In what could be the last step before indigenous artillery gun Dhanush is ready for induction, the Army has been carrying out ‘user-validation’ trials in the Himalayas.
The exercise is being conducted under the aegis of the Srinagar-based 15 Corps and the Leh-based 14 Corps. The 15 Corps is tasked to face Pakistan while the 14 Corps is dual-tasked to face Pakistan as well as China.
A total of six guns are being tested-fired in snow and in conditions where temperatures are presently hovering at minus 10 degrees.
A production-level prototype is being tested and this is supposed to be the last lap of trials before the Ordnance Factory Board starts it bulk production. “The guns are doing well, but results in a tabulated form are awaited,” sources said.
Dhanush 155 MM/45 calibre gun is based on the 1980s’ Bofors FH-77B/39 Calibre artillery gun design and aided by the transfer of technology (ToT) clause signed with the Swedish company.
The ordnance board, an organisation under the Ministry of Defence, first unveiled the Indian version of the gun in February 2014 and handed it over to the Army for intensive tests. These were successfully conducted.
The first three guns of the production-level prototype underwent four-month trial from June to September. Three more other guns were to be added and the entire lot will be tested in high-altitude winter conditions.
The Indian version has several improvements to make Dhanush compatible with today’s modern communication techniques.
The Army’s Field Artillery Rationalisation Plan, drawn in 1999, aims to acquire 2,800-3,000 155 mm/52-calibre guns of all kinds and 155 mm/39-calibre lightweight howitzers by 2027.
India has partially broken the ‘Bofors jinx’ and cleared, in November 2016, a deal to get 145 ultra-light howitzers for US$737 million (Rs 5,023.65 cr). In a way, this was the first new 155 MM artillery guns since March 1986 when 410 pieces of the Swedish company Bofors’ FH-77B 155mm/39 calibre howitzers were purchased for Rs 1,500 crore.