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SOURCE: ET

In a first for the private sector in India, the defence ministry has placed orders on the industry for the supply of ten lakh hand grenades to replace a vintage design in service with the forces, marking a major change from the past where similar products were either imported or made by the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB).

The contract for supply of the modern hand grenades, to be spread over a period of two years, was signed on Thursday with Economic Explosive Limited (EEL) and is valued at over Rs 400 crore. The new grenades – called multi mode hand grenades (MMHG) – have been designed by the Terminal Ballistics Research Laboratory of DRDO and is completely made in India.

The contract marks the first time that a privately owned company will supply the armed forces a completely built ammunition, reducing single source dependency of the OFB. Sources said that the costing of the grenades is also lesser than comparative production costs by OFB.

These new grenades will be supplied to the army and air force to replace Grenade No 36 – a World War II vintage design – that is currently in service. The MMGH can be used in fragmentation and stun modes and has a proven accurate delay time and high usage reliability.

DRDO had transferred technology to manufacture the grenades to the private company in 2016, following which extensive trials were carried out by the army in all weather conditions. These included trails in the deserts, high altitude areas as well as plains.

“The MMHG case showcases how private-public partnership can deliver results very successfully for the vital defence sector in just a few years. It is for the first time in India that a privately owned company would be getting to supply an order for complete ammunition,” a senior EEL executive said.

With the technology proven, the defence ministry fast tracked the acquisition case in just over a year, marking a speedy internal decision making process for a fully indigenous system. While there is a significant domestic demand for the MMHG, with India looking at becoming an export destination, the order could open up the international market for EEL as well. EEL is part of the Solar Group, which has set up a 2,000 acre facility for manufacturing ammunition and high energy materials in Nagpur – the biggest such project undertaken by the private sector.