India’s latest experiment in the defense sector has turned out to be a resounding success. According to the Times of India, the army has built an improved version of the original 155mm howitzer the Army bought in 1987 by upgrading the barrel from 39mm to 45mm.
The upgraded gun has been named Dhanush, and has successfully cleared both winter and summer trials, says an 27 April Ministry of Defence release.
“The indigenously designed and manufactured 155mm x 45mm caliber artillery gun, Dhanush, has successfully met all technical parameters during the winter and summer trials, said Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Monday . “Dhanush incorporates many improved features than the guns [that] the Army is possessing at present.”
The state-owned Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) began upgrading the howitzer, which was originally bought from Bofors of Sweden, as part of the controversial 1986 purchase of 410 FH-77 howitzers.
‘Dhanush had earlier this year entered the production phase at the Jabalpur Gun Carriage Factory of the Ordnance Factory Boar.
OFB was going to build over a thousand of these howitzers but allegations of kickbacks scuttled that plan for years. According to a report in the Business Standard, OFB will receive an order for building 114 Dhanush guns, to equip six artillery regiments. If these guns perform to the army’s satisfaction, the order could go up to about 400 guns.
A report in Economic Times says both the Army and OFB, are ‘quite excited’ about Dhanush, which performs ’20-25% better’ than the original Bofors gun in virtually all parameters like range, accuracy, consistency, low and high angle of fire and shoot-and-scoot ability.
Another report in Times of India points out that the Army has not inducted a single 155 mm howitzer post the Bofors scam, which in later years got reinforced by scandals around other artillery manufacturers like South African Denel, Israeli Soltam and Singapore Technology Kinetic’s (STK) to derail all its artillery modernisation plans.
In November last year, defence minister Parrikar finally put an end to this 30-year old freeze on acquiring artillery guns for the Army and sanctioned the purchase of 814 mounted gun systems (MGS) for an estimated Rs 15,750 crore. The guns were bought for under ‘buy and make’ category of the defence procurement procedures — meaning the first 100 guns will be bought off the shelf from an original equipment manufacturer and the remaining 714 will be manufactured in India, according to the Indian Express report.
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