Asia Defense

India’s New Homegrown Artillery Gun System Fails in Test

Recent test setbacks will likely delay the induction of the new 155 millimeter/45-caliber gun.

India’s New Homegrown Artillery Gun System Fails in Test
Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Gopal Aggarwal

India’s new indigenously designed Dhanush towed artillery gun has repeatedly failed in user trials over the past three months which will likely push back the induction date of the new weapon system, a top source within the Indian Army revealed to Defense News this month.

“The Dhanush 155mm/45-caliber artillery gun has failed on three occasions in a row in the last three months when the shell of the gun hit the muzzle brake in one of the six prototype guns currently undergoing user trials,” the source told Defense News.

The Times of India reported about the trial failures already in July. “In May when six guns were being fired at one go, a shell hit the muzzle brake in one of the pieces,” The Times reported. “ Last week when the test fires were being undertaken, again a shell hit the muzzle brake, bringing the whole process back to square one.”

The consecutive test failures are not a major setback but nevertheless will likely delay induction of the new artillery guns into the Indian Army. The 155 millimeter/45 caliber artillery gun, Dhanush, is an improved version of the FH-77B 155 mm/39 caliber towed howitzer manufactured by the Swedish defense contractor Bofors (now BAE Systems) of which India acquired 414 between 1987 and 1991.

As I reported elsewhere, “the initial procurement of the Bofors howitzers in the 1980s was steeped in controversy and led to India’s most infamous arms purchase scandal in recent history, which torpedoed all artillery modernization plans.” Bofors, the howitzer’s designer and manufacturer, was found to have paid illegal kickbacks in exchange for the contract. The company was subsequently blacklisted by the Indian government.

As I explained previously, the major upgrade in comparison to the Bofors is the larger caliber. Furthermore, the Dhanush reportedly has a new maximum effective range of 38 kilometer in salvo mode compared to the 39-calibre, 27-km range of the original guns.  The Dhanush howitzer is capable of firing eight rounds per minutes and needs a crew of six to eight artillerymen.

The indigenous upgrade of the Dhanush artillery gun is based schematics supplied by Bofors/BAE Systems under a technology transfer agreement in the 1980s. According to Indian media reports, 80 percent of the guns components are made in India. Last month, it was revealed that the howitzer guns contains fake Chinese parts (wire race rollers) that were labelled to come from a German company and had ‘Made in Germany’ embossed in them.

The Indian Army has already ordered 114 Dhanush howitzers, which, given the successful trials, should enter mass production momentarily at the Gun Carriage Factory in Jabalpur district of Madhya Pradesh in central India. The first 18 Dhanush howitzers are expected to be inducted into the Indian Army by the end of 2017. Another 36 guns are slated for induction in 2018 with an additional 60 guns in 2019.