After importing the Bofors guns over 30 years ago, India is now looking forward to export the ammunition required for the weapon. The Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) is close to bagging an order to make 155mm shells, which are used in Bofors-type artillery guns, for the United Arab Emirate (UAE) army.
The ordnance factories' exports will multiply 10 times once the Rs235 crore order is finalized. "At present, exports are within Rs20-25 crore," said sources.
The shells will be made in the Ordnance Factories in Vidarbha located at Nagpur, Chandrapur and Bhandara. All three are mainly engaged in making high calibre ammunition like the 155mm shells.
The deal is a part of recent firming up of ties between India and UAE. Similar cooperation is being proposed in other sectors too. The crown prince of Abu Dabhi Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayeed Ali Nahyan was India's guest during the Republic Day celebrations.
Sources privy to the development said that the proposal came up during the last week of February when an Indian delegation visited UAE. The offer came from UAE to which India responded quickly. "The contract has been signed by India and now the UAE's stamp is awaited on the documents," said sources.
This will be the first ever major defence contract with UAE. "The 155mm shells which are used in Bofors type guns with a range of over 35km will be exported by India for the first time," said a source in the Ordnance Factory.
OFB will be making the 155mm extended bore full range shells of boat-tail version for UAE. The shells mainly come in boat-tail and base-bleed versions. The OFB makes both versions. The boat-tail version is older and the factories have established the expertise in making the shell.
Even as the guns of 155x39 calibre were imported from Sweden in the 80s, the Ordnance Factories had long back begun making the shells indigenously. In last three years, the gun too has been indigenized with the Gun Carriage Factory (GCF) at Jabalpur having got an order to make 116 guns. Named Dhanush, the indigenous gun is of a higher calibre at 155x45 mm giving a better range.
The order will also be giving a major fillip to ordnance factories which now mainly depend on the Indian army for orders.
Ordnance factory has 50-odd products for exports. So far, exports have been mainly to countries like Maldives, Sri Lanka, Indonesia with a few orders bagged from Germany too. The products include brake parachutes for Su30 and MiG 29 fighter planes, 91mm TRA gun for the Navy, small calibre ammunition.
"One of the favourites of the overseas buyers is the 12.7 air defence gun (Prahari)," said a source in the factory.