Army set to induct kamikaze drones, deploys more ‘winterised’ howitzers on China front | India News – Times of India

NEW DELHI: The Army will soon induct ‘loitering munitions’ amid the continuing military confrontation with China in eastern Ladakh, while the force also cranks up long-range high-volume firepower with ‘winterised’ howitzers and advanced rockets backed by drones and weapon-locating radars along the northern borders.
Deliveries of the precision-strike loitering munitions, which are relatively smaller and cheaper explosive-armed kamikaze drones that wait to select high-value enemy targets and then crash into them, are set to begin under an emergency procurement contract inked with an Israeli-Indian private joint venture last year.
“The Army is also in the process of procuring indigenously-developed advanced loitering weapon systems with enhanced strike capabilities. There has been an enthusiastic response from Indian companies in manufacturing such systems,” defence establishment sources said on Tuesday.
After the Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict, the deadly effect of loitering munitions or autonomous missiles has been reinforced by the ongoing Ukraine-Russia war. Ukrainians have used Switchblade 300 and Phoenix Ghost loitering munitions supplied by the US as well as locally assembled weapons to stem Russian advances.
The 29-month long standoff with China has also seen the Army deploy a wide array of big artillery guns along the 3,488-km long Line of Actual Control, stretching from eastern Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh. These range from the old 105mm field guns and Bofors howitzers to the ‘upgunned’’ Dhanush and Sharang guns, M-777 ultra-light howitzers and K-9 Vajra self-propelled tracked guns.
The Army is now looking to induct another 100 K-9 Vajra guns, which have a strike range of 28-38 km, from the joint venture between L&T and South Korean Hanwha Defence. One K-9 regiment with ‘winterisation kits’ has already been deployed in eastern Ladakh from the 100 such 155mm/52-caliber guns inducted earlier for Rs 4,366 crore.
“The K-9 guns were originally procured for deserts. But after the Chinese incursions in May 2020, they have been modified to ensure their batteries, oil, lubricants and other systems do not freeze in sub-zero temperatures. The next 100 K-9 guns will come with winterised kits,” another source said.
Induction of indigenous Pinaka multi-launch artillery rocket systems, with a strike range of 38-km, have also added more muscle along the frontier. With DRDO developing a variety of ammunition for the Pinaka, including rockets with over 45-km extended range and 75-km guided extended range, six more Pinaka regiments for Rs 2,580 crore will be delivered to the Army to add to its existing four. The force, of course, also has three Smerch and five Grad rocket regiments of Russian-origin.
As for the M-777 howitzers, which can be swiftly airlifted to forward areas by Chinook helicopters, the bulk of the 145 guns ordered for over Rs 5,000 crore from the US have also been inducted along the LAC. The seventh regiment of these howitzers, with a strike range of 30-km, is now also been operationalized, the sources said.
Then there are the home-grown 155mm/52 caliber advanced towed artillery gun systems (ATAGS), with a maximum strike range of 48-km, developed by DRDO with production partners Tata Advanced Systems and Bharat Forge.
After successful winter and summer firing trials, the ATAGS is now undergoing environment and maintainability tests slated for completion in another two months. Commercial negotiations will then follow for the initial order for 150 guns at an estimated cost of Rs 3,365 crore to be split between Tata and Bharat Forge.
“ATAGS is a robust indigenous system,” the source said. The orders for ATAGS will only go up because the Army has a long-term requirement for 1,580 such guns, as reported earlier by TOI.

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