Slippages in ammo supply another worry for Army
- Sources say the Army had also told the defence ministry that the other big problem is the major slippages in ammunition supply
- The steps under consideration range from getting the Indian private sector to manufacture ammunition in a major way
The Army has already sounded the alarm about the high number of accidents — leading to fatalities, injuries and damage to equipment — taking place due to the defective quality of ammunition being supplied for tanks, artillery, air defence and other guns by OFB, as was first reported in the TOI edition on Tuesday.
Sources say the Army had also told the defence ministry that the other big problem is the major slippages in ammunition supply. “OFB accumulated slippages amounting to around Rs 14,000 crore during the first Ammunition Roll-On Plan (2009-2014), and about Rs 7,500 crore during the second plan (2014-2019), leading to critical voids,” said a MoD source.
Taking serious note of the situation and the Army’s 15-page paper on its concerns on ammunition manufacture, secretary (defence production) Ajay Kumar has taken a series of meetings to review the measures needed to improve the overall functioning of OFB, which has 41 factories under it and an annual turnover of around Rs 19,000 crore.
The steps under consideration range from getting the Indian private sector to manufacture ammunition in a major way, while also ensuring requisite “quality control and quality assurance” as well as “modernisation” and “accountability” in OFB.
“There is already a Rs 15,000 crore long-term plan in the works for domestic private sector players, who can tie up with foreign manufacturers, to manufacture seven different types of ammunition. This will help plug gaps in OFB’s production capacity,” said the MoD source.
There is recognition the OFB often gets away with shoddy performance due to its “total monopoly” in the country. “OFB should be made to compete with global and Indian industry as well as get into exporting ammunition in large numbers,” said the source.
The MoD is also examining the Army’s recommendation that accountability needs to be properly fixed on those responsible for faulty quality checks and defective ammunition, which are leading to frequent accidents during firings of 105mm Indian field guns, 105mm light field guns, 130mm MA1 medium guns, 40mm L-70 air defence guns as well as the main guns of the T-72, T-90 and Arjun main-battle tanks.
“Responsive audits on a regular basis are also being considered. Similarly, there is the need to improve the packaging of ammunition to prevent blackening, deterioration of primers, carts and other components,” said the source.
The government, incidentally, was shocked to learn after the terror attack at Uri in September 2016 that the Army did not have certain categories of ammunition to undertake a full-blown war with “intense fighting” for even 10 days, as was reported earlier by TOI.
This had led to 19 contracts worth Rs 11,740 crore with countries like Russia being finalised for the Army, under which the force is now inducting Smerch rockets, Konkurs anti-tank guided missiles, 125mm armour-piercing fin-stabilised discarding sabot ammunition for its T-90S and T-72 tanks.