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Indigenous Hand Grenade: Development

The belated development  and non availability of good design of Hand Grenade, a  basic but a very effective and lethal anti-personnel ammunition in the hands of an Infantry soldier in close quarter combat, is a story of lack of  accountability. The development agency and Army has to share the responsibility for domain protection.

The Defence Acquisition Council cleared the acquisition of 10 lakh ‘Multi-Mode’ Hand Grenades worth more than Rs.500 core from the private industry recently. , and a production agency has been selected to manufacture them in large numbers. A brief history of development would raise concern over the delayed availability of this basic but a very effective and lethal anti-personnel ammunition item in the hands of an Infantry soldier. Since it is hand thrown and generally used in close quarter combat, it is essential that it meets the conflicting requirement of being completely safe for own soldier till thrown and lethal after that for the enemy target. Hence safety, reliability, and lethality are of critical importance under war conditions and can make a difference of life and death.

Grenade No. 36M Hand Grenade currently in service with our Army is essentially a derivative of World War I design. This ubiquitous, rudimentary and straightforward Grenade has thus been in use for a long time despite its severe limitations by vintage design and matching production techniques in safety and reliability parameters, numerous casualties and defect reports.

Delayed Development

Indian Army initiated a GSQR  in 1988 and Terminal Ballistic Research Laboratory (TBRL), a DRDO  Laboratory undertook the development of Multimode Grenade having dual role viz; Hand & Rifle launch mode. The product design and trial started in 1999; however, User suggested changes in composition to meet the parameters as per GSQR. The design changes and tests continued until 2008.

The developed product had two variants; the lethal one is a fragmentation grenade that is meant to kill by the shrapnel. The non-lethal one acts as a stun grenade, which is used for room intervention operations and reduces casualties in densely populated areas while taking down terrorists.

The general purpose anti-personnel grenade, named Shivalik, for use in the offensive and defensive role in the hand mode and for launching from the rifle by using standard ball ammunition. The bullet trap technology used in the grenade eliminates the need of the special ballistite or gas cartridge for starting grenade from the rifle. The Grenade has three primary modules fuze, grenade body, and launcher tube. The different modules can be assembled or dissembled with ease. It is possible to prime and unprime the grenade any number of times without affecting its efficiency. The fuze assembly forms the primary module. With the explosive-filled non-splintering body, it forms an offensive grenade. Addition of fragmenting sleeve transforms it into a defensive grenade and the attachment of a launch tube converts it into a rifle grenade.

Multi-Mode Concept: Shivalik is multi-functional depending on the situation. In an offensive role, it is used in the final stages of assault from a distance of about 50 m from the line of enemy defence. Being non-splintering type, offensive grenade on detonation stuns the enemy through concussion effect within a radius of about 5 m from the point of burst. In the defensive mode, it is used against the enemy troops in open when our troops are in defence. The controlled and uniform spread of the fragments from the fragmenting sleeve can incapacitate a human being within a specified radius from the point of burst but causes no harm to our troops beyond a certain predetermined distance.

The technology of the pre-fragmented pellets, embedded in a plastic matrix has been fully established. The main bursting charge is precast pellet (RDX/TNT), the technology for which has been developed indigenously. The bullet trap technology has been incorporated in the launching tube, which enables the use of normal ball ammunition for its launch from 5.56 mm INSAS rifle.

Fuze: The fuze has been designed to function on impact with a guarantee of self-destruction due to the incorporation of a predetermined delay — the fuze functions at all angles of incidence. An additional safety mechanism has been provided by a shutter mechanism blocking the explosive train. A safety lever mechanism has been incorporated to hold the safety pin secured. In rifle grenade lever is secured by a metallic ring which flies back due to set back forces on firing arming the fuze after a safe distance

Sight: A bubble sight has been provided for mounting on the rifle to aid the firer to achieve the desired ranges at different firing angles. The maximum range achieved by the rifle grenade is 200 m in comparison to 120 m presently achieved from M 36 grenade.

The grenade body has been made very light and compact by using special polymers. The shape is more ergonomic. The grenade, besides being para droppable, can be used in the temperature range of -20 degree C to +55  digree C and is not affected by rain or humidity conditions. The grenade is maintenance free. The Shivalik grenade is in the final stages of user trials. With its introduction into the Services, it will substantially contribute to the infantry's capabilities in the battlefield, and the country will move one step forward towards its mission of self-reliance.

The new Hand Grenades will replace the existing inventory a World War vintage design, HE-36 grenades manufactured by the Ordnance Factory Board. Now the order is being placed on Private sector. Hopefully, Army will get the product in about 2 -3 years.

DGQA Product Upgrade

Based on concern of the User, Controllerate of Quality Assurance (Ammunition)a unit of the Directorate General of Quality Assurance (DGQA) took up the development of new  Defensive Hand Grenade as product development with the help of Industry (OFB+Private sector) in the year 2003-04 and offered a design for user trials in 2005, within one year of taking on the product upgrade. The design of Hand Grenades we as subjected to in-house, Users, troops fragmentation/lethality and confirmatory trials.

The performance was satisfactory and comparable with DRDO grenade.  All units conducting trials have recommended Grenade for introduction into service with some minor modifications which have already been incorporated in the design.

Distinctive Advantages

It had a salient edge over DRDO Offered design as under:-

  • DRDO project took more than 15 years and a project cost of about Rs. 5 Crores. DGQA took one year to develop, and project cost Rs 10 lakhs.
  • DRDO design was complicated and productionable at laboratory scale not fit for mass production due to complex fuze design, resultantly OFB could not produce it for more than ten years. In comparison, the DGQA Grenade was manufactured by OFB
  • The Aerodynamic shape gave more range.
  • DRDO grenade is bulky and does not fit in the existing pouch and cannot be gripped comfortably by the average soldier.
  • The cost of the grenade was about Rs 840 against Rs 1260 of DRDO offered solution at that time.
  • The grenade can be used for two distinct roles viz. Offensive and Defensive. The photographs are placed at plates ‘A' and ‘B'.
    • Lighter Body weight.
    • Higher explosive mass
    • Nature of HE filling has been enhanced (Mixture of RDX: TNT) to increase the blast effect.
    • Use of 4500 Nos. cylindrical pellets embedded in a plastic sleeve (for use in Defensive mode) has been made to increase lethality.
  • Detonator is linear (instead of existing J-shaped) to increase reliability and uniformity of detonation.
  • Aerodynamic shape, size and the weight of the Grenade make it convenient to handle and use.
  • Comfortable to hold in a single hand and can be thrown for more than 30m by an average soldier (due to lighter weight viz. 250/450 gms).
  • In a defensive role, the persons within 8m radius are damaged, at the same time, the Grenade is safe beyond 20m from the point of burst.
  • In Offensive role, it stuns persons within the radius of 5m from radius from the point of a blast.
  • Uniform fragmentation and terminal effects.
  • The Grenade is capable of being used in the temp range of –50°C to+ 55°C and is capable of being stored in the temp range of –50°C to + 75°C.
  • It is not affected adversely by rain/humidity.
  • In addition to the safety pin, a Nylon Ring has been provided to hold the fly off lever. This provides additional safety during transport/handling of Defensive Grenade.
  • The grenade is 100% safe during the primed condition. They are fit for Para dropping (Fit for AirDrop).
  • The grenades and detonators are packed in Box H2A and Box D4C separately. To avoid the effect of static electrical charges and damage during handling and transportation, the profeel cushioning has been provided as an inner package.

Preference to DRDO Development

This is another classic case of developmental delays just like convention Small Arms.The many of the DRDO's projects even for conventional Arms not of very high technology have resulted in cost and time overrun. Despite edge on all counts,  the authority in Army HQ at that timeapproved the DRDO Grenade for reasons known to themselves and resultantlystill waiting for the design to be produced. The short-sighted and narrow in vision on overlooking the fatal accidents with DRDO Grenade during trials were overlooked.The hierarchical set up in Army, priorities often follow the preferences and interest of those in command. It was a clear case of DRDO managing to scuttle entry of others in development /upgrade and even acknowledge their contribution. Protection of domain and taking credit for development done by others which are the order of the day should not be encouraged.

The DRDO fault-line primarily is a result of a lack of accountability, focus, and failure to develop scientific disposition. The focus of DRDO from its inception seems to be indulging in empire building, spending its budget on infrastructure, while neglecting research work even in necessary military equipment such as small Arms. DRDO innovation ecosystems are not geared to deliver products on time, as it distanced itself from the Users since early1970 to build its empire. The armed forces are its only customers in waiting and not partners. Technologically advanced and vibrant defence industry emerges due to shared contribution and is equally critical for India's security and its global aspirations. It is essential that technology development for conventional defence product be left for a manufacturer for TOT acquisition/development as in advance countries.

 

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