The recent restriction by the Centre on the import of 101 defence items, has pushed one agency to strive even harder. Yes, that is Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) – whose motto is ‘Strength’s Origin is in Knowledge’. DRDO in line with ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ has come out with a list of 108 military systems for production by the domestic industry. It is the technology and strength behind the India’s Army, Navy, and Airforce. DRDO laboratories work at technologies in the project mode to develop aeronautics, armaments, electronics, combat vehicles, engineering systems, instrumentation, missiles, advanced computing and simulation, special materials, naval systems, life sciences, training, information systems and agriculture. The organisation employees 34,000 staff of which around 7,107 are Indian scientists and 25,000 scientific, technical and supporting personnel. The Chairman of DRDO, Dr. G. Satheesh Reddy, reports Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. The DRDO has an outlay of INR 90,000 crores (13th Plan).
Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) was first established in 1958 as an agency under the Ministry of Defence, Government of India. The agency was formed after combining Technical Development Establishment (TDEs) of the Indian Army and the Directorate of Technical Development & Production (DTDP) with the Defence Science Organisation (DSO). In 1980, a separate Department of Defence Research and Development was formed to govern DRDO and its 52 laboratories.
DRDO Vision & Mission
Empowering the nation with state-of-the-art indigenous Defence technologies and systems.
- Design, develop and lead to production state-of-the-art sensors, weapon systems, platforms and allied equipment for our Defence Services.
- Provide technological solutions to the Services to optimise combat effectiveness and to promote well-being of the troops.
- Develop infrastructure and committed quality manpower and build strong indigenous technology base.
(Vision & Mission statement credits DRDO website)
DRDO has different clusters catering to various defence requirements. These clusters provide scientific/ technological support and testing support wherever required for the development of these system designs for the industry to manufacture. They fall under,
- Aeronautical systems (Aero)
- Naval Systems & Materials (NS&M)
- Armament & Combat Engineering Systems (ACE)
- Missiles and Strategic Systems (MSS)
- Electronics and Communications Systems (ECS)
- Life Sciences (LS)
- Micro Electronic Devices, Computational Systems & Cyber Systems (MED &CoS)
I960s Project Indigo: First major project in surface-to-air missiles (SAM)
1970s Project Devil and Project Valiant: to develop short-range SAM and ICBM.
1980s to 2007: Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) that saw the Prithvi ballistic missile, Agni ballistic missile, Akash missile, Trishul missile, Brahmos missile, anti-tank Nag Missile.
DRDO also developed Arjun battle tanks and Tejas light combat aircrafts.
In 2010, defence minister A. K. Antony restructured DRDO to give ‘a major boost to defence research in the country and to ensure effective participation of the private sector in defence technology’. Even the Defence Technology Commission with the defence minister as its chairman was set up under the guidance of A.K.Antony.
Following that there were more SAMs test fired that included Prahaar (2011), Shaurya (2011), Nirbhay (2013), Sagrika (2013), Astra (2014), and Dhanush (2015).
DRDO is now tasked with new projects ranging from next generation missiles to unmaned combat drones.
Role and Responsibility of DRDO
DRDO collaborates with 1800+ industry partners to develop systems and critical technologies such as aircraft avionics, UAVs, small arms, artillery systems, EW Systems, tanks and armoured vehicles, sonar systems, command and control systems and missile systems.
1. Transfer of know-how
– DIITM the nodal agency in DRDO, handles different aspects related to Transfer of Technology (ToT) / relevant project based know-how, and the issue of licenses to industries in India. It also shares its knowhow with related industries in friendly countries in the form of Technology Transfer Document (TTD) for DRDO designed and developed defence technologies.
2. Establishing LSP
The Limited Series Production (LSP) helps the manufacturer to set up a production line and to resolve any issues faced while manufacturing/developing a design of a DRDO product before it enters largescale production. LSP is funded by the concerned User and is time-bound.
3. Acquiring latest defence technology
The Technical Manager forwards any Technology Acquisition proposals to the DIITM, DRDO HQ in Delhi. The Technology Acquisition Committee scrutinizes every defence related proposal based on the viability of the proposal, its implication and suitability for Indian military, alternative options of the same/similar technology, terms and conditions of the acquisition, status of Intellectual Property (IP) before and after the acquisition, and the final cost of the technology. Only once it approves DRDO can acquire the technology.
4. Export of Defence equipment
DRDO is a stakeholder and has to assess every application received from an Indian manufacturer to export a military product. The manufacturer needs to obtain a No objection Certificate (NoC) for export of the defence artillery to any friendly country. For the export of defence products based on DRDO technologies, DIITM coordinates for Transfer of Technology (ToT) and customization for the importing country.
The Difficulty and Drawback
Over the last 15 years, the Army, Navy, and Airforce rejected 70% of the products developed at the Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE), Pune, costing taxpayers INR 320 crores of wasteful expenditure because the products did not meet their standard and requirement. The CAG report reveals all technologies have not been up-to-date for the safety of the forces.
Even after 6 decades of DRDO contribution to the armed forces, India continues to import a large share of its defence equipment. The latest being the Rafale jets flown in from France. In fact, from 2013 to 2017, India was the world’s largest importer of defence equipment, accounting for 12% of the global total, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. This is about to change with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, intensifying ‘Make In India’. DRDO has already committed itself to strive towards a larger share of indigenous design and work with cutting edge technology to develop a strong national defence.
Last week, Uttarakhand CM Trivendra Singh Rawat and DRDO chairman Dr. G. Satheesh Reddy met up to discuss plans of promoting defence sector in the region. DRDO already has a presence in the region with its laboratory Instruments Research & Development Establishment (IRDE) in Dehradun but not enough for the CM.
It’s time for DRDO to become big on promise and big on delivery to keep India safe.