The Indian Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) Nalanda has started the indigenous development of critical components required for the production of artillery shells, including 155mm Bofors guns, after its foreign partners were banned by the Defence Ministry.

An OFB official was quoted by the Press Trust of India as saying that OFB Nalanda will indigenously develop the bi-modular charge systems (Bmcs) required for firing artillery shells from heavy guns, in Bihar, India.

"The technology would be provided by the Nainital-based DRDO laboratory, High Energy Materials Research Laboratory (HEMRL)," the official added.

According to OFB officials, by August 2012 OFB Nalanda will start operating its first plant, where some key components required for making the final product will be manufactured.

The materials and chemicals required for developing BMCS have also been developed by other OFBs and a small number of the finished products, in test-tube quantity, have already been sent to Balasore in Odisha for initial assessment trials (IATs), the officials added.

The IATs are scheduled to be conducted in May 2012, following which the equipment will be subjected to the quality parameters set by the Directorate General of Quality Assurance under the Defence Ministry.

The tests will evaluate the progress achieved by OFB in making the systems, which will serve as prototypes for further development to meet the requirements of the Indian Army.

The ministry has not set a timeline for the project, however, OFB hopes to make the plants fully functional by the end of 2012 and ready the final products soon after.

OFB was given the clearance by the ministry in 1999 to produce the BMCS, with South Africa’s Denel as technology provider and November 2001 was set as deadline to complete the project.

Denel was later blacklisted following allegations of corruption in June 2005, after which Israeli Military Industries (IMI) was selected as the partner to supply the technology in 2007, but was also banned by the ministry on similar grounds.