(This was originally posted On The Economic Times by Manu Pubby)
The army is considering a proposal that could breathe back life into a stalled artillery gun-making program with Israel to cover a critical gap in its weapons profile amid continuing tension in Ladakh, ET has learnt.
ET has gathered that delay in an indigenous gun-making program, which is unlikely to fully fructify before 2026 and the unpredictable situation on the China front has injected fresh concern. Despite recent inductions like the K9 Vajra mobile artillery systems, internal assessments have flagged off a capability gap in the short term, given the slow pace of deliveries by the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) of the self-developed Dhanush towed artillery guns and the incomplete trials of the Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAG). While imports are the last option, the army is considering a proposal for the fast delivery of 400 guns under a project that has remained stalled since 2019, with the winning bidder Elbit Systems offering over 70% indigenous content and setting up production facilities in India. Sources confirmed that the army has received a proposal to drastically shorten the delivery period of the guns as well, with the first six promised to be delivered within 10 months of signing a contract and the complete set of 400 guns to be in service by 2025.
The Israeli company had been shortlisted as the lowest bidder in an international competition in 2019 after undergoing extensive tests by the army. However, the contract has not moved ahead for almost two years as India has been considering the ATAGs programme as well.
Internal notes reveal that the gun has been offered at under ₹10 crore a piece, against the projected ₹18 crore price for ATAGs and would be fully produced in India, with Elbit promising complete transfer of technology free of cost to its domestic partners. Interestingly, Elbit had partnered with Bharat Forge for the programme and the Indian company is also heavily involved in the ATAGs project.While there is little doubt that ATAGs will be the future artillery gun for India and is likely to be produced in the thousands once developmental niggles have been worked out, there has been concern that a stop gap arrangement may be needed, given the current security scenario.
Officials aware of the matter say a mix and match approach may be required to meet the operational needs for artillery.