In a much looked forward to development, the deal to purchase 145 M777A2 155mm Ultra Light howitzers was cleared by the Defence Acquisition Council, headed by the Raksha Mantri, Shri Manohar Parrikar on 20 October 2016. This marks the first major purchase of artillery guns since the purchase of Bofors guns in 1987. Thehowitzers are being purchased from the United States through the Foreign Military Sales route, authorised by the Arms Control Export Act. Delay in decision making for acquisition of these guns has however seen a cost escalation from $647 million in 2010 to $750 in 2016.
Suited both for the mountains and warfare in the plains, these guns will be deployed on India’s border with China and will equip the artillery component of the Mountain Strike Corps, which was raised in 2013. Once the guns are inducted, India will join the U.S., Canadian and Australian forces in gaining the M777’s unmatched strategic and tactical mobility.
The M777A2 155mm 39 calibre Ultra Light howitzer, due to its light weight, makes it easier to be towed on road and also to be air lifted to where it is to be deployed. In India’s mountainous border with Tibet bordering the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, switching forces from one axis to another is a long and time consuming task. The use of titanium and aluminium alloys, which makes the guns lighter and easy to be airlifted, enables rapid deployment of the gun, and provides the Army with flexible and swift response options to emerging threats. The light weight also provides for quicker road movement when towed thereby enhancing the ‘shoot and scoot’ capability of the weapon system to give it greater survivability on the battlefield.
The M-777A2 is the upgraded version of the M-777A1 ULHs with software enhancements. The gun has proved its reliability, maintainability and safety, even in extreme temperatures and have been successfully tested in Indian conditions. The M-777A2 has a digital fire control system from BAE Systems that allows the gun to programme and fire long range accurately.The gun can fire up to five rounds per minute. These features are very crucial as artillery needs to be flexible, manoeuvrable, mobile and swift to support infantry and armoured divisions operations.
The gun can be turned around in less than two minutes by the crew. This would enable the gun to react to sudden changes in target location.The gun would also possess Laser Inertial Artillery Pointing Systems. For direct and indirect firing, the low-rate initial production systems employ an optical sighting system.Full production systems will be fitted with the General Dynamics Armament Systems Towed Artillery Digitisation system, while the LRIP systems will be retrofitted with TAD. Encouraged by Prime Minister Modi’s call to “Make in India”, BAE Systems has announced a plan to establish an Assembly, Integration & Testing (AIT) facility in India as an integral part of the offset offer to the Government of India.The offset offer commits to investing in, and the development of, a number of Indian defence suppliers, providing them with access to the BAE Systems group across Air, Land, Sea and Security programs. The conclusion of this procurement will enable BAE Systems to make an investment of over $200 million in those Indian defence suppliers.
INS CHENNAI JOINS INDIAN NAVY
INS Chennai, a P 15A Guided Missile Destroyer, was commissioned into the Indian Navy by the Raksha Mantri Shri Manohar Parrikar at an impressive ceremony held at the Naval Dockyard, Mumbai on 21 Nov 2016. The event marks the formal induction into the Navy of the third and the last of the three ‘Kolkata’ class destroyers, indigenously designed by the Indian Navy’s in-house organisation, Directorate of Naval Design and constructed by Mazagon Dock Limited, Mumbai.
The ship measures 163m in length, 17.4m in breadth with a displacement of 7500 tonnes and can rightfully be regarded as one of the most potent warships to have been constructed in India. The ship is propelled by four powerful Gas Turbines, in a Combined Gas and Gas (COGAG) configuration, capable of achieving speeds in excess of 30 knots. The ship has enhanced stealth features resulting in a reduced Radar Cross Section (RCS) achieved through efficient shaping of hull, full beam superstructure design, plated masts and use of radar transparent materials on exposed decks. INS Chennai is packed with contemporary and sophisticated ‘state of the art’ weapons and sensors such as Surface to Surface Missile and Surface to Air Missiles. The ship is fitted with a modern Surveillance Radar which provides target data to the gunnery weapon systems of the ship. The ship’s Anti Submarine Warfare capabilities are provided by the indigenously developed Rocket Launchers and Torpedo Launchers. The ship is equipped to fight under Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) warfare conditions. A unique feature of this ship is the high level of indigenisation incorporated in the production, accentuating our national objective of ‘Make in India’. Some of the major indigenised equipment / system onboard INS Chennai include Combat Management System, Rocket Launcher, Torpedo Tube Launcher, Automated Power Management System, Foldable Hangar Doors, Helo Traversing system, Auxiliary Control System and the Bow mounted SONAR.
While addressing the gathering, the Raksha Mantri termed the commissioning of INS Chennai, last of the Project 15 A class Destroyers, as a historic day for the Indian Navy.“it adds another milestone in our relentless journey towards achieving self reliance in battle readiness,” he said and added that “the ship represents a significant ‘coming of age’ of our warship building capability and defence preparedness, in addition to providing overall maritime security to India and also plays a crucial role as the ‘net security provider’ in our adjoining seas”.
During his address, Shri Manohar Parrikar also stressed that the Navy’s growth and development must keep pace with the nation’s growth and maritime security needs. He lauded the role played by the naval designers (DGND) and the ship builders i.e. M/s MDL Mumbai, stating “with the induction of INS Chennai, a new benchmark has been achieved for our warship design and construction endeavours, with the sophistication of systems and equipment, and utilisation of advanced ship building techniques”.
The Naval Chief, Admiral Sunil Lanba said that commissioning of INS Chennai marks another milestone in the Navy’s quest for self-reliance as it signifies completion of the challenging Project P- 15A and heralds a new era of advanced warships built indigenously by Indian shipyards. The Admiral also stated that indigenisation of platforms, weapons, sensors and equipment with participation of public as well as private sectors, will continue to remain a focus area of the Indian Navy, in line with the ‘Make in India’ policy enunciated by the Prime Minister. He emphasised that the ‘Roadmap for the Navy’s expansion and growth would continue to remain firmly anchored on Self-reliance and Indigenisation’.
Indigenous Naval Systems Inducted
The Defence Minister handed over four Naval Systems developed by DRDO to the Indian Navy at a special ceremony on 18 November 2016. The four indigenously developed naval systems viz. ABHAY, HUMSA UG, NACS and AIDSS which will boost underwater surveillance capability of the Indian Navy, have been designed and developed by National Physical and Oceanographic Laboratory (NPOL), a Kochi based laboratory of DRDO.
They were formally handed over to the Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sunil Lanba by the Minister.