A few months after clearing critical trials, the Dhanush artillery guns — also called “Desi Bofors” — have entered the production phase to meet Army’s operational gap of field howitzers. The “Make in India” defence manufacturing project took off with the receipt of Bulk Production Clearance (BPC) from the Army for 144 Dhanush guns. Sources said the Ordnance Factories Board (OFB) has already started the production of indigenously manufactured 155 mm/45 calibre artillery gun.
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OFB had been waiting for the BPC from the army to start production after Dhanush successfully passed evaluation by the Directorate General of Quality Assurance (DGQA) and the Maintainability Evaluation Trial.
Gun Carriage Factory, Jabalpur plans to supply 6 guns within 6 months, another 12 within 12 months and another 36 guns within 24 months.
This was decided at the OFB’s General Managers’ strategic conference held last month. The decision raises questions about the Army’s plans to get all 144 guns from the OFB within three years.
Dhanush will be the first artillery gun to be acquired by the Army since the purchase of Bofors guns from Sweden in 1980s.
The current order for 144 guns is estimated to be of Rs 1,260 crore, with the Army having an option to acquire up to 414 guns based on operational performance. As per its Field Artillery Rationalisation Plan, Army needs to buy 2,820 artillery guns of various types to replace obsolete guns and equip new units.
Dhanush gun is based on the design and manufacturing technology obtained from Bofors in the 1980s. Under the original Bofors contract, India had obtained Transfer of Technology to manufacture 155mm guns after inducting 410 guns.
The ensuing Bofors corruption scandal, however, hit all such plans till those old schematics were brought out by the OFB in early 2011. OFB claims that the indigenous howitzer is better than the original Swedish gun in range, accuracy, reliability and ‘shoot-and-scoot’ capabilities. Bofors is a 155 mm/39 calibre gun whereas Dhanush is a 155 mm/45 calibre. The enhanced calibre imparts a longer firing range.
OFB is upgrading its manufacturing line for bulk production at Jabalpur Gun Carriage Factory from 2016, wherein it will be able to produce 30-35 guns every year. There are no plans for exporting Dhanush, sources in the OFB said.