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By Bulbul Singh

08 Aug 12. After failing to buy a single howitzer gun for over three decades, the Indian Army has now placed an order for 100 indigenous 155mm guns. The firm order follows trials of the upgraded version of the 155mm/45 calibre guns by the state-owned Ordnance Factories Board, OFB). The 155mm/45 calibre guns have been upgraded from the imported 155mm/39 calibre guns under technology transfer from Bofors of Sweden. The trials of the prototypes of the 155mm/45 calibre guns were held in the Rajasthan desert in May–June 2012, and the Indian Army has given clearance on all parameters of its requirement said an Indian Army official.

The Ordnance Factories Board was given the task of upgrading two types of guns-155mm/39 calibre guns and also the 155mm/45 calibre guns. The upgrade has been possible under Technology Transfer from Bofors which supplied the guns in 1986. India had entered into license agreement with AB Bofors, Sweden for indigenous manufacture of 155mm/39 calibre FH-77-B02 guns and ammunition. The 155mm/45 calibre guns can fire up to a distance of 32 kilometers. India had upgraded 180 130mm guns to 155mm with the help of Soltam of Israel, but no future orders have been given for the additional upgrades.

However, the project was temporarily suspended in mid-2002 because of quality problems cantered on the barrels and breech blocks of the guns. In July 2003, successful user trials of a re-engineered M-46S were conducted. Sources say no follow up orders have been given to OFB to upgrade more guns with the help of Soltam.

Even as Indian army struggles to buy variety of Howitzer guns from the international market, Pakistan has already begun work on upgrading its 130mm M-46 towed howitzers to be upgraded to 155mm/45-calibre with the help of the Chinese. Nearly 400 numbers of the M-46 guns are being upgraded to 155mm calibre by China North Industries Corp, or NORINCO. Pakistan has also acquired M-109 A5 155mm howitzers from the United States. To enhance its fire power the Indian Army has now deployed its BrahMos supersonic missile with a range of 290 kilometers in the north eastern state of Arunanchal Pradesh bordering China. An upgraded BrahMos-III missile has also been tested on several occasions and is being readied for induction. The BrahMos-III has the ability to engage inaccessible targets, even inside hillocks and would be used in the mountainous terrain along the Pakistani and Chinese border. In its efforts for homemade guns, state owned Bharat Earth Movers Ltd (BEML) claims that it has developed an indigenous 155mm, 52-caliber artillery gun and is currently testing the guns. The gun is part of a technology transfer between a Slovakian company, and BEML. However, sources say following the cases by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) against BEML relating to single vendor tender for purchase of Tatra trucks, even the artillery gun project with the help of Slovakians is likely to be stalled.

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