Nagpur: COVID outbreak has hit the supply of Dhanush 155x45mm artillery guns, the Indian version of Bofors, to the army. The weapon systems are being made at the Gun Carriage Factory (GCF), Jabalpur, in MP.

The first batch of six guns was issued from the GCF in April 2019. This year the factory was supposed to supply another six to eight guns. However, no dispatch could happen as the COVID lockdown hampered operations at the factory.

It is learnt four guns are ready for issue after trials, but could not be delivered to the army due to logistics hurdles. Another batch has been built, but the trials could not happen on account of lockdown.

The total supply of the Dhanush guns would still be short of equipping one full artillery regiment this year. Sources said after building the entire gun, each piece has to be proven fit for use after trials. The ranges are in other states and access to the area was not possible due to the lockdown. The ranges are located in two different corners of the country, they said.

After the factory reopened in June, the production process remains slow as workers have to follow COVID prevention standard operating procedure (SOP), a source said.

This coupled with procedural hurdles is expected to delay completion of entire project by one year. After the project was initiated in 2010 , Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) got a bulk production clearance to make the guns in 2019.

The army has placed an indent for 114 Dhanush guns. The order is supposed to be completed in four years but it may now take five, said sources.

It is expected the current year’s batch may be delivered in a couple of months with delivery of the guns that have already been proven to happen before that. GCF will have to scale up its production to 50 guns a year from 2021 to meet targets. At present, the factory is operating at its optimum capacity. Much of the new machines have been procured and the process continues.

Though based on Swedish Bofors, Dhanush is an advanced weapon system with higher range and accuracy. It took a series of trials for the army to finally place an order for 114. The guns have fired 5,000 rounds during trials to get the final clearance. This was a record on its own.

The ordnance factories are also up gunning the existing 130 mm guns with the army to 155mm. This will help increasing their range. Named Sharang, the factory is supposed to deliver 300 guns. This project is also expected to be delayed by a year, said sources.