NAGPUR: Eight years after the project began, the defence ministry has finally given the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) the go-ahead to make 114 Dhanush — the indigenous howitzers designed on the lines of Swedish Bofors. When the plan was envisaged, the original requirement was projected at 414 guns.

Now, order for the remaining 300 is expected after the first lot is delivered.

Dhanush has come up as an upgraded version of the Bofors with a higher range and latest systems. While Dhanush is of 155 x 45 mm calibre, the Bofors was 155 x 39 mm calibre. 

The last round of trials were completed in June last year yet the final formality was awaited on the basis of which OFB was supposed to get the bulk production clearance. After the confirmatory evaluation under General Staff Qualitative Requirement (GSQR) norms was completed in January, the OFB received bulk production clearance on Monday. This gives the organisation a clear order to make 114 guns for the Army.

The weapon, which will be made at the Gun Carriage Factory (GCF) in Jabalpur, is the first long range artillery towed gun to be made in India. It will replace the Swedish Bofors purchased in the 1980s.

Four pieces have already been sent to the army’s School of Artillery at Deolali near Nashik. Date for the dedication ceremony has not been finalised yet as it will depend on the availability of a chief guest. The function is likely to be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said sources.

The OFB had to face trial by fire to finally get the bulk clearance. TOI had covered all the developments — from the decision to make the guns at home to various developments during the course.

Acceptance of any other gun systems is based on GSQR trials which is limited to firing 200 rounds from a single prototype. In case of Dhanush, 4,600 rounds were fired during various stages of trials from six guns.

The concept of user exploitation was introduced for the first time in this case. Under this, the army was given six guns for practice use so that the user gets well-versed with the weapon after extensive firing. Even the granting of BPC was dependent on completion of user exploitation. This has not happened for other systems including foreign acquisitions.

The GCF plans to send the first six guns by end of the current financial year. It has already made 12 prototypes. “There are plans to make 36 guns by December, followed by 48 in 2020 and finally completing the order over the next three years,” said a source.

The trials were marred by three misfires which included one barrel burst and two muzzle hits, and a CBI inquiry. So far 81% of indigenisation has been achieved which is projected to be taken to 91% by end of 2019.