Under Fire To Improve, OFB Ships 11 Million Bullets To US Market
(This was originally posted On Times Of India by Shishir Arya)
The Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) has despatched 11 million rounds of 5.56x45mm (M193) caliber bullets to the US on Thursday. It’s the same caliber of ammunition used in the 5.56 Insas assault rifles, which the Indian Army is phasing out. The bullets supplied to the US are of NATO specification, making it slightly different from that used in the country, said sources.
The Insas rifle too is made by the ordnance factories and is the first indigenous assault rifle.
The consignment took off for Chennai from the Varangaon factory near Bhusawal. This is the first major export order bagged by OFB for small arms’ ammunition to a developing country like the US. The OFB has also bagged repeat order of similar quantity, which would be despatched soon, said a source in the organization.
The factory is also working on an order to make around 4 lakh rounds of the 9 mm ammunition, which is used in the Kalashnikov (AK series) rifles, said a source. The order for the 9mm rounds has come from Israel. The bullets will be mainly pumped into the private users market apart from use in law enforcement, said a source.
This comes as a major boost for the ordnance factories, which have been under fire these days for alleged inefficiency and lack of quality in products, leading to plans for converting it into a public corporation from a government department at present.
“The order was bagged directly through an independent agency. It was cleared as ammunition fit in the quality criterion and the factory could also come up with competitive rates,” said a union source.
Made on NATO specifications, these bullets are made entirely of lead. The rounds supplied domestically have a mix of lead and steel. The lead bullets have more lethality, a source said. This serves dual purpose of private possession and also by security forces, said a source.
Even as the Indian Army is phasing out the 5.56 Insas rifles as it was reported to be disadvantageous, the production of rounds continues at the factories. This is for the rifles that still remain in use by the forces. Apart from the Army, even the paramilitary forces have been using the Insas, which was put into use during the Kargil war. The Army, however, does not find it too suitable for counter-insurgency operations.
As for the 9mm ammunition, which is being made by the factory, it will have a different primer and the propellant system as compared to that in bullets made at present, said a source.
Meanwhile, the orders for making 5.56 Insas rifles itself have come down to negligible levels because of the Army’s plans to phase it out, said OFB sources.