Hello defence lovers! Recently the second negative import list was issued by the government. Contrary to the anticipations, the import of howitzers was not banned. This clearly indicates that for ATAGS there many more hurdles to clear. In this article, we are going the understand why the Indian army is still reluctant to induct ATAGS in large numbers.
ATAGS-Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System
ATAGS stands for Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System. Its development began in early 2014. It was initially meant to replace the aging soviet-era Guns of Indian Artillery. It is a 155 mm self-propelled towed howitzer that can fire up to ranges of 52 km. It weighs 18 tons. It can fire in Burst mode of 3 rounds in 15 sec, Intense mode of 15 rounds in 3 min and Sustained mode 60 rounds in 60 min. It has been indigenously developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation and manufactured by Bharat Forge. It is also equipped with an indigenous Auxilary Power Umit (APU). So far 7 prototypes have been made. So far the guns have fired thousands of rounds with only one barrel burst incident.
ATHOS- The Main Competitor
ATHOS is a 155mm 52 caliber Howitzer offered by the Elbit Systems of Israel. It has a maximum range of 30km for standard rounds and 40 km for assisted base bleed HE ammunition. It comes with an autoloader. It can fire 3 rounds in 30 seconds in burst mode, 12 rounds in 3 minutes in intense mode, and 42 rounds in 60 minutes in sustained mode. It weighs less than 15 tonnes and can be towed by all the artillery trucks of the Indian Army.
How ATHOS Came Into The Picture?
In March 2019, the Indian Army conducted the ‘Field Trial Cum Evaluation Process’ between Elbit Systems and Nexter. . Army found the performance of both the guns satisfactory. Elbit systems emerged as the lowest bidder (L1). According to sources in the defence establishment, the price of Elbit Systems’ ATHOS was lower by 40 percent compared to the price of its competitor — Nexter’s Trajan gun.
The initial deal was for the supply of 400 guns and indigenous production of the remainder 1,180 guns by the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), under a full Transfer of Technology (TOT) process.
According to sources, Elbit Systems promised to supply the guns much earlier than the contract delivery schedule — the first six guns within 10 months from contract signing and an additional six guns within the next 14 months. According to the Elbit systems, all the remaining guns will be delivered according to an accelerated delivery schedule, which will ensure finalization of the deliveries not later than 54 months from contract signing, instead of the 72 months stipulated in the draft contract.
Why Indian Army Is Reluctant To Induct ATAGS?
|Maximum Range||52 km||40 km|
|burst mode||3 rounds in 15 seconds||3 rounds in 30 seconds|
|Intense Mode||15 rounds in 3 minutes||12 rounds in 3 minutes|
|Sustained mode||60 rounds in 60 minutes||45 rounds in 60 minutes|
|Weight||< 15 tonnes||18 tonnes|
|Unit cost||16-18 crore INR||11 crore INR|
As the data suggests our indigenous ATAGS is far superior to the ATHOS. So why Indian army is reluctant to induct them in large numbers? There could be many reasons. The primary reason must be the cost. As The Print reported, the unit cost of the ATHOS gun system is 11 crore Indian rupees, whereas an ATAGS costs 18 crore Indian rupees. When the guns are being procured in large quantities, to be precise 1580 units, this price difference matters. In a scenario where resources are scarce, 11060 crore rupees can be saved by opting for ATHOS and can be used for other modernization programmes. However, the cost is inversely proportional to the scale of production. As more ATAGS will be produced, the unit cost will decrease. And one should note that the money, in that case, will remain in our very own economy and won’t flow out of the country. Ordering ATAGS in large number will also open doors for its exports. One more obvious reason behind the army reluctance is the import lobbyists within the army and procurement committees. When we procure an indigenous platform from our very own manufacturers chances of corruption and scandals become negligible.
Hence the army must show its support for the indigenous ATAGS just like Airforce is showing its support and confidence in Tejas and other programmes. The army has always been reluctant to induct indigenous products as we have seen in the case of Arjun MBT and Kamov ka 226. We hope that ATAGS does not become another example of this.