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As Army bares its artillery might, Bofors gun is the star

Last updated on: January 11, 2012 11:18 IST

As Army bares its artillery might, Bofors gun is the star

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A Correspondent in Deolali

A peek into the Indian Army's Exercise Topchi exercise at the School of Artillery in Deolali

The Indian Army displayed its awesome artillery power at Exercise Topchi conducted at the School of Artillery, Deolali, on Tuesday in what is an annual exercise.

As it paraded its panoply of mortars and field guns, the star attraction -- among the uniformed gentry, the rookie cadets from National Defence Academy, Khadakvasla, and visiting international delegations, not to mention the media -- was the Bofors 155mm howitzers, the focus of a kickback scandal targeting former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in the late 1980s and which subsequently acquitted itself remarkably in the Kargil war 10 years ago.

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Image: The Bofors howitzer on display at Exercise Topchi in Deolali on Tuesday
Photographs: Reuben NV/Rediff.com

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Army's last big-ticket field gun

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Officials present on the occasion pointed out that the Bofors howitzer is the last big-ticket field gun acquired by the army in the last two decades, a period when its threat perception has escalated significantly in the neigbourhood.

It could be because of the perception of lack of transparency surrounding defence deals since then, or because India has since focused more on transforming itself into a blue water power, but beyond saying that further acquisitions are in the process, the officials were not forthcoming with their views.


Image: Another view of the Bofors Howitzer
Photographs: Saisuresh Sivaswamy/Rediff.com
Tags: Army , India

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Indian army flexes its artillery power at Exercise Topchi

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Among the field guns India trotted out on Tuesday were 120mm mortars, 105mm and 130mm field guns, the 155mm Soltam and Bofors guns, 122mm and Smerch multi-barrel rocket launchers, all of which hit the designated target area unfailingly, with an unmanned aerial vehicle showing the images live to the audience below. India's own Pinaka MRBL too made a fleeting appearance at Tuesday's exercise.

Disclosing that delegations from Japan and Nepal were among those present to witness Exercise Topchi, Major General M N Kashid, deputy commandant of the School of Artillery, however told newsmen there was nothing more to be read into their presence in Deolali.


Image: The 105 mm field gun displayed at Exercise Topchi
Photographs: Reuben NV/Rediff.com

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Swedish howitzer is everyone's favourite

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Watching its ease of manouevre (it can swivel 360 degrees, unlike other field guns on display which were anchored to the ground), the hydraulically enabled operations, and a barrel that can fire below ground level as well as up to an incline of 70 degrees, it is not hard to see why the Swedish howitzer is everyone's favourite.

Was it merely because of its impressive range, with officials saying it can easily hit targets up to 35 km away? If that were the case, Israel's 155mm Soltam with a comparable range would be a candidate for such open adulation, which it clearly is not. There is something about the Swedish gun that captures popular imagination quite easily.

Video: Reuben NV/Rediff.com




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'Artillery is the God of War'

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Range is a factor in the importance of and role played by artillery, even that is determined by the current stage of war, on how far away the enemy is.

Maj Gen Kashid said that while it may seem that long-range guns are more important, every piece of artillery in one's arsenal is important and there was no choosing between them.

No wonder exercise Topchi began with a quote from Josef Stalin: Artillery is the God of War.

Now, if only India's decision-makers were to believe in it too.


Image: A multi-barrel rocket launcher seen at the Topchi Exrecise
Photographs: Saisuresh Sivaswamy/Rediff.com

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