The Regiment of Artillery of the Indian Army celebrated the 193rd Gunners Day on September 28 marking the date in 1827 when the Five Bombay Mountain Battery, equipped with 2.5 inch guns, was raised in the British Indian Army.
The Artillery and its Gunners
One of the basic warfare lessons is that greater the distance from which one can target the enemy, greater the flexibility one can achieve for ground manoeuvres. From the catapults and cannons used in ancient times, the evolution of mechanical projectiles, to the modern day artillery guns which are integrated with network centric warfare, the role of gunners has always been a winning factor in the battlefield, proving to be a crucial support system to the other fighting arms.
The artilleries of Mughals, Marathas and those of Sikh armies among other historic entities have played a major role in their successful campaigns. The foundation of the Regiment of Artillery was laid on September 28 in 1827 when Bombay Artillery, later renamed 5 Bombay Mountain Battery, was raised. This day is celebrated by the Regiment of Artillery as Gunners Day.
In May 1857, the mutiny by Indian soldiers started in the artillery of the Army of the Bengal Presidency. The incident prompted a complete ban on Indian artillery units, except the mountain artillery batteries in select provinces. The decision was reversed in the mid-1930s when the first of the field regiments — which support the other formations on the field — of the Indian Army were raised.
With the motto ‘Sarvatra Izzat-O-Iqbal – Everywhere with Honour and Glory’, the regiment boasts of one Victoria Cross, one Distinguished Service Order, 15 Military Crosses during the pre-independence era and one Ashok Chakra, seven Maha Vir Chakras, nine Kirti Chakras, 101 Vir Chakras, 63 Shaurya Chakras, six Bar to Sena Medal, 485 Sena Medals besides many other decorations.
The present day Artillery
Today, the Artillery of Indian Army consists of a dynamic inventory which ranges from Ballistic Missile, Multi-Barrel Rocket launchers, High Mobility Guns, Mortars Precision Guided Munitions for destruction of enemy targets to Radars, UAVs and Electro optic devices for locating and carrying out Post Strike Damage Assessment (PSDA). The Regiment of Artillery has played a key role in all the post independence conflicts with the neighbours including the Kargil War.
The importance of the artillery in conventional warfare remains intact, especially with the artillery guns playing a major role in the ‘Integrated battle groups’. These battle groups are formations comprising artillery, mechanised infantry and armoured and infantry elements along with the modern day force multipliers like UAVs and electronic warfare systems. The artillery fire can be used for suppressive and destructive purposes to get an upper hand over the enemy.
Around 30 years after the acquisition of the Bofors guns in 1980s which proved decisive in Kargil war, two more artillery guns — the K9 Vajra of the Indian-South Korean make and US sourced M777 Ultra Light Howitzers — were inducted into the Indian Army in 2018. While Defence Research and Development Organisation’s (DRDO) Dhanush is in the pipeline for induction, its Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS) is in its trial stages.
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The evolving role of the Artillery
Along with its role in conventional battlefield, artillery is extensively being deployed and used in the counter insurgency (CI) battles. Earlier the artillery used to be avoided in counter insurgency operations because of the concern of the collateral damage, but with the advent of precision ammunition, its role has attained a lot of importance. Artillery formations have been deployed in counter insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir as well as the north eastern theatre by the Indian Army.
With the introduction of self-propelled and automated artillery weapon systems, the footprint of artillery has reduced because of removal of ancillary systems. These advancements have also helped in increasing the survivability of the systems against the enemy fire because their ability to manoeuvre in all types of terrains has also increased. The introduction of ‘force multipliers’ like satellite communication, UAVs, networked electronic systems and artificial intelligence have increased the efficacy of artillery and have again underlined its role as a decisive arm on the battlefield.
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