March 12, 2012

OFB awaiting centre's nod to build Russian rockets

NAGPUR: In a typical case of procedural delay, the Ordnance Factory Ambajhari (OFAJ) has bagged an order to make Rusisan Smerch rockets with a range up to 90km, but is now seeking permission from the ministry of defence to enter into a joint venture (JV) with the Russian partner.
The rockets will be made by a JV entity formed with the Russian partner. However, since the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) is a government department and not a corporate body it cannot set up a JV on its own, said highly placed sources in OFB.

The rockets will be co-produced with the Russian partner, however the JV itself will need the ministry's approval first. With the proposal submitted to the ministry, OFB does not expect any hurdles in getting the permission from the ministry. Even Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is producing Brahmos missiles through a JV, said the source.
The Russians propose to transfer the manufacturing technology to the proposed JV instead of the ordnance factory alone. Almost 90% of the know-how will be transferred, and it is expected that a substantial amount of work will then take place in India, rather than just the assembling, the official said.
A chunk of the manufacturing process will be undertaken in OFAJ, which makes a host of artillery shells apart from Pinaka rockets, which are also based on Russian technology. The director general of ordnance factory Sashidhar Dimri had announced plans to make Smerch at this factory during a visit with minister of state for defence Pallam Raju.
Meanwhile, in a small step towards indigenization of Bofors-type artillery guns, the ordnance factory has recently dispatched a couple of upgraded 155mm howitzers to the army. This is the first batch of guns lying with the army that have been upgraded by the ordnance factory.
With the upgradation, the caliber of the guns has been increased to 155x45mm from 155x39mm earlier. This leads to increase in the barrel length, giving the guns a longer range. The 155x 39mm Bofors gun is the howitzer originally purchased by the army. With the upgradation, its range has been enhanced by around 10km, said a source involved in this process.
The ordnance factory has also upgraded the electronics in a couple of 155x39 mm guns sent by the army, said a source in the OFB.
As international procurement was delayed, the army had last year appointed the OFB as designated agency for indigenously making these guns in bulk. The process will be undertaken in stages, including barrel upgradation and followed by other parts. Eventually the gun will be completely made here, said the source.
Meanwhile, the army is also scouting for more howitzers especially of the higher 155x52 caliber in the international market as it needs to replenish the artillery. The OFB had received drawings along with the guns which were sourced from Sweden in 1986. The army has asked it to come up with six prototypes, including two of 155x45 caliber and rest of 155x39 version, but with enhanced capabilities.

Times of India

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