In a big push to the Atmanirbhar Bharat policy, India’s Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) has approved the procurement of advanced towed artillery gun system (ATAGS), along with high-mobility vehicles (HMVs) and gun towing vehicles (GTVs) for the Indian Army. Atmanirbhar Bharat, which translates to ‘self-reliant India’, is a phrase the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi and his government used and popularised in relation to the country’s economic development plans. The approval was granted during a meeting of the defence acquisition council headed by Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. The provision of an ‘Acceptance of Necessity’ (AoN) status under the ‘Buy (Indian)’ category, includes 155 mm/52 calibre ATAGS. The acquisition is a part of the AoNs granted for capital acquisition in the fiscal year (FY) 2022/23 worth over INR2.71 trillion (USD32.77 billion).
The Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS) is a towed 155 mm/52 calibre howitzer that is being developed for the Indian Army by Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE), Tata Advanced Systems and Kalyani Strategic Systems. Bharat Forge, Tata Power SED and Advanced Weapons and Equipment India are manufacturing partners. The gun consists of a barrel, breech mechanism, muzzle brake and recoil mechanism to fire 155 mm calibre ammunition with a firing range of 48 km. It has an all-electric drive to ensure reliability and minimum maintenance over a long period of time. The gun is two tons lighter than guns in the same category and is designed to provide better accuracy and range and is capable of firing five successive rounds in short duration. It is compatible with C3I systems like Indian Army Artillery Combat Command and Control System (ACCCS) called Shakti.
DRDO conducted the proof firing of armament for the 155/52 calibre ATAGS on 14 July 2016. Fully integrated, 155-millimeter artillery gun fired its first rounds of live ammunition at the Proof and Experimental Establishment (PXE) in Balasore, Odisha on 14 December 2016. During trials in 2017, ATAGS broke the then world record for 155 mm/52 calibre gun by firing the round to a distance of 47.2 kilometres. It again registered a maximum distance of 48.074 kilometres with high explosive–base bleed (HE–BB) ammunition, surpassing the maximum ranges fired by any artillery gun system in this category. This has since been surpassed by M777 and later M1299 under US Extended Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA) program using 58 caliber long barrel, and XM1113 rocket-assisted artillery shell. On May 2, 2022, the ATAGS successfully completed all field trials, paving way for induction into Army.
The Indian Army has already operationalised its regiment along the China border, and is now looking at raising a second regiment with 18 guns by March 2023. The ATAGS is undergoing final trials and inching closer towards its eventual induction in the Indian Army. In a first, the indigenous howitzer was deployed for the ceremonial 21-gun salute at the 75th Independence Day ceremony at Red Fort along with British guns that have been traditionally used for the event. The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) began the ATAGS project in 2013 to replace older army guns with a modern 155 mm artillery gun. It partnered with two private firms, Bharat Forge Limited and Tata Advanced Systems Limited, for manufacturing the gun, which has a firing range of 48 km. The army order for 150 ATAGS will be split between the lowest and the second lowest bidders in 70:30 ratio, said a second person.