19th February, 2003


A Surekha Rao*

The Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) has embarked on a journey to empower India with the cutting-edge defence technology in pursuit of technological excellence. The mission is to be self-reliant in critical defence technologies and systems by indigenisation and innovation in order to equip our armed forces with state-of-the-art weapons system and equipment.

The DRDO executes various R&D projects through a network of 51 laboratories spread across India. The department has a technical work force comprising 6000 scientists, engineers and 35000 office personnel.

As it is most of the advanced technologies are controlled by the developed countries.They tend to deny the benefits of their research and development to a country like India. The DRDO’s initiatives are aimed at minimizing the dependence on imports that come with unacceptable conditions. Pursuing these initiatives is bound to cause delays because even the ordinary components are not readily available.

DRDO Systems

The DRDO has accorded top priority to the development of critical technologies. Some notable achievements include the Gallium Arsenide and Silicon Foundries; Monolithic Micro Wave Integrated Circuit (MMIC) and Application- Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC), Parallel Processing and Super Computer; Titanium Sponge and Aerospace Application Materials; Semi-Conductor Materials and their Substrate Materials; Digital Flight Control and Avionics; High Power Lasers and Phase Shifter.

Some of the systems developed by the DRDO that have either entered the production phase or were under production for delivery to the armed forces during 2002 are the AGNI-II missile, Pilot-less Target Aircraft- LAKSHYA, Bridge Layer Tank on T-72 Chassis, Multi-Span Bridge- SARVATRA, Hull-mounted Sonar System –HUMSA, submarine Sonar- USHUS and PANCHENDRIYA.

Both the Indian Air Force and Indian Navy have now got the Lakshya. The delivery for the Army is planned in 2002-03. Five Lakshyas with control equipment are under manufacture for the Army. Consequent upon the interest evinced by Israel, its demonstration flights have successfully been conducted in that country.

Nishant is an unmanned aircraft developed for aerial surveillance and reconnaissance of the battlefield. The system development has been completed. Its reliability and consistency in performance has been established. Its production is likely to begin shortly.

The supersonic missile BRAHMOS is the outcome of a joint venture between India and Russia. It has been flight-tested twice in India and both the times it met all the mission objectives. Both Indian and Russian navies are preparing for trials of Brahmos on various platforms to induct it in their missile systems. The production facilities have also been geared up in both the countries to meet the orders.

The first Technology Demonstrator was flight-tested on January 4, 2001. The second Technology Demonstrator made its maiden flight on June 6, 2002. Till now 33 test flights have taken place. To accelerate the pace of development and flight trials, 5 more prototype vehicles PV1-PV5 are being built. The Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) is planned to be inducted into Air Force after the initial operational clearance in 2005-06.

Agni I, a single stage solid propelled missile having a range of 800 kms was test fired in January this year and also last year. The range fills the gap between Prithvi and the Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile. This missile can be fired from both rail or road missile launchers.

In developing tanks, the DRDO’s role has been is commendable. Mention may be made of Arjun. The Army has ordered 124 state-of-the-art Main Battle Tank – Arjun developed indigenously by the DRDO. The first two tanks are expected to roll out from the production line by March 2003 from the Heavy Vehicles Factory Avadi in Chennai.

Tank Ex, which integrated the turret of Arjun with the lightweight chassis of T-72, has been evaluated successfully in-house and exhibited to the Army and public during DEFEXPO 2002.

Another successs story is the Pinaka. It is an Area Weapon System and has undergone confirmatory user trials successfully in July last year. The System has met users’ requirements for accuracy and consistency. The PINAKA has the capability of firing in a single salvo 12 rockets in less than 40 seconds with a range of 38 kms.

Future Projects

The Tenth Five Year Plan of the DRDO has been prepared with a high degree of ‘User focus’ and thrust on ‘deliverable-to-Users’. Some of the highlights include the upgraded 45 km range of the PINAKA system, 100 km range multiple barrel rocket and fuel-air explosive reactive armour, Air -to- Air Missile ASTRA and vertically launched TRISHUL and the longer range Sonar system.

Thrust will be given to develop a high power propulsion system, high speed torpedo system, underwater ranges, naval stealth technology and self -propelled mine and mobile decoys. Due emphasis will be given to developing protective equipment for the Army at high altitude, anti-G suit, aircrew ensemble for nuclear, biological and chemical protection and ready-to- eat food.

Talent Search

One major concern of the DRDO has been the availability of scientific talent. In the recent past certain initiatives have been taken in this direction. The DRDO has undertaken a recruitment drive through the newly adopted talent search scheme and campus interviews. The results have been fairly encouraging. The department has been successful in drawing fresh graduates from the IITs and RECs. The total intake during 2002 has almost doubled at 771 as compared to 437 in 2000 and 431 in 2001.

To enhance the availability of research opportunities to young scientists and researchers under the Extra- Mural Research Scheme, 60 new projects worth over Rs. 25 crore have been approved this year. These include three Memoranda of Collaboration with the Indian Institutes of Technology, Kharagpur and Chennai and Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.

An initiative has been undertaken to strengthen technological ties with academia and the Indian industry. About 200 technologies have been jointly identified for the private sector to go for either joint development, production or for civilian spin-offs. This year alone over 16 technology transfers have been effected from various laboratories to the industry.(PIB Features)

*APRO (Defence)


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