Engaging the private sector has yielded rich dividends for State-owned Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), which is developing the high-capacity Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS).
Valued at $4.5 billion, the production order for the guns, which are currently undergoing intensive field trials, could be a potential windfall for the two private defence companies engaged in the project.
As the Army seeks to fill its requirement of over 1,500 towed guns, the ATAGS is being developed in a joint project with two private defence firms, Tata Power SED and Bharat Forge. Sources said that while Bharat Forge, a Kalyani Group company, has “developed and provided diverse inputs in design, manufacture and development”, Tata Power SED ( Strategic Engineering Division) has provided the automotive system, understructure assembly automation, breech system, recoil system and fixed firing stand.
The segments provided by Tata Power SED account for approximately 70 per cent of the gun system, the sources said. Immense accuracy The firing of the gun, and “its immense accuracy”, has turned out to be a fitting example of how the DRDO and the Ordnance Factory Board, along with the private sector, can compete with global defence giants, said DRDO sources. In a test round earlier this week, the gun fired a round at 48 km, as compared to 40-45 km at Pokhran, revealing “the scale, depth and accuracy of its range”. Comparably, 155 mm, 52-calibre guns can fire their ammunition to 40-45 km, the sources added. Senior officials of the DRDO and Armament Research and Development Establishment were present at the trial.
Typically, only State-owned companies are given such orders. Roping in the private sector is seen to have helped the production of the ATAGS. “The system incorporates futuristic technologies and is slated to have an all-electric drive for ammunition handling, breach opening and closing, which will provide huge reliability,” the sources pointed out. Two prototypes were developed and tested in Odisha last December, they said, adding that the 25-litre chamber volume of the ATAGS allows for “higher propellant charge to fire ammunition at longer range in comparison to contemporary artillery”. Its autoloader also has a six-round magazine, which facilitates rapid fire of ammunition, they said, adding that it is another remarkable feature of the ATAGS. The Army needs over 1,500 155 mm, 52-calibre towed howitzer and 800 mounted gun systems of the same calibre. The sources confirmed that the next stage of trials with further modifications will be in December.