan. The tender for 1580 towed guns is worth an estimated Rs 8000 crores. Another tender for 140 ultralight howitzers for mountain formations is worth over Rs 3000 crores. Also being processed is a Rs 3500 crores purchase of 100 medium guns, mounted on tracked vehicles, for India’s mechanised forces. Another Rs 4000 crores is earmarked for 180 vehicle-mounted guns for self-propelled regiments. The total money in play here is some Rs 18,500 crores.

The MoD’s procurement procedures have a “Make” category, which has been envisioned for just such a project. The time for the Indian Artillery project is now.

42 comments:

Tushar said...

Sir ,
I wish you were the Defence Minister of India . Antonio must Go !!
The Army should overthrow this incompetent Government.

Rgds,

Anonymous said...

Why don't they split it up like they did for light helicopter tender?
750 towed pieces if DRDO can make them in 5 years. If not, there is a penalty for being late.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant article. IS the MOD mandarins, Army, DRDO and private firms listening. India needs a modern Gun version 1 withing the shortest possible time. Later we can improve on it an have many improved versions as time progresses. If a Gun can be developed and tested with 5 years time and mass production by public as well as private firms after that will give a great boost to the Indian artillery regiments.

Anonymous said...

" demanding a system so advanced that it remains a dream"

The specs should at least come close to matching contemporary systems.

AK said...

Excellent article Ajai. You have hit the bullseye here. I really wonder if our army lives in a dreamy world of it'so own. They knew that this farce can continue indefinitely, so why was this program not initiated a decade ago? We would have had the IAP complete or near completion by now and ready for induction. Two decades of wasted opportunity and countless lives lost.

Anonymous said...

Ajay

Can you please explain why militaries worldwide still use Arty and not MBRL like Pinaka in Arty's place?

Why cant India have 1800 Pinaka Mk1/Mk2/Mk3 versions on tracked / towed versions?

Will a Pinaka unit not do the same job as an Arty piece?
GPS or terminal homing rockets could do what Xcalibur or Krasnopol does?

So why not only MBRL? They are mobile, bring loads of firepower in quick time. And i assume a simple rocket is as expensive as an arty shell.

care to explain?

Thanks
Lungikawasta

Coolgeek said...

Excellent article Ajay !! I hope somebody from our 'babusthan' reads this !!!

Maj Gen (Dr.) Bhupinder Yadav said...

In fact this is the only way we can achieve self reliance in Defence Products from medium Technology domain. In early 70s we had Gun Development Team, which gave 105mm IFG. Partnership with Private sector will certainly help, as in case of Pinaka Launcher.

Anonymous said...

Where were you Five yrs ago ?
We could have a gun today?

So what you are suggesting is that Indian's postpone their liberty to use military options for another ten years?

Are you looking at earning Rs 18000crores or saving possible loss of more than that magnitude by defense preparedness through spending that amount.

Well then, it is a national and political choice. Do not write articles blaming the Army for refusal to attack post Bombay type attacks. People like you then should be on the firing line.

Did Indian Army at any stage said that DRDO should not make 155 mm Guns? Why suddenly this awakening at the critical juncture?

Anonymous said...

"A state-of-the-art system, with electronics that are superior to even Russian frontline MBRLs,..."
And how did you reach at this decision? Did you actually look at the advanced battle field management system (BMS) on the Russian SMEARCH? Or just plain old "Jai Ho!", "Rang de Basanti" and "All iz well" Utopia!

joydeep ghosh said...

Ajai sir

I have tried to ask you some questions (given below)about the 52 calibre gun trail. Now they stand cancelled, but my questions are still relevant I think. will be glad if you answer them?

Q1. The 52 calibre guns taken for trails, fires heavier shells. So just how much heavy are these shells from the 39 calibre ones, and what will be there the range compared to the 39s on a/c of weight.
Q2. Some reports say 52 calibre guns are ideally suited for coastal batteries, with only a few countries including Singapore (effectively a city state surrounded by water) having opted for these. So is it really viable for India to try these 52s.
Q3. If order is placed by 2012, by when we can except the deliveries to start.
Q4. Since these 52s will fire heavier shells, wont it need reworking the metallurgy at OFB units with regard to fuse, arti shell and explosives.
Q5. Will this cancelation result in revival of the BHIM Project.

Ra said...

They should make the indigenous Pinaka in largest possible numbers so as to compensate for any shortfall in the equivalent artillery stock.

Anonymous said...

public-private consortium FTW!

We should first eliminate the babustan that is taking over bharat.

MPatel said...

Great idea, this is the only solution left. They can always partner with russia to speed up things or off course ask china :-)

MPatel said...

Tushar, are you from pakistan by any chance? Why don't you like the short, fat with a permenant smile on his not so handsome face Antonio?

rajendra said...

i dont understand how this can be called an "opprtunity/ positive development"
If we go to war today, how will we be able to justify the death of even one jawan because we dont have the right quality/ quantity of arti pieces.

Anonymous said...

"The Army should overthrow this incompetent Government."

That would be Pakistan and how f'd up are they? Want to experience it first hand?

Anonymous said...

The reason why the tendering document mentions one specific clause which is unique to only one vendor is to disqualify other competitors (favoratism due to corruption). MoD and the people in Army who create qualitative requirements for RFI are very corrupt and they would put the 50 km requirement so that all other vendors fail in the trials except one.... repeatedly. To think of it, a shell flying upto 40 km could in any case easily travel beyond 50km in the rarefied Himalayan environment and height when following a ballistic trajectory. But that would not sufficient for MoD and army idiots!

Rahul said...

Million thanks for writing this article. This is one solution which will take care of needs of my grand children(if they join army) and i'm still 23.

-------
OT

I earlier thought about posting a comment requesting you write similar but failed to manage courage.

fighterclass said...

ajai, excellent article, a veritable tour de force ! I hope it reaches the ears of the 'oh so clean'.

what do you think of the idea someone made about a 50-50 split ? that seems a good one as well.

Broadsword said...

How does a 50:50 split of the order --- between an Indian consortium and a foreign vendor --- get past the problem that we are unable to home in on a foreign vendor in the first place?

Rafale said...

Hi Ajai, you wrote
"A state-of-the-art system, with electronics that are superior to even Russian frontline MBRLs "
Please could you tell me from where you got this info ? Thanks in advance.

Anonymous said...

Ajai,

"we are unable to home in on a foreign vendor in the first place"

Let DRDO do 100% of the order if a foreign vendor cannot be found. There should still be a penalty for not meeting contractual obligations (reduced profit margins?).

With a 50-50 deal, the army may find it difficult to resist the offer. Developing a consensus may be easier.

anon @ 08:40

Anonymous said...

more...


IMO, a 50-50 deal is a win win for all.

1] Worst case scenario for fulfillment of contract 5-6 years. Good for army.
2] Army sets milestones that are tied to bonuses. Another plus for army.
3] IF army finds a foreign vendor, then that's good from army's perspective.


1] DRDO/private sector get a chance to prove themselves without much risk to national security because the foreign supplier is 'supposed' to fill the order quicker.
2] DRDO has a chance to complete 100% of the order if a foreign seller cannot be found.

Anonymous said...

Re Ajai


Any additional info about the OFB METAMORPHOSIS 155 mm GUN???

Anonymous said...

Ajai,

One nitpick - excellent article b
DRDO already has worldclass electronically scanned array radars, namely the Rajendra (Passive Scanned Array) and 3D CAR/Rohini/Revathi/TCR, which are electronically scanned in elevation. DRDO also has a very robust AESA program, with the LRTR (developed with Israeli assistance), MFCR (with France) but also a range of other systems are in advanced development, including the MPR (for IAF), LLTR and others.

Similarly, DRDO & its private partners do make optronic systems with NV capability as well, with the Navy having ordered severeal EON for its ships. (Electro Optical observation device with LRF and tracker). But we lag in the development of thermal imager arrays as compared to the imagers themselves, perhaps thats what you meant.

Anonymous said...

After reading this I think the Army must come to terms with the fact that it will receive no 155 mm guns for the next 20 years.

Broadsword said...

Rafale:

Hi Ajai, you wrote
"A state-of-the-art system, with electronics that are superior to even Russian frontline MBRLs "
Please could you tell me from where you got this info ?

Multiple people involved in the Pinaka project. The Smerch has a longer range rocket that can be guided to the target... and that is something that will only be available in the next version of the Pinaka.

However, the Pinaka's Inertial Navigation System, the Command & Control system; the interface with the ACCCS, and the general user-friendliness of the Pinaka electronic systems are, I am told, well ahead of the Smerch's.

Unknown Soldier said...

Dear Lungikawasta,
Why can't we replace our entire artillery with MBRLs? May I take on that question.

The answer to your question lies in another question that is often asked to young officers. "Which is the weapon of artillery ?" You might think it is the Gun. Nope it is the ammunition. The weapon of artillery is the projectile, not the piece that fires it. It may seem a little confusing to our civilian friends. You see the gun itself is not a weapon. It is a delivery system. The projectile or shell is the weapon. Now do you get it? Even an infantry mortar is capable of firing more than 30 rounds of ammunition in a single minute from a single tube. At this intense rate the entire first line scale of ammunition can be expanded in a minute and a half!! Who will replenish the ammunition? The gun weigs x kgs, the on weapon scale of ammunition weighs 20x kgs! As a matter of fact it is a logistical night mare to ensure a never ending supply of ammunition to our artillery units. Thus ammunition has to be dumped before the operation starts. It starts getting complicated when you consider Main Gun Position and Alternate gun positions. A modern army has to have a mix of light, medium and heavy artillery in its inventory. MBRLs are only suitable for large area targets. Precession shooting is not their cup of tea.

fighterclass said...

Broadsword said...

How does a 50:50 split of the order --- between an Indian consortium and a foreign vendor --- get past the problem that we are unable to home in on a foreign vendor in the first place?
______________________________

it probably doesn't. but it does get past the army's objections that it is being made to wait for DRDO. the split would be done on the condition that
a) if both domestic and foreign options materialise on time the orders would be placed according to the original plan.
b) if either party falters in the timeline and the other is ready on time, the defaulting party's orders can be transferred to the other party at the discretion of MOD/IA.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Ajai Shukla, you should take claims by DRDO sceitists that Pinka electronics is superior to SMERCH etc with a pinch of salt. It is like a toddler saying he is superior to a marathon runner. Reminds me of that IAF officer in 1970s who was reverse engineering Russian SA-2 SAMs in the form of Devil SAM(which later metamorphosed into Prihtvi), when asked by a visiting minister what was the level of research compared to Russians he blatantly decalred "Fankly, we are ahead of the Soviets!" Epic fail!

Anonymous said...

Ahh finally.. I think DRDO was speaking through you initially...

" 155-mm gun contract: DRDO enters the fray"


http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/155-mm-gun-contract-drdo-entersfray/402834/

Kudos to you Col.!!

Anonymous said...

The 50:50 deal also will also put pressure on DRDO to perform and make decisions quickly.

Anonymous said...

Why was it easier for the MoD to turn away from a long trial and say let us retender? The answer is it had nothing to lose as it had invested nothing! The trials were on a NCNC basis. The vendors spent a huge amount of money for nothing. But do not worry. The loss that happened to them will be dutifully passed on to us in their next billing! The Public Private Partnership (PPP) in India is a failure. Only companies with deep pockets can remain interested in the PPP. These are the companies who have large overheads! Thus the MoD will have to pay much more than the cost price of the products it buys.

I said in the beginning that the MoD lost nothing. In a way I was wrong. The loss that was caused to the armed forces is not quantifiable. Keeping an Army vulnerable by not adequately equipping it with military hardware and the huge risk that the country is subjected to as a result of inefficient procurement processes can only be termed a criminal negligence. May it be the Arjun MBT or the LCA or Artillery guns the story is the same. Sandwiched between two nuclear powers, who are constantly plotting against us, can we afford to behave the way we have done in the past. What should we do? First, thank God and our luck. Both have served us well and have protected us from our belligerent neighbours. . Second, fix responsibilities, make people accountable for their actions. How about starting with the defence minister and the defence secretary!

I am just dreaming.

Anonymous said...

@ Unknown soldier

The explanation provided is a good one and i have a few follow up questions on that

1) The motto of Bofors gun was/is

Shoot and scoot (i hope i got that right)

Now you said that Ammo needs to be dumped before starting that operation or firing. So how can you have a dumped pit of Ammo (non movable) and a Running bofors gun (considering a battery powered towed version)

Next, how can you have stationery gun positions when the enemy would/does have Gun Locating radars?

Third you spoke about main gun/ alternative gun positions. So would you please expand on that a bit more as i would like to know how mobile they would be?

lastly a rocket fired by MBRL would hit where it's intended to land just like an arty shell. So why is it not precision? (leaving aside Excalibur like shells)

Thanks again

Lungikawasta

Anonymous said...

Hi Ajai,
can you explain a little more about the ACCCS system, how it works and is beneficial.
Thanks

Unknown Soldier said...

Dear Joydeep Ghosh,
You had asked a few question to Ajay. Allow me to answer your questions to the best of my ability. I would also request Ajay for his views.

Q1. The 52 calibre guns taken for trials, fires heavier shells. So just how much heavy are these shells from the 39 calibre ones, and what will be there the range compared to the 39s on a/c of weight.

Answer 1 155mm/39 cal HE shell weighs 42 kg. 155mm/52 Cal shell weighs approximately 50 kgs. Range for 155mm/39 Cal – Tactical range-21 kms and maximum range 27.4 with base bleed projectile. Range for 155mm/52 Cal is 30 km with standard shells, 40 km with base-bleed, 60 km with Excalibur. Long range achieved by 155mm/52 Cal is due to longer barrel. A 52cal gun barrel (155 x 52= 8.06 m) when compared with the 155 mm/39 Cal (155 x 39=6.04 m) is about 2 metres longer.

Q2. Some reports say 52 calibre guns are ideally suited for coastal batteries, with only a few countries including Singapore (effectively a city state surrounded by water) having opted for these. So is it really viable for India to try these 52s.
Answer 2 : Yes we need long range artillery guns. Consider this. 155 mm/39 Cal commands over 1400 square km of battle space while the 155 mm /52 cal would command over 11000 square km of battle space (considering maximum ranges). I always thought that battle space coverage is significant for any country in any terrain.

Unknown Soldier said...

Dear Joydeep Ghosh,

PART-2

Q3. If order is placed by 2012, by when we can expect the deliveries to start.

Answer3 : The tender has been scrapped. Your question has become irrelevant. Just for theory - Delivery takes place in phases. Completely assembled units arrive first. Then SKD units arrive and are assembled in the buyers country and lastly licence production begins. The tender document specifies both quantity and timelines which are negotiated between the buyer and the seller before supply order is issued. A penalty clause for late delivery is also included in the contract.
To give you an example India bought 410 FH77B in 1986. It was granted an option to license-produce 1000 units more. However India did not exercise that option. Delivery of 410 guns took approximately three and half years (1986-1990)

Unknown Soldier said...

Dear Joydeep Ghosh,

PART-3
Q4. Since these 52s will fire heavier shells, wont it need reworking the metallurgy at OFB units with regard to fuse, arti shell and explosives.

Answer 4 : I do not understand why. The ammunition will be specially designed for 155mm/52 cal. I hope you are not saying that we will adapt our present ammunition to fire with the 52 cal. Who will give us the range table? Fuze is not a problem. It can be adapted to any calibre. Fuzes DA-162 and T&P 213 Mk V are used both for 81mm and 120mm Mortars ammunition. As far as metallurgy of barrels are concerned everything remaining same - 52 cal barrels will wear out faster than 39 cal barrels.

Q5. Will this cancelation result in revival of the BHIM Project.
Answer 5 : Bhim concerns development of 155mm 52 cal self propelled howitzer on Arjun body. As per reports from Defexpo-2010 held in Feb 2010 it has been revived! I do not have any knowledge either way!

Anonymous said...

If within two years India has to face a war,& nobody can guarantee otherwise,would india's stock of 155 mm towed guns sufficeto defend the bordes.It is already far below critical defeiciency.A Classic example of 'Ram Bharose'.The criterion while choosing such a critical weapon has to be quality at a 'reasonable & not necessarily lowest' price. By cancelling tender after tender,retendering & blacklisting company after company neither beareaucrats nor CBI is doing any prudent or patriotic job .
If there is a war, or in any case too much delay as is certain, these guns would be prcured at 5 fold price than today citing emergency reasons or inflation.Then also there would be corruption which wd mean more in terms of %age.
Another classic case of penny wise pound foolish.

joydeep ghosh said...

@ Unknown Soldier

Thank you for your response, its worth a lot of information.

R SUNDARAM said...

Ajai
I generally like your articles, particularly on Arjun and indegenous development. However,
I take strong exception to your following remarks in your article.
"In the past poor manufacturing practises, especially those of the public sector Ordnance Factory Board, had tarnished the reputation of otherwise well-designed DRDO products like the 5.56 mm INSAS rifle." in your article. I was a Member of the OFB in 1990-95 and ARDE was struggling to get their balance between the metallurgy of cartridge case and power of propellant right for getting the specified range.
Mr Dwarakanath who had extensive experience in propellant manufacture and was in charge of Ammunition Production since 1985 and became Chairman 1991 made extensive presentations personally to COAS Gen Roderigues in the office of COAS as to how DRDO was trying to achieve a marriage of the impossibles in physics and chemistry.
With the blessings of the CAOS, the Charge weight and Composition and cartridge case design were all tweaked by OFB and ammunition was accepted and bulk manufacture commenced successfully. Anyone connected with 5.56 who was in ARDE then would vouch for this.

Similar is the sory of the 5,56 Rifle. In the case of 5.56 INSAS Rifle there was a huge problem of erratic scatter of ejected cartridges and vibrations. Again, after bulk clearance was given it was a OFB Technical officer (since retired) Mr PK Das an M.Tech from IIT Khragpur, of an Ordnance Factory made presentations to the Commandant Of Infantry School Mhow who appreciated the cause and effect as explained by Mr Das and gave the go ahead to carry out modifications. Believe me or not, the problem disapeeared magically. .
And it is a pity that Mr Dwarakanath retired unhonoured for this great technical achievement and also Mr PK Das, had to be content with a commendation from DGOF.

DRDO, however minor their scale of success they have made it an annual habit to award themselves honours from the hands of honourable ministers.

Such is the clout of DRDO to whose allurements you also seem to have now succumbed. We in the OFB know that we always get the short end of the stick even where we contribute because DRDO had high profile bosses like Abdul Kalam .

As a retired OFB Officer I would plead with you you to extend the courtesy of consultation and verification before condemning their, I mean OFB's 'manufacturing practices'.
All, I can say, sincerely is that , OFB may not know how to play its cards in interdepartmental rivalries, may not have well wishers in the ministry or media but their manufacturing skills are second to none.
You may perhaps ask Baba Kalyani (Bharath Forge) himself as to what he thinks of 'manufacturing skills' in the Ordnance Factories.
Once again requestiong you not to tarnish the image of OFB unfairly
otherwise admiringly
yours

R.Sundaram