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Nalanda OFB to develop indigenous artillery shells

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NEW DELHI (PTI): After its earlier partners - both foreign firms - were banned by the Defence Ministry, Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) Nalanda has begun work to indigenously develop critical components needed for artillery shells, including Bofors guns.

"It has been decided that the Bi-Modular Charge Systems (BMCS) required for firing artillery shells for heavy guns like Bofors will be indigenously developed by OFB Nalanda in Bihar. The technology would be provided by the Nainital-based DRDO laboratory High Energy Materials Research Laboratory (HEMRL)," an OFB official told PTI.

BMCS are the propellant required for firing ammunition of high-calibre howitzers and artillery guns.

The materials and chemicals required for developing BMCS have been developed by other OFBs and a small number of the finished products- in test-tube quantity- have been sent to Balasore in Odisha for Initial Assessment Trials (IAT), officials said.

OFB Nalanda, which has been given the responsibility to produce BMCS, will start operating its first plant by August, they said, adding the plant will produce some key components required for making the final product.

The IAT has been scheduled for next week, after which the equipment will be subject to the quality parameters set by the Directorate General of Quality Assurance under the Defence Ministry.

These tests will validate the progress made by OFB in making the systems, which will be used as prototypes to be further developed to meet the requirement of the Indian Army, said the officials.

The Defence Ministry had given the OFB the go-ahead in 1999 to produce the BMCS and had set November 2001 as deadline to complete the project.

Initially, the government had selected South African firm Denel to provide the required technology. But in June 2005, the firm was blacklisted after allegations of corruption.

In 2007, Israeli Military Industries was selected as the partner to supply the technology and a contract was signed with it. But soon, IMI too was charged with corruption and was blacklisted by the Defence Ministry.

Though no timeline has been fixed for the development of these BMCS, officials hope that the plants will be fully functional by the end of this year and the final products will be ready soon after.

"We have to ensure that all the required procedures are fulfilled while ensuring that we finish the project soon," the officials added.

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