After a series of failed attempts at producing critical components for artillery shells, state-run Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) has decided to take on the responsibility to produce it indigenously. OFB officials have stated that the Bi-Modular Charge Systems (BMCS) required for firing artillery shells for heavy guns like Bofors will be indigenously developed by OFB Nalanda in Bihar. DRDO lab High Energy Materials Research Laboratory (HEMRL) will be technology provider for the same.
OFB has indicated that the various materials and chemicals needed to develop BMCS have been produced by other OFB factories. OFB has already made a small number of the finished products and these have been sent to Balasore in Odisha for Initial Assessment Trials. These trials are scheduled for next week which will be followed by an assessment of the quality of the equipment by the Directorate General of Quality Assurance under the Defence Ministry.
OFB has suffered a setback in producing these components for artillery shells on time since both the foreign partners collaborating on this project were blacklisted by India. Currently, OFB Nalanda has been directed to produce the bi-modular charge system and its first plant will be operational by August. This new plant will produce the main components required for making the final product.
Once the initial trials have been conducted and the quality of the components and systems has been validated, prototypes will be created to further develop these systems to meet the Indian Army’s requirement. BMCS are the propellant required for firing ammunition of high-calibre howitzers and artillery guns. OFB is hopeful that the plants will be fully functional by the end of this year and the final products will be ready soon after that.
OFB has been trying to produce the required technology for artillery shells for the past decade or so. While the South African firm Denel was a partner to provide the technology, it was banned in 2005 due to alleged corruption. The other firm, Israeli military Industries (IMI), had partnered with OFB in 2007 for supplying the technology, but they were also banned on charges of corruption recently.
Meanwhile, Director General and Chairman OFB, Sashi Dhar Dimri had recently stated that OFB will soon be in a position to offer only the Bofors gun but even the upgraded version. OFB is confident that by the beginning of 2013, its Gun Carriage Factory, Jabalpur will be in a position to field the Bofors gun for trials.
The Indian government has sanctioned OFB an amount of $ 83 .66 million for creating and augmenting the large calibre weapon manufacturing capacity in Ordnance Factories. The upgraded version of the Bofors gun will be raised from a 39-calibre to a 45-calibre gun with mechanical and electronic suite upgrades. The upgraded Bofors gun will be ready for field trials by January 2013. The OFB has indigenised the ammunition required for the Bofors guns and has been supplying these to the Indian army as spares.