The Indian Ministry of Defense has placed an order worth more than $30 million for the upgrade of the Indian Army’s legacy 130mm M-46 howitzers to 155/45mm caliber.
The order was awarded to India’s state-owned Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) and involves 300 of the towed artillery pieces. The OFB beat out two competitors, one involving a consortium between local Punj Lloyd and Serbia’s Yugo Import and another involving a tie-up between local Bharat Forge and Israel’s Soltam. Soltam was spearheaded a previous upgrade effort involving 180 M-46 guns to the 155/45mm caliber under Project Karan. The Project Karan contract awarded by the MoD in 2003 featured a partnership between Soltam and the OFB.
A tender to restore and modify 300 of the Indian Army’s Soviet-legacy M-46 pieces was floated in 2013, but like many Indian defense projects this one dragged on and after a change in government appeared to have fallen by the wayside.
Ultimately, however, a contract was sealed on October 25 after OFB won the competition due to offering the cheapest bid and its fully-indigenous solution – the ‘Sharang’ (Vishnu’s bow) – holding up the best during Field Evaluation Trials for maximum range, direct fire, rate of fire, accuracy and consistency. Considering the platform’s performance, the estimated cost of the upgrade, OFB’s earlier involvement in Project Karan and the Indian government’s “Make in India” indigenization push the decision to pick the Sharang alternative was an easy one.
Well, India's Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) has signed a contract with the Ministry of Defence for the upgunning of 300 M-46 130 mm field guns to a 155 mm/ 45 caliber standard called Sharang. OFB's solution was the only one that passed muster in trials. Courtesy: OFB pic.twitter.com/AMxk28WD0P
— Saurav Jha (@SJha1618) October 27, 2018
The OFB upgrade will involve replacing the barrel and breech block of each gun, then adding new sighting systems and a new hydraulic rammer to smooth the shell-loading process. Work is to be completed and all upgraded artillery pieces re-delivered to the Indian Army by 2022.
The Indian Army has a stock of around 1,000 such M-46 field guns acquired from the former USSR beginning in 1968. Apart from the 180 pieces upgraded under Project Karan many of these remain in storage depots. Once the latest upgrade is complete the remainder will be phased completely out of Indian service by 2027.