Army seeks DefMin's intervention for better ammunition

Paramilitary personnel with their arms and ammunition (PTI Photo).

The Army has sought the immediate intervention of the Defence Ministry to check rising cases of accidents involving battle tanks, artillery and air defence guns due to "poor quality" of ammunition being supplied to it by the state-run Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), official sources said.

They said the Army has specifically raised the issue with Secretary (Defence Production) Ajay Kumar, saying poor quality of ammunition has been causing damage to a range of key weapons of the Army in the past few years.

Following the Army's request, the defence ministry examined the issue and found that OFB has not been pro-active in improving quality of the ammunition to contain accidents caused by faulty ammunition, the sources said.

The OFB operates 41 ordnance factories across the country and functions under the department of defence production of the ministry of defence.

When contacted, the OFB said it supplies ammunition to Indian Army after thorough inspection by its Quality Control department Directorate General of Quality Assurance (DGQA).

It said all input materials are tested in designated laboratories and a series of specific tests are conducted before ammunition is supplied to the Army.

The Army also presented a report to the ministry listing incidents of accidents involving main guns of the T-72 and T-90 and the Arjun main battle tanks besides 105mm Indian field guns, 105mm light field guns, 130mm MA1 medium guns and 40mm L-70 air defence guns, primarily due to faulty ammunition, they said.

The Army also cited a number of incidents in which army personnel were injured due to faulty ammunition.

Sources said the Army was very serious about the issue and requested the defence ministry take appropriate initiatives to improve quality of ammunition being supplied to the force.

OFB said it is "responsible for manufacturing and up to the dispatch of ammunition and is not aware of the storage/ handling/ maintenance conditions at Army's end which are equally responsible for defects/accidents."

"Unlike other products, ammunition is a single-use item. For this reason, 100 per cent inspection including dynamic proof cannot be carried out. A principle of Statistical Quality Control (SQC) is employed for final acceptance of ammunition. SQC is inherently associated with both producer's risk and customer's risk," it said.

In September 2017, the Army's long-range ultra-light (ULH) howitzer M-777 was damaged during a field trial in Pokhran and the US manufacturer, as well as the Army, had indicated that the gun exploded due to faulty ammunition.

In August 2017, the defence ministry sacked 13 senior officers employed with ordnance factories after finding their overall performance "unsatisfactory". 

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