The alarm clock buzzed to life at 0500hrs as usual. I opened my eyes and went to the washroom, while brushing my teeth, a familiar knocking pattern activated my senses even more. In a swish I wore my camouflage uniform and answered the door.
“Morning Lieutenant”, the dawn sun’s golden rays were falling on the aviator glasses of Captain Dhairya, my body went stiff in attention for a salute and his hand went for the forehead with grace.
“Remember I promised a surprise for the squad, what some four years back?”
“Yes sir, I remember that.”
“Good, get dressed properly, we’re going PXE.”
Captain gave a pleasing smile. “Proof and Experimental Establishment. Boots on ground in five minutes.”
Like an bolt of electricity, my body worked like a fast paced firing pin of a Kalashnikov. When I locked the doors from behind, I saw Captain waiting for me in his Gypsy. A few kilometers of excitement led us to PXE, Balasore, Odisha.
“Come along lieutenant, you’ll remember this day for the rest of your life”, we both marched towards an empty ground and were greeted by a few other officers. “Lieutenant, how about you unveiling the present?”
“Yeah go on, be the first one on this day”, his hand pointed to a behemoth covered with a camouflaged cover, I went towards the unknown beast like thing and pulled down the cover. “Woah!”
“Too big for a surprise ain’t it Lieutenant!” Captain Dhairya’s eyes were beaming with pride as he marched towards the gun and stood beside me, “in 2013 the DRDO started it’s development phase of ATAGS, acronym for Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System, it’s one of a kind”, his hands moved along the barrel of the monster, “chambered for 155mm round, it weighs 12,000kgs, two tons lighter than its rivals.”
“That’s a huge advantage sir!”
“Sure it is Lieutenant. The crew consists of 6-8 men. Remember how many rounds used to be in the magazine of those automated guns of the same caliber?”
“Exactly. But this sweetheart packs up six rounds of devastating firepower. It’s all electronic aiming and movement system gives it an edge over the hydraulic systems. Now that’s what we’ve always wanted.” Captain Dhairya, went towards the aiming console and peeped through one of the sophisticated aiming systems, “Come here son. Have a look”, I peeped through the scope, digital range finders lit up the sights like a typical Call of Duty Heads Up Display. I found one peculiar set of scopes accompanying the regular ones, “Oh! So you spotted them too. Those beauties are night vision scopes.”
Captain Dhairya, dismounted the gun and went towards the firing bay, “You might want to put these on”, he gave me a pair of earplugs, I understood he meant serious business. “Range set?”
“Five plus one in the chamber sir.”
“Fire in the hole!”
The gun roared, a fireball erupted with gaseous clouds coming out from the flash suppressor, that was music to my ears. I was looking for a reloading rod and a set of charges when captain shouted “IT’S AUTOMATED! LET THE GUN DO THE TALKING.”
And the gun went blazing again, “THAT’S WAY TOO FAST SIR!” To my surprise, the gun reloaded and fired way before I had expected. The magazine went empty with the last round blasting off the muzzle with a spectacular fireball. I looked at my stop watch, “30 seconds. You gotta be kidding me!”
“Hahaha that’s what makes it one of a kind son.”
As we were walking away from the gun, Captain’s radio cracked to life, “Captain we got some serious statistics. You’d love to see this.”
We both went inside the examination chamber with curious minds. “The last recorded distance traversed by a 155mm projectile was 45kms by an American gun. Guess what we broke it today! It’s 47.2kms for our round sir, Congratulations!”
Captain and I exchanged awestruck glances, “Damn that’s……..just awesome!!”
“Sure it is sir!”
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