The Indian Army has sought to buy 1,966 rounds of 155mm Terminally Guided Munitions, capable of carrying out precision strikes on identified targets, from Indian vendors. At present, the Army’s Regiment of Artillery does not have any such munition.
The regular ammunition for artillery guns in the Army’s inventory has a lesser accuracy than the Terminally Guided Munitions, which can hit a target with higher precision, thus reducing chances of collateral damage in the target area.
However, in 2019, the Army had inducted Excalibur artillery ammunition from the United States for its 155mm Howitzers. The artillery shell uses GPS guidance for accuracy. The Army also has precision-guided kits in its inventory, which is used with the regular ammunition of conventional artillery guns to strike a target with higher precision.
In September, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) headed by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had cleared procurement of TGMs and HEPF/RHE rocket ammunition at a cost of Rs 4,962 crore from domestic sources in a boost to indigenous design and development of ammunitions.
An Expression of Interest (EoI) floated by the Army on Friday stated that the 1,966 rounds of 155mm Terminally Guided Munitions (TGM), along with the support equipment which it seeks to buy, will enhance the capabilities of the artillery guns in its inventory, adding that they will be bought under the Make II category of the Defence Acquisition Procedure 2020.
Stating that the indigenous ammunition will be a low-cost option, the Army has also said that its requirement will increase manifold in the future, with the majority of artillery regiments switching to 155mm guns as part of the ongoing artillery modernisation plan.
It further said that Indian vendors meeting the technical, commercial and project requirements will be issued a project sanction order to develop 25 rounds of a prototype of the TGMs first.
Following that, the commercial Request for Proposal will be issued to procure 1,966 rounds of 155mm TGMs, with a minimum 50% Indian component, under the Defence Acquisition Procedure, along with support equipment such as fire control systems, projectile simulator and sectionised projectile.
What will the TGMs do?
As per the EoI, the ammunition should be capable of being guided to the target by GPS or other satellite-based navigation systems when fired and should be able to make requisite corrections to its ballistic flight path as it moves towards the target.
It states that when a target is designated, the designator should be capable of being operated from a static or mobile platform, whether it’s a ground or an aerial platform, such as a helicopter or a UAV. The ammunition, it adds, should be passive and be able to only receive signals, and thus should be resistant to jamming. The EoI adds that they should be able to function in all-weather and have a shelf life of 20 years.
A senior Army officer had said that a TGM, with its precision strike capability, will be able to inflict much damage with fewer rounds as against the regular ammunition which would require more rounds. “In the long term, this will help reduce the maintenance costs of the guns,” the officer said.
‘Needs to be seen what tech is used’
Former D-G Artillery Lt Gen PR Shankar (Retd) told News18 that it needs to be seen what technology would be employed to make these ammunitions, especially because no Indian vendor at present makes these or even the basic ammunition for the 155mm guns.
“TGMs are different from the precision-guided kits, the ‘fire and forget’ Excalibur ammunition bought by the Army. No Indian vendor currently makes them,” he said. He added that the technology employed to make these would be critical as precision ammunition is a costly affair. “It deteriorates faster and requires high maintenance.”
Another senior Army officer said that the TGM that is finally procured should not end up being the Russian laser-guided artillery shell Krasnopol — meant for use by the 155mm Bofors guns — 3,000 of which were bought between 1999 and 2002. The performance of the Krasnopol was sub-optimal, particularly in high altitude areas. This was also admitted by former defence minister AK Antony in Parliament.