Napoleon famously said “God fights on the side with the best artillery.” In the Indian context this was proven correct when the FH-77B 155 mm/39-caliber towed howitzer pounded the Pakistanis positions into submission during Kargil war played and a decisive role in winning the war against Pakistan. After India won the war many in the Indian army’s top brass stated that without the crucial role played by the artilery the conflict would have lasted far more longer and the cost of victory would have been far too higher both in men and machines.
Lieutenant General Krishan Pal,PVSM, UYSM, VSM & Bar -GOC, 15 Corps said
“The Infantry had started taking the Bofors as their section weapon………. It was an Artillery battle. The credit for victory goes to the Artillery.”
Major General Mohinder Puri -GOC, 8 Mountain Division said
“The large-scale built up of Artillery and its employment in a concentrated manner completely pulverised the enemy and caused heavy casualties.”
Joseph Stalin famously said that artillery was “the God of War”. This is indeed true as the majority of combat deaths during mankind’s most destructive wars like the Napoleonic Wars and the World Wars were caused by Artillery.
Unfortunately the state of Indian artillery has only deteriorated over the years due to New Delhi’s inability to acquire even a single artillery gun since the Bofors scam broke in the late 1980s.
This incompetency by the government has slowly lead to Pakistan closing the gap between India and Pakistan as far as artilery is concerned.
Comparison of Indian vs Pakistani Artillery as of Jan. 2017
Total Strength of Indian towed artillery – 4150
Heavy Artillery – 480
Medium Artillery – 1270
Light Artillery – 2400
Total strength of Pakistani Towed Artillery – 3278
Heavy Artillery – 422
Medium Artillery – 1243
Light Artillery – 1613
Total Indian Towed Artllery strength stands at 4150 vs Pakistan’s 3278, on paper that is, in reality however, India’s fleet of S-23 180mm and D-30 122mm are retired or are currently in the process of being retired as state run OFB no longer manufactures the required Ammunition used in these guns. Actual Strength of Indian towed artillery is 3500 vs Pakistan’s 3278, this doesn’t look like a great scenario for a nation which wants to maintain a conventional firepower superiority against its main regional rival. Pakistan can bring the full might of its 3,278 strong artillery force while India will have to divide artillery between the Chinese and Pakistani borders to prevent any misadventure by either power.
While India’s heavy guns, 203 mm, are out of action Pakistan fields a few dozen of 203mm gun as POF manufactures the required ammunition that are used in these guns.
On the 155mm front Indian army has failed to achieve a significant edge over its Pakistani counterpart.
India posses a total of 380 155mm guns compared to 394 155mm Guns of Pakistan. What’s interesting is that India originally acquired a grand total of 410 155 FH77/B guns from Swedish defense giant Bofors along with adequate tech transfer, but only 200 of them survive. The reason why India lost more than half of the FH77/B 155mm fleet was due to cannibalization of a large number of guns in order to obtain critical spare parts to run the remaining fleet. This clearly points out the inability of state run OFB to indigenize the Bofors gun and how Nehru-Gandhi corruption damaged India’s defense preparedness. The 155mm M-46 fleet, upgraded by Soltam-OFB, has stood the test of the time and is one of the most reliable artillery guns in India’s arsenal.
Pakistan will continue to enjoy a numerical advantage over India as far the 155mm class of artilery is considered as the Induction of homegrown “Dhanush” gun is slow and other major artillery programs are well behind schedule while Pakistan based Heavy Industries Taxila (HIT) produces 30+ MKEK Panter 155mm guns a year with technology transfer from Turkey.
India has always maintained an edge against Pakistan in the medium artillery department, but as of today the Indian army has decommissioned all of it’s 122mm guns, In light of this development Indian army has fallen far behind against Pakistani counterpart in the Medium Artils department. As of today India has about 720 M46 130mm medium guns left in service, whereas Pakistan’s 130mm M46 clones and 122 mm variants stand at a staggering 1,243 guns, 523 guns more than India.
Pakistan will continue to expand its lead over India in Medium Artilery as the remaining M46 130mm guns are converted to 155mm standard and there are no plan to induct new guns in the Medium artillery segment.
Light Artillery is the only area where Indian army possess a clear edge over its Pakistani counterpart. India possess over 2400 Light guns as compared to Pakistan’s 1643 guns. The Indian light artillery is entirely made up of homegrown guns, this has resulted in high rates of availability and most of the fleet remaining intact over the years, unlike what happened to the FH77/B 155mm fleet of guns.
Light Artillery is an area where the Indian army completely outclasses its Pakistani counterpart in Range,Quantity and Quality. The success of Indian light Artils demonstrates the importance of a domestic Military Industrial complex able to supply adequate equipment to the security forces.
New Delhi’s Artillery Force is in a very bad shape, Bureaucratic delays, unrealistic GSQRs set by the army, corruption at the top levels of government &the ministry of defense and incompetent defense ministers are some of the reasons why Indian Artils are in such a bad shape. New Delhi needs to move fast as half of the medium artillery has been retired, and more than half of the Bofors 155mm fleet has been cannibalized in search of spare parts, both the Army and the Government need to expedite the process of acquiring new Artillery . Success story of the 105mm light Artillery has already set the precedence for Indian Army to follow local production of artillery system to be replicated in the 155mm category.
The Pakistani Heavy and Medium gun combined strength will at around 1800-2000 guns if the current induction programs remain on schedule. To maintain a conventional edge against Pakistan the army will need at least 6000 guns, since a significant amount of Artils will also be deployed on the Chinese front.
Indian army’s Artil force is in a very bad shape, on the medium artillery front half of our fleet of medium guns are out of action due to our inability to produce the required ammunition, as far as the 155mm is concerned more than half of the FH77/B 155mm fleet has been cannibalized to obtain critical spareparts in order to keep the rest of Bofors fleet operational. The Indian Army needs to induct thousands of new guns if it wants to obtain any kind of edge over its Pakistani counterpart. India’s ability to successfully develop, manufacture, maintain and upgrade its own 105mm light artillery guns should encourage the army to develop in house solutions in the 155mm category, systems like DRDO ATAGS, OFB Dhanush will play a very important role in the modernization of Indian Artillery.
Self Propelled Artil platform comes with its own propulsion system. They are equipped with guns of a usually higher caliber than tanks, most have 155mm, but are positioned on a higher angle for bombardment of long-range targets. Unlike tanks, the armor of an SPA is effective only against small-arms fire and shrapnel since they are not designed for frontal engagements like tanks. SPA is most useful in mobile conflicts where its “shoot-and-scoot” ability is a major advantage over towed artillery. If you thought the condition of towed artillery is bad then wait till you read this section
The Pakistani Army as of Jan 2017 has a grand total of 325 Self propelled Guns (SPGs), quite an impressive force for an army that size and keeping in mind the Pakistani threat perception. Compared to this the Indian army fields a grand total of “ZERO” guns, on paper Indian Army has 165 SPGs but in reality all of the 165 SPGs have been retired or forced to retire. The 2S1 Gvozdika 122mm Self Propelled Howitzers has been withdrawn from service due to lack of required ammunition, OFB no longer produces the 122mm ammunition, and the British Vickers FV433 Abbot SPG too has been retired due to lack of spareparts.
Rocket acts as a force multiplier and is great for tactics like Shoot and Scoot, massive destruction of an area when the exact location of the enemy is unknown. In doctrines like Cold Start where the main objective of the military is to deliver heavy punishment to enemy forces the role of Rocket cannot be underestimated. The success of the Indigenously developed systems like the Pinaka MBRL and Indian Light Artil systems highlights why it is important for New Delhi to invest in an Indian Military Industrial Complex.
Overall the state of Indian Artillery is not so good, due to decades of policy paralysis, inaction and mismanagement by the Government and the Army, India has fallen behind its Pakistan. This gap in capabilities will take years, perhaps decades, to fulfill. Unfortunately the price of this incompetence will have to paid in blood if war breaks out tomorrow. The Government and the Army need to work on war footing if they want to regain the lost Artillery edge that won them Kargil.
Making Artillery great again
- Revive the Arjun Catapult project with an improved version of the M46 gun. India has around 720 M46 130mm guns in its arsenal which can easily be converted to 155mm standard with the help of private sector partners. Even if only 300 guns are used for the Arjun Catapult project the army will have a proven solution to provide artil cover fast moving formations.
- Ministry of defense should recognize the capabilities of companies like Bharat Forge that have produced world class products like the Bharat 52, Garuda 100mm Mounted Gun System. Besides relying on the DRDO ATAGS and the OFB Dhanush, the ministry of defense will should order a significant amount of guns from private players in order to speed up the induction process of various types of artil pieces.
- Investment in the development of related technologies should be increased and a proper roadmap for the development of Artillery systems should be realised. Investment in critical technologies like Precision guided ammunition will help the Indian army gain an edge over its regional adversaries.
With inputs from: