As the news of US-made M-777 ultra-light gun malfunctioning in the firing ranges of Pokhran, Rajasthan was reported on Tuesday, fears of faulty Indian ammunition hampering armed forces’ preparedness became alive.
The artillery gun being tested were among the first two guns imported by the Army as part of a $700 million government-to-government deal between India and the United States for 145 M-777s.
According to the media reports the projectile exited the barrel in multiple pieces, damaging the gun's barrel. The incident happened on 2 September and a joint team of Army and BAE Systems, which are the manufacturers of the howitzer, is probing the incident.
NDTV.com in a report on Wednesday said that this is not the first time that an artillery gun has malfunctioned due to faulty ammunition. In two separate incidents in May and June this year, the barrels of two indigenous Dhanush guns were damaged.
Prior to that in 2013, during trials in Pokhran, a Dhanush gun was damaged as the shell burst within the barrel. Following an inquiry it was concluded that there was a fault in the ammunition which led to a premature blast and no change was needed in the gun's design, reported The Times of India.
The Dhanush, which is based on blue-prints of the Bofors gun, has cleared trials with the Indian Army and has a proven ability to strike targets 38 km away. The Army plans to acquire 414 Dhanush guns with each gun reportedly costing Rs 14 crore, NDTV.com reported.
The last artillery guns that India bought were the Swedish Bofors guns in the mid-1980s. However, with the news of alleged shady dealings during the acquisition process that went right up to the Rajiv Gandhi PMO, India's hunt for artillery guns took a very long hiatus.
Faulty ammunition is not restricted to causing malfunctioning of guns only. On 31 May last year a massive fire at the Army’s central ammunition depot in Pulgaon, Maharashtra claimed 19 lives and military equipment worth Rs 8 crore. The New Indian Express reported that the fire was caused by faulty ammunition.
The paper further wrote that investigation by a Ministry of Defence expert committee found that defective anti-tank mines had caused the Pulgaon fire.
Investigations into the fire incident revealed that in the past three years, the army had returned faulty ammunition and weaponry worth over Rs 1,300 crore to the ordinance factories, the daily reported.
This shocking revelation comes at a time when a latest CAG report has pointed out that the ammunition of Indian Army, the world’s third largest military, was enough only to sustain fights for 20 days.
In the report which was tabled in the Parliament on 21 July, the CAG also criticised the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) for inadequate quality of ammunition supplied to the Army since March 2013.
Incidentally, it’s not the Army only which is bearing the brunt of faulty ammunition. In a data compiled by the BSF faulty mortar shells have killed two Border Security Force (BSF) troopers and injured 43 during training in the last six years. All the incidents occurred after the shells failed to take the flight up to the desired distance and exploded just after they ejected from the mortar.
The two deaths and 43 injuries occurred in nine incidents spread over three firing ranges — Kishangarh in Rajasthan, Darrang in Assam and Sitagarha in Jharkhand — January 2012 and June 2017.
Three accidental shell explosions have been reported at two firing ranges this year, injuring 19 BSF personnel. The number of the injured BSF troopers this year is the highest in six years.
Only three such incidents occurred each in 2014, 2015 and 2016, causing injuries to one, nine and three BSF personnel, respectively.
After the 30 May incident this year at Kishangarh close to the Pakistan border which left nine troopers injured, the BSF has raised the issue with the Ordnance Factory Board, which functions under the Ministry of Defence.
With inputs from IANS
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Updated Date: Sep 13, 2017 17:43:20 IST