SP Guide Publications puts forth a well compiled articulation of issues, pursuits and accomplishments of the Indian Army, over the years

— General Manoj Pande, Indian Army Chief

I am confident that SP Guide Publications would continue to inform, inspire and influence.

— Admiral R. Hari Kumar, Indian Navy Chief

My compliments to SP Guide Publications for informative and credible reportage on contemporary aerospace issues over the past six decades.

— Air Chief Marshal V.R. Chaudhari, Indian Air Force Chief

Indian Artillery Modernisation

The Regiment of Artillery is presently engaged in modernising in terms of equipment and support systems under the ‘Make in India’ initiative

Issue 4 - 2022 By Lt General P.C. Katoch (Retd)Photo(s): By OFB, Indian Army
Army is likely to face a capability gap when it comes to artillery modernisation

The Indian Army’s Regiment of Artillery will celebrate its 196th Gunners Day on September 28, 2022. The date September 28 has a special significance since 5 (Bombay) Mountain Battery was raised on September 28, 1827 and this battery has been in uninterrupted service since it was raised. The Raising Day of this battery, therefore, is celebrated as Gunners Day every year. The Regiment of Artillery is the second largest arm of the Indian Army after the Infantry and constitutes almost one sixth of the Army’s strength, with its guns, mortars, rocket launchers, unmanned aerial vehicles, surveillance systems, missiles and artillery firepower.

Historical Perspective

On January 15, 1935, a Field Brigade was formed to take the place of an outgoing British Field Brigade. It consisted of four batteries. In the following year, an Indian Artillery Training Battery was added to the establishment of the Field Artillery Training Centre at Mathura. In March 1938, a decision to enhance the number of Indian Artillery units was taken and Indian officers were inducted into the 1 Indian Mountain Artillery Brigade, followed by the replacement of a second British Field Brigade by an Indian Field Brigade. Thereafter, replacement of a British Heavy Battery (Coast Artillery) and one British Anti-aircraft Battery by an Indian Heavy Anti-aircraft Battery were undertaken, followed by the replacement of a second British Heavy Anti-aircraft Battery by an Indian Heavy Anti-aircraft Battery. Branches other than the field artillery were also introduced.

During World War II, units of Indian Artillery saw action in Malaya, Burma, East and North Africa, the Middle East and Italy. By the end of World War II, Indian gunners had won one Victoria Cross, one George Cross, 15 Military Crosses, two IOMs, 22 IDSMs, 18 Military Medals, five OBEs, one MBE, three NEMs, 14 Burma Gallantry Medals and 467 JangiInams. In recognition of their outstanding contribution, the Regiment of Indian Artillery was accorded the title of ‘Royal’ and it was renamed the Royal Regiment of Indian Artillery in October 1945. Winston Churchill rose in the House of Commons to pay tribute to their decisive role in the Battle of Bir Hachiem against Rommel’s Panzer Army. The title ‘Royal’ was dropped when India became a Republic on January 26, 1950.

At the time of Independence, Indian Artillery consisted of Field, Air Defence, Counter Bombardment, Coastal, Air Observation Post branches. India was allotted eighteen and half all types of artillery regiments while remaining nine and half units going to Pakistan. In wake of the 1947 Pakistani invasion, personnel of 2 Field Regiment (SP) and 13 Field Regiment wore uniform of 1 SIKH and proceeded as a composite company of the 1 SIKH to J&K. They operated as infantry till first week November 1947 when 4 x 3.7 inch howitzer were inducted. Thereafter, they supported infantry to drive out the infiltrators along Srinagar-Baramula road. Later, artillery assisted in defending Srinagar airfield and subsequent route of Pakistanis from Jammu and Kashmir Valley. Artillery played a dominant role in recapture of Poonch, Rajauri, Tangdhar, Tithwal, Dras and Kargil during 1947-48.

On October 23, 1962, when Chinese invaders attacked Indian positions through Bum La Pass, they were immediately engaged by 7 (Bengal) Mountain Battery which broke the attack. Artillery kept supporting infantry till Tawang was abandoned. Subsequently guns of 116 Mortar Battery, 34 Heavy Mortar Battery, 5 Field Regiment, 22 Mountain Regiment and 6 Field Regiment provided covering fire to the infantry units of 4 Mountain Division to extricate themselves and launch counterattacks. Similarly, 17 Para Field Regiment and 71 Heavy Mortar Battery provided support in Walong Sector. In Ladakh Sector also 13 Field Regiment and 38 Field Battery played significant role in holding the enemy and defending Chushul heights.

Indian Artillery thundering in the mountains. Role of Artillery is critical in providing long range fire support in the Tactical Battlefield Area.

Major restructuring and equipping of Indian Artillery happened after 1962. In 1964, the Coastal Artillery was transferred to Indian Navy. Prior to the 1965 Indo- Pak War, 11 Field Regiment, 17 Para Field Regiment and Air Observation Post helped thwart Pakistani designs in the Rann of Kutch. During the 1965 Indo-Pak War, 164 Field Regiment, a battery from 7 Field Regiment, a medium and a mountain battery assisted capture of Haji Pir Pass. In the Eastern Sector during the 1971 Indo-Pakistan War, artillery improvised extensively to get guns, ammunition, vehicles across rivers. 49 Para Field Battery was para-dropped with 2 PARA to capture Poongli Bridge. In the Western Sector, artillery played major role in capture of Pakistani posts in Ladakh, Kashmir, Rajauri, Jammu, Punjab and Rajasthan. It was also instrumental in defeating Pakistani designs to capture areas in Poonch and Chamb in J&K, Hussainiwala and Fazilka in Punjab and Laungwala in Rajasthan. In Siachen, guns were initially dismantled and air dropped in 1983-84.

During the 1999 Kargil Conflict, the Bofors guns (many speedily cannibalized in absence of spares that had stopped coming in wake of the Bofors scandal) played a crucial role in pulverising the enemy defences and to enable the infantry to capture enemy positions. The overwhelming superiority of fire power broke enemy will. By mid-July 1999, Pakistan’s intrusions on the Indian side of LoC had been undone. Today, the artillery is providing close support to our troops deployed on the frontline including the Line of Control (LoC) against Pakistan, the Line of Actual Control (LAC) against China and in Siachen against both.

Current Status

The Regiment of Artillery consists of Light Regiments, Medium Regiments, Field Regiments, Missile Regiments, Rocket Regiments and SATA (Surveillance & Target Acquisition) Regiments. There are two Airborne Artillery Regiments – 9 (Parachute Field Regiment and 17 (Parachute) Field Regiment. Three or four regiments are grouped together to form a Brigade which are part of Infantry or Armoured Divisions while Independent Artillery Brigades are under Corps or Commands. In addition, are three Artillery Divisions allotted one each to Commands that have Strike Corps integral to them for offensive roles in plains or semi-desert terrain.

The Regiment of Artillery is presently engaged in modernising in terms of equipment and support systems under the ‘Make in India’ initiative. Three new models of the 155mm have been inducted:

  • M777 Ultra Light Howitzer of BAE Systems;
  • tracked self-propelled K9 Vajra T of L&T, and;
  • OFB’s Dhanush.

145 X BAE Systems M777 Ultra Light Howitzers (ULH) are being acquired through the FMS route from the US. BAE Systems is partnering Mahindra Defence Systems for assembly, integration and testing of the 145 howitzers in India. 25 x ULH are to be imported fully built and balance 120 assembled in India. Over half of them have already been inducted. The Army has deployed the M777 Ultra Light Howitzers (ULH) close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) which significantly augments firepower and a Light Artillery Regiment has been converted to a medium regiment with the induction of M777 ULH in early 2021. K9 Vajra-T gun system is produced in India by L&T in collaboration its Korean partner. The first Gun was inducted in November 2018. L&T moved with incredible speed and completed the order of 100 Guns by 18 February 2021. The Gun originally meant for the deserts is now being tried in Eastern Ladakh and may lead to additional orders. MoD has indented 114 x Dhanush Howitzers and more orders could follow based on its performance. The principle project to buy 400 x 155mm / 52 caliber ATAGS towed guns followed by the indigenous manufacture of 1180 x guns is underway.

Because of various reasons the speculation is that even in the best case scenario a sizeable number of much needed modern howitzers will only arrive by 2026

DRDOs 155mm Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS ) project in conjunction Kalyani Group, Tata Power and OFB are replacing the older guns. For the first time on August 15, 2022, the 21 gun salute was given by the ATAGS guns. Upgunning of the 130mm/39 caliber and 155mm/45 calibre guns is also being addressed. Six more regiments of indigenous Pinaka MBRL System are to be added to existing four. Increasing range of Pinaka rockets from 40 to 75 km is being worked upon. SATA remains equipped with imported Heron and Searcher UAVs, however, indigenous ‘Swathi’ weapon locating radar (WLR) is a good addition. 28 x Swathi are planned to be inducted. All this will enable the Artillery deliver a much greater punch against our enemies.

The current equipment profile is as follows: Light Artillery (Mortars) - 120mm E1 Light Mortars; Field Artillery - 105mm Indian Field Gun (IFG) and 122mm D-30 Howitzers; Medium Artillery – 130mm M-46 Field Guns including the 155mm upgraded versions, 155mm Haubits FH77/B Howitzer, 155mm Dhanush (Howitzer), 155mm M777 Howitzer and 155mm ATAGs; Selfpropelled Artillery – 105mm FV433 Abbot Self-Propelled Gun and 155mm K9 Vajra; Rocket Artillery – 122mm BM-21 Grad Multiple Barrel Rocket Launcher, 214mm Pinaka Multi Barrel Rocket Launcher and 300mm BM-30 Smerch Multiple Barrel Rocket Launcher; Missile Artillery – BrahMos Missile System, Agni Missile System, Prithvi Missile System, Prahar Missiles, Pralay missiles and Shaurya Missiles; Surveillance & Target Acquisition (SATA) – UAV Drones (Heron) System, ELM Mast Mobile Radar System, WLR (Weapon Locating Radar) System, Long Range Reconnaissance and Observation (LORROS) System, Medium Range Battlefield Surveillance System (MBFSR) and Short Range Battlefield Surveillance Radar System.

The Future

With Bofors fire support being one of the major factors in winning the Kargil Conflict during 1999, the Indian Army (IA) proposed the Field Artillery Rationalisation Plan (FARP). FARP is a procurement-cum-development plan which involves direct import, manufacture under license and indigenous development of weapon systems. Under FARP, the Army was supposed to have, by 2025-27, a mix of around 3,000-3,600 155mm but different caliber types of towed, mounted, selfpropelled (tracked and wheeled) howitzers. This was to be achieved through a mix of direct imports, licensed manufacturing and indigenous systems. However, because of various reasons the speculation is that even in the best case scenario a sizeable number of much needed modern howitzers will only arrive by 2026. This needs to be addressed in view of the continuing standoff with China.

Finally, to the question as to what is the wish list of the Indian Artillery; it obviously would be guns-howitzers, rockets and missiles that can strike targets at longer ranges, longer range systems for surveillance and target acquisition, foolproof and interruption free communications, protection from enemy detection (camouflage included) and from the menace of enemy drones and loitering munitions.