February 8, 2014

Dhanush howitzers all set to play bigger role

Though several companies have come out with heavy-duty artillery guns, sensing the void felt by the Indian Army, only one of these big guns really boomed.

Manufactured by the Ordnance Factory Board, based on technology supplied by Bofors, Dhanush howitzers (155 mm/45 calibre) has a range of 38 km. Notwithstanding last year’s barrel bursting experience, the gun's performance was found satisfactory in limited firing trials carried out so far.

Later this month, the indigenous artillery gun would be taken to Sikkim for another round of trial to check its accuracy and range. “We already have a written request from the Army to make 128 of these guns for which we began procuring the material,” an OFB official told Deccan Herald at the ongoing Defence Exposition (DefExpo) in Delhi.

Manufactured by the OFB units in Kolkata, Kanpur and Jabalpur, Dhanush suffered a setback last July when its barrel burst during firing in Rajasthan. “It happened because of a defective ammunition supplied by an Army depot in Jabalpur and not because of the gun,” he claimed.

The Indian Army has not purchased any artillery gun since the Bofors came in the 1980s. The Swedish howitzers proved its mettle during the Kargil war, but, since then a large of number of artillery guns had to be cannibalised to keep the remaining functional. As repeated efforts to buy new heavy artillery failed in the last decade, the Defence Ministry finally dusted out the old licencing agreement and asked the OFB to manufacture these guns. The Gun Carriage Factory (GCF) in Jabalpur is the integrator, though other units made crucial parts.

The GCF has manufactured six prototypes so far. It was the fourth prototype whose barrel burst. The one displayed at DefExpo is the sixth one, which the OFB claimed to have modified.

Bofors is a 155 mm/39 calibre gun whereas Dhanush is a 155 mm/45 calibre. The enhanced calibre imparts a longer firing range. While the original Bofors had a maximum effective range of 27 km, Dhanush can go up to 38 km. Though there was an original plan of developing a 39 calibre howitzer as well, that plan has been shelved for the time being. Dhanush, however, is not alone in the fray. Two private entities, Tata Power and Bharat Forge, have also developed artillery guns.

Deccan Herald

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