DRDO missile scientist, Sudhir Mishra, being awarded by the PM. DRDO chief, Dr VK Saraswat (left) revealed that the military bought Rs 68,000 crores worth of DRDO equipment this decade
By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 27th May 10
The Defence R&D Organisation is delivering, and it must be supported by the military: that was the message from DRDO chief, Dr VK Saraswat, to a high-powered audience in Delhi today, which included Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Defence Minister AK Antony, the National Security Advisor and the three service chiefs.
Dr Saraswat, a blunt-talking missile expert who earned a name while successfully steering a raft of missile projects, was speaking at a ceremony to award DRDO achievers. Seizing the moment, he drew the PM’s and Antony’s attention to the military’s preference for foreign weaponry, and the reluctance of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to lay down the line on indigenization.
The DRDO chief stated, “The Services also must understand that while the temptation may be overwhelming, to field proven, state-of-art imported systems, they too have a role to play in the economic and industrial growth of the country. No foreign system can be customized to completely address our long-term requirement.”
Dr Saraswat pointed out, “(The) DRDO has long been held responsible for the level of self reliance in defence systems, but the responsibility for self reliance should be shared by all stake-holders of MoD and cannot be placed on DRDO alone, which neither has the power to impose its products on its customer (the military) nor the mandate or capacity to produce the developed systems all by themselves.”
Quantifying, for the first time, the DRDO’s contribution to India’s defence, Dr Saraswat revealed that the DRDO’s research budget of Rs 3000 crores a year had given the military Rs 68,000 crores worth of DRDO-developed systems over the last decade. And recent breakthroughs in multiple DRDO systems --- including the nuclear submarine, INS Arihant; the nuclear capable Agni-III missile; an anti ballistic missile defence system; the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA); the Arjun tank; and many others --- meant that India’s “self-reliance index” would be greatly enhanced.
The DRDO chief also revealed, without divulging details, that “a major R&D programme on NBC [Nuclear, Biological and Chemical] defence has been recently sanctioned by the Cabinet Committee on Security.”
Dr Saraswat also detailed a major shift in the DRDO’s outlook, which has focused in the past on developing weapon systems that were also available in the global market. Henceforth, the focus would be on futuristic, guarded technologies that money cannot buy, including, “Space security, cyber security, hypersonic vehicles, directed energy weapons and technology development efforts in smart materials, composites and MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical) based sensors.”
For the first time, the DRDO announced a focus on the paramilitary forces that are combating insurgency, terrorism and Naxalism, and the need to familiarize them with products and technologies that they could use. The DRDO also plans new initiatives in surveillance, early detection and warning systems to equip the paramilitary forces for sub-conventional warfare.
The DRDO chief also became the first MoD insider to publicly urge a clear direction to the defence offset policy, which currently makes no distinction between an R&D collaboration and a low-tech manufacturing project. Dr Saraswat suggested that the offset policy “should be utilized to bring in high end technology and quality manufacturing processes into the country and must guard against the pressures of high volume low end build-to-print modules."
Dr Saraswat also announced that the DRDO, in partnership with FICCI, had initiated a “Technology Assessment & Commercialisation (ATAC)” program for transferring to industry certain civilian-use technologies developed by the DRDO. In the first phase of ATAC, 200 technologies from 26 DRDO labs are being considered. MoUs have been signed for 8 specific technologies in the first phase, while Expressions of Interest have been received from major industrial players for several other technologies.