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India gives a major military contract to private companies. The Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS), India’s first indigenous 155mm/52-caliber towed artillery gun, will be a joint project of two private-sector corporations. This is a reversal of the usual practice of giving only state-owned companies these kinds of pricey orders.
The Indian Army has a requirement of more than 1,500 towed guns, and the production order could be worth more than $4.5 billion, a potential boost for domestic private defense businesses, according to defensenew.com.
“Initially an order of 114 guns worth $350 million will be given next year to the private companies,” an Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) official said.
The ATAGS is being developed by the state-owned Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) in partnership with two private sector firms — Kalyani Group and Tata Power SED.
“Two ATAGS prototypes have already been made and are under trials. The production can start within two years of order placement” Bhupinder Yadav, a retired Indian Army major general and defense analyst, said.
Interestingly, Kalyani Group has already developed the gun barrel and breech for the second ATAGS prototype.
DRDO and the Army jointly conducted the first engineering trials, during which the ATAGS prototype, which boasts a range of 45 kilometers, fired test rounds of live ammunition.
According to an army official, the Indian ATAGS will be far cheaper than other global towed artillery guns.
“Kalyani Group has also established India’s first private facility to manufacture ordnance including gun barrel, gun super structure and ammunition transfer system, auxiliary propulsion system including undercarriage, and gun display units for artillery guns.”
Advocating greater participation by the private sector in weapons production, Tata Power CEO Rahul Chaudhry, said: “Wherever Indian private sector (large players) are involved in systems engineering with DRDO, the defense products have been successful, e.g, strategic missiles, Arihant (nuclear submarine), Akash air defense system and Pinaka multibarrel rocket launcher.”
Defense analyst Yadav, agreeing with the MoD’s decision to give the production line to private sector companies, said: “OFB’s capacity is adequately engaged with another home-developed 155mm/45-caliber howitzer gun project, Dhanush.”
OFB, or the Ordnance Factory Board, functions under the Department of Defence Production, which is under the purview of the MoD. It participates in the production, testing and development processes of land, sea and air systems.