After placing an initial order of 114 indigenously-made Dhanush howitzers, there are doubts whether the Army will go ahead with the purchase even though a snag in the gun has been sorted out.
The Army is desperately short of new long-range artillery having failed to induct any new gun after the Bofors scandal.
The Dhanush is an upgraded version of the Swedish 155 mm Bofors howitzers bought by India in mid-1980s based on the original designs. It is a 155mm, 45-calibre gun with a maximum effective range of 38 km in salvo mode compared to the 39-calibre, 27-km range of the original guns. It is 80 per cent indigenous, with the APU (auxiliary power unit), electronic dial sights and few other small items being imported.
The Dhanush prototype suffered a barrel burst during firing trials at Pokhran in August last year, which has since been resolved.
An official with knowledge of the matter said. “It's true that the trial at Pokhran didn't go well. There was a barrel burst. However, it was later confirmed that the burst was not due to a defective barrel, rather the ammunition wobbled out-of-axis to exert additional pressure on the barrel, causing the accident”.
The official added that “the raw barrel was sent from the Metal & Steel factory, Ishapore, which is known amongst the ordnance factories for its quality barrel work”.
The army has placed an initial order for 114 guns and an expressed interest in procuring 300 additional howitzers. But after the initial enthusiasm, the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) is presently awaiting an indent from the Indian Army. The present lull may be an indication that the Army may be weighing other options of procuring howitzers.
Despite numerous efforts, Defence Ministry and Army officials were not available for comment.