Nagpur: Preliminary findings of the probe into the muzzle hit, a malfunction which has been dogging the Dhanush, Indian version of Bofors howitzers, say the incident was due to defect in the shell. During both test fires in May and July, a shell hit the gun’s muzzle. There is a muzzle brake at the tip of the barrel, and the shell cannot fly to its full range if it hits this part.
The report submitted for the incident in May says that the muzzle hit took place due to premature explosion of the shell. This means, the defect has to be in the shell and not the gun’s design, says sources having knowledge of the affair. Further investigation is continuing, with the final report yet to be put up. The snag has pushed back induction of the guns into the Army.
However, data accessed by TOI shows that as many as 40 incidents of muzzle hit have been reported even in the original Swedish Bofors. This took place after the Army had inducted the gun. The findings into these incidents blamed the shell for the malfunction.
The latest incident took place in February 2015. The findings say the incident can be attributed to ‘old ammunition’. According to the data with TOI, around eight muzzle breach incidents took place in 2002 and 2003. A high number of incidents were seen in the Bofors guns during 2008 and 2009 too. In 2008, a barrel split into two pieces during training at the School of Artillery at Deolali, Maharashtra. This incident was attributed to premature explosion of the shell.
In Dhanush, one case of barrel burst and two of muzzle hit have been reported. In 2013, the barrel burst during trials at Pokharan. This was followed by muzzle hit in May and June this year.
Dhanush is being made by the Gun Carriage Factory (GCF), Jabalpur, which comes under the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB). Reasons of the muzzle hit in the gun are being probed. Sources following the development say muzzle hit cases are not new in artillery guns.
Last week, an incident of barrel burst was reported in the K-9 Thunder guns, which India is buying from Korea. Two soldiers of the Korean army were killed in the incident. The Korean army has stopped training with this gun.
Data shows that the incident is also seen in guns of other makes, apart from 155mm howitzers like Bofors and Dhanush. Even in the 130mm guns with the Army, as many as 60 cases of muzzle hit have been reported.