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World-record 'gun salute' to incoming defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman

Range, accuracy and consistency are the key attributes of an artillery gun

Ajai Shukla  |  New Delhi 

Nirmala Sitharaman
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman

On Monday, in trial firing at the Ranges in Rajasthan, the advanced towed system (ATAGS) being indigenously developed for the demonstrated its potential to be a world-beating system.

The 155-millimetre, 52-calibre gun-howitzer fired three shells out to a world-record distance of 47.2 kilometres from the gun position. This was achieved using special, long-range called “high explosive – base bleed” (HE – BB). In comparison, 155-millimetre, 52-calibre guns in service worldwide fire this to maximum ranges of 40-45 kilometres.

The achievement coincides with the appointment of as

The is being developed by the Defence Research & Defence Organisation (DRDO) on two parallel tracks – one prototype in partnership with (Strategic Engineering Division) and another with Bharat Forge. The prototype that broke the record was the (SED) gun.

Earlier, on Saturday, the same gun had broken another record by firing “high explosive – boat tail” (HE – BT) to a range of 37.2 kilometres.

Range, accuracy and consistency are the key attributes of an A longer range allows more area to be engaged from a “gun position”, without having to redeploy (or shift) the guns.

The secret of the longer range is its larger chamber – 25 litres, compared to 23 litres in most 155-millimetre guns like the and the has evaluated. A larger chamber packs in more high explosive propellant, which shoots out the warhead further.

The need to cater for this higher “shock of firing” makes the a heavier gun. It weighs in at 17-18 tonnes, while comparable guns worldwide weigh 14-15 tonnes.

So promising is the that both existing prototypes were paraded on January 26 in New Delhi.

After the gun successfully completes development and firing trials, the army is likely to procure at least 2,000 At an estimated Rs 15 crore apiece, that will result in Rs 30,000 crore in business for the production eco-system, benefiting a large number of private defence firms.

With the current round of “summer trials” having successfully concluded in Pokhran, the will now undergo modifications and prepare for “winter trials” in December, probably in Sikkim. Each vendor will build three more gun prototypes to expedite trials.

The first firing trials were carried out in Balasore, Odisha, last December.

While looks much like the FH-77B — the infamous “gun” that India bought 410 of in the 1980s before scandal derailed indigenous construction — the is in face significantly bigger than the 155-millimetre, 39-calibre

When talking about a 155-millimetre, 52-calibre gun, the first figure denotes the “bore” of the gun, or the width of the gun barrel; while calibre relates to barrel length. The higher the calibre, the longer the barrel and, therefore, the greater its range. A third parameter is chamber size, which determines how large a projectile can be fired from the gun, and therefore how much damage a round can inflict on the target.

Another global first in the is its all-electric drive, which supersedes the more unreliable hydraulic drives in other towed guns. The all-electric drive operates all the ATAGS’ gun controls: handling, opening and closing the breech, and ramming the round into the chamber.

The is the world’s only gun with a six-round “automated magazine” that fires a six-round burst in just 30 seconds. Most other existing 155-millimetre, 52-calibre guns have three-round magazines, which must be reloaded after firing three rounds.

A high “burst fire” capability will provide the army a significant advantage since artillery causes most casualties in the initial burst of fire, when enemy soldiers are caught in the open (and not after they dive into their trenches).

First Published: Tue, September 05 2017. 01:14 IST