Army

Indian Defence Ministry signs INR 200 cr contract to upgun 130 mm howitzers

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In a significant yet cost-effective boost to the Indian Army’s firepower, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has placed a Rs 200 crore order on the state-owned Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) for upgunning the Indian Army’s vintage 130 mm M-46 artillery guns. Significantly, the OFB won the contract in competition with two foreign vendors and their Indian partners.

Fifteen regiments comprising 300 towed artillery pieces will be upgraded to the 155/45 mm calibre in the contract signed between the state-owned Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) and MoD in South Block on October 25. All upgraded guns will be supplied to the Indian Army by 2022.

The upgrade will replace the barrel and breech block and add new sighting systems and a new hydraulic rammer to ease loading of shells. OFB officials term the up-gunning 100 per cent indigenous and a highly cost-effective solution to augment the Army’s firepower. The Sharang upgrade kit costs a little over Rs 1 crore per gun, or less than one-fifth the cost of a brand new towed field artillery piece. The Army had floated an RFP in 2013 to upgun 300 of its M-46 guns. The Army has close to 1000 of the 130 mm guns that were acquired from the former Soviet Union beginning in 1968.

The OFB offer emerged the cheapest edging out contenders from two foreign competitors, a consortium of Punj Lloyd and Yugo Import and Bharat Forge and Soltam. The OFB fully indigenous solution the Sharang’ (Vishnu’s bow) field howitzer bested its competitor in various performance parameters during Field Evaluation Trials at the Pokhran range. The parameters include maximum range, direct fire, the rate of fire, accuracy and consistency made it the only compliant gun after the completion of trials. The gun repeated its performance in the second round of re-confirmatory trials at Pokharan in January this year.

OFB officials say the upgrade not only increases the M-46’s range from the existing 27 km to 39 km but also its lethality (fragmentation pattern) by over 300 per cent. A 155 mm shell has 8 kg of TNT whereas a 130 mm shell that has 3.4 kg of TNT.

Sharang has a combat weight of 8.4 tonnes and a length and width of 11.84 metres and 2.45 metres. The 7 metre-long barrel has a single baffle muzzle brake and horizontal sliding wedge breech block. A semi-automatic operating device enables auto opening of the gun breech and a pneumatic ramming system eases the load on the gun crew who have to ram the projectile in during firing. The gun was developed by the Ordnance Development Centre, Kanpur and produced at the Ordnance Factory Kanpur.

The Army currently has around 180 of the 155 mm field guns that were upgraded by Israeli firm Soltam under Project Karan in 2008. OFB officials say the contract opens up an avenue for them to explore the gun’s export potential.

By: India Today

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