On November 9, 2022, the Indian company Bharat Forge Limited (headquartered in Pune), representing the backbone of the large Indian private industrial group Kalyani Group, stated that its defence subsidiary (division) Kalyani Strategic Systems Limited (KSSL) ” received an export order for 155-mm artillery gun platforms to be manufactured within three years” for an unnamed “friendly foreign country”. The contract is valued at $155.5 million. Bharat Forge did not disclose either the customer or the number of weapons ordered but said the order was for a “non-conflict zone.”
Armenia is expected to be supplied with 155-mm/39 self-propelled howitzers manufactured by KSSL and mounted on a wheeled automobile chassis, as reported by Business Standard, which cited information obtained from sources in the Indian Ministry of Defense.
The 155-mm / 39 self-propelled howitzer MArG (Multi-terrain Artillery Gun) 155 – BR is to be supplied to Armenia on a 4×4 wheeled chassis. This system developed by KSSL was first presented in promotional materials in February 2020 at the defence exhibition DefExpo India 2020, and in December 2021 at the Bharat Forge plant in Pune, the presentation of the first complete (experimental or pre-production?) sample MArG 155 – BR was presented in the presence of the Minister of Defense of India Shri Rajnath Singh and Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army, General Manoj Mukund Naravane. However, so far, the purchase of the MArG 155-BR self-propelled guns by the Indian Army has not been announced, so Armenia, apparently, acted as the debut customer.
155-mm / 39 self-propelled howitzer – Multi-terrain Artillery Gun – MArG 155 – BR
MArG 155 – BR is advertised by Bharat Forge as “the world’s only 155mm 39 calibre artillery system mounted on a 4×4 vehicle”. The artillery part of the system, designated by the developer as TS-20, is based on the 155-mm / 39 light towed howitzer ULH (Ultra-Light Howitzer) developed by KSSL, which is a frank imitation of the well-known 155-mm / 39 light towed howitzer BAE Systems M777. The ULH howitzer was developed in three versions from different structural materials of the carriage and recoil devices – steel (All steel, total weight 6.8 tons), titanium (Titanium, weight 4.8 tons) and mixed (Advance Hybrid). All three options have been tested for the past few years in the interests of the Indian Army.
On the MArG 155 – BR, an artillery unit was installed based on the steel version of the ULH, apparently the most mature one. The self-propelled unit with a 4×4 wheel formula is based on an Indian-made Ashok Leyland Mk 4 military truck and is equipped with an armoured cab for five people. The total combat weight of the self-propelled unit is 18 tons. The length of the self-propelled guns in the stowed position is 9.391 m, the width is 2.65 m, and the height is 3.16 m. The ammunition load is 18 shots with five charges for each projectile. The time to bring the ACS into combat position is 1.5 minutes during the day and 2 minutes at night.
It is stated that the MArG 155 – BR is capable of sustained fire with a rate of fire of 42 shots in 60 minutes. In intensive fire mode, the rate of fire is 12 shots in three minutes and the first three shots allegedly in 30 seconds. A modern fire control system has been installed. The maximum elevation angle of the gun is 72 degrees, and firing is possible in sectors of 25 degrees from the centre line.
Bharat Forge, through KSSL, has ambitions to become the largest artillery manufacturer in India, having developed several systems at once in recent years, including, in addition to the 155 mm / 39 UHL light towed howitzer and its MArG 155 – BR self-propelled variant, also the Bharat towed self-propelled howitzer in calibers 155-mm / 45 and 155-mm / 52, light 105-mm self-propelled howitzer Garuda 105, as well as 155-mm / 52 towed automated howitzer ATAGS (Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System), created since 2013 for the Indian Army in partnership with Tata group under the auspices of the Indian State Defense Research and Development Organization DRDO. Field tests of ATAGS were carried out from December 2016 to May 2022, but its serial production has not yet begun,
Previously, Bharat Forge had been manufacturing 81-mm and 120-mm mortar rounds and artillery ammunition of 105, 122, 130 and 155 mm calibres for the Indian Army for a long time.
Indian arms to Armenia
For Armenia, India is thus turning into a leading arms supplier. The current contract for the purchase of 155-mm / 39 self-propelled howitzers MArG 155 – BR became the third known significant Armenian defence order in India. In September, Armenia signed a contract worth more than $ 250 million for the purchase in India of 214- mm Pinaka multiple launch rocket systems and rockets for them, anti-tank missile systems and various ammunition. And at the beginning of 2020, Armenia signed a contract worth about $40 million for the purchase of four Indian ground-based radar stations for detecting artillery positions Swathi Weapon Locating Radar (WLR).