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SOURCE: INDIA TODAY

Having pulverized the Army’s firing ranges in the mountains of Ladakh and the deserts of Rajasthan for over four years, the country’s first, self-made, long range artillery gun, Dhanush came to the national capital on the evening of January 2. The gun will be towed before the nation during the grand Republic Day parade this January 26th.

It is an honour for which both, the user i.e Indian Army and maker, the Gun Carriage Factory (GCF) in Jabalpur, part of the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) have waited patiently. Almost three decades have passed since the last step towards modernization in the artillery arm was undertaken. The result then, the infamous Bofors saga, ensured hands off policy.

Even though AB Bofors of Sweden, the firm that produced the 410 guns of 155m X 39 calibre, supplied a Transfer of Technology (ToT) document for manufacturing the guns locally, it was ignored. It took a stupendous and well-documented effort of the gun in the Kargil conflict in 1999 for the taint to lighten.

Rajeev Sharma, who heads a Research and Development group in GCF and has been associated with ‘Project 155’, the code name for Dhanush, since October 2012 explained, “By the time the Kargil war was over, the world had moved on from 39 calibre guns to 45 and even 52 calibre. This was for longer ranges and better firepower. Thus the OFB began some R&D work on its own and built upon the ToT which was an incomplete document.” Efforts to upgrade Bofors though successful could not take its range beyond 30km. Added Sharma, “The quest saw us emerging with the bigger and better Dhanush”.

The Dhanush is a self-propelled gun with limited mobility. Designed to shoot and scoot, so as to avoid being bombarded by the enemy’s weapon locating radar, the gun can cover a distance of up to 5 km in an hour’s time. It can also be towed using trucks.

In 2011, the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) apex decision-making body, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) saw the ‘necessity’ of acquiring 414 Dhanush guns to replace Bofors. It asked the OFB to produce 114 guns in the first instalment and kept 300 in balance.

Dhanush vs Bofors

Weighing 12.7 tonnes and costing Rs 13 crore apiece, the Dhanush has seen an investment of up to Rs 100 crore till date. The results have largely been impressive. Six guns have returned to GCF Jabalpur after intensive exploitation by the Indian Army. Incorporating the feedback of over 3500 rounds the guns have fired, 12 more guns will be built.

By March, the GCF is expecting the MoD to issue a Limited Production Contract (LPC) under which a total of 114 guns would be built and supplied. With nearly 81 per cent of the 8500 components that make a Dhanush gun coming from indigenous sources, the GCF is keen to market the gun as a ‘Make In India’ success.

Senior General Manager at the GCF, SK Singh doesn’t like the term ‘desi Bofors’ given by some to Dhanush. “They do not know what they are talking about. It is a far, far superior gun,” he said.

ISSUES REMAIN

However, concerns remain. “There were some hiccups which we’ve overcome”, he said. Privately, officers from the Army have expressed their desire for a ‘more reliable Dhanush’. That the project, which is propelled by six public-private partnerships and has seven sister factories as suppliers for the GCF to integrate, needs more effective quality control is something most players agree.

In a country where ambitions have seldom run low, what if the Dhanush fails in meeting the Army’s requirements?

Sharma does not believe such a day will come. “The Army has placed a Brigadier and two Colonels at GCF. We work closely with them. Their feedback is instant and corrections are carried out accordingly”, he added.

Fortunately for Sharma and the GCF, the Army seems to agree. Lieutenant General PR Shankar who retired recently as the Director General of the Indian Army’s Artillery Directorate said, “Dhanush is an excellent gun and as a nation we ought to be proud of it. However, we need to ensure we develop the gun and systems around it well so that India does not have to look out to foreign shores for such guns again.”

DHANUSH: What stands out
  1. Can fire older as well as next generation charges.
  2. Laying speed, firing accuracies improved.
  3. Can correct itself using data even as it fires.
  4. Target impact area increased by 100% over Bofors.
  5. Modified loading trough for all types of charges.
  6. Modified double baffle muzzle brake limits stress on the structure.
  7. Gun can auto lay and has a fire control computer on board.
  8. From indigenously producing fully-manual 105mm Light Field Gun (LFG) with a range of 17km, Dhanush represents a quantum jump.
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