1 in 3 hand grenades is a dud: Indian Defence survey

Indian security forces losing confidence over their weaponry

Indian security forces losing confidence over their weaponry

NAGPUR: Imagine a scenario in which an Indian soldier’s life depends on a grenade — may be the last one with the jawan(soldier)— to stop an advancing enemy. He takes the pin out and lobs it. But, instead of hearing an explosion, the jawans are met with a hail of bullets.

A recent official survey of weaponry being used by soldiers guarding Indian borders reveals that about 30% of hand grenades used by jawans don’t explode — which means an alarming one in three is a dud. The survey, carried out by weapons experts from the Army and defence organisations, is based on interviews with jawans posted in border areas.

Sources with access to the survey report did not share the exact figures and causes of failure citing secrecy involved with defence projects, but preliminary investigations have shown that it’s not unusual for detonators used in the grenades to surpass their shelf life by the time they reach the hands of a soldier in a conflict zone.

It’s the detonator that separately triggers the blast in the grenade. The grenade, a crucial weapon in a soldier’s armoury, is often used as the last resort to thwart the enemy in close quarter battle. Grenades supplied to the Army are made by ordnance factories under Indian State Ordnance Factory Board.

“Soldiers said the grenades often go blind — meaning they don’t explode in purely technical terms — putting them in a precarious situation,” said a source. Defence experts and ex-servicemen say this is an old problem that has never been properly addressed.

Col (retd) RSN Singh of ‘India Defence Review’ says the figure of 30% duds is stupefying. Singh, who retired from the Infantry six months ago, says, ‘‘A soldier normally carries four grenades in a counter-insurgency operation. Even a single dud can prove disastrous as it would leave the soldier vulnerable. Such duds can shake a soldier’s confidence.’’

Defence expert Col (retd) U S Rathore says India still uses World War-II vintage hand grenades. He says there are chances that the detonators are susceptible to chemical degradation and adds that terrorists have far superior Belgian grenades that explode in 2.5 seconds compared to the four seconds it takes for the Indian grenades.

India may have made an indigenous nuclear submarine. But it appears its defence establishment is yet to make a fail-proof grenade. Incidentally, a grenade can be propelled through rifles or an under-barrel grenade launcher (UBGL). But the Insas rifles used by the army don’t have launchers for grenades; soldiers have to carry the old 7.62mm rifles for that.

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