Nearly three decades after the controversial Howitzers, manufactured by Bofors, became the mainstay of heavy artillery for the Indian Army, two indigenously developed towed artillery are now in advanced stages of trials to replace them.

The Dhanush, developed by the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), and the towed artillery gun — Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS), which has achieved the parameters specified by the Armament Research and Development Establishment, will undergo advance trials soon.

Both are expected to meet the army’s requirement of about 1,800 towed guns by 2018-19, sources said, adding that both guns have been developed in less that six years.

“We have made 12 guns that have been used extensively, and six guns will undergo further trials at Pokhran before it’s fully ready. A few more trials have to be done to get final clearance,” S.K. Chourasia, Additional Director-General of Ordnance Factory, and a member of the OFB, told The Hindu.

Dhanush is a 155 mm/45 caibre gun, which has a range of 40 km, with higher accuracy than Bofors, he said.

Of the total 414-guns order from the army, 114 would be supplied in the first phase. “Though there is enough supply requirement for the army, the gun is an exportable product too,” Mr. Chourasia said.

The 155mm/52 calibre ATAGS, a project started by DRDO to supplement Dhanush, is expected to undergo trials in deserts and high altitude range and accuracy trials soon. ATAGS, which has a range of 46 km, was successfully integrated at Tata Power SED’s facility in Bengaluru recently, before being tested at Balasore in Odisha, said a Tata Power SED in response to an email query by The Hindu. The induction of ATAGS into the artillery regiment is expected to start in 2019-20.

Cost-effective exercise ::

To reduce cost of production, the Ordnance Factory Board is also looking at replacing 130 mm guns of the Russian-supplied field guns. The board plans to use the chassis of this field gun supplied in 1960s that are in good condition and fit them with new guns. “These guns have become obsolete. We intend to mount Dhanush guns on the chassis. Our estimation is that the exercise could cost us about ₹3 crore to ₹4 crore per gun, whereas it would cost us ₹15 crore to ₹20 crore if a new gun is produced,” said Ordnance Factory Board Additional Director General S.K. Chourasia.