NEW DELHI: After a three-decade long wait, the Army will soon get to add a 155-mm artillery gun, with the Ordnance Factory-built ‘Dhanush’ successfully clearing its final trials on Friday at Khetolai in Pokhran close to the border along Pakistan in Rajasthan’s desert.
Minister of State for Defence Rao Inderjit Singh, who is also in charge of the Ordnance Factory, was present when the final tests were carried out. Several senior Army officers from the headquarters presided over the trials, defence sources told Express.
Singh was briefed on the weapon at the test site. Now the gun will go through a set of summer trials at the Pokhran firing ranges.
‘Dhanush’ is the first made-in-India version of the Swedish Bofors gun, bought in the late 1980s.
The 45-calibre gun went through winter trials in the high altitudes of Sikkim last year. The towed artillery gun is based on the design and manufacturing technology provided by Bofors in the late 1980s.
After Friday’s Pokhran trials, its makers will get the final clearance to manufacture the local, but improved version of the original 39-calibre Bofors gun and fill a critical gap in Army’s artillery inventory.
‘Dhanush’, with its electronic sighting and laying system for aiming at the target, is said to be a major improvement over the Bofors gun’s manual system.
More importantly, it is likely to be priced at `14 crore a piece, less than half the price of a similar gun made abroad. The Bofors gun has a maximum effective range of 27 km, but sources said ‘Dhanush’ can fire a salvo up to 38 km in the plains.
For more than 15 years, the Army’s plan to modernise its weapons has been mired in delays and allegations of corruption.
At least two foreign manufacturers of artillery guns have been blacklisted during the 10-year UPA regime, leaving not many firms with artillery guns production capability that could sell weapons to India. The Army needs more than 1,500 towed artillery guns at an estimated cost of over `10,000 crore, but not a single gun has been inducted since the alleged Bofors gun scam.
The Army has ordered 116 guns from the Defence Ministry-run Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) and could increase the order to 416 pieces of artillery weapon in the future. “If the trials go smoothly, the factory plans to double its manufacturing capacity from the current 18 guns a year,” a source said.