Since the standoff with China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh in May 2020, the Army has deployed its entire range of medium range artillery guns and long range rockets in the region to augment its long range fire power as part of the reorientation towards the Northern borders. The Army is now in the process of procuring another 100 K9-Vajra howitzers which has already been approved by the Defence Ministry.
The Regiment of Artillery is also in the process of inducting loitering mutations while it is also looking at procuring tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV).
“Induction of Dhanush, K-9 Vajra and M777 Ultra Light Howitzers (ULH) has enhanced reach of artillery firepower on the Northern borders. Operationalisation of Pinaka Multi-Rocket Launch System (MRLS) has added punch to long range capability of artillery firepower,” a defence source said. The Regiment of Artillery is celebrating the 196th Gunners Day on September 28.
Laying out the likely timeline of these inductions, the source said in the next five years, majority of these inductions should near completion, barring any slippages in delivery schedules. On this note, the source stressed on the need to upscale the capacities and capabilities of the domestic industry and the need to evolve a “conglomerate or consortium culture”. “This is what will compress the timelines.”
The Army plans to convert all its artillery regiments to medium range by converting all units to 155 mm standard. While the process is underway, the process of completing the mediumisation process is likely to be achieved sometime around 2o40, the source stated.
Further, the Regiment of Artillery is looking at procuring tactical UAVs, unlike the Medium Altitude Long Endurance UAVs operated by the Army Aviation, to enable Observation Post (OP) officers to better direct fire power and also to carry out post strike damage assessment at long ranges.
Ground based surveillance has limitations and so we are looking at mini-UAVs of two types which are capable of vertical take-off and landing, sources explained. These include UAVs capable with range of 15-20 km and and endurance of upto two hours and those with slightly longer range of of 80km with endurance of four hours. For instance, the Smerch MRLS has a range of 90 km, so we need to look beyond 90 kms, the source noted.
The Army has already contracted loitering munitions in the third lot of emergency procurements done in the last two years. They are going to be inducted shortly, another source said.
At the height of tensions in Eastern Ladakh, the Army deployed one regiment of K-9 Vajra tracked self-propelled howitzers there to augment its long range fire power in the backdrop of massive build up by China across the LAC. Buoyed by their performance, the Army is procuring another 100 of these guns.
Army expects the deal to be concluded quickly as the gun has already been tried and tested.
The K9 Vajra is a 155mm, 52 calibre tracked self-propelled howitzer built by Larsen & Toubro (L&T) with technology transfer from South Korean defence major Hanwha Defense, and is based on its K9 Thunder. The K9 Vajra was mainly brought for deserts, the source said noting that the standoff prompted them to deploy them in the mountains. “They have done very well.”
However, to ensure that these systems performed optimally in the extreme cold weather conditions, the Army procured winterisation kits for that regiment to enable to them to function in the extreme weather conditions. “Batteries, oils and lubricants and so on need to be protected from the temperature. There are nine items, which don’t freeze at -20 degrees,” the source said on the winterisation kits. Modifications were also carried out to fire control system as different systems behave differently under different conditions. These kits are being procured for other K9 guns as well, officials said
Guided Extended Range rockets with a range of 75 km have also been developed and validated for the Pinaka and the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) has also approved their procurement, sources said. Currently the Army has five Grad rocket regiments, three Smerch regiments and four Pinaka regiments. Another six Pinaka regiments are on order. Eventually the indigenous Pinaka will become the mainstay of the long range rocket artillery.