Drdo: Building Self Reliance In Technologies

By GovernanceToday
In Interview
November 3, 2014
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India capable enough to deal with any eventualities, feels Senior Defence Scientist Having worked as Scientist for almost 35 years in Defence Research and Development Organisation, Ravi Kumar Gupta is now heading the Directorate of Public Interface, of the defence research behemoth. In a conversation with Ekta Srivastava, Sr Correspondent, Governance Today, he sheds light on the latest innovations and initiatives of the research wing of Ministry of Defence. Behemoth

Ravi-Kumar-Gupta-DRDOOn most of Defence equipments “Being Imported”

This is a misconception. If you look at data on capital items approved for induction, these days around 55 per cent are from the indigenous sources and only 45 per cent are being imported. Many people still quoted the figure as 30%, but that was about a decade ago. Secondly, we need not develop and manufacture everything in the country. We have to see what resources we are having and how best we can utilize them. In today’s globalised environment and rapidly advancing technologies, one cannot afford to make everything in-house. It is neither viable nor cost effective in the long-term. The important thing is to have complete control over the technology. 70 to 75 per cent indigenous production is considered optimum for any country. Now taking it from 55 to 75, this is where we are working hard. If you see the Akash missile system alone, the value of systems approved for induction by the Army and Air Force is around Rs 23,000 crores. The production value of various DRDO developed items inducted or approved for induction is over Rs 1,70,000 crore.

So, this is not true that we have not done enough. Considering the limited resources we had and the challenges we had to face, we have done  reasonably well.

On the mission of DRDO
The mission of the Department is to attain technological self-reliance in defence systems and weapons. The Department has the mandate to design, develop and to lead to production state-of-the-art weapon systems, platforms, sensors and allied equipment to meet the requirements of the Armed Forces, thus providing support in areas of military science to improve combat effectiveness of our troops. DRDO, through a network of 54 laboratories and establishments located all over India, executes programmes and projects in diverse fields of aeronautics, armaments, missiles, combat vehicles, electronics and instrumentation, advanced computing and networking, engineering systems, advanced materials and composites and Naval R&D. These agencies also conduct specialised training programmes in these areas. The programmes are carried out by a workforce of about 26,500 professionals, including about 7,500 scientists and engineers, and supported by a budget of the order of Rs 15,000 crore (FY 2014-15).

To fulfil the objectives, we have strong partnerships with about 40 academic institutions, 15 national S and T organisations and nearly 1000 small, medium and large industries.

On Current Projects
Missile LaunchIn the field of surface-to-surface strategic missiles, we have developed total self reliance and a core competence that have been demonstrated through development of Prithvi missile, its variants, the Agni series of missiles and the underwater launched Bo5. With Agni 1, Agni 2, Agni 3 and Agni 4 already inducted, longer range Agni 5, has had two very successful flights. In the area of tactical battlefield missiles too, big strides have been made. ‘Akash’ air defence system constituting the surface to air missile and associated surveillance & tracking systems and other equipment has been inducted. ‘Astra’, the beyond visual range air-to-air missile meant for ‘Tejas’, Sukhoi SU 30 and Mig 29 aircrafts, has been developed and is undergoing trials from the Sukhoi SU-30 aircraft. ‘HELINA’ the helicopter launched anti-tank missile underwent development
trials. ‘Prahar’ a versatile high precision surface to surface ballistic missile has been developed to extend the reach of artillery. Electronic Warfare (EW) systems is another key area where we have achieved complete self- reliance. The systems developed include ‘Samyukta’, ‘Sangraha’, Varuna, Divya Drishti, Radar Warning Receivers (RWR) and EW suites have been developed for several fighter aircrafts. A wide range of radars: Rohini, Revathi, BFSR, Aslesha, Bharani, Rajendra, WLR (Weapon Locating Radar) have been developed.

In the arena of aeronautical systems, ‘Tejas’ – India’s first indigenously designed and developed 4th plus generation light combat aircraft has entered production phase, LCA Navy is flying while work has already begun on their still more advanced and powerful Mark-II versions. Full scale engineering development of ‘Tejas’ sanctioned in mid 1993 led to its maiden flight on 4th January 2001and initial operational clearance on 20th December 2013 with the expense of just about Rs 7000 crores. Among unmanned aerial vehicles, Pilotless target aircraft- ‘Lakshya- I’ has been in service; Lakshya II has been developed; ‘Nishant’ has been inducted; ‘Rustom 1’ developed and ‘Rustom 2’ is undergoing taxi trials. Aircraft Arrester Barrier systems, a variety of brake parachutes and heavy paradrop systems have been developed.

Defence Acquisition Council
Imported
45 %
Indigenous sources
55 %

Armaments and ammunition worth over Rs 13000 crore, developed with an R&D cost of just about Rs 110 crores have been inducted or are under induction. Two regiments of Pinaka Multi-Barrel Rocket system – Mark- I have been inducted;Mark-II is undergoing trials. Among  small arms, over a million INSAS rifles have been produced so far, under barrel grenade launcher has been developed . Our own main battle tank‘Arjun’ Mark-I has been inducted and  Mark-II developed.

Similarly, Underwater Warfare Systems (UWS) has been another areain which a solid foundation for self reliance  has been established by successful development of a number of sonar system, including, Humsa NG, Panchendriya, ‘ALTAS (Advanced Light Towed Array Sonar) and USHUS and a number of weapons, including ‘Torpedo Advanced Light’, ‘Varunastra’ and Processor Based Mines. An autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) has been developed demonstrating essential technologies developed indigenously.

On India’s quest for high-end technology
Today, we have become highly self-sufficient and capable in designing world-class systems, whether it is radars, missiles, or sonars. What we need to strengthen is certain types of sub-system, components, devices and the raw materials. In case of systems such as Agni series of missiles, where option of import was not there, we developed over 85 per cent of items indigenously; remaining being non-critical items available off-theshelf from multiple sources. It took us time but we have emerged stronger; with total control over technologies. We have to take extra initiative in terms of investment, infrastructure, technology and knowledge generation to strengthen areas of those components and devices  presently imported.

On the go
Development of such advanced technologies has led to the development of numerous state-of-theart systems, despite the constraint of sanctions imposed by the advanced countries and the country’s industrial base being unprepared for supplying requisite components and advanced

We will be going for user trials of Agni IV which has a range of 4,000 km and Agni V which has a range of 5,000 km.

materials. These systems have been developed at a cost far lower and in a time frame not too long as compared to developed countries equipped
with years of experience, technology base and resources. Even where development of an advanced product took somewhat longer then expected
time, the mark –II versions and beyond are being developed much faster. Thus, Agni 5 took just three years from the word go to the first flight. Today we are at the threshold and are among the top few countries in the world with indigenous capability of developing multi-level strategic deterrence, Nuclear powered submarine, multi- layer ballistic missile defence, 4th plus generation combat aircraft, main battle tank, comprehensive range of radars, sonars electro- optic sensors, on-board computersand so on. As a result, today we are  at a level where we can take a leap.

DRDO is an organization that offers an exciting career in defence R&D that is full of challenges and opportunities to innovate and invent for the benefit of the country. The environment and facilities are excellent and financial compensation respectable. DRDO is marching ahead with aim of enhancing the level of self – reliance. Today, more and more industries are joining hands with DRDO in manufacturing products based on indigenous technologies. With a strongtechnology base and rapidly expanding industrial base, both quantitatively  and qualitatively; and a wide range of products in advanced stage of development, the future is bright.