Col. Alok Mathur (veteran)
The Indian Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) an agency under the Department of Defence Research and Development in Ministry of Defence (MOD) of Government of India (GOI) is responsible for military research and development. The organisation was raised on 12 July ,1948 as Defence Science Organisation by the eminent Indian scientist, Dr D S Kothari. It was renamed as DRDO in 1958 after the merger of Technical Development Establishment, Directorate of Technical Development of Ordnance Factories and Defence Science Organisation.“Balasya Moolam Vigyanam“ in Sanskrit, is the motto of DRDO. It means that source of strength is science that drives a nation in war and peace.
The Headquarter of DRDO is DRDO Bhavan in New Delhi. The total manpower is 30,000 selected Scientists/Technical staff. The core group includes eminent scientist from Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). Moreover, technically qualified officers of three services are also posted on deputation on projects as part of user representatives.
The DRDO is currently headed by Dr G Satheesh Reddya, a distinguished and internationally renowned aero space scientist who also holds appointment of Secretary of Department of Defence R&D and is scientific advisor to Raksha Mantri (RM). Dr Abdul Kalam, former President of lndia was head of DRDO from 1992 to 1999.
It is because of the DRDO that India is today rated among one of the four countries in the world to have multi-level strategic deterrence capabilities; one of the five countries to have own ballistic missile defence (BMD); one of the six countries to have developed a nuclear powered submarine; one of seven countries to develop its indigenous 4 + generation fighter aircraft and own Main Battle Tank (MBT) and finally, one among the few countries that have developed their own multi-range Radar capabilities and Ground Positioning Systems (GPS).
AII these and many more world class weapon systems, platforms and military equipment are based on cutting edge technologies developed by DRDO and led to production by them by incorporating Indian public sector and private sector including small and medium scales industries ( SMEs). These products and technologies have led to tremendous industrial growth in Indian defence industry, taking the share of indigenous content of items approved for acquisition by Armed Forces to almost 60 percent. Many of these inventions have also found civil applications that benefit the masses. The production value of systems based on DRDO technologies that have been inducted/approved for Indian Armed Forces (excluding strategic systems) amounted to approximately 1,80,000 crores INR in the last decade.
The Chairman of DRDO is supported by Director Generals of various technology clusters such as Missile and Strategic systems, Aeronautical systems, Combat Vehicle and Engineering system, Armament system, Communications system, Life Sciences system, Naval systems, Nuclear Biological Chemical (NBC) warfare system, Materials division, Microelectronic and computational system and Chief Controller (R&D) who controls the corporate functions. The organisation has established a network of 60 research laboratories, establishments and work centres besides exhaustive infrastructure for design, development, testing and evaluation of weapon systems and military equipment located all over the country. The glorious achievements of DRDO in various projects can be best discussed as per technology cluster.
Missile and Strategic cluster has successfully developed Agni (1,2,3,4,5), Prithvi 1 and 2, Dhanush and other nuclear capable intermediate/long range ballistic missiles (MSL) that are operational and act as deterrents to inimical foreign powers. BhraMos-2 has been upgraded as supersonic cruise missile and now can be fired by Sukhoi 30 MK 1. A ballistic missile defence system has been developed based on a combination of exo-atmospheric LRSAM and end-atmospheric MRSAM to detect from 2000 kms, intercept and destroy incoming hostile missiles. As part of the TRIAD, K 15, B05, K4 have been developed as submarine launched medium range strategic missiles. Shaurya, Nirbhaya are tactical short range nuclear capable that have also been developed. Air Defence Missile Regiments with Akash, an all weather, supersonic missiles have already been deployed. NAG, a third generation, antitank fire and forget missile has been approved for production. Helina version will be mounted on Light Combat helicopters.
The marvel of Aeronautical Systems cluster is the 4+ generation, multi role, supersonic Light Combat Aircraft-TEJAS that has advanced composite structure. 45 Air Force Squadron also called Flying Daggers, is fully operational. 18 Squadron called Flying Bullets is under raising and conversion training. Advance Medium Multi Role (AMCA) project to develop 5th Generation stealth fighter aircraft is in progress.
Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AWE&S) project was launched in 2003 as per requirement of IAF. This platform based on Brazilian Embraer 145 jet, is called NETRA. Three AEW&C are already operational. Various variants of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) such as Rustom , Nishant and mini drones and quadcopters are in service with Army, NSG and CAPs. New designs of Freefall, heavy drop and Aircraft break parachutes have been developed.
DRDO has also developed indigenous Main Battle Tank ARJUN which is state-of-the art with superior fire power, high mobility and enhanced protection. Two Armoured Regiments are fully equipped and operational and additional order for 124 Arjun tanks have been placed on Heavy Vehicles Factory Avadi, On 23 September 2020. The advanced ammunition for Arjun main gun 120mm APDSFS has been developed and tested to beat all type of tank armour. Arjun main gun has successfully fired Laser guided Anti tank missile and destroyed targets at 3 km range. This missile can destroy Attack Helicopters also. Explosive reactive armour which was successfully fitted on T-72 Combat improved version (CIA) tanks has also been incorporated for Arjun MK 2.
Arjun Main Battle Tank
Combat vehicles cluster of DRDO has also developed Bridge Laying Tanks (BLT) on chassis of Arjun and T-72, Sarvatra mobile CL 70 Bridge, Armoured engineer reconnaissance vehicle, Mine Flail, Unmanned remotely controlled ground vehicle and armoured amphibious dozer.
The Armament cluster of DRDO has designed and developed PINAKA multi barrel rocket system as a replacement for Grad BM 21 Russian system. Pinaka is a potent area weapon with a fast response, all weather, indirect fire, free flight rocket system that activates in three minutes and is capable of firing 12 rockets in 44 seconds at the range of 40 kms. Pinaka ll with 60 km range is already under trials. Prahar long range rocket system with enhanced range of 120km with hyper speed of 2 mach plus is also under development.
DRDO has designed and developed sub machine guns, 5.56 mm INSAS rifles fixed and folded butt, Light machine guns that are in use by Indian Army and paramilitary units. New multimode grenades, Adrushy mk ll plastic anti personnel and anti-tank light non-detectable mines have been produced. The Electronic and Communication system cluster has developed state of art communication, command and control systems radars, electronic warfare and optical systems such as combat net radio, battle field surveillance radars, passive night sights, Bharani radar for mountains, Rohini 3-D medium range radar, maritime surveillance radar, ASLESHA low level air track radar for the mountains, LSTAR long range phased array radar for airborne targets and SAMYUKTA Integrated Electronic warfare program. It has produced Stride-2 vehicle mounted jammer to prevent detonation of radio controlled improvised explosive devices for VVIP convoys.
DRDO Life Science system cluster has developed efficiency boosting, stress reducing and life saving devices for safety of troops such as combat free fall system, carbogen breathing system, high altitude pulmonary oedema bags etc.
Naval System and cluster meets the requirements of Indian Navy. Arihant nuclear submarine is already operational with long range nuclear missiles – BO5 and K-4. Arighat, the second nuclear submarine is on harbour trials now. INS Vikrant, Indigenous Aircraft carrier is also undergoing high sea trials. Varunastra, ship launched long range anti submarine torpedo can also be launched from helicopters; HUMSA sonar protection shield for ship has been produced.
NBC cluster has developed anti NBC suits, casualty bags, radiation detectors and NBC shelters. Material cluster produces high grade material for ships, submarines, guns, aircrafts and tanks. And finally microelectronic and computational system produces system on chips and integrated circuits for brains of onboard computers, palm size computer and hexapod robot mules for high altitude logistics. Super explosives 20 times more powerful than RDX and HMX have been processed. A mini instant explosive detection kit has been developed which can identify 15 types of explosives and is very useful to Army, NSG, NIA bomb disposal units.
DRDO has now moved to the club of top four nation who have successfully tested Anti satellite missiles and also hypersonic missile capable of flying at speed of 6 Mach. Directed Energy weapons (DEWs) based on concentrated electronic magnetic energy/ LASER are also in the advance stage of development.
Success and failures are part of life but research and experiments should go on relentlessly. Government should provide adequate finances and motivation to Research organisations such as DRDO and ISRO who make the nation strong by providing state-of-the-art, user friendly and reliable weapon system to Indian Armed Forces. We should not blindly follow the policy of off the shelf procurement of foreign weapon platforms which area drain on the national exchequer. Self reliance with quality excellence should also be the ultimate goal. Kudos to DRDO for march towards strength and self reliance.