OFB, December 8
Various articles have appeared in various newspapers mentioning the CAG report that was tabled in parliament on Friday. The reports over emphasize the supply of defective ammunition by Ordnance Factories to services. It also mentions that OFs are not able to meet the demand of Army leading to compromise in operational military readiness.
As far as accidents are concerned, these depend on various aspects viz ammunition, weapon, operation drill and maintenance of equipment. As such only ammunition cannot be attributed for all the accidents. The accidents attributable to ammunition, in addition to the quality of ammunition, also depends on the storage, handling and usage. There are instances where the accidents are reported with ammunition components, which are beyond shelf life.
The issue related to ammunition accidents have been reviewed regularly at the highest level of Deptt of Defence Production. Considering the above possible causative factors for accidents, a holistic rather than a piecemeal approach has been stressed in the meetings with investigation by collegiate committees comprising all the stakeholders. Accidents of each type of system has been analysed and action plan finalised. In case of 130mm, recommendations of five defect investigation committees have been implemented, however, the accidents have not been eliminated. Views of OEMs have been obtained. For L-70 gun system, the accidents have occurred with Indian as well as imported ammunition. Action plan for validation firing has been chalked out to check compatibility/ serviceability of guns. In the meantime, as desired by Army, fuze and primers was imported from the OEM. The imported Fuzes have failed to perform in the safety test during DGQA evaluation in Sep 2019. For 105mm Ammunition, DGQA has been asked to examine the cause of accidents in a holistic manner. 125mm Tank accidents is a dated issue wherein various investigations have been carried out, including investigations involving OEM specialists, over more than two decades. Several recommendations for improving weapon/ ammunition/ usage/ equipment maintenance have been implemented.
For M-777 the investigation team concluded that “Based on review of all the data collected no single root cause has been identified. Examination of quality records and components showed no evidence of defects in the gun or ammunition as built. …… It is probable that a combination of root causes contributed to this failure. ….” In view of these findings, blaming the Indian ammunition for the accident is not based on facts.
For accidents related to fuze, the recommendations of various defect investigations have been implemented. However, in certain instances e.g. in 30mm HET, use of ammunition component which is beyond shelf life had caused the accident. Ordnance factories cannot be held responsible for the same.
In order to check quality problems during manufacturing, a system of red box was introduced wherein 1% ammunition from the freshly manufactured lot were subjected to early exploitation. The practice was introduced in 2013 to eliminate causative factors like storage conditions, use of expired ammunition and early identification of manufacturing defects, if any. The results indicate success rate of 99.98%, which can be easily termed as world class.
As far as non-fulfilment of requirement of Army is concerned, the current status is contrary to the facts mentioned in the article. Targets of OFB for ammunition are consistently reduced for last two years due to budgetary constraints of Indian Army. Most of the ammunition manufactured by OFB are sufficiently stocked by Army and targets for such ammunition have been drastically reduced/ brought down to Nil. Several ammunition manufacturing factories are operating at sub optimal levels.
Traditionally, exports have not been the focus area for OFB. However, with renewed efforts over last few years, the exports have jumped multi-folds. Major contributor of exports is ammunition, wherein OFB is also getting repeat orders, a mark on quality of OFB ammunition.