The Ordnance Factories Board (OFB), the Indian Ministry of Defense’s (MoD) own defense equipment manufacturer, has received the go ahead from the ministry and the Indian Army for the production of 114 indigenously designed and developed Dhanush 155-millimeter/45-caliber towed howitzers, the MoD said in a February 19 statement.
“Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) has received the bulk production clearance (BPC) from the Indian Army and the Ministry of Defense on February 18, 2018 for production of 114 […] ‘Dhanush’, the first ever indigenous 155mm x 45 caliber artillery gun,” the statement reads. “The weapon is the first long rang artillery gun to be produced in India and it is a major success story of the ‘Make in India’ initiative.”
The Dhanush howitzer is an improved version of the FH-77B 155-millimeter/39 caliber towed howitzer manufactured by the Swedish defense contractor Bofors (now BAE Systems) of which India acquired 414 between 1987 and 1991. It is based on schematics supplied by Bofors/BAE Systems under a technology transfer deal concluded in the late 1980s. The Dhanush howitzer is a reverse-engineered upgraded variant of the original Bofors design.
“[T]he major upgrade in comparison to the Bofors is the larger caliber,” I wrote previously. “Furthermore, the Dhanush reportedly has a new maximum effective range of 38 kilometer in salvo mode compared to the 39-caliber, 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.” According to the Indian MoD press statement:
The gun is equipped with inertial navigation-based sighting system, auto-laying facility, on-board ballistic computation and an advanced day and night direct firing system. The self-propulsion unit allows the gun to negotiate and deploy itself in mountainous terrains with ease.
‘Dhanush’ has been mechanically upgraded to fire standard NATO 155 mm ammunition and can accommodate both boll bags and the bi-modular charge system (BMCS) which have resulted in increasing the range . ‘Dhanush’ has also been electronically upgraded to enhance the firing accuracies, laying speeds of the existing gun and to provide compatibility with various kinds of ammo as well.
The manufacture of a 155 mm modern artillery gun was initially a challenge for OFB. This was due to change in the vision parameters from 155×39 caliber to 155×45 caliber. OFB received the Transfer of Technology (ToT) documents pertaining to 155×39 caliber and then converted it to 155×45 caliber successfully.
The procurement of the Bofors howitzers in the 1980s led to India’s most infamous arms purchase scandal in recent history, which torpedoed all future artillery modernization plans for decades. The first guns are to be manufactured at the Gun Carriage Factory in Jabalpur district of Madhya Pradesh in central India.
In total, the Indian Army is reportedly interested in procuring up to 414 Dhanush howitzers for a per-unit price of a little over $2 million. Notably, an upgraded variant of the Dhanush gun, designated Dhanush Version 2 (v2) with a larger caliber (from 45 to 52 millimeter) and a slightly increased range (from 38 to 42 kilometers), is currently under development by India’s Defense Research and Development Organization.