The recent report of Comptroller and Auditor General on shortage of ammunition is a cause of concern directly impairing the operational readiness of the force. The comprehensive report finds all aspects of Ammunition Management lacking, be it Demand Projection, Procurement, Production, Storage, Quality Assurance, Defect Investigation. The report basically does not highlight something new which MoD did not know. Fact of the matter the real issue is - do we really need to stock the Ammunition at the scale quoted?
Ammunition constitutes the most lethal part of any weaponry, is a basic requirement of the Army to fight a war or train a soldier. The CAG report No 19 on ammunition management pointed that the army faced a massive ammunition shortage with reserves that would barely last 20 days of intense fighting. The report also states "While availability of authorised stock against War Wastage Reserve (WWR) to meet the expected duration of operation formed the basic criteria for ensuring the operational readiness of the Army, we found during the review that against the WWR of 40 (I) days, the availability of ammunition was only in 10 percent of the total types of ammunition held (March 2013). Further, in 50 percent of the total types of ammunition, the holding was 'critical' i.e., less than 10 (I) days,"
There is nothing new in the report which MoD did not know. However the concern should be the present, ammunition reserve deficiency which is about 40% which will go up by 50% by 2015. Fact of the matter it is failure of the MoD as a whole. Why blame any one of the agency only. The report has castigated MoD on all counts be it Demand projection, Procurement, Production, Storage, Quality assurance, Defect Investigation. The matter of shortage of ammunition has been mainly due to:-
- Deficiencies in planned provisioning
- Slippages in the targets in resource allocation and production
- Storage and Maintenance, issues to troops and disposal of unserviceable Amn.
- Quality and defect Investigation
Most of the ammunition for the Army is procured from Ordnance Factory Board (OFB). An average percentage of sourcing is as indicated.
As for production by OFB is concerned, a five year Roll on Indent on OFB is planned and the corresponding annual production requirements are projected and accepted, still there is shortfall in 54 to 73 percent in different types of ammunition every year. This itself speaks for planning, procurement and production.
Import, as an alternate source of procurement, proved to be unreasonably slow, due to delay in finalization of import contracts, the build-up of ammunition has been badly hampered.
War Wastage Reserve scales of 40 (I) days, or of late of 'Bottom Line' or 'Minimum Acceptable Risk Level' (MARL) requirements which averaged to 20 (I) days is the basis on which Annual Provisioning of ammunition is to be carried out by DGOS.
The Ammunition availability has been dwindling over the years as types of critical ammunition (available for less than 10 days (I)) had increased from 15 per cent in March 2009 to 50 per cent in March 2013. The percentage of critical ammunition in High calibre ranged up to 84 per cent during the last five years. The critical shortages impacted the operational preparedness and training regimen of the Army.
The critical ones includes tank and air defence ammunition, anti-tank guided missiles, specialized machine-gun magazines, grenades and mine fuses. The main Amn deficiency is in High caliber crucial land systems and mainly of East European origin.
Indigenous capacity exist and OF Gearing up the capacity
- 125mm HE
- 125mm HEAT
- 23 mm HE/T Medium
Indigenous capacity being created and as of now shortage due to procurement delays
- 125mm FSAPDS
- 155 mm Bi-Modular Charge System
- 40mm MGL HE HEDP
No Production Planned due to low Volume Requirement and Sourced from abroad.
- 122mm GRAD BM-21 HE
- 300mm Smerch 9m 55K Rockets
- 30/40 mm VOG-17 5
- 7.62mm PKT
Due to the overall shortages of ammunition, AHQ imposed restrictions on training ammunition, applicable to the all categories. Resultantly the training suffers.
The improper stocking of ammunition, holding of vintage stock without inspection, increases fire/accident risk in the depots. The situation has resulted into number of accidents in the depots in the recent past as indicated.
Depots hold vast quantities of obsolete ammunition (both serviceable and unserviceable) of weapon systems which are obsolete. The variations in storage conditions affect assigned shelf life to certain extent. The Magazine Regulations require periodic turnover and inspection of ammunition to certify its serviceability and classify as serviceable, repairable and unserviceable to be disposed off. The turnover, inspection, repair and destruction of obsolete ammunition etc. has not been carried out as required. Destruction of ammunition is a slow and cumbersome process.
Lack of space and shortage of staff adds to the problems, consequently obsolescence of ammunition is constantly overtaking the destruction of existing stocks of obsolete ammunition. Incidentally, after Depot accidents some amount of money was sanctioned for building proper storage of ammunition. The situation is not satisfactory as on till date Storage Accommodation is still short by 50%.
The size and scope of the level of munitions stockpiles and are indicative of what may be the situation in many nations. As for India, ammunition worth Rs 3,578 crore was lying in segregated condition even as ammunition worth Rs 2,109 crore was awaiting repairs.
The deterioration is outcome of problem related to design and process deficiencies, inability of the ammunition to withstand the storage and operation environment. The need to devise a life cycle process keeping in view our environment. The health check of stored ammunition or quality assessment should be conducted on regular basis and the resultant information be leveraged to formulate models for our environment. Predict, detect, identify & mitigate to prevent risk involving safety and performance.
Due to lack of quality controls by the Ordnance Factories and despite quality Assurance by DGQA ammunition worth Rs. 1,618 crore was lying as rejected in depots. Ammunition worth Rs. 814 crore was declared unserviceable within shelf life by the depots due to poor quality.
When any ammunition meets an accident, Army impose ban on use of that particular lot of ammunition. Such ammunition is kept segregated till investigation. It is pertinent to mention here, the reported defects are only a fraction of actual occurrences and most of the defects are not reported to avoid unnecessary hassles. As per the policy the investigations into rejections/defects are required to be completed within three months. The stated objective of the investigations is to identify the underlying causes so that corrective measures are taken to prevent their recurrence.
Incidentally a Ammunition Life Prediction and Defect Investigation laboratory has come up under the aegis of DGQA under CQA (Amn) Pune. Unfortunately it is awaiting required equipment for last 7 years to be fully functional. The CAG has observed that ammunition worth Rs. 3,578 crore were lying in segregated condition awaiting sentencing and ammunition worth Rs. 2,109 crore was lying in Repairable major condition awaiting repairs.
The management of ammunition operates through a set of policy making bodies and regulatory authorities, who determine the type and quantum of ammunition to be held and specifies the parameters regarding their movement, placement, storage and discard. Effective coordination at the apex level is of paramount importance to ensure that new strategies and policies are executed well in time.
Given the persistent shortfall in availability of authorized reserves, Ministry should devise an objective and realistic mechanism, duly considering the capacity of Ordnance Factories, availability of budget and inescapable requirement of the Army to ensure that the operational requirements of the Army are fully met. Besides the recommendations given by CAG need of the hour is to analyse the rational of 40(I) WWR. We never had a scenario where we had 40 days of intense engagement. Do we still insist on 40 days WWR. The operations branch need to consider reworking of war reserve scales in the present environment. Alternatively consider a concept of flexible manufacturing to over come storage, aging and meeting the impromptu requirement at short notice.