Modernisation of Indian Artillery: Challenges Persist


‘Indian Army to boost firepower with 200 new mounted howitzers, 400 towed gun systems’ screamed the headlines of a leading national daily. This may sound small but is a significant step in the Regiment of Artillery’s quest for modernization, overdue for decades.

The past few years have witnessed a paradigm shift in global dynamics under the impact of prolonged paralysis imposed due to the pandemic. Military lessons that have emerged from the Russo-Ukraine conflict, substantiate the dominant status of Artillery on the modern battlefield, wherein it continues to be the core of firepower and Intelligence – Recce – Surveillance operations. The need of the hour for our Armed Forces is to achieve self-reliance or ATMANIRBHARTA in the production of defence-related equipment, to be able to thwart any misadventure by our adversaries. The Regiment of Artillery is steadfastly leading the field towards greater indigenisation.

With each passing year, the enhancement in Artillery capability to seek and engage targets has increased our reach beyond the tactical battle space to operational and strategic depths. Artillery is conscious of niche technology developments in the firepower domain. The synergised application of firepower assets of air and artillery, for shaping the battlespace will play a crucial role in the outcome of any future conventional conflict. Destruction of enemy combat forces remains the focus of modernisation being undertaken by the Regiment of Artillery.

Artillery Rationalisation Plan: Year 2000

The addition of new guns in our inventory went into a hiatus, ever since the acquisition of 155mm Field Howitzer 77B from AB Bofors in the late eighties of the last century. The deal got embroiled in corruption charges, only 400 guns were acquired, less than one third of the numbers proposed, which led to large voids in the firepower capability and capacity. The dawn of the new century saw the unveiling of an ambitious long-term plan that involved the acquisition of 3000 odd 155 mm guns (towed, mounted, self-propelled variety) by 2027 at an estimated then calculated cost of $ 8-10 billion. These included:

  • Towed Gun Systems (TGS) – the mainstay of Artillery Regiments, these guns are typically towed by specialised vehicles/trucks or even manually transported to their firing positions. While they offer good mobility on roads and relatively flat terrain, they may face challenges in rough or mountainous terrain due to their dependence on towing vehicles.
  • Self-Propelled Howitzers (SP) – guns on tracks for matching mobility with mechanised columns, particularly in desert terrain.
  • Mounted Gun Systems (MGS) – these have gun barrels mounted on trucks – for employment in semi desert and hilly terrain, providing good shoot and scoot capability.

All these gun systems were to be of 155mm/52 calibre variety, (a typical 155mm 52 calibre gun fires shells with a diameter of 155 mm and has a barrel length that is 52 times the diameter of the bore. This is important as it determines the range, accuracy, and effectiveness of the gun system). This specification came to be accepted as the standard calibre for all future guns. In a later modification to this plan, 155mm/45 calibre Dhanush guns (based on technology transfer of FH 77B Bofors Guns with mechanical and electronic upgradation) and M777 155mm/39 calibre Ultra-Light Howitzers (ULH) were added. In addition, limited numbers of existing 130mm guns were also planned to be upgunned to 155mm/45 calibre.

The transformational plan of Indian Artillery is largely on track today (albeit with inherent delays due to the pandemic and teething troubles with indigenous production), and is spread over more than two decades. The induction of 145 pieces of ULH and 100 pieces of K-9 Vajra SP Howitzers has been completed. The US made ULH were assembled and tested in India by Mahindra Defence while the K9, SP Guns of South Korea (Hanwha Defence) were manufactured in India by L&T under licence with 50% Indian components. Recently the successful trials of the Dhanush Gun System (One Regiment of 18 guns already inducted in High Altitude) and the Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS) – developed by DRDO and being produced by Bharat Forge Limited and Tata Advanced Systems have showcased our prowess and determination to modernise our inventory by following the ATMANIRBHARTA trajectory, thereby giving fillip to our indigenous defence industry.

Impact of Modernisation

The constant tussle to achieve the optimum mix of the ideal range, lethality and mobilisation had always challenged the barrel-bore combination. In 155mm, though 52-calibre has been accepted as the most preferred calibre, some countries like the USA and UK have decided to retain 39-calibre due to its lighter weight and strategic mobility.

Extended reach of medium guns with increased lethality and accuracy will greatly contribute towards operational fires to shape the battlefields in future conflicts in accordance with the operational commander’s concept of operations. Mediumisation of artillery will also extend the reach of complete artillery beyond shallow tactical depth. This will ensure more guns are available for delivery of firepower across neighbouring sectors.

The role of artillery is gradually shifting from neutralisation to destruction. At the same time due to the improved defensive posture of the adversary, large calibre guns with greater TNT content have become an inescapable requirement to achieve the desired destruction. Operation VIJAY is a classic example in recent times wherein artillery was employed for destruction and severe degradation of the enemy fortifications.

Surveillance Systems

Battlefield optical systems such as Long-Range Recce and Observation Systems are available in desired numbers thanks to their indigenised variants. With supporting communication systems, even deeper reach and real-time downlinks are a reality today. Indigenous electronic systems such as the SWATI Weapon Locating Radar developed by our own Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), to locate hostile firepower resources will facilitate first salvo effectiveness and minimise casualties to own troops. BEL has also been involved in development of electro optical surveillance systems, night vision devices, communication and networking hardware, reducing our import dependency.

Long Range Vectors

Enhanced ranges of missiles and long-range vectors are a reality today e.g. BRAHMOS 290 km or more, Smerch 70 – 90 km, Pinaka 38 km or enhanced range. Up gunning of erstwhile 130mm guns to 155mm has yielded 20 per cent longer ranges as well.

Guns or Rockets or a Mix of Both

The debate between guns and rockets, or a mix of both, in future Artillery profiles is a complex one that hinges on various factors including operational requirements, battlefield dynamics, technological advancements, and cost-effectiveness. Each weapon system offers distinct advantages and does have certain limitations, and the optimal choice depends on the specific mission objectives and operational environment.


  • Traditional artillery guns offer higher accuracy and precision, particularly over shorter ranges.
  • Guns are versatile weapons that can fire a variety of ammunition types, including precision-guided munitions (PGMs). The Excalibur PGM fired from M777 ULH is a case in point. This versatility allows artillery units to adapt to a wide range of mission requirements and engage different types of targets effectively. Compatibility with other gun systems should be next on our agenda.
  • Modern artillery guns feature advanced fire control systems and automated ammunition handling, enabling rapid rates of fire and quick response to dynamic battlefield situations.


  • Rocket artillery systems, such as multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) can saturate large areas with firepower, making them effective for engaging dispersed or high-value targets at long distances.
  • Rockets deliver a high volume of TNT in a short period, creating a significant impact on the target and causing widespread destruction. This area saturation effect is particularly valuable for neutralising troop/tank/vehicle concentrations and destroying logistic installations in depth areas.

Recognizing the unique capabilities of guns and rockets, a combination approach that integrates both weapon systems can offer synergistic advantages on the battlefield. By leveraging the precision and versatility of guns alongside the long-range firepower and area saturation capabilities of rockets, artillery units can maximise their operational effectiveness across a spectrum of battlefield missions.

Induction of larger numbers of PINAKA Rocket System – an indigenisation success story, under production by L&T and TATAS with its bouquet of Area Denial and Guided Extended Range munitions is imperative. This will also reduce dependence on Russian-origin GRAD and SMERCH Rocket Systems for ammunition, overhaul, and maintenance.

Ammunition Development

Advancements in ammunition technology enable artillery to achieve greater accuracy, range, lethality, and operational flexibility, thereby enhancing their ability to engage a wide range of targets across diverse battlefield scenarios. The success of Nalanda Ordnance Factory producing Bi Modular Charge System needs to be replicated by Public and Private Sectors. Precision-guided munitions, such as guided artillery shells and rockets, incorporate advanced guidance systems to strike designated targets accurately and reduce collateral damage. These munitions utilise technologies such as GPS, inertial navigation systems, and laser guidance to deliver pinpoint accuracy, even in adverse weather conditions or challenging terrain. In the Indian context, the adoption of PGMs enhances the effectiveness of artillery strikes, enabling the precise engagement of high-value targets, enemy fortifications, and critical infrastructure with reduced risk to civilian populations. Development of indigenous Excalibur, Course Correction Fuze and Precision Guidance Kits type PGMs will improve the accuracy and effectiveness of dumb 155mm shells. Exploitation of Make procedure, Technology Development Fund and Innovation for Excellence in Defence type mechanisms need to be leveraged and encouraged.

Challenges of Modernisation

Maintaining the enduring qualities of future artillery will require an in-depth study of emerging niche technologies, doctrinal changes, modifications to tactics, techniques, and training methodologies. Traditional ideas of Artillery effects will need to be challenged. Too often precision is treated as if it were synonymous with accuracy at a point. It is equally important to achieve precision against area targets, and not regard these merely as targets for attack with masses of dumb munitions. Our traditional training methodologies need a relook. Simulators need to be developed innovatively to see more diverse effects of direct and indirect fire, both lethal and non-lethal. Some other challenges include: –

  • Extended Sensor Shooter Linkage

Delinking of UAVs from the Regiment of Artillery has led to the most severe impact on Sensor Shooter Integration, the very basis of the application of fire to achieve the desired end state. In the changed dynamics, the sensor inputs would perforce undergo additional filters from other elements – Aviation and GS echelons thus causing avoidable delays.

  • Technological Dependency

One of the primary challenges in Indian artillery modernisation is the continued dependence on imported technology and equipment. Sighting Systems of guns, Muzzle Velocity Measuring Instruments, Electronic Suites, Auxiliary Power Unit sub-assemblies, and Inertial Navigation Units are only a few. Despite efforts to promote indigenous defence production, and publishing of Positive Indigenisation Lists, critical components and systems are often sourced from foreign suppliers, leading to technological dependency and time-critical vulnerabilities in the supply chain. To address this challenge, the Artillery/DRDO/Academia/Indigenous Industry must accelerate their research and development efforts, foster mutual collaboration, and incentivize domestic innovation through Start-Ups in artillery technologies. The announcement of Rs One lakh crore corpus for long-term financing of R&D and innovation in the Interim Budget of 2024-25 is a step in the right direction.

  • Budgetary Constraints

Limited defence budgets pose a significant challenge to modernization endeavours. While the government has committed to increasing defence spending, competing priorities and fiscal constraints often result in limited resource allocation. To overcome this challenge, it is essential to prioritise investments in critical artillery capabilities, streamline as also shorten procurement processes, and explore innovative financing mechanisms such as public-private partnerships to maximise the efficiency of expenditure.

  • Complex Procurement Procedures

The complex and protracted procurement procedures in India’s defence acquisition process have been debated for a long time. Each revision of the Defence Procurement/Acquisition Procedure has resulted in more lengthy bureaucratic procedures, multiple layers of approvals, and regulatory hurdles often delaying the acquisition of urgently needed equipment, leading to capability gaps that need to be plugged on priority. Streamlining procurement procedures, enhancing transparency and accountability, and leveraging digital technologies can help expedite the acquisition of artillery systems and ensure timely delivery to the end-users. The recent issue of notification by the Ministry of Defence for reorganisation of DGQA is a reform long overdue.

  • Technological Obsolescence

Rapid technological advancements and evolving threat landscapes render existing systems obsolete over time, necessitating continuous upgrades and modernization. The pace of technological obsolescence often overtakes the pace of modernization, leading to the erosion of military capabilities. The answer lies in adopting a proactive approach to technology refresh cycles, investing in future-ready platforms with modular design architectures, and fostering a culture of innovation and adaptability within the establishment.

  • Infrastructure and Logistics

Inadequate infrastructure and logistical challenges present significant impediments to the effective deployment and sustainment of modern artillery systems. India’s diverse terrain and logistical constraints pose operational challenges for artillery units, particularly in remote and border areas. Addressing these challenges requires investments in infrastructure development, including roads, railways, airfields, and ammunition storage facilities, to enable seamless mobility, rapid deployment, and sustainment of gun positions across diverse theatres of operation.

  • Intra & Inter Service Issues

Numbers are and will always remain a serious constraint in our surveillance grids. This enhances the need for optimising the available resources, which calls for seamless cross-tasking and information sharing. This translates into challenges in communication compatibility, automation in seamless sensor tasking and information sharing, building capacities to enable imagery/data analysis and common designators etc. Many such capabilities will take time to fructify, meanwhile, certain imperatives are: –

  • Exploit Air Force capabilities in Battlefield Transparency (recce pods, SAR and Aerostat) in our plans.
  • Seek opportunities to train artillery personnel getting co-opted with UAVs of other Services.
  • Train all ranks in interpreting SAR imagery.
  • Availability of Satellite Imageries to the field formations in real time frame.


The introduction of state-of-the-art artillery systems such as self-propelled howitzers, towed gun systems, and multiple launch rocket systems has significantly augmented India’s military prowess. Moreover, the indigenous production of artillery platforms and ammunition has not only reduced dependency on foreign equipment manufacturers but also propelled the growth of the indigenous defence ecosystem.

Furthermore, acquisition of precision munitions, advancements in surveillance and targeting technologies, as well as the integration of electronic warfare capabilities, have bolstered the effectiveness of Indian artillery units in conducting reconnaissance, intelligence gathering, and precision strikes.

Overall, the modernization of Indian artillery reflects the nation’s commitment to maintaining a credible deterrence posture and ensuring the security and sovereignty of its borders. In an era of manoeuvrability constraints, firepower will remain an essential component in deterring adversaries and destroying their combat potential, should conflict be forced upon us. Technology has now bestowed Artillery with extended reach, accuracy, and destructive capability. With our comprehensive journey of modernisation, both in thought and capability, Regiment of Artillery will remain a battle winning factor, well into the foreseeable future.


Lt Gen Tarun Chawla, was commissioned into the Regiment of Artillery in Jun 1984. He has served with the United Nations Mission in Liberia and has been an instructor at the College of Defence Management at Secunderabad. The officer has commanded an Artillery Brigade in the LC Sector in J&K, and an Artillery Division as part of Army’s Western Command. He was the Director General Financial Planning, prior to assuming the role of Director General of Artillery.


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