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No defence

Hindustan Times

May 19, 2005

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's call to the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to "redefine its approaches and restructure its capabilities" :D is long overdue. The country has showered a great deal of respect and money on the organisation since the mid-Eighties, but it has got back precious little to show for it.

Uncritical and downright wrong-headed media coverage leads to the DRDO getting credit for even missiles like the workhorse surface-to-air missile Trishul and Akash and the Nag anti-tank missile, which were to have entered service in 1993-94, and have not. In an era in which unmanned aerial aircraft play such a key role, all that the DRDO has to boast about is the Lakshya, a minor aerial vehicle used simply as a target for air-to-air missiles. The Nishant UAV is being kept alive through artificial life-support, as is the Arjun MBT.

The Pakistani missile arsenal, leaving aside the matter of how it was acquired, is at least a decade ahead of Prithvi and Agni. Hubris and the DRDO's own bureaucratised culture are to blame for this state of affairs, as well as its penchant for needless publicity and reinventing the wheel.

But don't blame the DRDO alone for this state of affairs. The user services, with the exception of the Indian Navy, have a huge, and for the country costly, inferiority complex when it comes to using Indian-designed equipment. Take the LCA, a great achievement for which the country has laid down Rs 5,000 crore (US $ 1.15 Billion at US $ 1 = Indian Rs 43.44) investment so far. The IAF makes a show of being interested, but its equipment plans are aimed at strangling the programme.

The government must knock a few heads in the armed forces and get them to work with some sincerity with the DRDO to bring indigenously designed equipment into service. Our strategic defence is now based on nuclear weapons, and tensions with Pakistan and China have eased so there is a bit of a cushion.

Equipment plans for the air force and the army based on imported systems should be delayed and even scrapped, to give indigenous programmes the needed impetus. Only by taking a tough stand on such issues will the country be able to get a return on the massive investments it has made on defence research.

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Couple of old articles:


By Thakurani Veena Kanwar

It was some times in January 1997 that Wilson Jones, writing in the Pioneer had stated that the troops have been inducted into the Valley armed with defective weapons. He was referring to the untested and defective 5.56 mm rifles, several thousand in number, which had been issued to the troops to fight the insurgents in Jammu and Kashmir. According to the same report senior Army Officers are even more worried about the defective ammunition, which has critical design defects in the cartridge and bullet heads. The end result is that the jawan is just being pumped in to be killed.

As one analyses this report, which though nearly five years old still epitomises the current situation, in as much as that the troops have to be armed with AK 47 and its derivatives AK 56 and AK 74 assault rifles. The Indian research, to develop a suitable replacement of the SLR 7.62 Rifles, has so far failed to deliver, to the detriment of the jawan and his safety, as well as the security of the nation. What is more, this has affected the nation's economy, in as much as these weapons have to be bought from outside instead of India selling its weapons, ikn world's arms bazars.

In fact this is a very small part of the general failure of the nation's Research and Development programme. Despite a sizeable budget the Indian Research Community has failed to deliver. Apart from just two missiles the Prithvi and the Agni (I and II) the entire effort has been to just retain their empire and indulge in further empire building and indulge in a massive spending spree, with nothing to show for the entire effort. Parkinson's First Law has been allowed to operate in a rampant fashion with ever improvement of pay scales and status and massive empire building enrolling sycophants instead of genuine scientists.

While Admiral Bhagwat's attempts to ask for a performance audit was stalled by George Fernandes, there is a need for the people of India to know how their hard money, for which Yashwant Sinha and his cohorts have been milking the poor man in the street, is being spent.

The Aviation Scene:

The Light Combat Aircraft, notwithstanding all the protestations to the contrary is as dead as a dodo. The Kaveri Gas Turbine Engine has failed and has still not been test flown. The replacement, the Watt and Pratley, GE 404 engine, which had powered the F-4 is no longer being produced in United States of America. Thus even if the American sanctions have been lifted this engine will never be available. The Air Force has also given up on the aircraft and is now talking of a new aircraft which they have termed the Medium Combat Aircraft which would have greater weapon load carrying capacity. That means that the entire exercise will have to be started de novo.

The Advanced Light Helicopter, which is dependent on the German gearbox and a French engine, has also failed to provide adequate number of these helicopters. This helicopter has failed in its test to fly at heights required by the Indian Armed Forces in that it is incapable of operating in Siachen. The Navy is also finding the helicopter a problem.

Tanks. That Indian Main Battle Tank, Arjun, has been a failure, is well known. That it is too heavy, underpowered and cannot retain stability over cross-country is also known to all. That it failed to achieve an acceptable first hit capability is also well known. The German engine which was to have powered the tank is not forthcoming while the Kirloskars who were originally required to power the tank failed to provide an engine which met the parameters. (So much for the civilian participation in the defence production!) The turret also lacked a suitable gyroscopic stability to ensure the locking in of the target. The end result has been that India has just no tank of its own, worth the name, and is dependent on Russia to meet her requirements.


There is just no development in this sphere after the development of the 105 mm Indian Field Gun. This gun has failed to meet the operational requirements and the Indian Artillery is on the look out for a suitable 155mm gun as a general replacement for all its artillery requirements. The Indian political establishment having burnt India's boats vis-à-vis the Bofors, which had proved itself in Kargil.So it is bacvk to thee open market once again!


It was some times in early nineties that the then Defence Minister, most probably Mulayam Singh Yadav, had stated in most unequivocal terms that there was no need for an aircraft carrier in the Indian Navy and as a result the work which had commenced on the Indian Aircraft Carrier was stalled. Now with INS Vikrant being decommissioned and the INS Virat on its last legs, notwithstanding its refurbishing and renovation, the Indian Navy has become a Brown Water Navy not even capable of defending Indian Economic assets within the Extended Economic Free Zone in the Arabian Sea or the Bay of Bengal.

The nuclear submarine is also still on the drawing board, notwithstanding all the years spent on the getting the blue prints ready. The affair of the nuclear submarine has been particularly scandalous. When the original design was pointed out as defective by the Naval expert, Commander Rao, the Scientific establishment even went to the extent of getting him arrested as a spy and had him tortured. The Indian legal establishment to its shame even denied him proper legal help and the officer had to eventually defend himself, which he did successfully because the truth was on his side. But did any heads roll? Not on your life! It was back to a state of self-aggrandisement and empire building, with the politico-bureaucratic combine ensuring that there is just no one to ask awkward questions.

At no stage has any attempt been made to acquire the latest equipment and then by reverse engineering the concepts studied, analysed and understood and further modified to suit the Indian requirements. All the time all that India has got, at best has been knocked down kits, which, with screwdriver technology, the Indian factories have assembled. This was what happened for the T-72 Tanks. This will be what happens to the new T-90 tank. This is what happened with respect to the MiG 21 aircraft as early as 1962, and is still happening in respect of the Su 30, an aircraft, which has been developed by the Russians to Indian requirements. Yet, in spite of the fact that India paid for the development, Russia has still refused to supply the technology. The end result is that India has had to go back to the Russians for upgradation of the MiG 21, which should by all rights and logic have been done by the Indian engineers and scientists. In fact, as has been brought out time and again by this Institute the Indian Government and the people have been supporting the Russian economy at the cost of our economy and security. All because of the failure of the Indian scientific community, plus the corrupt proclivities of the Indian politico-bureaucratic combine.

The main reason has been that apart from the Defence Research and Development Organisation no production facility has any Research facility worth the name. As we study the function of Hindustan Aeronautics limited the main if not the primary Indian aircraft manufacturing facility all that it does is to assemble the MiG aircraft with out any modifications or improvements. In fact, they are a very poor copy of the original. The cause of this malaise is not far to see. Firstly, the labour is not only inefficient but down right poor. Invariably enrolled as a result of political compulsions the labour is not only untrained but in many cases untrainable. Highly trade unionised it is militant to the degree that a large number of them absent themselves after reporting for duty and moonlight, often even selling grapes on the streets of Bangalore. They can indulge in such illegal activity as result of the week management, which is controlled by the politician.

Thus as we study the Indian Security scene one finds that the nation's very security has been threatened by the Indian Research and Development set up which has been leading the nation up the garden path. It would be of interest to the reader to know that even in the Integrated Missile Programme, the Nag, the Indian version of the anti tank guided missile has been a failure so far. Akash the air to air missile had even failed to leave the launching aircraft. While the Trishul a tri-service Surface to Air missile has been as much as a failure as the other missiles.

The procedure so far has been that the Armed Forces spell out their requirement of weapons systems which is then projected to the Defence Research and Development Organisation, who is asked if it is in their capability to deliver. Invariably they accept otherwise their very credibility is at stake. Since the Defence Research and Development Organisation has accepted the responsibility to produce/ develop the system that has been asked for, the question of acquisition of the weapon systems from out side is shelved. Then starts the long drive to re-invent the wheel. With the eventual declaration of a final failure!

All this time the defence services are starved of the essential weapons systems when in a state of emergency they finally go back to the government or rather are driven to the government because of the force of circumstances and the government forced to go in for emergency purchase from the open market at a much larger cost to the nation. The sole gainers are the politico-bureaucratic combine who will constitute the purchase committee and as per the conventions and established procedures they get a minimum of a 15% of kickback. The other gainers are the Scientists of the Defence Research and Development Organisation, who are more into bureaucracy rather than scientific research, who have ensured the continuity of their empire without any accountability to the nation, the government or the people. It is they who have invariably come in the way of acquisition of technology. It is they who have come in the way of engaging scientific talent from abroad, especially when a large fraternity was available from the erstwhile Research and Development facilities in the collapsed Soviet Russia. Interestingly both, China and United States of America employed a number of such scientists. The end result has been that Indian research has lagged behind and what is worse has been that the Indian Security has been threatened if not sabotaged.

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No Bang For The Buck

An annual budget of Rs 4,000 crore, 51 hi-tech laboratories... Yet India's premier defence R&D organisation—DRDO—has little to show for it.


It was a cold, clear February morning when Wing Commander Ravi Khanna took off from Bikaner on a routine flight commanding the Jaguar squadron. He was preparing for the Maha Vayu Shakti 2004 air exercise, the first major one in the new millennium. Except that plane and pilot exploded in an angry fireball over the desertscape.

Now, an official court of inquiry (CoI) has identified a fuse as the culprit for the February 26 mishap. Of course, no one will be punished for the failure of the fuse. Yet, the inquiry into the air crash has for the first time held the Defence Research and Development Organisation's Pune laboratory responsible for the accident.

The report, which was sourced by Outlook, recreates the incident in damning detail. Soon after takeoff, Khanna followed the lead aircraft in the squadron, flying at a distance of 13 km. His target located, Khanna released the bomb. In less than one-tenth of a second, the fighter pilot and his plane exploded.

The report blamed the FBRN-4I fuse, fitted on all 1,000-pound bombs used by the IAF.

The fuse had inherent design deficiencies. It didn't have any "unsafe indicators" nor were its sensors functioning. This, said the report, was what caused the explosion. The fuse was designed by the Armament Research and Development Establishment, DRDO's Pune-based lab, which had copied it from an old Soviet design.

Thanks to the Jaguar incident, DRDO and its functioning have come under the scanner. Despite being India's 'premier' defence R&D organisation, DRDO has consistently failed to deliver. And it's not for want of infrastructure or funds, given its annual budget of Rs 4,000 crore and its 51 hi-tech laboratories. But set up in 1958 with the aim of cutting down on arms imports through indigenisation, it's this very objective that the DRDO seems to have lost sight of.

Almost half of this year's Rs 77,000-crore defence budget is earmarked for imports. In fact, the organisation's first major act in the new millennium was to approve a perspective plan from the services entailing defence imports worth Rs 1,20,000 crore for the next 15 years.

Today, everything that matters in the Indian military is imported, be it the Russian main battle tanks, Swedish artillery, British aircraft carriers, Russian and German submarines, Russian and French fighters, Israeli electronic warfare systems or British jet trainers.

Its harshest critics describe the DRDO as a white elephant. Others see it as an organisation which begins with grandiose plans but ends up with just copying dated Soviet designs. Says former army chief Shankar Roy Chowdhury, "The biggest problem with the DRDO is that it is over-ambitious. There is no coordination between the DRDO and the users." Consequently, programmes are launched or prototypes are developed which are out of sync with the requirements of the services.

A special review in 2000 by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of DRDO's Vehicles Research and Development Establishment, Ahmedabad, says it all. According to the CAG, this lab developed a light tank the army did not need. The project was sanctioned in 1983, the army wanted it scrapped in two years. In 1993, the army reiterated its stand and the DRDO chief also recommended its closure. But it was only after firing trial rounds for two more years that the DRDO finally called a halt to the project. The CAG report noted, "The fact remained that R&D efforts and money were spent on equipment the need for which had ceased." The CAG also found 48.76 per cent of the lab's budget spent on salaries; with a ratio of 11 non-scientists for every scientist. In 10 years, from 1988 to 1998, only 18 of the lab's projects were completed, of which only four went into bulk production.

Two years later, in 2002, the parliamentary standing committee on defence reached similar conclusions.

"It seems that sometimes priorities are missing," it noted."The poor conceptualisation and over-ambition in trying to make world-class products had sometimes resulted in delays and slip-ups in completion of projects which are vital for modernisation of the forces indigenously. The users—the army, navy and air force—too should share the blame because they pick up brochures abroad and insist the DRDO fulfil all claims made by foreign manufacturers."

There is much the DRDO lists among its achievements: the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme, the Main Battle Tank (MBT) Arjun, the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas, the Remotely Piloted Vehicle (RPV) Nishant and the pilotless target vehicle Lakshya.

But the army is hesitant to operationalise MBT Arjun and has instead gone in for Russian T-90s, while the LCA is still years away from completion. Why, but for fundamental support from ISRO, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam's missiles too would not have taken off. And even among them, it's just Prithvi, with a range of 250-300 km, that can count as a success; its naval version is yet to be perfected. In fact, as DRDO chief, it was Kalam himself who cleared the import of Barak missiles worth Rs 1,250 crore from Israel as a substitute. There is little therefore that can be said about its successes, but plenty about the DRDO's duds:

Nuclear Submarine Project

INS Chakra It was taken on lease from the erstwhile Soviet Union midway through the nuclear submarine project. But 30 years and Rs 7,500 crore later, India may still have to rely on imports.

It was in 1975 that then prime minister Indira Gandhi gave the go-ahead for the Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) project to develop an indigenous nuclear-powered submarine. But 30 years on and Rs 7,500 crore later, the DRDO's most prestigious project is yet to materialise. The latest projection is that the country will have a nuclear sub by 2008. But this could well be another case of "indigenous" technology with its vital equipment imported.

Controversy has dogged the project all along. There was even a move to refer it to the central vigilance commissioner in the late 1990s to investigate the "leakage of funds". Though serious allegations were raised, the project was too "hot" for the vigilance commission. In 1992, the CAG attempted an audit, but the report remained unpublished. This makes it the only major military project left unreported by the CAG.

The submarine project's 'top secret' label puts it effectively beyond scrutiny. Till 1983, funds for it were routed through various ministries—surface transport, shipping and atomic energy. An attempt in 1996 to get a techno-economic study done by eminent technocrats was scuttled, with the DRDO conveniently invoking the secrecy clause.

According to those involved with the project, lack of coordination and focus marked the ATV project out as a failure from day one. The first 10 years were wasted in debating what reactor would suit the vessel. The navy, the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) and the DRDO failed to agree on crucial issues. The navy was supposed to provide the design, BARC the reactor. Raja Ramanna, then the director of BARC and also the chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, simply told the navy to keep off the reactor design.

The Soviets had informally offered India a fleet of nuclear subs way back in 1979. But the DRDO and the scientific advisors claimed it could be built indigenously. Says a senior official associated with the project, "Eight years later, in 1987, the Soviet offer was renewed. This time Ramanna and others at an apex board meeting said we'd produce it in no time.

..all that was required was to lease a Soviet vessel."

That happened in 1988. The intention was to copy the design and to train Indian officers to operate the indigenous version as soon as it was ready.All the manuals and detailed documentation were studied but nothing much came out of it. INS Chakra, as the leased sub was called, was a symbol of India's presence in the Indian Ocean till 1991.Thereafter, the lease lapsed.

When Kalam took over DRDO in 1992, the project was still plagued with reactor and design problems.His first deadline was 1995-96; extensions were given continuously. Then PM H.D. Deve Gowda agreed to pump in Rs 2,500 crore. The first trials were a scream—the reactor would not fit into the hull of the submarine! Soviet scientists had pointed to this design discrepancy earlier itself but, alas, too late. The DRDO design was based on the conventional battery-charged SSK class of subs and the reactor was a derivative of BARC's Apsara reactor. A patent mismatch.

For a while, the NDA government toyed with a proposal to lease two Akula class nuclear subs and to acquire technology through reverse engineering, with critical parts imported from Russia. The new proposals would keep the middlemen in defence deals happy and the DRDO 'proud' of building an 'indigenous' nuclear submarine. But the proposals haven't materialised.

Main Battle Tank Arjun

MBT Arjun "Officially handed over" to the army in August 2004 after 30 years and Rs 307.48 crore. Time overrun forced army to import T-90s from Russia. Also unsuitable for prime tank country.

Two months ago, defence minister Pranab Mukherjee "officially" handed over the first set of MBT Arjuns to the army. As the minister and his retinue left the venue, the tanks were promptly rolled back into the factory at Avadi, Tamil Nadu. The army said it was not ready to deploy it in a war theatre. This is the story of one of DRDO's biggest 'successes', a project sanctioned in 1974, expected to go into production in 1984, handed over to the prime minister in 1995 and exhibited at Republic Day parades since 1996.

The director-general of quality assurance has still not given the tank the clearance, a mandatory requirement before any weapon system is inducted into the armed forces. From the initial sanctioned budget of Rs 15.5 crore, the DRDO ended up spending Rs 307.48 crore for a tank which is useless to the army. A former project manager of MBT Arjun had in 1997 said he would never take the tank to war. The DRDO's failure obviously resulted in the country importing Russian T-90s at a cost of over Rs 3,000 crore. For all practical purposes, T-90 will remain India's main tank for more than a decade.

Arjun, senior army officers say, cannot be used in classic 'tank country'. At 58.5 tonnes, it cannot be ferried across bridges which lead to Hanumangarh and Suratgarh in Rajasthan, considered prime tank battlefields by military planners. Concedes Dr V.K. Atre, who retired last month as DRDO chief and scientific advisor to the defence minister, "Sure, it is a heavy tank and we will have to reinforce the bridges." But he defends the tank stating that "it can go over terrain few tanks can because of its power-to-weight ratio". But weight alone is not the tank's failure. In listing its major deficiencies in 1998, the CAG cited the lack of "accuracy of gun at battle ranges, mission reliability, lethality of ammunition bin, emergency traverse, etc".

So much so that Parliament's public accounts committee which looked into the CAG report was categorical that no R&D benefit was derived out of the Arjun project even 26 years after it was sanctioned.

In 2000, the committee had said that "the delay in development and productionisation of MBT Arjun was attributable, to a considerable extent, to deficient project management and monitoring.Underlining the need to review the existing institutional mechanism for management and monitoring of the project".Needless to say, vital components like engine, fire control system, transmission unit, tracks, thermal sight and night sight were all imported and that too in the early 1980s.

Now, the army is only prepared to use the tank to train its personnel. The limited series production of 124 tanks would thus imply a colossal waste of money. But Dr Atre believes the project has "given us the capability and the confidence to develop better tanks.We have made major strides in self-reliance in defence technology". Sure. The next-generation tanks have already been imported.

Guided Missile Programme

Akash Part of the Rs 2,000-crore Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme, the missile is still awaiting development trials after 20 years. It’s also yet to prove its mettle against multiple targets.

You could call the Agni and the Prithvi surface-to-surface missiles reasonable successes.But the lack of progress in the smaller missiles vexes the army and the navy because they desperately seek a missile cover which the DRDO promised long ago. Trishul, Akash and Nag, part of the DRDO's surface-to-air guided missile programme, have already consumed RS 2,000 crore—and they are yet to be delivered.

In fact, the DRDO went so far as to promise a Rs 6,000-crore anti-ballistic missile defence system in 1998. The presentation was simple, an arrow drawn towards the Rashtrapati Bhawan and another arrow intercepting the first one. Politicians were impressed because Delhi's safety has always been selfishly given exaggerated priority. But the service chiefs opposed this grand idea pointing out that even superpowers have not yet produced any credible missile umbrella against ballistic missiles.

Rather than ballistic missiles, what the army was looking for was a replacement for its ageing Kvadrath and Strella missile of the '60s vintage. The navy wanted a surface-to-air missile for its frigate, INS Brahmaputra. With the DRDO failing to deliver, the navy had to finally go in for the Israeli Baraks.

Light Combat Aircraft

Sanctioned in 1983, the Light Combat Aircraft (Tejas) was to replace the MiG-21 fighters. But 21 years down the line, that seems an even more distant possibility. After an investment of nearly Rs 5,500 crore, the parliamentary standing committee in 2002 noted considerable cost and time overruns in the LCAs. One valid reason for the delay was the US sanctions on critical components, including the GE-404 engines which were to power the Tejas.

Simultaneously, the DRDO began work on an indigenous engine called the Kaveri. However, just last week, the Kaveri engine had another setback when it failed at a height of 18,000 feet while being tested in Russia. With delays in the programme, the IAF is desperately looking for 126 Mirage 2000s to make up for the lack of the Tejas. While addressing the media on October 6, prior to the Air Force Day, Air Chief Marshal S. Krishnaswamy had said, "The LCA is going a bit slow and I have asked the DRDO for a mid-term quality review of the Kaveri aero engine to accelerate its development. Since there will be a delay, we will have to get other aircraft and we are awaiting government approval."

Remotely Piloted Vehicle

RPV Nishant Sanctioned Rs 35 crore initially, 14 years down the line, the army has been forced to scale down nearly 20 original parameters.

Hailed as India's first Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), Nishant was first conceptualised in May 1990.Sanctioned by the government in October 1991 with an initial budget of Rs 34 crore, it is far from induction by the Indian army 14 years later. It is understood that the army had to waive off nearly 20 parameters it had set in the original quality requirements framed in 1990. In short, it was waiving technical specifications it had set 14 years ago! Meanwhile, much foreign exchange has been lost as all three services have sourced their UAVs from Israel.

So, if we all know what is wrong with DRDO, why isn't someone setting it right? Some would say this is how the powerful arms import lobby would like things to remain. As they see it, as long as India sources its defence requirements from the international market, they're in business. As for arms-exporting countries, it is important that the developing world does not become self-sufficient. The US has to export one fighter plane for every plane inducted into its air force; in France, the ratio is 3:1. This explains how important DRDO's failures are to exporters. But arms exporters and middlemen alone aren't to blame. The bigger goons are the corrupt politicians and bureaucrat, who collect kickbacks.An incompetent DRDO, it suits them just fine.


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Kalam’s banana republic

Wrap science in the tricolour and you legitimise mediocrity

Read and laugh....

To be fair to Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, it is possible that the same gig

could be spun around his predecessor or, possibly, about his

successors as well. ‘‘Why,’’ goes the question, ‘‘Is Dr Kalam’s DRDO

(Defence Research and Development Organisation) a banana republic?’’

‘‘Because whenever the armed forces ask for a new weapon system, he

and the DRDO say, humko yeh banana hai, humne yeh banaya hai, hum yeh

bana sakte hain (we should make this, we have already made this, we

can make this) and so on...’’

Then, the armed forces can wait on forever while the DRDO carries on

merrily, a banana republic thriving on ‘‘banana hai-banayenge’’

promises, accountable to none and hailed as a great national reservoir

of scientific achievement by a media that doesn’t know its backside

from its elbow and politicians who couldn’t care less. Two of the

biggest weapons development projects undertaken by the DRDO, Light

Combat Aircraft (LCA) and Main Battle Tank (MBT) are at least a decade

adrift. And even if you do not judge the DRDO by its performance on

these two, please replay the tapes of the past year’s Republic Day

parade and see which weapon systems displayed have the DRDO patent.

Then you will know what the armed forces are complaining about.

There are some achievements, the sonar which the navy loves, a new

communication network, a limited series of radars, Lakshya, the target

drone and, of course, the Integrated Guided Missile Development

Programme (IGMDP) which, though rather lowly on international

technology scale, is vital because this particular sector has been so

throttled by sanctions for more than a decade. But overall, for a

scientific establishment that consumes 5.6 per cent of the overall

defence budget, this success list is like, well, a few miserable


In these ‘jai vigyan’ days, when re-engineering of the 1950s

generation liquid-fuel missiles is passed off as breakthrough rocket

science, anybody who doesn’t salute the swadeshi scientist runs the

risk of being called anti-national

That figure of 5.6 per cent too is fallacious. Since our armed forces

support a huge and wasteful establishment what is left for

modernisation after paying salaries, overheads and operational costs

is no more than 30 per cent. The DRDO’s Rs 3,200 crore-plus is a neat

15 per cent of this. The forces say all they get for sparing so much

is a few prototypes of system this-or-that and some minor systems that

actually function. Further that, because the DRDO keeps saying they

can/will make this or that it becomes impossible to import essentially

needed systems in time, leaving the forces inadequate, if not

vulnerable, in crucial areas. The instances they quote are the MBT,

attack helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), ECMs and ECCMs

(electronic counter measures and electronic counter-counter measures),

shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles and so on. On each one, the DRDO

has an argument. But the fact is that the armed forces haven’t got any

of these in time, leading to skewed planning, cost overruns, budgetary

allocations being returned unused (last year the defence forces

returned Rs 4,000 crore, in the past they have even invested in public

sector bonds money they could not utilise for modernisation).

ABOVE all, it results in dangerous technology gaps vis-a-vis the

smaller, swifter and more pragmatic rivals. Both, the air force and

the army today acknowledge that the Pakistanis have an edge over them

in jamming, electronic counter measures, radar coverage and

anti-aircraft missiles. Even their individual soldiers are better

armed — better helmets, boots, kit-bags, personal weapons, wireless

sets and so on. I am not betraying any secrets by speaking the truth

because this is exactly what so many responsible generals and air

marshals have been saying since Kargil. In most cases, armed forces

say, they knew what they wanted, even had the budget, but were held

back as the DRDO said the systems could be developed indigenously.

Once that claim is put forward, no one dares to question it.

In these ‘jai vigyan’ days, when re-engineering of the 1950s

generation liquid-fuel missiles is passed off as breakthrough rocket

science, anybody who doesn’t salute the swadeshi scientist runs the

risk of being called an import lobbyist, a foreign-stooge,

anti-national. In public, therefore, every chief swears by

indigenisation. In private, he bitches and whines about not being able

to import ‘‘what I need, today’’. Take the more obvious case of MBT

and LCA. In the past 15 years I haven’t met a single army or IAF chief

who privately expressed any faith in the systems. Most actually speak

of these derisively. Yet, in public, each one has held forth proudly,

hailing these ‘achievements’ and saying how keenly the forces are

looking forward to inducting these. The uncharitable corollary

obviously is that each one knows it is not going to happen in his

time, so why risk questioning popular wisdom?

The scientists have some valid arguments. The armed forces keep on

changing their qualitative requirements each time the chief changes.

The forces say, what can they do if battlefield technologies and

doctrines change so rapidly? Can they accept a system they asked for a

decade earlier?

Scientists say sanctions block their access to crucial components,

chips, even hardware so they cannot hybridise quickly. Why, then, not

be realistic, and develop only what you can? Further, that we are too

impatient in India with our investments in research. We want our

returns too quickly whereas Pfizer and Dupont invest in a hundred

projects and if a Viagra or a Kevlar works out, it pays back several

times over. But are our defence scientists doing such original

breakthrough research? If you are only developing a tank or a gun to

internationally current specifications it cannot be confused with

original research, its failure rates and payback in case you stumble

upon a Viagra. Finally, the scientists complain that the country’s

engineering/science base is very, very poor. Our industry has a woeful

record on R&D. It is caught in the licenced-production trap. It has

not even designed an original moped engine. How can you then expect us

to work wonders so quickly? Why, then, is DRDO spending crores trying

to design engines for the MBT and the LCA? Why can’t it be realistic,

and focus in areas of indigenous strengths like metallurgy and

electronics? The engines for both systems, in any case, are being


THE problem is, DRDO can never say no. And the reason it cannot is

rooted in a great, phoney national tradition of confusing science with

nationalism that goes back to Nehru. Pokharan, then, is called a great

scientific achievement rather than a demonstration of national resolve

to assert nuclear weapons power status, boldly defying the threat of

sanctions. The launch of one GSLV which places one crooked satellite

about as close to its orbit as a DTC bus comes to its stop is supposed

to make us a world space power.

In these ‘jai vigyan’ days, when re-engineering of the 1950s

generation liquid-fuel missiles is passed off as breakthrough rocket

science, anybody who doesn’t salute the swadeshi scientist runs the

risk of being called anti-national

This week the army announced it was phasing out the ‘indigenous’

Vijayanta after three decades of ‘glorious’ service. My reading of

military history may be hazy but if the Vijayanta fought any glorious

battles or even figured in any frontline strike formations ever, I am

willing to be corrected. The cutting edge of our armour was still the

Soviet T-series tanks (T-54/55/72 which included some reconditioned,

second-hand imports from Poland) while we issued postage stamps on the

Vijyanta which, too, was a licenced production from Vickers! The great

national, political consensus on science is as self-delusory as it is

illiterate. We must learn to question it now. Just as we are no longer

squeamish vis-a-vis the farce called Nehruvian socialism.

Science is rational, transparent business. It should be open to

competition and peer review. It can only work that way. Wrap it in the

tricolour, and you legitimise mediocrity and lack of accountability.

Politicians love this. Every scientific ‘achievement’ is painted as a

national success story. Then they issue commemorative stamps, make

emotional speeches, hand out national honours. We are, not

surprisingly, a remarkable country which has given so few mainstream

national honours to original scientific researchers while almost

anybody who has been anything in our space, nuclear and defence

research establishments has a shelf loaded with these. How many Padma

Bhushans have we given to fellow Indians for winning worldwide

patents? But we give higher honours by the rote for defence, space and

nuclear ‘research’. We consciously confuse development or reverse

engineering of standard weapons systems with science. Then we are

surprised if the best of our ‘original’ scientists refuse to join DRDO

and go to work overseas. Of course, that never stopped us from

painting even their American passports in the tricolour once they win

their Nobels.

Postscript: The forces have always had jokes about DRDO. When V.S.

Arunachalam (now running a famous metallurgy lab at Carnegie-Mellon)

headed DRDO, the LCA, was sometimes called Last Chance for

Arunachalam. Hopefully, the acronym won’t return to haunt Kalam’s

successor now, V.K. Atre.

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DRDO took up Arjun before it learnt to make tanks

George Iype

Some 20 years ago, the defence ministry entrusted the DRDO with two projects: the development of a battle tank and a multi-barrel rocket launcher system.

The DRDO called the former, assigned to it in 1974, Arjun, and the latter Pinaka.

Two-plus decades later, the Arjun is considered a major failure. And so is the Pinaka. The Indian army found the latter passed only seven of its 29 requirements.

Defence experts allege that DRDO continues to work on Arjun and Pinaka just to keep its laboratories open.

"The Arjun main battle tank is not world class and has failed to meet the required levels of accuracy. But DRDO is keeping it alive because it does not want its factories to close down," says Major General (retd) Ashok Mehta.

Experts like Major General Mehta feel the Arjun could have been a tank with potential if DRDO had got its act together. But the premier defence research organisation continues to exert pressure on the army to accept a limited series of production for the Arjun.

Army officers say it is politics and not the tank's potential that is at work in the defence ministry, which last year placed orders with the Avadi Ordinance Factory to manufacture 124 Arjun tanks.

"I am happy to inform you that not only is the army satisfied with the Arjun tank's performance, but it has placed an order for 124 more such tanks," Defence Minister George Fernandes had told Parliament. "With this India has achieved the capability for indigenous manufacture of battle tanks."

Army officials, however, say no other defence agency in the world must have spent 25 years and Rs 3.5 billion on developing a tank that has failed to perform.

"We have wasted money and time in producing a tank that is just not a world class product these days," an army officer in Hyderabad says.

Insiders say the army was not "satisfied with the Arjun's performance" as Fernandes claimed, but was coerced to accept it by the DRDO.

N K Mohan Pillai, a retired army officer who witnessed the Arjun trials, says the tank lacked three vital strengths. First, its engine is weak. Second, its suspension needs permanent maintenance. Third, its gun control is not accurate enough to obtain first round kill probability.

"In fact, the main problem was that DRDO took up the Arjun project before learning how to make tanks," Pillai remarks.

In 1994 when DRDO announced that the Arjun tank was ready for production, then army chief General B C Joshi witnessed the trials. He sent a note to the DRDO and the defence minister saying the tank fails to meet standards and therefore was unacceptable. General Joshi then laid down a dozen imperatives that DRDO should take to improve upon the tank.

General Joshi's main concerns were that the tank that weighs 57 tonnes lacked armour protection and vital suspension for crew comfort and gunfire accuracy.

But DRDO, which has showcased the Arjun as its finest indigenous product, claims that the problem is not with the tank, but with the army.

"The army is used to handling only T-72 tanks. For the soldiers who have fired T-72 tanks, operating the Arjun is a gigantic task. So we have told the army to train their crew before accusing us of inferior production," a DRDO engineer says.

Despite DRDO's claims, many in the army believe that the 124 Arjun tanks will drain the exchequer just like the multi-barrel rocket launching system Pinaka did.

In 1999 the Comptroller and Auditor General severely indicted DRDO for its failure to develop critical components for Pinaka after spending Rs 424.5 million on the project.

The defence ministry had entrusted DRDO with the Pinaka project in 1980. The deadline given was 1994. Twenty years later DRDO is nowhere near finishing. The war heads and all the three vehicles necessary for launching the rockets are yet to be developed by DRDO. Against the requirement of eight types of warheads, only three have been developed. Of this, one is not acceptable to the army and the other is only a dummy.

"The delay in the development of the EWPinaka has compelled the army to depend on our existing 20 kilometre-range system even during Kargil conflict. The DRDO is entirely responsible for this," charges an army officer.

According to experts, the Pinaka system has met just seven of the 29 requirements of the army during trials. The indigenous rocket launcher lacks the promised range, fire power, loading time of the salvo and deployment time.

These, however, are "minor problems" according to DRDO.

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Good job guys, keep them coming, and please post relevant Links/sources.


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Unhappy with Arjun, Army banks on Bhishma (T-90), Ajeya (T-72)

NEW DELHI: Not too happy with Arjun at the moment, the Army is planning to face future wars with Bhishma and Ajeya. No, the 1.13-million strong force is not going batty and thinking in terms of bows and arrows. Instead, that's its gameplan for main-battle tanks.

Arjun, of course, is the much-vaunted, indigenously :D -developed tank. With the Army still doubtful about its "battle-worthiness" and "operational mobility", the tank is now undergoing fresh "confirmative user trials".

"The Arjun project, however, helped us to bargain with the Russians to bring down the price for the T-90S (christened Bhishma) tanks. Moreover, the project spin-offs like explosive reactive armour and laser warning system are being used to upgrade the old warhorses, the T-72 M1 (Ajeya) tanks," said an officer.

So, the Army will face armoured battles with a mix of T-90S and T-72 tanks. Unlike the cumbersome 58.5-tonne Arjun, the T-90S and T-72 weigh 46.5 and 41.5 tonnes, respectively.

"But we have not totally crossed out the Arjuns (the Army was forced :D to order 124 of these tanks in 2000) from our battle plans," said an officer.

"All this will be enough to take on the Pakistani T-80UD (acquired from Ukraine), upgraded T-59 and Al Khalid (developed with Chinese collaboration) tanks," he added. :D

Having received 120 T-90S tanks directly from Russia, the Army is now in the process of inducting 190 more such tanks which will be assembled in batches at the Heavy Vehicles Factory at Avadi. The plan thereafter is to begin licensed production by 2007-2008.

The ambitious project to upgrade the entire T-72 fleet — the backbone of India's armoured might with over 1,700 tanks — has also gathered steam now. "The different upgradation packages, with some Israeli, Polish and Russian collaboration, should be completed by 2009," he said.

The upgradation includes new auto-land navigation systems, engines for enhanced mobility, NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical) protection systems, thermal imager fire control and image intensifier night sights. Around 250 T-72s, for instance, have been fitted with the Polish Drawa-T fire control systems.


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Quote: "All this will be enough to take on the Pakistani T-80UD (acquired from Ukraine), upgraded T-59 and Al Khalid (developed with Chinese collaboration) tanks," he added.

If the above statement is true and 124 Arjunks can handle all Pakistani Tanks then why did India decide to buy 400 more T-90 tanks from Russia?

India to acquire 400 more tanks from Russia: Report

India is expected to buy 400 more T-90S main battle tanks (MBT) from Russia under a deal likely to be signed soon, a media report said here today.

"In June, the state-run Uralvagonzavod enterprise will obtain a major T-90S production contract and India would receive upto 400 MBTs worth USD 900 million to USD 1 billion," financial daily 'Vedomosti' said.

Although Russia's arms exporting agency Rosoboronexport declined to comment, a source close to the Federal Service for Military and Technical Cooperation said that Indo-Russian talks on supplying 400 T-90S tanks have made "considerable headway and the contract was likely to be signed soon".

In February 2001, India had signed a USD 700 million deal with Russia for the purchase of 310 T-90S MBTs, of which Uralvagonzavod had delivered 124 tanks, while remaining 186 were assembled at Avadi Heavy Vehicles Factory near Chennai from the kits supplied by the Russian defence company.

The transfer of technology contract was completed last year.

Deputy Director of the Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, Konstantin Makiyenko told the daily that India wants to acquire another 400 T-90S tanks "to help restore balance of forces", after Pakistan, Ukraine and Saudi Arabia :confused: launched joint production of Al-Khalid MBT-2000 tanks.

Unlike standard Russian versions, the custom-made T-90S that India has been buying feature French-made equipment, including thermal imaging systems.


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Army may buy Ukrainian radars

NEW DELHI: After its bad experience in Kargil, where the Army did not

have weapon locating radars - the enemy used these radars effectively

for pinpoint pounding - India is considering several foreign systems.

Sources claim that the Indian Army is likely to clinch a deal with

Ukraine to buy four weapon locating radars at a cost of Rs 360 crore.

Although three other foreign systems - Russian, German and American -

are in the race, the Ukrainian system is being pushed hard, sources


There are allegations that the other foreign suppliers are not being

given any opportunity to demonstrate the efficiency of their systems

for a comparative analysis of the different systems.

Amdist the controversy, a word of caution has come from Indian

diplomatic circles regarding the Ukraine system. They have warned that

Ukraine which had supplied the T-80UD tanks to the Pakistani army

could provide Islamabad with data relating to the radar.

The other bidders are: Germany's Cobra system which is reported to be

in use with the armies of more than 16 advanced nations; the American

AN-TPQ 37 (earlier versions are being used by Pakistan); and the

Russian system which is very similar to Ukraine.

So far, no field tests have been done in India to check the

operational performance of these systems under different climatic

conditions. The field tests for the Ukrainian system have been done,

but only in Ukraine.

The deal with Ukraine for these radars could go up to Rs 800 crore if

India decides to buy eight pieces, besides entering into an agreement

for technology transfer.

The import of these systems has resulted from the failure of DRDO to

come up with a similar system in cooperation with Bharat Electronics

Ltd (BEL). DRDO has been claiming for long that it can come up with a

weapon locating radar in three years. But the Army has expressed

doubts about DRDO's claims.

In fact, because of DRDO's declaration that it would make the system,

the Army went slow on a US offer for the sophisticated AN-TPQ 37. By

the time DRDO's failure became obvious, India came under the

post-Pokharan embargo.

Artillery units deploy observations posts at suitable spots to locate

enemy battery positions. Some of the work is done by helicopters as

well. But batteries placed in deeply positions can only be located by

weapon locating radars which track incoming shells and compute their

location with great precision. So, even as the shells land, the guns

that fired them are brought under counter-bombardment.

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Quote: "All this will be enough to take on the Pakistani T-80UD (acquired from Ukraine), upgraded T-59 and Al Khalid (developed with Chinese collaboration) tanks," he added.


Saeed, I think you misread the statement. I think what is being inferred is that a combination of T-90S, T-72s and the 125 or so Arjuns would be the counter to the Pakistani armour composition.

My opinion based on the conduct of armoured war between the two is that they need to train their crews harder....both sides have gone to war with pretty decent tanks for that time and neither side has been able to exploit the armour to its fullest potential.

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Arjunk: Comparative trials next month in Rajasthan


Monday, May 30, 2005

NEW DELHI, MAY 29: Tentative plans to field five indigenous :D Arjun main battle tanks for the first time in an Army-IAF exercise in the Thar desert later this year have compelled the Army to schedule crucial pre-monsoon comparative trials of five production-series tanks at the Mahajan ranges in Rajasthan next month.

The long-delayed comparative trials, in which the five DRDO-made Arjun tanks will be tested against the Army’s workhorse T-90s and T-72s, were ordered by former Army chief Gen N C Vij in September last year.

The five production-series tank have been sitting at the DRDO Heavy Vehicles Factory (HVF) outside Chennai ever since they were ‘‘handed over’’ to the Army in August last year. In fact, the comparative trials were ordered partially because of General Pervez Musharraf’s comments in New York last year, stating that Pakistan’s homegrown Al-Khalid MBT was superior to the Arjun.

The 43rd Armoured Regiment currently operates 14 pre-production Arjun tanks. The Army now wants to try the five production specimens at the Mahajan ranges as they will reflect changes made on the pre-production specimens.

It also insists on the five new tanks crucially because the exercises encompass the Army’s trial by fire of certain concepts in its new war doctrine.

Choosing June for the comparative trials is also significant because of previous concerns on over-heating of a pre-production tank.

Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee said during the winter session of Parliament that the tanks had been undergoing a joint-resident inspection (JRI) at the HVF, which was taking time. But it is now evident that the inspection was only one of the reasons for the inordinate delays —conventional rail freight trolleys were not wide or strong enough to carry the 58 ton Arjun tanks.

In fact, the Arjun’s size and weight, and consequently mobility, continue to concern the Army, and were some of the reasons that the trials were ordered in the first place.

Another grouse with the Army is that the ‘‘indigenously developed’’ tank is still 50 pc constituted of imported components, including its engine, which could pose serious problems when it comes to spares supply and maintenance.

In fact, Army chief Gen J.J. Singh indicated earlier this year that the Armoured Corps would settle for a mix of the Arjun, T-90 and T-72. This, evidently, erodes the initial vision for Project Arjun, which conceived the development of a main battle tank to be supplied in large numbers to the Armoured Corps.


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India's defence disasters

Brian Cloughley

"The BBC defence analyst says India has devoted considerable resources to increasing its self-sufficiency in weaponry but there have been some doubts about the effectiveness of some programmes". (BBC: August 6).You can say that again, because most of the projects are disasters, but there are lessons to be learned by other countries from India's problems with trying to make

weapons. On August 6 India's defence science chief, Mr Abdul Kalam, said that "efforts are being made to carry out the test flight of the light combat aircraft (LCA) this year." This is interesting, because LCA development began in 1983, with the first flight planned for 1990 and production for the Indian Air Force scheduled for 1994. The plane was supposed to replace the

MiG-21, but India's chief of air staff (CAS) said on August 3 that 125 of these ancient aircraft are to be upgraded by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. This was not announcing anything new, because the upgrade was due to finish in 1996, but, in the words of the CAS, "delivery was somewhat rescheduled." No date has been set for completion of the 'new' project, and nobody knows

when the LCA will enter service. If test flights go well, production could begin in about five years, by which time the LCA might be valuable, but only as an antique.

Nobody knows, either, how much development has cost, although the expert in the field, Dr Chris Smith, estimated in 1994 that Rs1670 crores had gone down the drain by then. There is talk of a carrier-borne version, but this is as optimistic as are India's plans to build an aircraft carrier itself. The entire LCA exercise is futile, but in spite of murmurs from parliamentary committees it appears that no politician has the courage to pull the plug on this costly folly. The same goes for the Arjun tank, whose development began in 1972. In March, India's defence minister (who, if the Indian armed forces have any luck, will be replaced after the elections in September) stated that 15 Arjuns had been given to the army in 1993-94 for trials and

that since "these were found acceptable," an order for 124 tanks had been placed with the Avadi factory. After almost 30 years of testing and modification, the army is prepared to accept only 124 Arjuns--enough to equip two of India's 60 tank regiments, given training, technical and replacement requirements--and is now trialling Russian T-90 tanks, for which an order for about 300 is expected.

The order had better be placed, and soon, because the Arjun does not work, and one's heart goes out to the members of the

army's Armoured Corps who will have to operate it, given the dubious fire control system and many other failings. So much

money has gone to Arjun that the rebuild programme for the old Russian T-72 tanks has stalled. Many of these workhorses

lack spares and are not fit for battle; hundreds of them have not been modified to modern standards and are simply not a

credible weapon. The Arjun story is a sad one, and according to foreign sources the programme has cost a billion dollars--so

far--and this excludes much assistance from Germany, the Netherlands, Israel, France, Britain and the US. India's Armoured

Corps is not alone in being deprived of decent equipment, as the infantry arm has suffered grievously from mismanagement

and lack of resources. There is no lack of professional and gallant leadership, for there are lots of good leaders amongst Indian

Army officers, at all levels, but they are not responsible for poor equipment, inadequate clothing and lousy ration packs.

Last week, Prime Minister Vajpayee and his defence minister "asked the Defence Research and Development Organisation

(DRDO) to accord highest priority to mountain warfare technology." I could hardly credit this report in The Times of

India--not only because India has had nine mountain divisions (some 100,000 men) operational for decades, nor that there is

an organisation called the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, about 30,000 strong, involved in high-altitude scouting and security,

but because India occupied the Siachen Glacier fifteen years ago and has since then had thousands of troops actually practising

mountain warfare at its most difficult and dangerous. How is DRDO supposed to improve 'mountain warfare technology'? It

seems they couldn't make a mouse-trap if they were given the drawings.

DRDO's 5.56 mm rifle is hopeless, and soldiers want AKs or some other reliable weapons. Most still carry heavy 7.62 mm

rifles, copied from a western design of the 1960s, but it would be cheaper, as well as technically more satisfactory, to replace

them with AKs, from whatever source, than to proceed with making the inadequate DRDO gadget.

It seems, however, as with the Arjun and the LCA, that it is necessary to press on with a useless bit of kit because it is

home-made. National pride seems to be the main factor, but it is questionable if that justifies hazarding young soldiers' lives.

The list of dud projects is long and unimpressive. The jet training aircraft, the advanced light helicopter, the Nishant remotely

piloted vehicle (Israeli RPVs have been bought), the lancer light attack helicopter, the airborne early-warning system (the test

plane crashed after the rotor-dome fell off), the artillery control system, the unsatisfactory missiles--one could go on. But there

is no reason for satisfaction on the part of anyone else about these expensive disasters. After all, current US and British main

battle tanks required decades of evolution. (It was problem with the US Abrams that led to Zia's trip to Bahawalpur, and his

death; and the British Challenger II tank needed 150 hull improvements, alone, at various stages). The Chinese nuclear

submarine is dangerous (to the Chinese), and basic faults in Australia's Collins Class submarine are costing the taxpayer

billions to rectify. Then there was the photograph circulating among defence attaches in Islamabad a few years ago, showing

Nawaz Sharif's head poking out of the driver's hatch of a Khalid 'indigenous' tank, with a bubble coming from his mouth

containing the words "I can't reach the pedals."

There is no room for complacency on the part of anybody who makes, or tries to make, complicated weapons--but India's case

is much worse than any other, and there are lessons to be learned from the incompetence and inflexibility of New Delhi's

approach. When warning signals sounded, they should have been listened to. Failing projects should have been scrapped, but

national pride dictated that more and more money would be thrown at them.

The result has been that in spite of the waste of countless billions of dollars, home-designed systems still do not work, and

even more money has to be spent on obtaining foreign equipment which it would have been much more sensible to buy in the

first place. Let others do the R and D and iron out the problems, then buy the proven equipment--once it is in service of the

producing country (this proviso is very important). Most countries cannot afford a sophisticated arms industry. Copy and

manufacture, by all means; but development from scratch is an expensive, risky and all-too-often unsuccessful business.

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DRDO looking for global technical partner to develop Kaveri engine:

Decision seen as admission that Gas Turbine Research Establishment cannot develop the engine on its own

Ravi Sharma

BANGALORE: The Defence Research and Development Organisation, whose Gas Turbine Research Establishment is developing the Kaveri engine that will power India's Light Combat Aircraft, is actively considering taking on board a global technical partner who will help co-develop the engine.

A high-power committee — comprising the Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister (who is also the Director-General, DRDO); the Chief Controller (Research and Development), DRDO; and the Director, GTRE, among others — has deliberated the proposal, official sources told The Hindu.

DRDO's reasoning is that a global partner with a proven record in combat aircraft engine development will help accelerate the GTRE's long-delayed Kaveri engine programme that started in the late 1980s. According to officials DRDO and GTRE officials, the global tie-up will certainly be "for the betterment and good of the project."

However, the move has surprised many since the DRDO in the past has repeatedly refused to involve outside agencies to help the GTRE accelerate the development of the engine. It had preferred to leave it to the GTRE, even if it meant not being able to develop the engine in time. Military experts view the decision to now take the global route as admission that the GTRE cannot develop the engine on its own.

Mounting costs:

The GTRE has spent Rs. 1,300 crores (US $ 299 Million) on the Kaveri engine project. The Cabinet Committee on Security last December revised the estimate for its future development to Rs. 2,800 crores (US $ 643 Million). But the engine is still not ready for high-altitude flight tests, scheduled to be performed in Russia aboard a Tupolev-16 aircraft. It is also miles away from completing the 8,000 hours of testing necessary to complete the engine development phase.

While most military aviation experts are in favour of the GTRE taking a partner since this is undoubtedly the only way forward for the engine programme, they are critical of the delay in taking the decision. They feel there is no harm in signing an agreement with any one of the handful of companies worldwide — Rolls-Royce (Great Britain), Snecma Moteurs (France), CFM International (United States), General Electric (GE, United States) or Pratt and Whitney (United States), NPO "Saturn" and MMPP Salut (the last two from Russia) — that posses the technology to develop combat aircraft engines, just as long they are equal partners in the funding and development and sharing the risks/benefits involved.

Snecma shows interest:

The GTRE has been in touch with almost all the global players but the collaborations so far have been restricted to only a review of the Kaveri engine and suggestions. Sources told The Hindu that Snecma had recently written to the Defence Ministry indicating its willingness for a possible tie-up with the GTRE, which will include a risk-sharing, joint development/production relationship on the Kaveri or any other engine that can be developed afresh for the LCA. But Snecma has asked that it be allowed to send a fact-finding team to assess the capability available at the GTRE. It also wanted a production house such as the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited to be part of the collaboration.

Indications are that HAL will be keen on such a collaboration since it will not only give their engine division a substantial amount of work, but also a toe-hold in the aircraft engine developing and manufacturing industry which has so far been the preserve of the United States, Great Britain, France and Russia. Chinese fighter-aircraft engines are more a product of reverse engineering. There have been serious slippages in the development schedules of the twin spool, low bypass ratio turbo fan of the Kaveri engine, causing it to be out of synch with the rest of the LCA programme (which itself is behind schedule).

According to a report tabled in Parliament by the Standing Committee on Defence in April, the Kaveri engine will be installed on the LCA only by 2012 (the LCA is expected to enter squadron service in 2007) and that too at a revised cost of Rs. 2,839 crores (US $ 652 Million), almost eight times the 1989 initial projected development cost of Rs. 382 crores ($ 88 Million). Noting the delay in trials and tests of the development of the country's first aero-engine, the report said there were still question marks over the completion of the engine and its financial viability in comparison to other fighter engines in the world market.

Senior GTRE scientists attribute the delay to the integration of 16,000 components, as in the case of the Kaveri engine, in the propulsion system, the most complex part of a fighter aircraft. "When the GTRE hasn't even developed a high-powered diesel engine, how can you expect us to deliver overnight?"

But scientists admit that if the engine was not produced by 2006, it would result in serious questions being asked over the continuation of the programme itself. The engine is at present undergoing endurance phase tests.

The two LCA technical demonstrators and lone prototype are now powered by GE F404 F2J3 engines. With the Aeronautical Development Agency being asked by the Indian Air Force to make 40 aircraft, India has had to order an additional 57 GE-404 IN20 engines, deliveries of which at the earliest could take a year.


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I know that this forum is not for discussion.

I am only clarifying the chronology of the articles posted here .

The latest article posted by Saeed Khan is definetely old,

as Snecma is already an active partner in the Kaveri engine program.

Refer to the links on Kaveri posted by Abhimn.

A point was also raised that if India is already developing 124 Arjuns, why does it want to buy 400 T-90 S tanks from Russia [ apart from the 310 T-90 s already ordered] ?

That article [ also by Saeed Khan which is also probably old ] mentions that India signed a deal of 310 T-90 S tanks in 2001. That was at a time when the Arjun was not ready and almost branded a failure.

It must be noted that India has not signed the aforementioned contract of buying another 400 T-90 S tanks from Russia as of yet.

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Salmaan, India does not have the infrastructure in place to move around a 58 ton tank. This has been one of the biggest challenges/roadblocks to Arjun's acceptance within the Indian Armoured Corps.

So to hope that India will suddenly put in an order of 500 more Arjuns apart from the initial 124 or so is being unrealistic. Arjun is dead as of now. There are many articles to this end written by Indians.

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DRDO looking for global technical partner to develop Kaveri engine:

Decision seen as admission that Gas Turbine Research Establishment cannot develop the engine on its own

This is nothing out of the ordinary, forget about Turbine or Rocket engines they should first make a 12 Cylinder ordinary piston Engine OK make that 8 Cylinder piston Engine that can produce 1500 HP OK make that 1200 HP.... Seriously Indoos atre colossal BSers, just read their media it just makes you laugh....

Here is an example..

US hands over keys of UNSC to India... :D

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I would request members to place news reports on the Arjun

not prior to Aug 2004 as that was when 5 Arjuns were inducted into the Indian army. All prior articles describing its progress and criticisms are irrelevant.

The point of less mobility raised by syed saad is right and basically entails building wider railway carriers ,[ which shouldnt be a problem ] .

UmairChaudry likes this

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Salman my friend,

It is not only railway carriages. It is also the maximum loading allowed in the small bridges that are on the canals. DO you have any idea how many bridges does India have to modify before the Arjuns can pass over them, and what will the cost of doing that?


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Bannia obsession with Pak is just unbelivable, No matter what they discuss they will find a way to drag Pak in their discussions.. They sleep, dream, eat, drink, breath Pak its Pak Pak Pak every where Pak Pak... And its this obsession that will eventally bring them down.

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I agree with Rommel on the enormous and expensive task that would go in modifying the canals and bridges, but since the tank is already being manufactured and inducted into the Indian Army, the authorities might have thought something about it.

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Most of us are aware of the fact that Indians have test fired Akash Missile 3 times within the last 5 days.


1. why Akash was tested so many times within such a short time?

2. Why India is Purchasing PAC-3 from US when Akash is superior than PAC-3 according to the following story:

'Akash' test-fired for third time in 5 days

Tuesday, 21 June , 2005, 14:43

Balasore: For the third time in five days, 'Akash', India's surface-to-air missile, was test fired from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur on Tuesday. Editor's Choice

Surface-to-air missile Akash test-fired

The multi-target missile with a striking range of 25 km, was test fired at around 1.00 pm. The missile was targeted at a para-barrel target to test its consistency, the sources said.

The sleek 5.6. meter long missile, which was test fired on Friday last and on Monday, is one of the five missiles being developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

The missile, which is said to have better features than its US counterpart 'Patriot', has a launch weight of 700 kg and can carry a payload of 60 kg.

The trial was conducted to demonstrate its consistency during the entire flight for the army and air force, which are likely to deploy the missile, the sources said.

The sophisticated missile, which uses an integral ramjet rocket propulsion system and has low reaction time, operates in conjunction with the indigenously-built Rajendra Surveillance and Engagement Radar being developed by Electronic Research and Development Establishment (ERDE), Hyderabad.

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Posted · Report post

I agree with Rommel on the enormous and expensive task that would go in modifying the canals and bridges, but since the tank is already being manufactured and inducted into the Indian Army, the authorities might have thought something about it.

Only inducted for training, and from what it looks like, the Indian Army may just end up with 124 of this white elephant. Not worth changing a huge part of your national infrastructure for, but if they do, more the fool them, I would love to see them waste resources doing that, especially for a tank that was made to be eaten by Al Khalid

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The Akash missile is being tested extensively in the past few days because they are actually user-trials for the Indian Army, before they are inducted into the Army. This is confirmed by the following news reoprt :

That the Akash missile system is superior to the Patriot missile system [ except against missile attacks ] and also that it will be ready for induction by the end of 2005 is confirmed by the report below. Also it says that India is not buying the PAC-3 system from the US, but the US is marketing it to India. No deals have been signed as of yet.

The report which yasser is quoting about Arjun tanks being used to train personnel is only speculating.

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"That the Akash missile system is superior to the Patriot missile system "

wow! The Patriot is in service with 10+ countries and has been EXTENSIVELY combat proven, but the Akash, which is not even in service with India yet, and still in testing has been declared "superior"! If that is your definition of "superior" I genuinely hope all Indian equipment is "superior" then Pakistans! :D

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HAL finds no takers for LCA:

More than four-and-a-half years after its first flight, India’s prestigious aeronautical project the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), has stumbled on a roadblock. As of now, there are no takers for the indigenous aircraft.

The Indian Air Force (IAF), the only projected customer at present, has not placed an order for even a single aircraft so far with the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) – the production house.

The IAF chief, during the Aero India 2005, claimed that the IAF would place orders for 40 aircraft but there have not been any concrete developments on this front. HAL, on the other hand, has launched the Limited Series Production (LSP) of the LCA.

Production is supposed to commence in 2006-07 to be completed by 2007-08.

Till now, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has forked out the money for the LSP, but once the IAF places a firm order, it would have to earmark funds from its own budget and therefore remains hesitant to do so.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has shown its commitment to the project through the approval for the manufacture of eight LSP aircraft, in addition to the prototypes sanctioned earlier.

Even then the project will become meaningful only when the air force actually places a firm order.

Test flights:

According to informed sources, at least 200 successful flights are necessary to declare the end of the LCA’s Technology Demonstration (TD) phase. It has now completed over 300 flights.

Another 1,100 flights are required to obtain the Initial Operational Clearance (IOC), probably by 2010. Obviously, urgent steps are needed to ensure the successful completion of the project.

Even though LCA prototypes, referred to as the TD-1 and TD-2, flew with an indigenous Head Up Display (HUD) and the HAL’s integrated communications system (both claimed to be superior to imported equipment :D ) many of the 40 odd systems, originally expected to be procured from the US, are still under development. This has resulted in further delay. Given that both the HAL and the IAF procure a large quantity of systems and components to meet their requirements, this needs to be done for the LCA project too. Especially engines, radar, electronic warfare and smart weapon systems, besides flight control actuators. If the IOC is not obtained by 2010, the IAF is quite likely to lose interest in the LCA project.


As of now, the IAF has ensured an adequate fighter aircraft inventory with the acquisition of the Sukhoi-30 MKI and the license production arrangement with HAL to manufacture the aircraft.

Also some Mirage 2000s, with upgraded avionics suite and armament, are also likely to be acquired soon.

Essentially the IAF is gearing itself up to cope with perceived delays over the induction of the LCA into squadron service.


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