While the state-run Ordnance Factory Ambajari (OFAJ) has grabbed an order for the production of the Russian Smerch rockets, the Defence Ministry is yet to give its clearance for a joint venture with a Russian firm to start of the process. The delay by the government in granting clearance for the venture has once again reflected the tardy government procedures in defence –related projects.
The current stumbling block is the issue of the joint venture of the state-run OFAJ, a premier factory in the family of 40 Ordnance Factories of OFB, with a Russian firm. Since the OFB is a government department and not a corporate entity, the creation of a joint venture with the public sector firm may become an issue and further delay the production. While the Smerch rockets will be produced by the Indo-Russian venture, the approval is still to come by.
As for the OFB, it feels that the Defence Ministry will give the clearance for the joint venture since it’s a lucrative and beneficial proposition for OFB as well as the armed forces of the country. In the proposed joint venture, Russia intends to transfer the manufacturing technology. According to reports, about 90 per cent of the know-how will be transferred and large chunk of the work will be undertaken in India.
While the joint venture of the state-run OFB with a Russian firm may seem a bit far-fetched, the OFB is positive about getting the clearance and it has already submitted the proposal. According to OFB, the Defence Ministry will be forthcoming on this proposal as it has made exceptions in the past. OFB has cited the example of the state-run Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) producing Brahmos missiles through a joint venture with a Rusian firm.
As for the production of the Russian Smerch rockets in India, the state-run OFB and its factory will not be limited to assembling the rockets but a larger role will be bestowed upon them. The OFB factory called OFAJ in Nagpur will carry out a part of the manufacturing process since it specializes in making artillery shells. The OFAJ has already made shells for the Pinaka rockets based on Russian technology. The OFAJ is a premier factory in the family of 40 Ordnance Factories and is engaged in the manufacture of ammunition hardware like shells, cartridge cases and fuzes besides other defence-related hardware, weaponry and ammunition.
Earlier this month, the Indian Army placed orders for 100 artillery guns with the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) after several unsuccessful attempts to procure howitzers from international defence firms. Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju has stated that the Indian Army’s orders with the OFB are for procuring one hundred 155mm 52 calibre howitzers and this will be developed on the basis of Transfer of Technology (ToT) done by Bofors. He added that indigenous development of the howitzers would continue alongside trials by the OFB and within a specific time frame, the guns would be delivered to the Army.