A last-minute change in standards for making the latest multimodal hand grenades that are set to replace the World War II era M36 grenades used by the Indian Army has raised questions. The new grenades will be made by Ordnance Factory Khamaria (OFK) and a private sector entity from Nagpur.
Nagpur’s Economic Explosives Limited (EEL) has emerged as the sole qualifying private company to bid for the hand grenade contract. Request for Proposal (RFP), the document inviting bids, has been issued to EEL as the sole qualifier.
The key parameter in a hand grenades’ functioning is the timing of explosion. A specific timing has to be fixed for the grenade to blow up after its pin is pulled. For the multimodal grenades, it has to be not before 3.5 seconds and not later than 4.5 seconds.
After the RFP was issued, an amendment was made allowing leeway for 10% of the production batch. No 5% of the grenades can have a timing between 3.5 and 4.75 seconds and another 5% can have timing between 3.5 and 5 seconds. This happened around August this year following a meeting to discuss the project in the ministry of defence, said a source.
The initial delay is needed to ensure the grenade does not blow up in soldier’s hand but it should also not give the enemy enough time to throw it back. A leeway for 10% of the production batch comes as a surprise, said sources involved in the development of the weapon.
Both EEL and the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) officials denied asking for any relaxation. Both sides said they had already achieved over 99% accuracy in maintaining the 3.5 to 4.5 seconds bandwidth during trials so there was no question of them asking for easing the norms.
Representatives of EEL management showed TOI a trial report that read the grenade made by the company had achieved more than 99% accuracy. A company official accepted there was a subsequent change in requirements.
OFB officials maintained no change in requirement has been intimated to them. This is because OFB will not be getting an order through RFP. An indent will be placed directly by the army to them. OFK will stick to the 3.5 to 4.5 timing, said an OFB official.
“Had the concession been allowed earlier, OFB would have been able to start making grenades in 2012 itself as it was already developed but perfect timings could not be achieved. The project started in 2005 and it took over a decade for the OFB to achieve the timing. Now relaxation for even 10% of the batch is no longer needed,” said an OFB official. EEL came into the picture in 2015, even as OFB was working on the project much earlier, the source said.
OFB has fired a couple of thousand rounds during the trials after which the product was cleared. Even after clearing the timings test, questions were raised about the ring on the grenade by which it is fixed to hold it by the finger. A clarification was needed on the material used for making the ring. There was another query related to rust seen on a joint. With all questions answered, OFB is now waiting for the army to issue production order. For the private sector, RFP process will continue.