Questions have been raised on national security and ‘Make in India’ efforts as the army sent an alert to the Ministry of Defense seeking immediate intervention.
New Delhi: The Army has sought immediate intervention of the Defence Ministry to check the 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.
In a 15-page letter to the Ministry of Defense (MoD), top Army officials have stated that such shortfalls lead to a fall in the morale of security personnel and must be looked at with seriousness.
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, they said.
Following the Army's request, the defence ministry examined the issue and found that OFB has not been pro-active in improving the quality of the ammunition to contain accidents caused by them, 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. The total revenue of the OFB has been recorded at close to Rs 12,000 crore per annum, making it the main supplier of arms and ammunition to the 12-lakh strong Indian security forces.
When contacted, the OFB said it supplies ammunition to Indian Army after through inspection by its Quality Control department Directorate General of Quality Assurance (DGQA).
It said all input material is 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 the 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.
Rajat Pandit, a defence correspondent with the Times of India who broke the story, told Mirror Now that this has been a longstanding problem with security forces but the spike in the number of accidents, deaths, injuries, and damage to equipment in recent years have led to a grim situation on the ground prompting the Indian Army to write a letter to Secretary (Defence Production) Ajay Kumar. Pandit also added that MoD officials have cited improper storage or usage by security personnel as the reason for faulty equipment or ammunition. Series of meeting is being held to impede the functioning of the ordinance board, he added.
The Army had rejected a ‘Made in India’ assault rifle two times in a row in 2018, citing poor quality and ineffective firepower, and took a fresh call on procuring similar weapons to replace the INSAS rifles.
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".