Saudi Arabia to evaluate Indian Kalyani Group howitzers

India’s Kalyani Group will send its two 155mm towed howitzer models – Bharat 52 and Garuda-V2 – to the Saudi Arabian army for local evaluation later this year. This is a major gain for the Indian private industry.

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Bharat-52 towed howitzer displayed at DefExpo 2018 (Picture source: Army Recognition)

Kalyani Group, established in mid 1960s, is an Indian multi-national with high technology, engineering & manufacturing capability across critical sectors such as Engineering Steel, Automotive, Industrial, Renewable Energy, Urban Infrastructure and Specialty Chemicals. In order to extend its activities in the field of defense, Kalyani Group has launched the development of indigenous artillery systems and combat vehicles.

The Saudi army has expressed a keen interest for the Kalyani Group’s Bharat 52 and Garuda-V2 towed howitzers. The Indian armed forces need to realize that some Indian products may not be technologically superior to those available in the international market, but unless these are considered favorably, the fledgling Indian defense industry may not be encouraged to invest in defense, Indian Defence News analyzes. Once inducted, the manufacturer will be willing to improve his product by investing in R & D. Further, the prototypes displayed, if suitable for Indian armed forces’ needs, could be centrally financed for further R&D to enhance quality.

The indigenously developed weapon is manufactured by the company’s Bharat Forge Limited subsidiary and is based on the requirements of the Indian Army. It completed mobility trials at the Defence Research and Development Organisation’s (DRDO’s) Vehicle Research and Development Establishment (VRDE) in Ahmednagar in 2015 and firing trials at the Ordnance Factories’ facility at CPE Itarsi in October 2017. The Bharat 52 has successfully completed track trials in 2015 and firing trials in October 2015.

The Bharat 52 was presented at DefExpo 2018 near Chennai, during a live demonstration showing its ability to be used in fully autonomous conditions thanks to the integration of its own diesel engine and electronic steering system. The Bharat-52 in self-propelled mode is capable of achieving a mobility of 20 km/h. It is able to fire up to a range of 41 km and utilizes self-propelling capability and automatic laying mode. The Anti-backlash drive for elevation and traverse make it a truly unique system and a robust solution for superior battlefield operation. It is designed to operate as an all- weather system and has superior all-terrain mobility.

The Bharat-52 can be easily deployed with a team of six crew members in one minute during day time and 1.5 minutes during night time. It has a total weight of 15 tons, elevation angle from -3° to +72° with a speed of 5° per second. The Bharat 52 is equipped with a fully Load Assist System (LAS) with manual backup arrangement offering a burst rate of fire of 3 rounds in 30 seconds, 16 rounds in 3 minutes in intense rate of fire and 42 rounds in one hour in sustained rate of fire.

According to Bharat Forge, the 15 ton Bharat-52 has a firing range of about 41 km, with a traverse of 35˚ to right and left, and elevation range of -3˚ to +72˚at a rate of 5˚/s. The Bharat 52 also features a load assist system (LAS) that enables its crew to achieve rapid fires of 6 rounds/min or a sustained rate of 42 rounds/hr. Gun laying is fully electronic, with the gunnery crew directing the weapon’s traverse and elevation via joystick command.

The range of usable ammunition is quite large: American breaking shells USM107 (maximum range, 17,800 m/18 km) or USM101 (maximum range 24,000m/24 km); ERFB (Extended-range Full Bore) with improved range (30,000 m/30 km); diminished pellet drag (range 49,000 m/40 km); illuminating; smoke; 13 kg sub-munitions ejection (M42) is very effective against vehicles and personnel. The ERFB projectile weighs 45,540 kg, of which 8,620 kg of explosive Composition B. Derived from a pre-existing range, it is longer and more tapered than a current shell, which explains its better penetration in the air, and thus its higher radius of action. The hollow-bottomed model differs only in its rear part, which incorporates a gas generator so as to minimise drag. The usable ammunition surmise is principally based on the Belgian/Austrian Noricum GHN-45 Howitzer which is comparable to the Bharat-52.

Although principally a towed gun, the weapon is equipped with a diesel auxiliary power unit (APU) as well as electronic steering that enables it to travel at speeds of up to 30 kph. The 80-litre fuel tank gives the unit a range of 250 km. All that matters for Bharat Forge is to expect the Army to show interest and the will to procure this exceptional indigenously produced gun.