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By Bulbul Singh

23 May 07. The Indian government has floated a global tender for setting up its 40th ordnance factory at Nalanda in Bihar state. The factory will manufacture ammunition for the 155mm guns with the Indian Army.

Global tenders have been sent to defence majors in Israel, Europe, United States, Germany, Russia, South Korea for plant and machinery valued at $200m.

The formal contract is likely to be awarded by end of this year and the factory will be operational 30 months after the contract is awarded.

In 2002, the former National Democratic Alliance government had identified Denel of South Africa to provide the basic technology for 155mm howitzer ammunition. However, after the ruling United Progressive Alliance government came to power, Denel was blacklisted in 2005 for involvement in alleged kickbacks in dealings with the Indian Defence Ministry

The new ordnance factory in Nalanda will employ 3500 skilled manpower and the factory will manufacture 200, 000 changes of 155 mm howitzer each year once it becomes fully operational in 2010.

Indian Army is presently using over 400 155 mm howitzer guns which are now slated for mid-life upgrade. The Indian government has already spent around $83m on the Nalanda Factory as the 40th ordnance factory under the Kolkata-based Ordnance Factories Board.

The Indian Defence Ministry has also taken more initiatives to streamline the functioning of the 39 state-owned Indian ordnance factories, currently being administered by the Kolkata-based Ordnance Factories Board.

The Ordnance factories have been asked to explore partnership with overseas and domestic defence companies to develop new products.

The new directive will come as a boon to the 39 ordnance factories as they will be encouraged to enter technical and equity linked tie-ups with overseas defence companies.

The Ordnance Factories Board has already initiated talks with India’s private sector major, Tata Power for the upgrade of 155mm Howitzers for the Indian Army which were bought from Bofors Sweden in the 80’s. Larsen & Toubro is in the running along with Elbit and Soltum of Israel.

The Indian ordnance factories have been manufacturing mostly ammunition for the Indian army field guns, guns, and shells.

An Ordnance Factories Board official said that talks will also be imitated to tie up with an overseas company for the manufacture of smart ammunition.

Today, Ordnance Factories manufacture a wide range of products starting from troop comfort items including small arms, ammunitions, weapons artillery guns transport and armored vehicle, optical equipments required by Artillery Infantry Air Defence and Mechanized Forces with a turnover of around US $ per annum. However considering the working strength of over 120,000 personnel the volume of turnover is regarded on the lower side.

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