Saudi to evaluate Kalyani group's artillery guns Bharat 52, Garuda V2

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh chairs the first India-Africa Defence Ministers Conclave 2020 on the sidelines of DefExpo 2020 in Lucknow on Thursday | Photo: PTI
The Pune-based Kalyani Group, which has made a major foray into the field of artillery gun systems, has made strong pitching for supplying these heavy weapons to the Saudi Arabian military.

It has been learnt that two types of gun systems — both designed and developed by Kalyani Group — are being sent later this year to Saudi Arabia for trial evaluation by the Royal Saudi Army in the forbidding Arabian desert.

The guns include the Bharat 52, a 155 mm, 52 calibre towed howitzer — the first gun that Kalyani Group produced. Saudi Arabia will also evaluate the Garuda V2, a 105 mm gun mounted on a light vehicle chassis for added mobility.

Saudi Arabia, so far, has not expressed interest in the flagship artillery gun that Kalyani Group is working on: The Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS). This futuristic Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)-designed gun is being built by two private firms in parallel — Kalyani Group and Tata Advanced Systems (TASL). Kalyani Group, by virtue of its organic skills in metal castings and forgings, is playing the larger role, including producing barrels for its own, as well as TASL’s gun.

Baba Kalyani, chief of Kalyani Group, makes no secret of his intention to sink whatever money it takes for dominating the artillery gun production in India. In this, his flagship company — Bharat Forge, the world’s largest producer of forgings and castings — will play a leading role.

“Kalyani Group is well along in mastering gun production. We are the equal of the world’s top two-three firms in artillery systems,” Kalyani said.

Kalyani praised the government’s initiative to boost defence exports, which have already multiplied over the last two years, to a total of Rs 10,700 crore. The Defence Production Policy of 2018 has set an annual defence exports target of $5 billion by 2024. “Real efforts in export promotion started five-six years ago and to be fair to the system, we have made significant headway. We had a conference about six months ago on ways to boost exports. That was attended by India’s military attaches posted in embassies abroad. Now, they are at the front end of export promotion in the countries to which they are posted,” said Kalyani.

The hard-driving Kalyani Group chief is launching the development of new guns without waiting for the ministry of defence's orders. After the Army launched a programme to procure 145 ultralight howitzers from the international market — a $700 million contract that BAE Systems eventually won with its M777 gun system — Kalyani Group has unilaterally designed and built two different ultralight howitzers, which it intends to offer the Army.  “We are offering the guns suo moto, under the “Make-2” category,” said Kalyani. Under this procurement category, companies can offer the MoD defence products they have developed at their own cost.

Of these ultralight howitzers, one is a 155 mm, 39-calibre titanium gun that weighs a mere 4.8 tonnes. Kalyani Group has dubbed it mountain artillery gun Titanium (MArG-T). Its range matches the BAE Systems M777 gun, with conventional ammunition fired to a range of 25 km.

The other gun is a larger, cheaper, all-steel 155 mm, 52 calibre gun that weighs 7.8 tonnes and fires conventional ammunition to a range of 30 km. “The Army can choose what it wants: Less weight and higher cost; or more weight and lower cost. We are offering both options,” said a Kalyani engineer.

Kalyani said: “Both these guns are truly indigenous, having been designed by our R&D centre in Pune. While Bharat Forge’s metalworking skills are acknowledged worldwide, our Pune R&D centre develops the command and control systems, central computers, and automation that go into gun systems.”

 Kalyani Group’s growing skills provide the military with options it could earlier only dream of. In December 2018, with the China-India border roiled by the recent Doklam confrontation, the then Army chief, General Bipin Rawat, visited Kalyani Group and asked whether it could build a truck-mounted 155 mm, 39 calibre gun that could move around on the narrow roads of northern Sikkim. The gun that the Group developed in response is on display at Defexpo. Based on a 4x4 vehicle produced by Bharat Earth Movers, the “Go Anywhere Vehicle” offers unparalleled mobility. It is going into firing trials after DefExpo 2020.

Kalyani Group has a growing relationship with BAE Systems and purchased the British company’s barrel production unit located in the UK. This facility has been physically relocated from the UK to Pune. For any future artillery order BAE Systems gets from the international market —including a possible follow-on order from India for more M777 ultralight howitzers — it is likely to source barrels from the group.

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