by Staff Correspondent
IADB: Napoleon once said, “God fights on the side with the best artillery”. This was proved during Kargil conflict in 1999 during which 155 mm Bofors artillery gun demonstrated its mettle against enemy at high altitudes. Post Kargil conflict, a major drive titled Field Artillery Realization Plan (FARP) was started in 1999.
In consonance with FARP, Artillery Profile 2027 was drafted in 2008. The Artillery profile 2027 aims at building Indian Artillery contemporary in capability and futuristic in approach. Thus, Indian Army aims to have about 3000 field artillery guns across five categories, including Towed Gun Systems, Mounted gun systems (MGS), self-propelled wheeled gun systems, self-propelled tracked gun systems and ultra-light air portable howitzers in its inventory though procurement (Buy and Make India) cum indigenous development (Indian Design Development and Manufacturing) plan.
The Design Development and Realization of Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS) is an endeavor by the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) to fulfill the requirement of 155mm caliber based Towed Artillery Gun System under mission mode. The ATAGS programme started in Sep 2012 with an aim to make India self-reliant in Field Artillery Gun. The development is actively supported by the Indian Army and large no. of private and public sector Indian industries.
Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS)
Range and arc of fire of an Artillery Gun plays a vital role in neutralization/ destruction of enemy areas. More range and wide arc of fire give capability to neutralize/ destruct more area which gives tactical superiority and effectiveness on the battlefield. ATAGS gun is designed to meet a range of 35 km with existing Extended Range Full Bore (ERFB) Boat Tail shell and a range of 45 km with ERFB-BB shell which is higher than the contemporary guns. To achieve the above range, ATAGS gun is having 155 mm x 52 Cal Barrel whose chamber is of 25 ltr and can accommodate seven modules of Bi-Modular charge system (BMCS). In order to provide a wide range of arc of fire, the gun is capable of laying in elevation range of -3° to 72° and in traverse range of ± 30°. This gives a competitive edge over contemporary Artillery Guns.
Gun Barrel is integrated with a double baffle type Muzzle brake with optimum efficiency (35%) without compromising the comfort level of Gun crew. ATAGS gun employs Hydro-Pneumatic recoil system for recoil and run out motion. It has been designed to meet the tactical mobility requirements in plains, semi-desert, deserts and mountains for execution of Artillery tasks in the futuristic battlefield scenario in Towed mode as well as Self Propelled (SP) mode. Towing of the Gun is ensured through a 6 x 6 Ashok Leyland Field Artillery Tractor (FAT). In towed mode and SP mode the gun is capable of negotiating cross country or a beaten desert track. To meet the mobility requirement, it employs an engine of 110 kW power, Power distribution Unit (PDU) coupled to engine and a Hydrostatic transmission for 4x 4-wheel drive. Compactness of Gun has been ensured through Backpack arrangement to meet the strategic mobility requirement.
ATAGS is equipped with an all electric drive for Gun laying and Ammunition Handling System (AHS) to ensure Maintenance free and reliable shell and charge loading even in extreme cold conditions without any apprehension of hydraulic fluid getting frozen. High level of automation has been incorporated for automatic shell and charge loading and ramming into the barrel chamber without compromising the system reliability. To facilitate the loading, Gun is having a loader station with a loader control panel. Built-in Test Equipment (BITE) facility has been incorporated in the AHS system to ensure the smooth functionality of the loading and Fire control system (FCS) with indication of occurrence of fault.
The Gun is equipped with integrated Fire Control System (FCS) consisting of Indian Navigation System (INS) based Automatic Gun Alignment and Positioning System (AGAPS), Muzzle Velocity Radar (MVR) and Ballistics Computer to carry out online computation for laying. Incorporation of state of art INS based AGAPS has resulted in accurate positioning and pointing of the Gun to the target with accuracy. Accurate navigation system allows ATAGS to maneuver efficiently. With an improved pointing system, it is able to bring accurate and consistent fire to the target quickly. The move and deployment of guns is also possible without the aid of Global Positioning System (GPS). Moreover, due to incorporation of INS, accurate navigation and laying of ATAGS is also possible on dark nights and during the worst adverse weather conditions of fog or low visibility and at the same accuracy as in daylight.
The gun is integrated with the Voice and Data Communication Unit (VDCU). In addition, Digital InterCommunication System (DIS) is provided to enable two-way voice communications between Command Post, Troop Leader, Gun detachment commander and Intra communication system to facilitate communication among crew members.
Field level maintainability plays an important role in operational readiness of the equipment. This aspect has been ensured during the design phase by ensuring maintainability attributes like Accessibility, Visibility, Modularity, Interchangeability, Redundancy, Standardization, Testability and ease of work for repair/ replacement of parts.
ATAGS is being developed with “Development cum Production Partner (DcPP)” from Indian Pvt. Industries. In this programme, Indian Pvt. Industries and Defense PSU capacity and capability have been harnessed to make the country self-reliant in development and realization of Artillery Gun. Based on capability and capacity, indigenous sources were identified for realization of parts and in-house testing. Barrel and Breech mechanism of ATAGS has been realised through BFL, Pune. Earlier only the Ordnance Factory Board had the capability to realize the Gun Barrel. Recoil system has been realised through Mahindra Defense System, Pune whereas Muzzle brakes through different sources like Star wire, Punj Lyloyd and BFL. Entire Gun communication system has been realised through Bharat Electronics Limited. Sighting systems (Dial sight 104 A and Telescope) were produced from OFB. From inception of the programme, Tata Advance System Limited (TASL) and Bharat Forge Limited were chosen as a lead system Integrator for timely realization of ATAGS. Guns have more than 95 % indigenous components. The complete supply chain from raw material to end product lies within the country making it a true embodiment of a “Make in India” in the defense system. Gun comprises 7,463 components of which 4,977 are manufactured parts involving 30,000 manufacturing processes and more than 2,00,000 inspection parameters.
Development Journey (Transition from PSQR to ATAGS Realization)
The design and development of ATAGS guns started with the release of PSQR by the Indian Army. After PSQR release, a cross functional team of scientists and users were formulated to convert PSQR to technical requirements. System engineering was carried out to arrive at gun configuration keeping in view the fire power, mobility, stability of gun while firing and movement, gun transportation through air and rail. Initially two engineering prototypes G1 and G2 were developed from production partners. These engineering prototypes were subjected to extensive developmental trials at various locations. During developmental trials, an extensive instrumentation and testing were carried out to assess the gun performance parameter. Based on test outcomes, improved versions of ATAGS G3 & G4 were realised. After assessing the performance of ATAGS G3 & G4, six additional ATAGS (G5-G10) are being realised in phased manner for User exploitation.
After design and developmental trials, two ATAGS Gun G4 & G7 were offered to User for PSQR trial in Jan 2021. The PSQR parameters have been validated by users at varied terrain. During the PSQR trial, operational, fire power performance, mobility and safety aspects of Gun have been verified. Gun has successfully negotiated the beaten desert track, hilly terrain and High-Altitude Area. The Gun has successfully fired 60 rounds in 60 minutes which is a world record. It has shown capability to fire 10 rounds in 30 minutes in silent mode in extreme climate conditions.
ATAGS Gun performance has been assessed during PSQR trials. Based on Gun performance, the Army is to formulate a GSQR. Afterwards, a request for proposal (RFP) is to be released for realization of 150 nos of ATAGS guns as per approval of Defense Acquisition Council (DAC).