home-grown edge

The Ordnance Factories Board (OFB) is setting new benchmarks with its indigenous capability to design and produce modern defence systems. In a tête-à-tête with The Pioneer, the Director General of Ordnance Factories (DGOF) and the Chairman of the OFB, P K Shrivastava, shares an update of the projects under way and future plans.

How many product specific divisions and factories does OFB have at present?

Today, there are 41 ordnance factories organised in five divisions according to products and technology. These operating divisions are Ammunition and Explosives (A&E), Weapons, Vehicles and Equipment (WV&E), Material and Components (M&C), Armoured Vehicle (AV) and the Ordnance Equipment Group of Factories (OEF). Each of these is headed by a Member. While OFB has a total of nine Members, the remaining Members are responsible for staff functions namely personnel, finance, planning and material management, technical services and engineering. This year, one Member has been specifically assigned for the marketing and export function.

How effectively have you implemented the ‘Make in India’ initiative?

The Ordnance Factories have always been a shining example of ‘Make in India’ and have been at the forefront of indigenisation. The indigenous content of the products of the ordnance factories is more than 90 per cent. Moreover, the OFB has developed the indigenous, defence industrial complex in the country by nurturing domestic vendors. To take these efforts further, the OFB has offered more than 20 critical items for indigenisation during the Defence-Industry Development Meet in January this year.

What is the update on upgrading the 130mm field guns of the Russian make?

The OFB has successfully upgraded the old 130-mm field gun, acquired from the erstwhile Soviet Union to 155 mm capability and has recently signed a contract for up-gunning 300 of these guns in a span of four years. The up-gunned, 155mm field gun is referred to as the ‘sharang’, named after the bow of Lord Vishnu, which was crafted by Lord Vishwakarma. The up-gunning is cost effective and also increases the performance of the guns by enhancing the range and lethality of the weapon.

What is the ‘shoot to kill’ assault rifle?

The Defence Ministry had directed the OFB to develop a prototype of the 7.62 x 51mm ‘shoot to kill’ assault rifle in September 2016 and it is indeed a matter of pride that we have successfully completed this task in a record time with 100 per cent indigenisation. The internal trials have been completed and the weapons have been handed over to the project management team, where the user trials of this rifle are presently underway.

What are the high power, multi-fuel engines which are used for battle tanks?

It was an immensely proud moment for us when, in July this year, the Union Minister of Defence Nirmala Sitharaman, handed over the OFB-manufactured, 100 per cent indigenous engines for T-72 and T-90 tanks to the Indian Army. The OFB will roll out the ‘V92S2’ engines for the T-90 tanks and the ‘V46-6’ engines for the T-72 tanks in accordance with the requirements of the Indian Army, which will result in a total foreign exchange savings of Rs 800 crore in the next 10 years.

There are reports that you are manufacturing MPVs. Can they also be effective in counter-insurgency operations?

The Mine Protected Vehicle (MPV) is an indigenous product developed by the OFB. It is a mine-resistant, ambush protected-type vehicle, used by the Indian Army, Central armed police force and the state police forces, as an armoured personnel carrier, to transport personnel with protection from the explosives and small-arms fire. It is also used for troops engaged in counter insurgency operations to accord them protection. Since it was felt that the MPVs are required to withstand a threat of greater intensity, the Modernised Mine Protected Vehicle (MMPV 6X6) has been developed and manufactured by the OFB. The MMPVs will be further effective in counter insurgency operations.

Much is being heard about Dhanush. How effective is that?

Dhanush is a state-of-the-art gun system, with an effective range of 38km in the plains and is equipped with high performance sub-system like the inertial navigation system (INS)-based sighting system, auto-laying system, an on-board ballistic computation and an advanced day and night direct firing system. The self-propulsion unit allows the gun to negotiate and deploy itself in difficult, hilly and mountainous terrains with ease. Dhanush is the first-ever, indigenous, 155x45 Cal artillery gun and a major success story of the Make in India campaign. This gun aims to give a definite, strategic and tactical advantage to the Indian Army. It has emerged as the most reliable and robust gun system which is on a par with international standards. It is now ready for induction in the Indian Army’s artillery brigade and has stirred a considerable interest in the global market.

Do you see FDI in defence as a major challenge?

Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) and the opening of up of defence manufacturing to the private sector, have presented us with both challenges and opportunities. The ordnance factories are the repositories of immense technological strength. We should be able to leverage our domain expertise to occupy a dominant position in the defence production space in the country and make our presence felt in the international markets as well. We have drawn up a ‘Vision 2022’ plan and our focus will be on research and development and tie-ups, quality and modernisation. The OFB is amongst the top defence equipment producers in the world having, end-to-end facilities covering production, testing, logistics, research, development and marketing. With a high degree of backward and forward integration and an ambitious modernisation plan, the OFB’s manufacturing capability is poised to take up new challenges.

What is your export plan?

After meeting the demand of the armed forces, the OFB has been able to export some of its products. We recorded a quantum jump in 2017-18, with exports over Rs 200 crore. We have made sustained efforts to reach out to India’s extended neighbours in Central Asia, the Middle East, and the ASEAN countries and have also tapped into the European and American hubs. A gamut of products, ranging from arms and ammunition, weapon spares to chemicals, explosives and troop comfort items are exported. It is important to mention that our strength lies in the medium and high calibre ammunition.

What steps have been taken to augment your R&D wing?

We have identified 17 growth drivers to nurture research and development (R&D). Though the mandate for R&D activities was assigned to OFB only during 2006, yet we have achieved success in the development of many new products. We are developing the Futuristic Infantry Combat Vehicle (FICV) and have come up with many other products such as the Commander’s thermal imaging night sight for T-72, the driver night sight for BMP-II, the indigenous barrel for T-90 tank, the MPVs, bullet proofing of vehicles, water bowser (2 KL), base bleed for 155 mm ERFB, A-7 ammunition for AK-47 for the Indian Army; the CRN-91 with Optronic sight, Chaff Launcher Kavach MOD-I and II, anti-submarine Rocket RGB-60, RGB-12, Rocket 140 mm and Shell AK-100 and the Sea King for the Indian Navy and the 100-120kg aerial bomb and the air-lifting apparatus for MI-17 helicopters for the Indian Air Force among others. Besides catering to the forces, the OFB is also meeting the requirements of advanced technological materials for the country’s research establishments.