Tungsten supply glitch hits Pinaka rockets.
A foreign vendor haggling over prices has hit the production of Pinaka rockets, an important weapon system of the artillery. The rockets are made in the ordnance factories including that in Ambajhari and are also suitable for mountain warfare.
Its warheads are filled with tungsten balls to enhance lethality and can be fired up to a range of 40 kms. However, supply of processed tungsten, which comes from France, has been held up as the international prices of the metal have shot from around $35 a kg to close to $50 in recent times. The supplier now wants higher rates and ordnance factory is not willing to shell out the extra amount. This has affected supply of tungsten hampering the production of rockets, said a source closely involved with the affairs.
The production has slowed down, said a source in the factory. The army has ordered over 1,500 rockets. However, the current output is almost half of the required quantity. This is almost 30% less than last year's tally in same period, the source said.
Responding to TOI query, a senior officer of the Indian Ordnance Factory Service (IOFS) cadre admitted the stalemate over tungsten prices. "Such problems are routine in course of production and we will overcome it soon," he added. The government is scouting for new vendors but a decision has not been taken yet, added another source.
Earlier, the chairman of Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) had called for self-sufficiency in processing of tungsten. He added that at present its non-availability had not led to a shortfall in production of Pinaka rockets but dependence on foreign vendors was a matter being addressed. Tungsten is key material in making of warheads. Warheads are filled with thousands of tungsten balls which disperse when the rocket hits the target.
This is pre-fragmented high explosive type warhead usually used in the rocket. The tungsten balls are supposed to have a capacity of creating damage in an area of over 10,000 square metres. Another warhead that throws out burning fragments has also been developed.
Tungsten is a preferred due to its hardness. It is processed and received in powdered form and then made into balls at the ordnance factory. It is also used as an armour piercing material in tank shells. Pinaka rockets have been designed by Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO). After over a decade of being taken for development, the OFB got an order for bulk production in 2007.