The Indian Army (IA) has taken delivery of the first six of 114 Dhanush 155 mm/45-calibre towed howitzers ordered from the state-owned Ordnance Factory Board (OFB).
Officials said the OFB’s Gun Carriage Factory (GCF) at Jabalpur, central India, handed over the licence-built guns to the army’s Central Ordnance Depot at the same location on 8 April ahead of their formal induction into the IA at a later date.
The guns, which have an effective range of 38 km, are improved versions of the FH-77B 155 mm/39-calibre field howitzers originally produced by Sweden’s AB Bofors (now BAE Systems).
The Dhanush weighs less than 13 tonnes, has a ground clearance of 400 mm, a range of elevation varying from –3 to 70° and a traverse of ±30°, according to IA sources.
Capable of operating in varied climatic conditions across India, the gun has been fitted with an automated gun-aiming and -positioning system that uses a global navigation satellite system, an inertial navigation unit, and an onboard ballistic computer. Also supplied is an advanced day/night direct-firing and target-acquisition sight, as well as various communication systems.
The Dhanush’s 45-calibre barrel is 877 mm longer than that of the FH-77B and has a 23-litre chamber capacity.
OFB officials said the GCF would complete building the first lot of 36 guns by December, with another 48 units expected to be ready in 2020. The remaining 30 howitzers are to be handed over to the IA by 2022.
The OFB anticipates an additional order for 300 more Dhanushs, but in tranches to enable the GCF to further “refine” the howitzers to optimise their “operational efficiency”, army officials said.
GCF officials said 81% of the Dhanush’s components have been sourced indigenously, adding that this is expected to eventually rise to about 90%. Each howitzer is priced at INR145 million each (USD2.09 million), according to OFB sources.
The delivery of the first Dhanush guns comes after the OFB and IA successfully completed the final round of trials with the howitzer in June 2018. OFB officials stated that between 2 and 7 June six of these howitzers accurately fired 50 rounds in India’s north western Pokhran region to a range of 38 km.
The trials had followed earlier firings of 3,600 rounds by each of the six guns over a three-year period in north eastern Sikkim State and in the Himalayan region of Leh in Jammu and Kashmir State. During that time the guns were also tested in humid conditions around the eastern city of Balasore and in the Babina plains of central India.
In 1986–87 India had imported 410 FH-77Bs with the option of a transfer of technology to licence-build more of the guns. However, this option was never exercised as the procurement was mired in a corruption scandal involving senior Indian politicians and Ministry of Defence (MoD) officials. Investigations into the case lasted 25 years, ending only in 2012, which was when the MoD decided to build the guns with the longer 45-calibre barrel.