Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO)

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Delayed projects

1974-2015

See graphic, '5 crucial but delayed DRDO projects '

5 crucial but delayed DRDO projects, 1974-2015; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India 27_06_2015

Deadlines missed (as in 2016)

The Times of India, Aug 08 2016

Rajat Pandit

From missiles to drones, DRDO projects keep missing deadlines


The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) continues to miss deadlines in critical military projects with alarming regularity . Leave alone the much-talked-about Tejas light combat aircraft and Arjun main-battle tank, several projects ranging from spy drones and missiles to radars and artillery guns continue to languish with time and cost overruns.

Official documents, for instance, show that two important projects were to be completed by August 2016 but have got “revised dates of completion“ now. The first project, launched in January , 2012, was to build an active electronically-scanned array (AESA) radar, which is the norm in modern fighter jets, at a cost of Rs 445 crore.But the radar called `Uttam' is nowhere near being ready with its deadline now extended to May, 2019.

The second project was for developing a medium-altitude long-endurance UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) called Rustom-II, along with an aeronautical test range at Chitradurga, which was approved in February , 2011, at a cost of Rs 1,649 crore. But its completion date has been pushed to February , 2017.

Absence of an indigenous AESA radar has meant that the first 20 Tejas light combat aircraft ­ the first two jets were finally delivered to IAF last month under the LCA project approved in 1983 -will have an older mechanically-steered radar.

Moreover, a hunt is now underway to get a suitable AESA radar-EW (electronic warfare) package from global arms majors like Raytheon, Israeli Aerospace Industries, Thales, Saab and others for the next 100 upgraded Tejas Mark-1A fighters to be delivered from 2020 onwards.Similarly , in the absence of indigenous UAVs, the armed forces continue to induct highly-expensive Israeli drones.

DRDO, of course, has to contend with technology denial regimes, frequent midterm revision in qualitative requirements by the armed forces, problems in absorbing high-end technologies by the production agencies (defence PSUs) as well as continuing scarcity of scientific manpower and funds. “China spends around 20% of its defence outlay on R&D. But DRDO gets only 5-7% of the defence budget,“ said a scientist.

All this is certainly true, and there is no getting away from the fact that India has to become largely self-reliant in defence to avoid becoming strategically vulnerable in times of crisis. But as of now, revised timelines remain a recurring theme for DRDO projects across the board which, coupled with shoddy performance of the five de fence PSUs, four shipyards and 39 ordnance factories, means India continues to import over 60% of its military requirements.

The much-touted `Nirbhay' cruise missile, designed to carry nuclear warheads with a strike range of 1,000km, for instance, is already three years overdue and still far from induction.The Astra air-to-air missile is not ready 12 years after it was sanctioned at a cost of Rs 955 crore.

Revival attempts

Reforms: were they cosmetic? (c.2010)

The Times of India

Is DRDO’s makeover just cosmetic?

Measures Slated To ‘Transform’ Body May Make It More Bureaucratic And Top-Heavy

Rajat Pandit | TNN

New Delhi: It needed drastic surgery but only first-aid has been rendered. Or, so it seems from the government’s halfhearted steps to revamp Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), whose projects continue to be plagued by huge time and cost overruns.

Defence minister A K Antony approved a series of measures which — it was grandiosely proclaimed — will ‘‘transform and revitalize’’ DRDO in both ‘‘form and substance’’. The measures range from creation of a Defence Technology Commission (DTC) headed by Antony and de-centralization of DRDO’s management to hiving off some of its labs and setting up a commercial arm with seed capital of Rs 2 crore.

The other steps include development of Mark-II versions of the long-delayed Arjun main-battle tanks and Akash surface-to-air missile systems as well as consultation by an ‘‘eminent human resource expert’’ to restructure DRDO and selection of industry partners by evolving ‘‘a suitable mechanism’’.

But there is scepticism whether all this will actually transform DRDO into a lean and mean organisation capable of delivering cuttingedge weapon systems to the armed forces.

For one, MoD will decentralise DRDO management through creation of seven ‘‘technology domain based centres’’ or clusters of labs — missile systems, aeronautics, armament & combat engineering, electronics & communication, material sciences, naval systems and life sciences.

But there are fears all this will make DRDO even more bureaucratic and top-heavy, especially since each such cluster will be headed by a director-general and his associated paraphernalia.

DRDO, with its 51 labs, currently has one director-general at the helm. After being redesignated as chairman, he will head the DRDO management council consisting of seven DGs, four chief controllers (R&D) and an additional financial advisor at the HQ.

For another, MoD has decided to hive off only three of its 51 labs, two to CSIR and one to ICAR, instead of the dozen or so recommended by the Rama Rao Committee report.The Rama Rao report had stressed DRDO should concentrate only on 8 to 10 ‘critical technologies’ of ‘strategic importance’ instead of also venturing into making juices, mosquito repellents, titanium dental implants and the like.

The creation of DTC is being done to allow DRDO to have a greater say in defence procurements from abroad. Armed forces, however, already feel DRDO often derails armament deals by pledging to develop the systems concerned but does not make good its promises. Defence scientists, on their part, contend the services are often against indigenisation, with foreign arms lobbies always ready to play ball in deriding DRDO.

There is, of course, no getting away from the fact that India needs to develop a robust industrial-military infrastructure, importing as it still does around 70% of its military hardware and software. Incidentally, India has inked defence deals worth a staggering $50 billion since the 1999 Kargil conflict, the overwhelming majority of them with foreign armament firms. DRDO REBOOT Status of the weapon systems developed by the agency

Some delayed projects

Missile Programme

Sanctioned: 1983 Trishul and Akash SAM systems: Not inducted Nag anti-tank guided missile: Not inducted

Prithvi (150-350km) and Agni-I (700km): Inducted Agni-II (2000km) and Agni-III (3,500km): Being operationalized Agni-V (5,000km): First Test in 2011


Tejas LCV

Sanctioned: 1983 Original Cost: Rs 560 cr Revised cost: Over Rs 13,000 cr with FSED (full-scale engineering development) extended to 2018 Status: Final operational clearance for IAF LCA is Dec 2012 and naval LCA is Dec 2014

Kaveri Engine (Tejas)

Sanctioned: 1989 Original Cost: Rs 383 crore Revised cost: Rs 2,893 crore Status: Not operational Arjun Tank

Sanctioned: 1974 Original Cost: Rs 15.5 cr Revised Cost: Rs 306 cr Status: First regiment inducted only in 2009. Army keen on inducting 1,657 Russian-origin T-90S tanks and only 124 Arjuns for its main battle tank requirements for the immediate future

Measures proposed, 2015

The Times of India, May 31 2015

DRDO: drastic overhaul needed; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, May 31 2015

Rajat Pandit


With the Modi government keen to build a strong defence-industrial base in tune with the `Make in India' policy , the stage has now been set for revival of the country's moribund defence R&D establishment by the appointment of two relatively younger scientists at the helm of affairs. The government is quite miffed with the lackadaisical functioning of the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO), often in the dock for its failure to deliver cutting-edge weaponry without huge time and cost overruns, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself warning the organisation to fast shed its “chalta hai“ attitude.

But only time will tell whether S Christopher, 59, the new DRDO chief, and G Satheesh Reddy , 51, the new scientific adviser to the defence minister, can undertake the kind of drastic surgery that is needed to revive DRDO and its 52 labs spread across the country . India, after all, still continues to import 65% of its military hardware and software.

Officials say Reddy's appointment in the MoD, by splitting the scientific adviser-cum-DRDO chief post, will provide an “independent mechanism“ to review and scrutinise DRDO's functioning. Till now, the same scientist wore the two hats.

“More changes are on the anvil. They could include a new defence technology commission and a commercial arm for DRDO, as was recommended by the Rama Rao committee (RRC),“ said an official. “There is a big thrust on Make in India, which will include greater private sector participation as production agencies or lead integrators for technologies developed by DRDO,“ he added.

As earlier reported by TOI, the RRC in 2008 held that DRDO should focus only on eight to 10 “critical tech nologies“ of “strategic importance“. But many of its recommendations have been implemented half-heartedly, with DRDO still continuing to make everything from dental implants and mosquito repellents to nuclear missiles and fighter jets.

Modi's advice in August last year that at least five DRDO labs should be headed by scientists under the age of 35 to reinvigorate the organisation is yet to be acted up on. Though DRDO scientists are supposed to retire at 60, many were routinely getting two-year extensions till now.

“Four of the seven cluster heads or DGs in DRDO are currently on extension after retirement, as are most of the `distinguished scientists'. They believe in statusquo and are risk-averse. Consequently , many young scientists get frustrated, adding to the already severe braindrain,“ said a scientist.

DRDO, of course, also gets a measly 6% of the overall defence budget when it is 12% in the US and 20% in China. Apart from the braindrain and failure to attract bright young scientists from top-rung institutes, the DRDO has also suffered from a virtual freeze in the enhancement of scientific manpower for over a decade. It has asked for sanctions to recruit around 300 young scientists every year, instead of the 70-80 inducted at present.

Some projects:=

Ballistic Missile Defence system

Delhi and Mumbai, chosen for DRDO’s Ballistic Missile Defence system

From the archives of The Times of India

Delhi, Mumbai first to get missile shield DRDO System Can Be Put In Place At Short Notice New Delhi: Delhi and Mumbai, the two most vital metros of India, have been chosen for DRDO’s Ballistic Missile Defence system that can be put in place at short notice.

The detailed proposal is being prepared for final clearance from the Cabinet committee on security (CCS). The strategic planning has already begun to install the system in the two cities and the final proposal will be put before the government after detailed analysis of the entire project, sources said.

The sites for installing radars to track enemy missiles and storing counter-attack projectiles will be determined during the planning stage, they said, adding that these locations must have adequate stealth feature and protection against enemy sabotage.

To ensure maximum protection against air-borne threats, DRDO will put a mix of counter-attack missiles which will be able to shoot down enemy missiles both within Earth’s atmosphere (endo-atmospheric) and outside it (exo-atmospheric).

The system will require minimum human intervention due to the complete automation of tracking devices and counter-measures. Human intervention will be required only to abort the mission, the sources said.

After successful implementation in Delhi and Mumbai, the system will be used to cover other major cities in the country, they added.

The shield has undergone a series of successful tests. It can destroy an incoming ballistic missile with the range of up to 2,000 km. During the test stage, DRDO used variants of Prithvi missiles as simulated targets and successfully intercepted them in mid-air.

All the necessary elements such as long-range radars and tracking devices, real-time datalink and mission control system required for installing the missile system have also been successfully tested by the DRDO. The system is all set to be upgraded to the range of 5,000 km by 2016.

It was first test-fired in November 2006, elevating India into the elite club of countries to have successfully developed an anti-ballistic missile system after the US, Russia and Israel

Black box 

Floating device eases retrieval of debris, information

Ayyappan V, This black box ejects, helps save vital data, August 2, 2017: The Times of India

DRDO Floating device developed by DRDO will make retrieval of debris and information easier. Please refer above graphic for detailed description of the device; Ayyappan V, This black box ejects, helps save vital data, August 2, 2017: The Times of India

DRDO Floating Device Will Make Retrieval Of Debris, Info Easier

Several aircraft have gone miss ing in mysterious circumstanc es -some never to be traced again, others found only after decades, like the remains of two airplanes that an amateur investigator found on Mont Blanc in the French Alps last week, which experts believe could be those of one of the aircraft that Air India lost in two crashes in 1950 and 1966.

But military R&D agency Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) has now developed a self-ejectable black box for airplanes. The device ejects from aircraft when it sinks after an accident and self-activates when it comes in contact with water, with a homing signal that can help rescuers easily locate the device. Built as part of `Make in India' initiative, the product, aimed for use on planes and submarines, has received “notice of allowance for patent“ in the US and Russia.

The product can prevent situations like the 2016 AN32 crash where in spite of using deep-sea probes, authorities were not able to trace debris in the sea.

BSAT ­ Ejectable Black Box Recorder with Satellite Transmitter -has been developed and tested by Naval Science and Technology Laboratory of DRDO in Visakhapatnam. It attracted attention from experts at an exhibition “Science for Soldiers & Society“ organised in Chennai at the CVRDE in Avadi.

Officials said the black box was devel oped based on the tracking technology currently used to detect torpedoes. DRDO decided to develop it further and has perfected it for an aircraft. It aims to export the product after receiveing approvals.

“In most of the air crashes in the sea, the conventional black boxes fail probably because they sink to the bottom of the ocean which could be thousands of metres deep and also get affected by the currents or damaged in the impact of the crash,“ an official said. “BSAT is designed to over come all these hassles. It will eject the moment an aircraft touches the water and floats on the surface. It can also be tethered to the flight so that some portion of the debris be retrieved,“ the official added.

The floating black box has a good use in defence as it can send out signals when a submarine goes below its prescribed depth and sinks, but its chief use would be in civil aviation. “The invention is good because it can the crash site and save flight information,“ said air safety expert and former pilot Captain Mohan Ranganathan.

A black box stores data including speed, altitude and other parameters of the flight of an aircraft. The information is crucial to piece together the cause of an accident. Airbus and European aviation regulator are planning to have ejectable black boxes on commercial airliners in the next two years. Ranganathan said implementation of the new technology has to be hastened.Retrofitting of such equipment in aircraft will require permission and certification from Federal Aviation Agency .

Excalibur

Army finds it inadequate

The Times of India, Jul 03 2016

Rajat Pandit

Army hunts for lethal assault rifle, junks DRDO's Excalibur

Army has launched a fresh hunt for a new-generation assault rifle all over again. Rejecting the 5.56x45mm calibre Excalibur rifle offered by the DRDO-Ordnance Factory Board combine, the force has now decided to go in for a 7.62x51mm gun with “higher kill probability and stopping power“. In the race to acquire high-end weapon systems from submarines and fighters to howitzers and helicopters, basic weaponry and protective gear for ordinary foot-soldiers often do not get the requisite attention and push by the brass.

But the Army says it means business this time, shrugging aside failed attempts to acquire new rifles over the last decade.

The RFI (request for information) for the new 7.62mm assault rifles is going to be issued soon to elicit responses from around the globe. “The GSQRs (general staff qualitative requirements) or technical parameters for the rifles will then be formulated before the actual tender is floated to invite bids,“ said a source.

It was in April that the Army commanders' conference first discussed whether the force required a 7.62mm rifle that “killed“ or a 5.56mm rifle that “incapacitated“ enemy soldiers, as was then reported by TOI.

“The decision has now been taken to go for 7.62x51mm rifles with a higher kill probability and accuracy at an enhanced ef fective range of 500-metre,“ said the source.

The military wisdom till now was that the 5.56mm rifle was better for conventional war because it generally injured an enemy soldier, tying down at least two of his colleagues to carry him in the battlefield. Conversely , the 7.62mm rifle was better for counter-insurgency since terrorists had to be killed at the first instance, eliminating the risk of “suicide bombing“.

Soldiers largely use the 7.62mm AK-47 rifles for counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir and the northeast, even though the infantry is saddled with the indigenous glitch-prone 5.56mm INSAS (Indian small arms system) rifles.

The fully-automatic Ex calibur, which fires 5.56x45mm ammunition, is a much-improved version of INSAS rifle that entered service in 1994-1995. But the Army now wants 7.62mm rifles for greater lethality.

The Army's overambitious experiment to induct rifles with interchangeable barrels, with a 5.56x45mm primary barrel for conventional warfare and a 7.62x39mm secondary one for counter-terrorism, miserably flopped last year. the proposed mega project was junked since the rifles on offer by armament firms like Colt (US), Beretta (Italy), Ceska (Czech) and Israel Weapon Industries were not found cost-effective or suitable after extensive trials.

Under the project, 65,000 rifles were to be directly acquired from the selected vendor to equip the 120 infantry battalions deployed on the western and eastern fronts.The OFB was to then subsequently manufacture over 1,13,000 such rifles after getting transfer of technology from the foreign company .

Hypersonic technology demonstrator vehicle

2019: test fails to meet technical parameters

India’s hypersonic vehicle test fails to meet tech parameters, June 13, 2019: The Times of India


The maiden launch of an indigenously developed hypersonic technology demonstrator vehicle (HSTDV), powered by a scramjet engine, from the Dr Abdul Kalam Island off Odisha coast failed to achieve the technical parameters laid down for the test.

Defence sources said the HSTDV, designed to cruise at Mach 6 speed with the scramjet engine, was supposed to “fire and fly on its own” after being carried to an altitude of around 30-40km by the solid rocket motor of an Agni-I ballistic missile in the test. “But the Agni-I booster went into an uncontrolled mode after the launch and could not achieve the desired altitude…So, the entire test flopped,” said a source.

The cruise vehicle was supposed to be ejected out of the launch vehicle (Agni-I) and be propelled by the scramjet engine after it autoignited at the required altitude but it failed to do so during the test. The test was considered critical for the development of a hypersonic (over Mach 5 speeds) cruise missile system in the future.

The DRDO, however, said the “internal experimental test” of the technology demonstrator vehicle was meant to prove “a number of critical technologies” for futuristic missions. “The missile was successfully launched at 11.27am. Various radars, telemetry stations and electro-optical tracking sensors tracked the vehicle through its course. The data has been collected and will be analysed to validate the critical technologies,” it added. But DRDO refused to say anything about the overall outcome of the test.

The HSTDV project is aimed at demonstrating autonomous flight of a scramjet integrated vehicle using kerosene, which can have multiple civilian applications, including launching satellites at a low-cost, as well as military uses in the shape of long range cruise missiles.

Missiles

Missile test-firing range, Wheeler Island

India’s solitary missile test firing range faces sand erosion, 2013/05/12: The Times of India


Changing sand patterns around India’s lone missile test-firing range at Wheeler Island off Odisha coast is causing serious concern for the Defence Research and Development Organisation that is seeking assistance from Chennai-based National Institute of Ocean Technology to control the erosion.

“Due to erosion, some 300 metre of sand area has submerged and some sand is showing up in other part of the island,” DRDO chief controller (R&D) Avinash Chander said.

Since Wheeler Island is technically a “sand bar” with a size of approximately 1sq km in the Bay of Bengal and not a rock formation, water currents result in the change in sand patterns, he said.

2017: Nirbhay land-attack, N-capable cruise missile

Rajat Pandit, India successfully test-fires N-capable cruise missile, November 8, 2017: The Times of India

Some facts about Nirbhay missile, Brahmos missile; a distinction between cruise and ballistic missile; India's ballistic missiles, in brief
From: Rajat Pandit, India successfully test-fires N-capable cruise missile, November 8, 2017: The Times of India

India successfully flight-tested its indigenous `Nirbhay' (the fearless) land-attack cruise missile, which can deliver nuclear warheads to a strike range of 1,000km, after a string of failures since March 2013. The development is significant because the armed forces have for long been demanding nuclear land-attack cruise missiles (LACMs), with ranges of over 1,000km and versatile enough to be fired from land, air and sea.

Often brandished as India's answer to the famed American Tomahawk missiles, as also an effective counter to Pakistan's Babur LACM, Nirbhay has been in the making for a decade.

The sub-sonic missile is designed to carry a 300kg nuclear warhead. Tuesday's test, the missile's fifth (see graphic), at 11.20am from the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur off Odisha, was dubbed a “complete success“ by DRDO.“The flight test achieved all mission objectives completely from lift-off till the final splash. The missile majestically cruised for 50 minutes, achieving the range of 647km,“ said an official.

Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman expressed “optimism“ the successful trial would take India into “the select league of nations that possess this complex technology of sub-sonic cruise missile capability“. A series of successful tests of this groundlaunched version of Nirbhay will pave the way for its induction into the armed forces, though its sea-based variant, capable of being fired from nuclear-powered submarines, will be the real game-changer.

Cruise missiles like the Nirbhay are designed to fly at low altitudes to evade enemy radars and missile defence systems. After an initial blast-off with a solid-propellant booster rocket engine to gain speed and altitude, Nirbhay deploys its smallish wings and tail fins in the second stage to fly like an unmanned aircraft. It's designed to be highly maneuoverable with “loitering capabilities“ to identify and then hit the intended target.

Modern Sub Machine Carbine (MSMC)

Sandeep Unnithan , Carbine game changer “India Today” 8/9/2017

The Modern Sub Machine Carbine (MSMC) is possibly the only weapon designed, developed and manufactured in India with a cult following among gamers across the world. The futuristic looking carbine-a compact weapon that fires smaller calibre rounds than an assault rifle-clearly caught the attention of the designers of Call of Duty. Since 2012, players of the franchise's Black Ops II have had the DRDO-designed MSMC as one among five carbine options.

No one is quite sure how the virtual version of the weapon showed up in American-produced pop culture. The actual weapon's history, however, is somewhat chequered. It was developed by DRDO's Pune-based Armaments Research and Development Establishment after the Army announced a contest in 2006 to replace all of its obsolete World War II era 9 mm carbines. The 5.56 mm MSMC has a 30-round magazine and can fire upto 900 rounds per minute. An indigenously-made holographic sight with an inbuilt red-dot laser pointer allows for accurate aiming up to the weapon's 200 metre effective range, making it ideal for use in confined urban spaces. The weapon is produced by state-owned ordnance factories and is close to meeting the army's rigorous testing standards.

As the DRDO-OFB combine wait for the Army order, they have decided to offer the carbine to the police and paramilitary forces. Their optimism is not unfounded. Police forces are looking to modernise WWII era weapon inventories. Imports are not just expensive, but also subject to controls by host nations- German manufacturer Heckler and Koch has repeatedly cited human rights violations by Indian security forces as reason to deny exports.

The Chhattisgarh police became the first to order the weapon this year-640 of them-with similar orders expected from the Madhya Pradesh, Delhi and Meghalaya police. India's paramilitary forces are another potential buyer. Its designers estimate the firearm has the potential to replace nearly 400,000 obsolete weapons, an order worth over Rs 45,000 crore (including ammunition).

"We have the production capacity to make around 35,000 such carbines each year," says H.R. Dixit, general manager, Small Arms Factory (SAF), Kanpur. This Indian carbine's transition from virtual to real could prove to be a potential game changer.

Nirbhay cruise missile

Failures in 2013, 14, 15

The Times of India, Oct 17 2015

N-capable Nirbhay missile bites the dust for 2nd time

Another test of the Nirbhay cruise missile, designed to carry nuclear warheads within a strike range of 1,000 km, failed. This was the subsonic missile's third test after the first one miserably flopped in March 2013, while the second one was just “a partial success“ in October 2014.

The long-range missile had to be destroyed in midair after it deviated from its flight path along the coast in Bay of Bengal soon after being launched from the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur in Odisha. “The flight had to be aborted after its guidance system failed. The missile had travelled a distance of 128 km, but couldn't take the required turn at the waypoint and instead nose-dived. It was then put on the self-destruct mode,“ said a source. The defence ministry said, “Nirbhay reached the desired cruise altitude with all initial critical operations such as booster ignition, booster separation, wing deployment and engine start being successfully executed. But the mission had to be aborted after 700 seconds of flight.“

A stealth missile in the making for almost a decade, Nirbhay is meant to fulfill the armed forces' demand for nuclear-tipped land-attack cruise missiles, versatile enough to be fired from land, air and sea.

Unmanned, remotely operated tank

Muntra

[http://epaperbeta.timesofindia.com/Article.aspx?eid=31808&articlexml=DRDO-develops-Indias-first-unmanned-tank-30072017015031 Ayyappan VDRDO develops India's first unmanned tank Jul 30 2017 : The Times of India (Delhi)]

Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has developed an unmanned, remotely operated tank which has three variants -surveillance, mine detection and reconnaissance, for areas with nuclear and bioweapons. It is called Muntra.The Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (CVRDE) in Avadi, Chennai, developed and tested the tank for the Army but paramilitary forces have also expressed interest to use it in Naxal-hit areas. That will require a few modifications.

The two remotely operated vehicles designed like an armoured tank were on display at an exhibition -Science for Soldiers -organised by DRDO as a tribute to former President APJ Abdul Kalam at CVRDE in Avadi. Muntra-S is the country's first tracked unmanned ground vehicle developed for unmanned surveillance missions while Muntra-M is for detecting mines and Muntra-N is for operation in areas where there is a nuclear radiation or bio weapon risk.


Parachutes

Were they `life threatening?' (2016)

The Times of India, June 9, 2016

Arvind Chauhan

Made-in-India flop: DRDO chute sinks


After 13 years of research and crores of rupees in expenses, parachutes designed by a Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) lab here for special forces have not only failed field trials but also been classed as “seriously life threatening“ in an audit report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG). The auditor has also slammed the functioning of the lab as well as the domestic manufacturer, Ordnance Parachute Factory (OPF) in Kanpur. The report emanates from an audit of Army ordnance factories and defence PSUs by CAG, which has pointed out serious lapses on the part of the Aerial Delivery Research and Development Establishment (ADRDE) in Agra and the OPF in Kanpur for “failing“ to produce combat free fall (CFF) parachutes despite an expenditure of Rs 10.75 crore.

CAG has raised questions about ADRDE, the sole institution in India for the development of military-grade parachutes, vis-a-vis its claim of successful trials of CFF chutes, pointing out that an overwhelming 75% had failed field trials.

CFF parachutes are used by elite paratroopers for highly specialised operations. In 1986, a batch was imported, which was de-commissioned in 2002, six years after their 10year shelf life expired.

In 2001, the Army placed an order for 1,031 CFF parachu tes, of which 410 were to be procured from abroad on a fasttrack basis for urgent needs.The remaining 621 were to be developed under a project for indigenous CFFs which started in March 2003. However, in 2006, the ministry of defence junked the idea of import, suggesting that all be procured from domestic sources.

Between March and No vember 2006, ADRDE conducted trials for the CFFs it had developed and claimed success. The defence ministry then placed an order with OPF Kanpur for 700 of the parachutes in October 2008, at a total cost of Rs 55.35 crore.OPF was to deliver a sample of 40 for further trials.

However, according to the CAG report, in 2010, trials revealed the parachutes were not up to the mark, with experts saying the implications of the flaws were “seriously life threatening“. De spite this, the ministry , in 2011, ordered two consignments of 25 parachutes each.

In October 2014, of the first 25 chutes, only seven passed trials. The failure rate of 75%, said the CAG report, raised serious questions about the claims by ADRDE as well as the OPF.

Meanwhile, in January 2008, India signed a deal with the US government to buy C130 Hercules aircraft for the IAF, and 600 CFF chutes. Of these, 400 were given to the Army in January 2013.

ADRDE director Debasish Chakraborti was not available for comment following the release of the CAG report. A senior IAF officer at Kheria base, where paratroopers are trained, said, “The quality of imported CFF parachutes is better than indigenous ones.At present we are using ADRDE parachutes and they have done a decent job so far.“

Powers

2018: DRDO given more financial powers

Rajat Pandit, To up efficiency, Centre gives DRDO more financial powers, June 28, 2018: The Times of India

Move Will Help Take Decisions Faster: Govt

The government delegated greater financial powers to Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to “enhance its efficiency and effectiveness”, but the body requires a drastic overhaul rather than mere tinkering to ensure India develops a robust defence-industrial base.

Soon after coming to office in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked DRDO to jettison its “chalta hai” (lackadaisical) attitude, and become proactive in delivering advanced defence technologies to the armed forces without huge time and cost overruns.

A few months down the line, the government had sacked the then-DRDO chief, missile scientist Avinash Chander, and then bifurcated the post of scientific advisor to the defence minister-cum-DRDO chief, which was held by one person till then.

But since then, systemic reforms have been largely missing. India continues to wallow in the strategically-vulnerable and embarrassing position of being the world’s largest arms importer due to the abysmal performance of DRDO and its 52 labs, four defence shipyards, five defence PSUs and 41 ordnance factories.

Officials said the delegation of financial powers to DRDO, a decision taken by defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman, was “intended to neutralise the ill-effects of overcentralisation and facilitate quicker decision-making”.

But much more needs to be done. The Rama Rao Committee, in 2008, had said DRDO should focus only on 8-10 “critical technologies” of “strategic importance” instead of making everything from dental implants and mosquito repellents to nuclear missiles and fighter jets. Many of its recommendations are yet to be properly implemented. The DRDO budget, for instance, continues to hover around 5-6% of overall defence budget, while around 20% of China’s defence outlay is spent on R&D, say scientists.

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