In the backdrop of a choice between an indigenous and foreign option to fulfil Indian Army‘s requirement for over 400 howitzers, DRDO has said that it would be in a position to offer over 200 Made in India ATAGS howitzers in 18-24 months of placement of orders.
The Defence Research and Development Organisation has developed the gun in partnership with private sector industry.
Officials said the Made in India Advanced Tower Artillery Gun System howitzers would be in a position to meet the requirements of the Indian Army in the quickest possible timeframe as they have their production facilities ready while the Israeli gun on offer would take a long time just to create a production infrastructure.
The Indian Army is on a lookout for advanced howitzers which are to be deployed at the China border at the earliest. The Israeli gun has been cleared after a long tendering process.
Howitzers are in the negative import list and whichever option is exercised has to be produced in India under Make in India.
“The Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS) is undergoing trials at Ahmednagar in Maharashtra. We can offer 200 plus of these guns to the Army within 18-24 months of the order,” DRDO officials told ANI.
The DRDO-developed ATAGS has shown immense capability as it has fired at the longest striking range in its class of guns but suffered a minor accident during trials in the Jaislamer desert a few months ago.
Asked to comment on the issue, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat said: “Failures during trials will happen but these must not dampen the spirit, instead it must lead to timely reviews and encourage the manufacturers to seek ways to overcome the problems.”
“Services on their side also need to prepare acceptable and desirable requirements and continue to support the development process for further enhancement of quality,” he added.
Rawat said defence manufacturing in India was at the cusp of transformation and the success of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for Atmanirbhar Bharat would necessitate that the services do the handholding of the local industry.
“Service officers with practical experience must be in integrated into the design and development processes. Navy has set standards that have helped in indigenisation but more needs to be done. Army and Air Force have gradually entered into the fray,” the CDS said.
The Narendra Modi government has embarked on the ambitious Atmanirbhar Bharat process in the defence sector and the CDS has been tasked to prepare the list of items which have to be produced in India only.
The CDS with the support of the three services and the DRDO has already issued one negative imports list and is soon going to issue another shortly to promote local industry.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has also made it clear to the forces that wherever there is an option of acquiring good local products, foreign equipment would not be allowed.