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INCREASING REQUIREMENT FOR ELECTRONIC FUZING OF AMMUNITION

With the increase in air threat envelope due to multiplicity of air threat platforms, there is a need to enhance the lethality and accuracy of the present Artillery, Mortar, Air defence and Ammunition System.  The author examines the emerging opportunities—

With the increase in air threat envelope due to multiplicity of air threat platforms, there is a requirement to enhance the lethality and accuracy of the present Artillery, Mortar, Air defence ammunition system. The ammunition should have multi target handling capability along with capabilities of air burst, proximity, point detonation and variable and programmable provisions. Most of these functions are handled by the brain of the Ammunition ie the Fuze.

A fuze is a device that initiates an explosive function in ammunition, causing it to detonate or release its contents, when its activation conditions are met. A fuze is used with a projectile fired by guns/howitzers and mortars etc. The safety and arming mechanisms use combination of “setback, centrifugal and rotational” forces to arm the fuze once the projectile is fired and it is at a safe distance from the crew. Fuzes are broadly classified based on operating mechanism as mechanical and electronic fuzes, though some chemical and optical fuzes are also in existence.

Mechanical fuzes, as the name suggests, have their safety, arming and firing mechanisms consisting mostly of mechanical components and linkages. These could be Percussion Fuzes, Direct Action, Graze Delay and Time fuzes, depending on their mode of functioning. Indian Army has 105 mm, 130 mm and 155 mm Arty Guns, beside Mortars and the mechanical fuzes which are in service are mostly old vintage such as:

  • Mech Point Impact  FZ 117, FZ 119, PDM 572
  • Tank Fuze B 429 and B-429 E
  • Time Pyro Delay- FUZE 213 and Time VT-8A
  • Mortar Fuze 162, DA-4 A, Time FuzeV-19 P

Some of the manufacturers of hardware's of mechanical fuzes (less explosives contents) are:

  • OFB, Ordnance Factory Ambajhari
  • Sandeep Metal Craft Nagpur
  • Micron Chandigarh

As on date the main source of supply of explosive filled fuzes are Ordnance Factories. This value addition of around 50 % is done by Ordnance Factories only.

Electronic Fuze

In Western and European countries, electronics are gradually replacing mechanical sub-systems due to its enhanced reliability, besides making it possible to incorporate various operating modes into a single multi-purpose design. Electronic fuzes have many characteristics of mechanical fuzes, though they differ in the method of fuze initiation. In particular, safety and arming functions are achieved by combining electronic and mechanical mechanisms whereas the target sensing and firing functions are achieved by electronic circuits. The Electronic fuze has edge over Mechanical Fuzes are as shown below.

Mechanical Fuze Electronic Fuze
No target-sensing capability; hence, cannot function as proximity fuze Proximity action possible
Can be designed as time fuze but number of time intervals are limited   Precise time setting with a wide discrete range
Has to be manually set; more prone to setting errors Can be programmed and set remotely; minimal setting errors
Heavy and bulky due to mechanical components; limited miniaturization possible Light weight and compact design provides extra space for explosive
Comparatively less safe Electronic safety circuits are value additions to overall safety
Increases logistics and training requirements Reduced logistics and training requirements
  Less Expensive Expensive

Depending upon the target sensing mechanism and electronic circuitry involved, the electronic fuzes are classified as:

  • Radio Proximity (PRX) Fuze
  • Electronic Time (ET) Fuze
  • Electronic Point Detonation (EPD) Fuze.

Multi Option Fuze for Artillery (MOFA)

In early 1980s electronic fuzes with several functions and options started appearing. The most modern multi-option artillery fuzes integrates and offers a comprehensive choice of functions served by delay, super quick, time and proximity fuzes. They can be operated with all existing and developmental artillery systems using bulk-filled projectiles, such as high-explosive rounds or illuminating rounds and offer increased accuracy, reliability and performance.  Multi option fuzes can be inductively or manually set. The user has the option to select any/combination of modes according to requirement.

Some of the major OEMs producing the MOFA are

  • OATK, the US (M782)
  • Junghans Microtec, Germany(DM74)
  • Fuch Electronics, South Africa(M9801)
  • RESHEF Technologies, Israel(M175)
  • Signal Usfa and TNO Physics & Electronics laboratory, the Netherlands (MEDEA)

Precision Guided Munitions (PGM)

Reduction of ammunition expenditure and time of mission accomplishment can be obtained only in case of high-accuracy firing. This has led to development of PGMs to cater to operational needs and give these weapons a precision-strike capability. The projectiles are guided on the target using laser/IR/GPS guidance thereby leading to reduced Circular Error Probability (CEP). Other battlefield advantages of employing PGMs are:

  • First-round effect
  • Effective engagement of smaller/fleeting targets
  • Reduced logistics
  • Minimize collateral damage(counter-insurgency operations)

Major OEMs producing PGM are:

  • OATK USA
  • Saab Bofors dynamics
  • Lockheed Martin with Diehl
  • KBP Instrument Design bureau
  • BAE Systems with Raytheon Missile Systems
  • Israel Military Industries

Induction of Electronic Fuze in Indian Army

In 1993, decision was taken to shift from mechanical fuze to electronic fuze for 105mm, 130mm and 155mm ammunition and these have been procured from single source M/s Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL) from 1999 onwards. No serious attempt were made to develop alternate  sources of supply of electronic fuze. Incidentally in early 1980s , the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre first produced electronic proximity fuses; the production licence for the famous VT-8A fuse was given to ECIL. Despite the edge ECIL have not been able to have its own technology and been dependent on Foreign source for technology. ECIL, under tie-up with Fuchs Electronics of South Africa is currently meeting and enjoying virtual monopoly over a long period, yet failed to indigenize the contents. The critical subsystems such as safety and arming device (S&A), the battery and an electronic timer kit are imported from South Africa and assembled in India.

Type of FUZE Requirements Used in Rockets Approx. Quantity
Proximity (Variable Time) with 10m height of burst (HoB) Modes of Operation

- RF Proximity

- Point Detonation

HoB – 10m

Disruptive output

    HEPF & RHE Rockets                 3360 per years
Proximity (Variable Time) with 30m HoB Modes of Operation

- RF Proximity

- Point Detonation

HoB – 30m

Disruptive output

     HEPF & RHE Rockets                 Included in above quantity (3360)
Electronic Timed Modes of Operation

- Electronic Time

-Point Detonation

Time Range – 6 to 200 Secs.

Resolution – 0.1 secs

Accuracy – 0.05 secs

Electrical output

       Area Deniel Munition (ADM) Type-1, 2 & 3 rockets (Under development) 1620 per year for each type (on induction).
Proximity (Variable Time) with 300m HoB Modes of Operation

- RF Proximity

- Point Detonation

HoB – 300m

Disruptive output

Incendiary Rocket (Under Development) 1620 Per Year (On induction)

Emerging Requirement

In some of the categories Ammunition (Mostly Arty and AD) is available but of no use due to non availability of Fuzes.

Resultantly certain category of Ammunition has been having a high training restriction. Hence, there is lot of scope for capability development in this segment.

Earlier the  bids to supply  were sought from Private sector  for yearly requirement  of Electronic Fuze for Arty Gun for over 60000 per annum of Electronic Fuze for establishing the manufacturing facility and supplying for a contractual period of ten (10) years under “manufacture of ammunition for Indian Army by Private Indian industry”- initiative of Govt of India. In the specific case of Electronic Fuze for Arty gun systems requirement projection was 6,00,000 quantities, of per year, which is reasonably high target for any established supplier to meet the requirement.

MoD is likely to allow some public sector such as Bharat Electronics Ltd and Electronics Corporation of India Ltd, who have been past supplier of limited quantity of these Fuzes. ECIL, has a tie-up with Fuchs Electronics of South Africa has been enjoying virtual monopoly over 20 years for all variants of Fuze for the all Arty guns, yet failed to indigenize the main subsystems. The critical subsystems such as the target sensing mechanism, electronic timer kit and electronic circuitry and the battery are imported from South Africa and assembled in India.

The RFP is conditional and stipulates transfer of critical technology for Manufacture of the ammunition items. For example for Electronic Fuze the critical subsystems such as Battery, electronic detonator, Antenna, Receiver, Safety and Arming Device requires transfer of technology, which OEM may be reluctant.  The RFP of the other variants of Electronic  Fuzes is also likely to follow the same track.

Against an RFP in 2012 for Artillery Gun fuze the some tie ups emerged:-

  • BEL - Reschef
  • ECIL- Fuch (SA)
  • Micron- Jughans
  • HBLNoida-South Korean

Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) was selected and order placed. BEL Pune has inaugurated new facility to produce at least 50,000 Electronic fuses per month and the capacity can be increased as per requirement, fulfilling all the needs of electronic fuses for our artillery, today and in times to come.

Electronic Fuze for Pinaka

The Indian Army is planning to undertake project for Electronic Fuze  for Pinaka Rockets under the 'Make category' of  DPP  2016 and will have an interactive meeting with Industry for preliminary assessment of technical capability, conduct of feasibility study and formulation of Qualitative Requirements on the given basic framework.

Programmable, Pre-Fragmented, Proximity (3 P) Ammunition for 40 mm L-70 Gun

The requirement is also felt for Programmable, Pre-Fragmented, Proximity (3 P) Ammunition for 40 mm L-70 Gun, which is one of the other Make project by Indian Army. The programmable ammunition should be able to fire from L70 Gun and should have following physical characteristics:-

  • The ammunition should have a system to ascertain the range and distance of target through its integrated system. It should be able to modify distance to be travelled before the ammunition is armed. The facility of programming the fuze should be with an aim to detonate the munition at the calculated range in the intended area.
  • Pre-fragmented Ammunition - Cause max damage to the aerial/ground tgt.
  • Proximity fuze could be able to operate min4m distance from the target.

The present OEM in the segments are:-

  • BAE systems for ORKA 57 mm.
  • Bofors for 40 mm munition.
  • Rheinmetall- Orlikon 35 mm/ 57 mm.

Approximately 3,30,000 rounds over a period of twelve years.

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