New Delhi. Despite the increasing obsolescence
of artillery guns, mortars and rocket launchers,
no contract has so far been concluded for their
replacement even though protracted trials of several
155mm howitzers were carried out over the last
In view of the nuclear shadow under which the
next conflict will be fought, offensive and defensive
manoeuvres will be extremely limited. Consequently,
it will be necessary to generate firepower asymmetries
to destroy the adversarys war waging potential.
In such a scenario, the failure to modernise the
Indian artillery will have serious repercussions
for national security.
Hence, it is extremely heartening to note that
in January 2008 the Ministry of Defence (MoD)
began to make long-awaited amends by issuing requests
for Proposals (RFP) for various types of 155mm
In the post-Kargil 1999 scenario in the Indian
sub-continent, the artillery has proved to be
a decisive arm. Indeed, even a battle-winning
It was clear to all perceptive observers who
followed the Kargil conflict closely that infantry
soldiers had to repeatedly attack uphill to recapture
the mountaintops at Kargil taken quietly by the
It was actually the artillery that had paved
the way for victory. The Indian Army deployed
an overwhelming superiority of its concentrated
firepower, and that enabled the infantry attacks
to be launched for repossessing the lost territory.
Operationally, the Army also used the opportunity
to test and fine-tune the indigenously-developed
Pinaka Multi Barrel Rocket Launchers (MBRLs).
The Indian Army has approved the 155mm howitzer
as the standard artillery caliber, but new, modern
systems are yet to be acquired to replace the
old units and augment the strength to requirement.
Precision-guided 155mm artillery shells can destroy
bunkers, bridges and small buildings with a single-shot
kill probability (SSKP) as high as 80 percent.
Improved conventional munition (ICMs) shells
carrying anti-personnel grenades and lethal air-burst
ammunition can be dispensed over soft
targets such as administrative bases, rations
and fuel-storage dumps, headquarters and rest
areas. When these are available in large quantities,
the artillery can cause much greater destruction
and indirectly reduce the number of casualties
in the infantry.
Approximately 400 FH-77B 155mm guns that proved
their combat superiority in the Kargil conflict,
had been purchased in the mid-1980s from Bofors
of Sweden to equip 20 medium-artillery regiments.
These guns had enhanced the effectiveness of
the artillery by an order of magnitude. Notably,
the 105mm Indian field guns and the older 130mm
Russian medium guns in service since the early
1970s have reached an advanced stage of obsolescence;
while World War II vintage 25 pounders, 75/24
Indian mountain guns, 122mm field guns and 100mm
field guns have already been phased out of service.
In the recent years, just when a contract for
120 tracked and 180 wheeled self-propelled (SP)
155mm guns was about to be concluded after years
of repeated trials, South African arms manufacturer
Denel, the leading contender for the contract,
was alleged to have been involved in a corruption
scam in an earlier deal for Anti-Material Rifles
(AMRs). New tenders have now been floated.
FROM FIRE SUPPORT TO DESTRUCTION
From its original status as a supporting
arm, artillery has now graduated to a full-fledged
combat arm that dominates the battlefield with
its inherently destructive firepower. In the classic
fire and manoeuvre tactics practised
during operations on 20th century battlefields,
artillery traditionally provided the firepower
punch while armoured, mechanised and infantry
units manoeuvred to gain tactical advantage.
Artillery engagements were generally limited
to the battle where own troops were in direct
contact with the enemy. Covering fire
during attack and defensive fire to
beat back enemy attacks were provided in a supporting
Artillery guns, mortars and rocket launchers
were considered area weapons and the neutralisation
of large areas of ground with inherent dispersion
of fire, rather than destruction, was the established
Today, once a threat from across the borders
has been discerned, the artillery, firing 155mm
precision strike ammunition can be employed to
destroy the intruding forces quickly so that the
aggression can be vacated and sanctity of the
international boundary restored.
Targets that can be seen by the troops in contact
with the enemy can be illuminated by a Laser beam
by a ground-based artillery observer (spotter)
carrying a Laser Target Designator. Those targets
that are behind crest lines and on reverse slopes
can be designated by an airborne artillery observer
in an army aviation helicopter or an Unarmed Aerial
conventional munitions (ICMs) shells carrying
anti-personnel grenades and lethal air-burst
ammunition can be dispensed over soft
targets such as administrative bases, rations
and fuel storage dumps, headquarters and rest
areas. As these are not precision strike munitions,
these have to be accurately directed using commando
artillery observers or TV camera equipped UAVs
to achieve the desired effect.
Precision munitions are expensive, but they turn
out to be cheaper as only a few have to be used
to destroy designated targets. Plus, they offer
the advantage of Assured Kill, making operations
that much easier and also saving lives that would
otherwise be lost in an assault.
Long-range MBRLs such as Smerch can enable the
enemys sensitive command centres to be hit
Had Smerch MBRLs been available during the Kargil
conflict, the Pakistani HQ and administrative
base at Skardu and other targets deep inside Pakistan
Occupied Kashmir (POK) would have been hit with
Other force multipliers include Gun or Weapon
Locating Radars (WLRs) for effective counter-bombardment,
UAVs equipped with TV cameras and suitable for
high altitude operations for target acquisition
and engagement and damage assessment, powerful
binoculars for target engagement by day and long-range
night vision devices for the same purpose at night.
The Indian Army had in fact requested for the
Gun Locating Radars in the mid-1980s, but their
acquisition was approved by the Government only
after the Kargil conflict, in which a majority
of the Indian casualties were due to the Pakistani
artillery, which Indian forces could not detect
and therefore could not neutralize effectively.
Now, the Army has taken delivery of a dozen radars
from the US arms major Raytheon under a government-togovernment
contract. More of these radars are to be made
in India as required.
The Indian artillery is playing an increasingly
important role in the successful execution of
integrated land-air operations on the modern battlefield.
The emerging philosophy of employment of artillery
firepower visualises the synergetic orchestration
of all firepower resources across the length and
breadth of the battlefield to cause destruction,
systematic degradation of the enemys fighting
potential and suppression of specific combat echelons
of the enemy from operating effectively for limited
The latter function will include the suppression
of the enemys air defence (SEAD) assets
to enable own attack helicopters to operate freely
and to also enable ground attack aircraics, and
India has taken up the gauntlet by building one
at Cochin. Fincantieri, which is building the
Count Cavour in Italy, has been roped in as the
consultant to make the best use of its expertise
This lesson has not been lost on UK which has
not built carriers for years. Hence it is jointly
planning to build two similar 60,000 ton aircraft
carriers with France for interoperability. UK
hopes to learn from the experience of the French
Navy which encountered problems in the size of
the nuclear powered Charles de Gaulle to operate
the newer Rafale aircraft. Despite excellent calculations,
the ship's landing deck had to be enlarged, post
The ship's bridge also was located too far forward
and led to turbulence for aircraft landing and
the vessel lost a propeller in the Caribbean islands.
The ship limped back to France with a tug in escort.
All these issues are being rectified in the new
UK French carriers.
When there is no operational flat top platform
for continuation training and deck landing qualifications,
the consequence is a backlog of pilots rapidly
losing their deck landing qualifications DLQ.
Indian Navy pilots are being trained in USA and
at IAF bases in India as the Indian Navy is set
to receive its first MiG 29Ks in the coming months.
Notably, the first MiG 29K flew spectacularly
at the MAKS aviation show outside Moscow recently.
INS Viraat was to have been decommissioned by
2010 but now it appears it will have to bat on
longer than anticipated, as both of India's aircraft
carriers on order have been delayed. The Gorshkov
- to be christened INS Vikramaditya on commissioning
- being refitted at the Sevmash shipyard at Severnodinsk
in Russia, is delayed for delivery from 2008 to
2010 and the head of the shipyard has been removed
for the faux pas. Nevsokye Design Bureau has been
asked to look in to this.
A delegation led by UK-trained engineer Vice
Admiral B S Randhawa, the Controller of Warship
Production and Acquisition (CWPA), slated to be
the next Chief of Material, had visited Russia
mid May and inspected the Mk 1143.4 Admiral Gorshkov,
and yet again in July. He confirmed that the ship
is behind schedule.
Strangely, the Russians also asked for price
escalation, saying that they had made a mistake
in calculating the required work, and despite
also that the delay was due to their own problems.
Even then, Defence Secretary Shekar Dutt, who
is now India's Deputy National Security Advisor
(NSA), and Secretary Defence Finance V K Misra,
visited Moscow in July to help resolve the issue.
According to former Chief of Naval Staff (CNS)
Admiral Arun Prakash, the Russians need to be
penalized for the delay as they had already been
afforded one escalation.
The Navy Chief, Admiral Sureesh Mehta, is an
experienced aviator who, like his predecessor,
has flown off INS Viraat and Vikrant as a green
horn Sea Hawk rookie pilot. He was looking forward
to inducting the Vikramaditya during his tenure.
He has indicated a new date for its induction,
as after late 2008. It will be a challenge for
the next Navy team in South Block to ensure that
the vessel is transferred to India not far behind
The 273 meter long, 30 year old 48,500 ton Gorshkov's
keel was laid in 1976 at the Nikolayev Shipyard
now in Ukraine, and when commissioned, it operated
14 Yakovlev Yak-141 vertical take-off and landing
(VTOL) Fighters, eight Yak-38 Forger VTOL fighters,
as well as 16 Kamov Ka-25 and Ka-252RLD Hormone
and Ka- 252PS Helix anti-submarine warfare (ASW),
reconnaissance and search and- rescue (SAR) helicopters.
The ship was earmarked for scrapping, and then
offered to the Indian Navy free, provided India
paid for its refurbishment and bought Russian
aircraft to operate from it. Admiral J G Nadkarni
was among those who supported its acquisition
towards fulfilling the Indian Navy's need for
After much delay and procrastination, India
signed a US$ 1.5 billion Gorshkov modernisation
contract in 2004 under Defence Minister George
Fernandes' direction. Its refurbishment was agreed
at $ 700 million, and the rest was for the 16
MiG-29K fighters, helicopters, miscellaneous equipment
and weapons from third parties.
Many of the carrier's old systems are being
removed while the new equipment includes some
Made-in- India sensors and other systems.
The Anti Aircraft system is likely to be the
Israeli Barak, though this acquisition is under
the CBI's scanner over allegations of bribe by
IAI/Rafael to an Indian middleman in the Rs 1100
Israeli missiles had to be purchased in the
wake of the 1999 Kargil War when the naval brass
found to its dismay that Indian naval ships had
no protective missile cover, thanks to the paralysis
in the Ministry of Defence (MoD) from 1990 onwards.
Gorshkov's 24 meter wide deck has been fitted
with three arrester wires, as opposed to the US
carriers which have four and two 30-ton and 20
ton lifts located on the port side, and one aft
of the superstructure for continuous operations
of MiG-29Ks on the 2,400 square meters deck space.
The MiG 29KUBs are being fitted with French
Thales Top Sight helmet sighting device for attack,
and the Sagem Sigma-95 laser-gyroscope inertial
navigation system, with open architecture.
The open architecture enables changes easily.
The cockpit will have three multipurpose MFI10-6
data screens in the MiG-29KUB's front and rear
cockpits, the IKSH-1K Heads Up Display (HUD).
Target data in video will be from Phazatron with
NIIR radar, the new-generation Zhuk-ME optronic
radar, in digital terrain contour matching (TERCOM)
map along fiber optic channels. Many innovations
are new and never been installed in Russia's inventory
Russians' lack of experience in the new systems
could be contributing to the delay.