George S. Patton famously said, “I do not have to tell you who won the war. You know, the artillery did.” There is a huge dilemma for the Indian artillery with this sentence. A nation that tries to maintain 3:1 ratio with Pakistan vis-à-vis its conventional firepower is reeling from decades of institutional inaction led obsolescence and some delays due to bizarre project planning and execution. Today as it stand, most of it’s prime artillery force is either decommissioned or in the state of dismay.
Following is the head to head comparison between towed artillery of India and Pakistan.
India total towed strength on paper stands at 4150 compared to Pakistan's 3278 which to begin with is a grave issue for a nation trying to maintain 1:3 ratio in conventional firepower against Pakistan. Add to the fact no one has the seen the S23 and D30 guns in action, neither does the Ordinance factory board produce any ammunition in 180mm and 122 mm calibers, that points to the fact these units are either mothballed or out of service. This brings the total strength of Indian towed artillery to 3500 units- almost neck and neck with a potential adversary where we supposedly brandish the term "numerical superiority".
Pakistan fields couple of dozen of 203mm gun, and POF still manufactures the ammunition as it also possess 203mm Sel Propelled Guns. Whereas Indian heavy guns are out of action. Although this is not big advantage as 155 mm guns can discharge the duties of heavier guns circa WWII.
155mm Towed Artillery:
In the modern 155 mm towed howitzer head to head competition, Indian Army falls short of it's objectives outgunning and outnumbering the opposition.
India posses a total of 380 155mm guns compared to 394 Guns of Pakistan. This is quite perplexing as India had originally purchased about 410 155 FH77/B guns from Sweden with tech transfer, and only 200 of them survive. This points towards cannibalization of existing guns due to lack of spares which is pure negligence. Today OFB is touting that they are producing Dhanush 155mm guns for the army, a reasonable explanation is indeed needed for loosing half the fleet of FH77/B over the years, when we haven't had such terrible luck with the M46. where almost the entire fleet remains intact.
Another reason to worry is the transfer of technology from turkey to Pakistan in building the MKEK Panter, Pakistan is churning out about 30-40 guns every year of this kind, and most likely end up with about 350 units in next couple of year.
Metmorphosis gun has had tube blowouts a couple of times, so most likely it will run for the rest of it's life as low ring charges to avoid such situations, which will most likely bring down it's effective range from 39 km to about 25-28. So with the given inventory India does not possess the range or the numerical advantage over it's Pakistani counterparts.
(On a side note, M46 has been a god-send Russian system for us, much like the Mig 21. It has lived past it's age and still keeps running like a champ.)
When it came to medium artillery, India traditionally maintained heavy superiority against Pakistan with its 130mm and 122 mm cannons. Given Indian Army has decided to pull back all of it's 122mm guns, Indian medium artillery looks abysmally weak in the comparison to Pakistani medium artillery. India has about 720 M46 130mm medium guns left in service, whereas Pakistan's 130mm M46 clones and 122 mm variants stand at a staggering 1243 units, almost 500 more medium guns than India.
And this ratio will continue to skew as we eat into long range M46's and turn them into short range 155mm upgrade. Another aspect to note is Pakistani army's Type 54 is a 21 Caliber (Length) gun, i.e it's shorter and highly mobile gun. India on the other hand has chosen not to field any short range, highly mobile medium sized gun which can be used for border escalations.
The only area where India posses an edge is in the light artillery with is indigenous 105mm work horses IFG and LFG units. India posses about 2400 field guns compared to 1643 guns comprising of 105 mm, 85mm and quarter pounders that Pakistan fields.
One of the major advantages of the Indian Field Guns is the barrel length of 37 Caliber which is longer than all of the comparable 105mm Pakistani light Artillery, which gives it a significant range advantage. Also the Light Field Gun is highly mobile and offsets the portability of the 85mm guns of the adversary. This is one area where Indian army truly outguns the opposition in both range, effectiveness and inventory.
Indian Army seems to have made up it's mind on consolidating 155 mm in different length-calibers as it mainstay in towed artillery. A 1600 towed gun contract seems to point at the same. Given Pakistans 155mm and Medium gun combined strength will stand at around 1900 guns in next 3-5 years, if Indian army want's to pitch a 2:1 ratio it will need a combined strength of atleast 4000 guns.
As the 155mm inventory strength today stands at a measly 380 units, Indian establishment will still have a shortfall of about 2000 guns if it wants to get to a 1:2 ratio vis-a-vis Pakistan. With consolidation large and medium artillery Indian Army will need substantial efforts in converting most of it's m46 fleet with a proven barrel solution for the Beas/Metamorphosis Program which can add another 700 odd 155 mm modified guns to the inventory. the 1600 towed artillery system will need a revamp or even an introduction of another system along side the one chosen to get similar advantages as we have gained in local production of IFG and LFG guns. Given that India doesn't struggle in the Light Artillery, upgrade programs on 105mm LGF, along with catapult and kalyani Garuda ultralight guns can turn the Light Artillery into more efficient unit.
Indian Artillery is in extremely poor state, and the red tape with acquisition of artillery system has put the lifes of our soldiers to risk. Given that half of the medium artillery is out of commission, and prime front line FH77/B fleet has been cannibalized to half it's size, it is of utmost importance to fast track both the development and the acquisition Processes for the towed artillery. Success story of the 105mm light Artillery has already set the precedence for Indian Army to follow local production of artillery system to be replicated in the 155mm category.
Join the discussion at the link below:
Terrible State of Indian Artillery