Poor quality ammunition coming out of the state-owned Ordnance Factory Board has caused a flutter in the Indian Army. Quality Assurance of ammunition and military wherewithal is a national security issue, says former Army General.

Recalling a major tragedy that happened due to poor quality ammunition, Lt Gen Rakesh Sharma (retd) told Financial Express Online that “The problem of defective ammunition is severe and often gets swept under the carpet. One can recall the 31 May 2016 accident at Central Ammunition Depot (CAD) Pulgaon which caused the death of 19 civilian and military personnel.”

“This was laid on a major flaw in anti-tank mines with poor quality of explosive. There is a very large quantity of ammunition lying segregated in various ammunition depots and dumps which requires certification of its quality. It is a grave risk,” he points out.

According to Sharma, the quality control of the ammunition is no casual talk- it’s playing with lives. “Inevitably the manufacturers in the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) will lay the blame on poor handling and storage! That is a poor excuse for an issue of immense importance. The tankers and gunners tend to lose confidence in the ammunition which will be detrimental to the war effort. (This issue) Cannot be brushed under the carpet as bureaucratese. Quality Assurance of ammunition and military wherewithal is a national security issue.”

The complaint relating to the failure of quality control by the state-owned entity has been raised with the secretary (defence production) Ajay Kumar.

Sources in the Indian Army have confirmed to Financial Express Online that “We have approached the Defence Secretary in the Ministry of Defence about the low quality of ammunition being produced at the OFB. These are being used in tanks, artillery, air defence and other guns.”

In several cases, there have been injuries to soldiers as well as the equipment which has burst due to the faulty ammunition. In a 15 page complaint made by the Indian Army, to the Defence Secretary Production, the Indian Army has pointed out that there are regular accidents involving 105mm Indian field guns, 105mm light field guns, 130mm MA1 medium guns, 40mm L-70 air defence guns, and ammunition for the guns of T-72, T-90 and the Arjun main battle tanks.

Following a major accident earlier this year in which a officer and soldiers were injured, the army has stalled the training firing of 40mm high explosive ammunition by the L-70 air defence guns.

The OFB has 412 factories across the country and is the main supplier of arms and ammunition to over 12 lakh strong Indian Army.

In fact when foreign guns are tested for the modernisation of the Indian Army, they are tested with the Indian ammunition which comes from the OFB. Last summer, during a field trial of the US-based BAE Systems’M-777 which was to be inducted in the Indian Army, exploded during a field trial in Pokhran due to faulty ammunition.

Last year, reportedly, OFB spokesperson Uddipan Mukherjee had attributed the incident to a complex phenomenon pertaining to internal ballistics as the shell moves at a very high speed inside the barrel.