User trials of the indigenous Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS) developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) jointly with private industry are scheduled to be resumed later this month and proceed with winter and summer trials to be completed by mid next year, a defense official said.
Trials that began in September were paused after the gun suffered a barrel burst and an investigation is underway to determine the cause.
“The guns will move sometime next week to Balasore for initial proof firing trials. Winter trials should happen sometime in January. As the temperatures go up, we will do the summer trials by mid next year,” the official said.
The ATAGS is a 155mm, 52 caliber artillery gun jointly developed by the DRDO in partnership with Bharat Forge of the Kalyani Group and the Tata Power SED.
The DRDO is also writing to the Army to involve their teams right away so that the approval can be speeded up and compress the timelines. In August 2018 the Defence Acquisition Council had accorded approval for the purchase of 150 of these guns at an approximate ₹3,365 crore which would be split between the two companies. The deal will be split in a 60:40 ratio between the lowest bidder (L1) and L2.
Once the user trials are over, the Army has to give the Request For Proposal (RFP) and the initial lot can be supplied immediately, the official said. The Army requires 1,580 guns in this category and Israeli firm Elbit Systems was shortlisted for a tender floated to procure them.
In September, the ATAGS had suffered a barrel burst during trials which have since been stopped. A committee was set up consisting of DRDO scientists, Army representatives, and the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) officials to determine the cause and submit an evaluation report.
It certainly does not appear to be a design issue and investigation will determine if it is an ammunition issue, the official said. “One of the members from the OFB advised some more tests which would be done shortly after which the report will come out.”
The official said the price is not yet determined and for now it’s only for the initial limited order. “Price for the bigger order of 1,580 guns has to be negotiated and industry can bring it down significantly.”
In the past, the Army had flagged overweight compared to its requirements which have also been addressed. “The Army wanted to lower the weight so they can carry it in the mountains. They wanted around 18 tonnes — by and large, we are in that range,” the official said.