The guns include the so-called Bharat 52, a 155 millimetre (mm), 52 calibre (cal) towed howitzer that is the first gun the Kalyani Group built. Saudi Arabia will also evaluate the Garuda V2, a 105 mm gun mounted on a light vehicle chassis for added mobility.
Interestingly, Saudi Arabia has not expressed interest in the flagship artillery gun that the Kalyani Group is working one: the eponymous Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS). This futuristic DRDO-designed gun is being built by two private firms in parallel — Kalyani Group and Tata Advanced Systems Ltd (TASL).
Kalyani Group, by virtue of its organic skills in metal castings and forgings, is playing the larger role, including building barrels for its own, as well as TASL’s gun.
Baba Kalyani, chief of the Kalyani Group, makes no secret of his intention to sink whatever money it take for dominating artillery gun production in India. In this his flagship company, Bharat Forge, the worlds’ largest producer of forgings and castings, is to play a leading role.
“Kalyani Group is well along in mastering gun production. We are the equal of the world’s top 2-3 companies in artillery systems,” Kalyani told Business Standard.
Kalyani praises 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 MoD’s Defence Production Policy of 2018 has set an annual defence exports target of $5 billion by 2024.
“The real efforts in export promotion started 5-6 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 MoD 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 – the 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 kilometres (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: low weight and higher cost; or higher weight and lower cost. We are offering both options,” says a Kalyani engineer.
“Both these guns are truly indigenous, having been designed by our R&D centre in Pune. While Bharat Forge’s metal working skills are acknowledged worldwide, our Pune R&D centre develops the command and control systems, central computers and automation that goes into gun systems,” says Kalyani.
Kalyani Group’s growing skills provide the military with options they could earlier only dream of. In December 2018, with the Sino-Indian border roiled by the recent Doklam confrontation, then army chief, General Bipin Rawat, visited Kalyani Group and asked whether they could build a truck-mounted 155 mm, 39 calibre gun that could move around on the narrow roads of northern Sikkim.
The gun that Kalyani group developed in response is on display at Defexpo. Based on a 4×4 vehicle produced by Bharat Earth Movers Ltd, the so-called “Go Anywhere Vehicle” offers unparalleled mobility. It is going into firing trials immediately after Defexpo.
The 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 orders 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 Kalyani Group.
Illustrating this relationship, two 155 mm barrels manufactured by Kalyani Group are on display in the BAE Systems stall in Defexpo 2020.