By Lt Gen VK Chaturvedi (Retd)
Artillery from the times immemorial has always played a decisive role in the outcome of any battle or the defeat and victory in a war. From the times of its inception, the invent of a catapult, to a bow and arrow, cannons, to the present-day Guns, Rockets, Missiles, and many more devastating weapon and ammunition systems, artillery in some form or the other has played a pivotal role in converting a certain defeat into victory. Artillery, today is considered the “God of War”, no war can be won without the Artillery playing a decisive role. The future of Artillery therefore is very interesting and promising. Today, Artillery has assumed a bigger role, i.e., from establishing the preponderance of Firepower in the battle field, to “seek, locate and destroy” the enemy. Therefore, there is an imperative need to analyse the various facets of Artillery in the future and how Indian Artillery is transforming to counter the threats from our adversaries and remain updated with the modern Artilleries of the world.
The Role of Artillery is to provide devastating firepower in the battlefield to ensure that enemy is neutralised to such an extent that our operations can go on unhindered, whereas the enemy cannot launch his own. The role has by and large remained the same with enhancement of capabilities. Till about the Kargil war, the aim of artillery remained neutralisation (about 20 to 30 per cent casualties). It has today i.e., in the Ladakh scenario, upgraded to destruction (50 to 60 per cent casualties) and in the future, would elevate to the Deterrence level (total annihilation) in the realm of Inter-continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) and precision strikes (ranges beyond 5000 km). The Artillery, therefore, has a great role to play presently and in the future in any battlefield scenario. The Artillery, in line with the philosophy of the Indian Armed Forces i.e., Capability Building is marching ahead at an extremely fast pace to keep pace with the best in the world.
The Chinese Artillery (PLA Artillery): The capability building needs to have an aim. Therefore, we have to study the threats that face us, the requirements of out of area contingencies and the aspects of Projection of Power. The PLA Artillery, though is large in numbers, lacks the quality and the commitment of its soldiers in training and effectively using the weapon platforms to its optimisation. The PLA has the normal guns, mortars, rockets and missiles in its inventory. The calibres of the guns vary from 122 to 152 mm and rockets up to 300mm. The thrust of the PLA Artillery is towards Self Propelled (SP) guns and most of these guns are modified and not a total integrated system. Even the towed guns are being made vehicle mounted. The range of most of the gun system is around 27 km. The rocket systems have a range of up to 100 km.
The PLA is developing a Rocket system (WS2) with a range of 400 km, but not much is known about it. The PLA is also in the process of developing Precision Guided Munition (PGM). The short-range missile system with range up to 25 to 30 km is also in the inventory. The Strategic missiles (nuclear) unlike our Armed Forces are also held by the Artillery in case of the PLA. Overall, if one is to analyse the PLA Artillery, one can safely conclude that PLA has a large quantity of Artillery pieces mostly indigenously produced at Norinco Factory, but technology wise they still have a long way to go. The ammunition system and the seekers also have much to be desired, to be counted anywhere in the state-of-the-art domain of the world.
Neutralisation Phase – The Past
The Indian Artillery in Perspective –The Indian Artillery from a very humble beginning at the time of Independence has come a long way, and is today among the most professional, highly motivated, adequately trained and extremely effective combat force. The 25 Pounders, the 3.7”and few SP (Abbots) Guns, and 4.2” Mortars were the only mainstay of the Artillery with no modern ammunition or fire control systems to talk about. Despite the meagre resources artillery played its part in Jammu & Kashmir (1947/48) and also the 1962 war with elan. By 1965, some expansion and additional gun system like the 75 mm US guns and the 76 mm Yugoslavian guns and the 120 mm Mortars (Brandts) had been inducted. The Indian Artillery played a commendable role in the 1965 Indo Pak War and ensured a pride of place in the annals of Indian Army’s golden history of warfare. The indigenous mountain gun, the 75/24 mm gun, was thereafter inducted into the Indian Artillery.
The Indian Army went in for a massive expansion mode after the 1965 Indo-Pak wars. We got a number of guns from the earstwhile Soviet Union, i.e., 122 mm guns with a range of about 20 km and 130 mm guns with a range of 27.4 km. Both guns were extremely rugged and effective, and quite a few of them still continue to be part of the Indian Artillery after upgradation to 155 mm calibre with and enhanced range of almost 40 km. Immediately after the 1971 Indo-Pak War, The Grad P and a very potent Rocket System Grad BM21 from Soviet Union with a range of 20 km and a devastating capability to fire 40×6=240 rockets from a battery of six Rocket Launchers in a few seconds were inducted in the Indian Artillery. This gave the Indian Artillery a quantum jump in its combat potential. This was for the first time that Indian Artillery inducted an equipment, which was the State-of-the-Art system.
The Artillery remained a battle winning factor, in 1971 Indo-Pak war, The Nathula Skirmish, where the Indian Army gave a bloody nose to the Chinese in Nathula, Chola Area and thereafter in the Sri Lanka Operations – “OP PAWAN”. In the long period till “OP VIJAY” in 1999, the Artillery despite its best efforts and the pressing operational requirements, could not modernise and expand because of the “Bofors” imbroglio. We procured the best gun 155 mm Bofors Guns with TOT and contractual provision of producing in India. However, because of the incorrect practices indulged in by some of the politicians in power, the company was blacklisted, and the Indian Artillery was made to fend itself for maintenance, replacements of guns due to fair ‘wear and tear’ and accidents etc. It was a very critical time when we went into the Kargil war. We were acutely short of spares and ammunition. The ban on BAE System (earlier Bofors) was lifted by then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and we were able to overcome all criticalities. The Bofors Guns did us all proud and we came out winners. The then Army Chief Gen Ved Malik, attributed the Kargil victory to the role played by Artillery which ensured there were no setbacks.
Destruction Phase – The Present
The Artillery thereafter never looked back. This was the phase when Indian Artillery, transited from its capabilities to neutralise the enemy to destruction of the enemy’s defences. A number of cutting-edge technology weapons, equipment, ammunition system along with integration of resources, networking and surveillance system were inducted into the Indian Artillery. The only ‘force multiplier’ despite all efforts, that could not be inducted was a state-of-the-art SP Gun as well as a Towed Gun System. We almost inducted the SP Gun, both the tracked and the wheeled version, from Denel, South Africa. The tracked SP gun system had the indigenous chassis of the Arjun Tank, the first step towards indigenisation. Unfortunately, this also got embroiled in some incorrect practices, resulting in Artillery being denied its capability enhancement, thus affecting the combat effectiveness in a big way.
This was a phase just around the time when Kargil war happened, when Artillery, went in for a major modernisation. In every field of its employment the Artillery took a major leap forward. In every dimensions, be it the weapon platforms, the ammunition system, the Fire Control Systems, Networking of resources, Reconnaissance and surveillance, Survey, the Engagement of Targets and overall command and control system, there was an improvement.
Weapon Platforms: A number of state-of-the-art weapon platforms were inducted into the Artillery, which totally transformed the combat effectiveness of the Artillery. Major platform in Guns, Rockets and Missiles that were inducted are:
- Smerch: 300 mm Multi Barrel Rocket Launchers (MBRL) with a range of 90 km, from Splav Russia along with the complete, support system and the ammunition system to include the Fuel Air Explosive (FAE) and the Bomblets were inducted. Smerch is the best MBRL in the world with tremendous destruction capabilities.
- Pinaka: Indigenous MBRL, designed by DRDO and produced by L&T and Tata, were also inducted for ranges up to 40 km.
- Soltam Upgunned: The 130 mm Guns were also up gunned to 155 mm (45 Calibre) with the assistance from Soltam to provide higher lethality, greater range (40 km) and more option in terms of ammunition.
- BM21 Upgrade: The BM21 upgrade to replace the outdated launcher vehicle and improve the Fire Control Equipment (FCE) was also a highlight of this phase.
- Ultra-Light Howitzer (ULH): The 155mm ULH from BAE System under Foreign Military Sale (FMS) programme, from USA were procured, for operations in the high-altitude areas, speedy manoeuvres and for out of area contingencies. The titanium metal reduced the weight of the gun from almost 10 tonnes to about four tonnes. Another feather in the cap of the artillery employment.
- K-9 Thunder Vajra: The long-felt requirement of artillery for Self- Propelled artillery was finally met with the induction of K-9 Thunder from South Korea with TOT, manufactured by L&T indigenously. This was after a gap of almost 50 years that Indian Artillery had a state-of-the-art SP Gun. The dream of “Atmanirbhar Bharat” slowly began to take shape.
- Sharang 155mm Upgun: A number of 130mm Gunsare being upgunned indigenously to upgrade the 130mm Guns and provide it greater lethality, enhanced ranges up to 40 km, and more options to fire ammunition.
- ATAG: The 155mm Advance Towed Artillery Gun (ATAG), with the cutting-edge technology in fire control system, navigation, recoil and other weapon technology fields is also in an extremely advanced stage by L&T, Tata, Bharat Forge, and OFB.
- BrahMos: The indigenous BrahMos state-of-the-art cruise missile with a range of 290 km was also inducted in the Artillery. It is the best cruise missile system in the world and can be launched through land, air, and sea. It is a supersonic cruise missile with an accuracy of one metre, and is an extremely potent weapon platform.
Restructuring and reorganisation
- SATA Reorganisation: The Surveillance and Target Acquisition (SATA), resources of the Indian Artillery were restructured to give a solid punch to the great potential of this very vital asset across all the terrains and divisional sectors.
- Raising of Artillery Divisions: To optimise the artillery resources in the theatre of operations and provide effective “Seeker to Shooter link and capabilities,” the Artillery Divisions were raised.
Reconnaissance and Surveillance
This was a major transformation that took place in the artillery for the first time since Independence. A number of state-of-the-art systems, with cutting edge technology were inducted to improve the ‘seeker’ capabilities. Some of the important equipment inducted were: –
- LORROS: The Long-Range Reconnaissance and Observation System (LORROS) from Elbit Systems, Israel is inducted for day and night observation in the medium range vicinity of the forward troops. The LORROS works on the principal of Thermal Imaging, and can effectively observe areas up to a range of 20 km. It has a Laser Range Finder (LRF) and a compass, to ensure an extremely accurate location up to a range of 20 km. The same could be enhanced further by suitably mounting the LORROS on a mobile mast already procured from SIT, France.
- MR BFSR: The Medium Range Battle Field Surveillance Radar, EL-2140 from Israel is state-of-the-art radar. The same is now being indigenously produced by BEL. The capabilities of the radar can be enhanced by mounting it on the Mobile Mast ex SIT France. It can detect targets up to 40 km and even beyond.
- ANTPQ37: The Artillery got a big boost with the induction of Weapon Locating Radar ANTPQ37, the best in the world from Raytheon USA as part of the FMS programme as Govt-to-Govt deal.
- Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV): The UAVs, Searcher Mk1 and MK2 variety, ex IAI Israel were inducted in the artillery, around the time the Kargil war took place. These have proved to be a real force multiplier, in seeking the exact location of the enemy VAs and VPs. Since then, the Heron (IAI Israel) with enhanced capabilities to loiter as well as altitude have also been inducted. We today have an all-weather (AW) surveillance capability with the EO cameras, SAR and COMINT and ELINT on board. The indigenous Rustam ex DRDO is also on the horizon. We are soon likely to induct the armed UAVs, which will give a tremendous boost to the strike capabilities.
- TI-IOE: The Thermal Imaging Integrated Observation Equipment, for engagement of targets by the OP Officers during day and night, for target acquisition and survey has also been inducted. This improves effectiveness of fire manifold.
Ammunition System: There has been a marked improvement in the ammunition system. A wide variety of ammunition to include ERFB, ERFB BB, Bomblets, Precision Guided Munition (PGMs), Velocity Enhanced Long Range Artillery Projectile (V-LAP), Excalibur ammunition and the electronic fuzes with better efficiency and Bimodular Charge System (BMCS) have become a reality. Apart from these the FAE, Bomblets, smoke, thermobaric, illuminating ammunition are all either already inducted or in the process of being inducted. What is of greatest importance is that, most of these are being /will be produced indigenously.
Artillery in modern time has achieved the capability to destroy the enemy targets whenever and wherever needed. The same has been adequately demonstrated in all our manoeuvres and also deployment including the latest in Eastern Ladakh
Strategic Forces: The strategic forces, though are a separate entity in our case, yet are manned by the artillery. The Integrated Missile Development Programme (IGMDP), started by our most revered Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, has taken a quantum jump, with Prithvi and Agni missiles in reality, which have made us all proud. The reach of these missiles has already achieved 5000 km, a very commendable range to deter any misadventure by our adversaries.
The Artillery today has achieved the capability to destroy the enemy targets whenever and wherever needed. The same has been adequately demonstrated in all our manoeuvres and also deployment including the latest in Eastern Ladakh, where the Chinese dare not resort to any foolish action, and if they do it will be at their own peril.
The Indian Artillery today has achieved the destruction capabilities and is a battle winning factor. The Artillery with a well networked system, ‘seekers to shooter’ links well established and extremely effective fire control system and plethora of ammunition variety to cause devastation on the battlefield is a very potent force to reckon with. It is therefore rightly called the decisive battle winning factor.
Deterrence – The Future and Way Ahead
The way ahead for tomorrow is to consolidate, multiply the firepower by reorganising the formation and converting the balance of the guns, rockets and missiles to the accepted calibre/ numbers. The Indian Artillery is large artillery, probably the second largest in the world, the requirement of almost 4000 guns will need at least 10 years to achieve, the full conversion. The PGMs will need to be integrated in the system with greater accuracy, the 120 mm Mortars will need to be given a goodbye.
We need to induct more attack Unmanned Aerial Vehicles/ Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UAVs/ UCAVs) of the Predator and Ravin (High Altitude and Long Endurance) variety. The CIDSS (Decision Support System), will also need to be inducted and fully operationalised. The self-reliance and the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ programme will have to be a reality. It is a very dynamic process and we need to ensure we remain abreast with the latest in the world. Develop a good research environment and lead the world in ensuring India remains ahead in all the development as far as the technology is concerned. We cannot afford a period, where we become static, and artillery lags behind. It is always the artillery which will ensure victory in every battle/war, and therefore need to remain the best.
Fire Control and Surveillance
The futuristic fire control systems to include, state-of-the-art Met Radar, MV Radars, INS Sighting System, Automatic Gun Alignment and Position System, and the advanced UAVs, Aerostats with all-weather capabilities will need to be inducted.
Rockets and Missiles
The future of Artillery is Rockets and Missiles. There is an imperative need for long range, highly accurate and extremely devastating rockets and missiles to be inducted. The replacement of BM-21, PINAKA and SMERCH will be the need of the hour. BrahMos missile system will need to be to be upgraded to achieve range up to 600 km with better guidance systems. The supersonic ability from the present 2.8 Mach may have to be improved to reduce the response time.
The PGMs is the future. The sensor fuzed ammunition, VLAP, Excalibur, Extreme Accuracy Task Oriented (EXACTO) type ammunition system with state-of-the-art navigation system will be the norm. Most of this presently, is in research and development stage. This will need to be expedited.
Surveillance and Locating System
The EO systems, radars both surveillance and locating radars, cameras, UAVs, TI Sights and many more will be developed and produced indigenously. SWATI, the weapon locating radar with better capabilities than the US, ANTPQ37 is already under development.
The most dramatic change that we will see in the future will be the indigenous development of state-of-the-art guns, rocket and missile systems, along with the complete ammunition system.
Strong artillery is a guarantee for peace, and therefore, we are moving in the right direction. The aim of maintaining a strong Armed Force is not to wage war but to ensure peace.
‘Sarvatra-Izzat-O-Iqbal’ i.e., everywhere with honour and glory will continue to be the artillery’s only motto. To achieve continuous and dynamic appraisal and timely modernisation, restructuring and transformation is the need of the hour.
–The writer is a veteran who served the Indian Army for 40 years in various Command and Staff Appointments. His last appointment was Director General Manpower Planning and Personal Services at Army HQ. He is a gallantry award winner of 1971 Indo Pak War and has tremendous experience about the modernisation of the Artillery, and is also a recipient of PVSM AVSM SM.