Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) consisting of the Indian Ordnance Factories, it is an important department under the Ministry of Defence, Government of India. It is engaged in research, development, production, testing, marketing and logistics of a comprehensive product range in the areas of air, land and sea systems. OFB comprises forty-one ordnance factories, nine training institutes, three regional marketing centres and four regional controllerates of safety, which are spread all across the country. Every year, 18 March is celebrated as the Ordnance Factory Day in India.
OFB is the world’s largest government-operated production organisation, and the oldest organisation run by the Government of India. It has a total workforce of about 80,000. It is often called the “Fourth Arm of Defence”, and the “Force Behind the Armed Forces” of India. OFB is the 37th largest defence equipment manufacturer in the world, 2nd largest in Asia, and the largest in India. According to a report by SIPRI, India is the largest producer in the category of ’emerging producers’ in 2017, with four companies ranked in the Top 100. Their combined arms sales of $7.5 billion in 2017 were 6.1 percent higher than in 2016. The two largest Indian arms producers, Indian Ordnance Factories and Hindustan Aeronautics are the highest ranking (37th and 38th respectively) companies in 2017 among countries in the emerging producers’ category. The report also says that the arm sales of OFB have increased by 8.5% in the year of 2017–18. OFB’s arms sales are 96% of its total sales in the year of 2017. Its total sales were at $2 billion (₹13687.22 crores) in the year 2017–’18.
Ordnance factories in India fall under the umbrella of Indian Ordnance Factories, which is a part of the Department of Defence Production, Ministry of Defence. The Indian Ordnance Factories organisation is a conglomerate of 41 factories, nine training centres, four regional controllerates of safety and three regional marketing centres. Safety is a key issue in the running and maintenance of ordnance factories, which is why regional controllerates of safety have been established all over India. The primary objective of these 41 ordnance factories is to equip the Indian armed forces with state of the art defence equipment.
The Indian Ordnance Factories organisation is the largest government operated production organisation in the world and the oldest industrial setup managed by the Indian government. Ordnance factories in India are divided into five categories – Ammunition and Explosives (A&E), Weapons, Vehicles, and Equipment (WV&E), Materials and Components (M&C), Armoured Vehicles (AV), and Ordnance Equipment Group of Factories (OEF) – depending on the products they manufacture and technologies they employ. For the safety of the citizens of India, these ordnance factories are located in remote areas, away from the hustle and bustle of city life. And the area occupied by each factory can range from a few hundred acres to a few thousand acres.
Since factories are far from cities, the government has ensured that the towns in which these factories are located are self-sufficient. These towns have residential estates, post offices, banks, schools, grocery stores, recreational facilities, and hospitals, to name a few amenities. Ordnance factories are spread across India, with a majority of the factories in Maharashtra. There are ten factories in Maharashtra, eight in Uttar Pradesh, six in Madhya Pradesh, six in Tamil Nadu, four in West Bengal, two in Uttaranchal, and several others in Chandigarh, Andhra Pradesh, and Orissa. Each ordnance factory is headed by a general manager, whose position is equivalent to that of the additional secretary of the government of India.
The prime customers of ordnance factories in India are the Indian Army, Indian Navy, Indian Air Force, and the Indian Coast Guard. But apart from the armed forces, ordnance factories also supply weapons and bullet proof vehicles to police forces, Parliamentary Forces of India and the Special Forces of India. In the civil sector, some of the customers of ordnance factories are the Indian Railways, the Indian Space Research Organisation, and the Department of Telecommunications. Ordnance factories in India export their products – clothing, explosives, arms, and chemicals – to over 30 countries worldwide.
Some of the countries to which these products are exported are Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Germany, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, and USA, to name a few. The Indian Ordnance Factories organisation is among the top 100 arms manufacturers in the world and it has been ranked 48th in the world by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which focuses on research in conflicts, arms control, and disarmament. The recent sales of the ordnance factories in India (for 2011-2012) amounted to Rs 144 billion, with arms sales comprising 80% of the revenue.