Creating a brand image for DRDO
You mentioned your priorities as completing LCA by 2014 and induction of Agni-V for military purposes in another two years. What are the challenges in...
You mentioned your priorities as completing LCA by 2014 and induction of Agni-V for military purposes in another two years. What are the challenges in completing the Tejas project? How do you propose to overcome them? Yes. LCA is my top priority because I wanted to ensure it is ready for deployment in another 20 months or so. I had been to Bengaluru thrice and held a technical review after I took over the reins of DRDO. We had to face many challenges after the project was conceived in 2001. It was the first fighter aircraft that India has embarked on designing indigenously..And it is a fourth generation aircraft, which is on par with any world-class fighter jets. For a few vital parts we wished to get technical understanding with some nations but sanctions post-1998 had blocked our efforts. It delayed the process but we continued our own research in the meantime. You may say that 12 years is too long a time to complete it, but the time cycle taken for such huge projects will be around 12-15 years in US or China. Any way, LCA's initial performance in some counts is extremely good and I m hundred per cent sure that we can meet the deadline on Tejas.
Agni-V was successful. What's next i.e. scaling up the range? VK Saraswat once said that there would be no cap on Agni programme? Agni-V was quite successful and our immediate task is to deploy it for strategic military purposes. We have been conducting some critical tests to fine tune it further and in all probability by 2014 August-September, we can achieve deployment. With regard to scaling up the range, it depends on the threat perception. Threat is a dynamic scenario and each country has its own enemy -- not just on military front but on some other counts. Depending upon the striking distance, we develop our own weapons. We can go on increasing the range to any extent as the situation demands. It takes minimum gestation period and the weapon will be ready to strike. The project work of Agni-VI with a range of 6000-6200 km is almost ready and it is multiple-independently- targetable re-entry Version (MIRV) which can carry four to six warheads depending upon their weight. I cannot exactly say when it will be ready as it has to go through so many observations such as placement of warheads, their release, the mass of the vehicle etc. DRDO simply does not wait for the threats to become a reality; we will be always on our job to meet the futuristic threats. Here, I wish to make one point clear. It is not just the range which is important, development of intelligent warheads is much more necessary because every major country has been focusing on how best to intercept the ICBMs and their warheads. So, we too must concentrate on developing defences against these weapons and we are now moving on to upgrade our weapons. Our target is to build intelligent warheads which will have the ability to assess the risks and take counter-measures. A lot of research is needed to develop such state-of-the-art weapons with multiple capabilities. No doubt, it will take time, but we have to do it.
You have also mentioned self-reliance up to 75% as your task. What are the grey areas that you identified in your long years at DRDO? Is it possible to achieve 100% self-reliance? See, 75% is a national target and not DRDO target and of course, to achieve that target, not just the DRDO but Indian companies should also get ready. Some grey areas are there such as not having directive energy systems such as electromagnetic lasers and some other materials. But the last four or five years have been quite successful for the DRDO as it could make giant strides in developing key technologies for many weapons such as Astra, Arjun, LCA, night-vision devices, radar warning receivers, Abhay, Lakshya, Nishant, Netra, Pinaka and so many. We had multiple assignments which we have been diligently undertaking. For the next five years, it would be even more hectic for DRDO. There is a paradigm shift in the pattern. Procurement, processing and development are the three key areas where this shift will make effect.
You have often stated that weapons systems can best be developed by DRDO and not by private industries. Why? Don't they have potential to develop cutting edge indigenous systems? Can't they rise to the level of Lockheed Martin or Boeing or Dussault? As on date, Indian Industry is not up to the mark and our expectations. But it has the potential to do it. I am confident that 10 years down the line, the Industry would attain maturity and come up to the expected mark
Why can't the DRDO encourage them to become world class companies? We have been encouraging them to a great extent. Some 85% components of Agni-V were made by Indian companies. There has been a perceptible change in their outlook and they are coming forward to develop more and more gadgets. If they come up handy, then we can concentrate fully on research.
You have reportedly submitted a plan to decentralise the system. Is overburdening of work of Chief Controllers of R&D in anyway impede the basic research work? There are around 50 laboratories working under DRDO and the key labs had to submit each and every plan of theirs to the headquarters for approval. I want to empower the chief controllers to do more. I always believe in the delegation of duties which can yield best results. To speed up things, this is very much necessary. I want to make people more involved, instill confidence and accountability in them so that they can deliver goods. There shall not be any dilution of work�Though there has been no impediment to the basic research work as such, by decentralisation, I plan to achieve more objectives.
Decentralization plan was first proposed by P Ramarao committee five years ago and you have revived it. When can it materialise? Right now, I cannot exactly say when it would be okayed. It is now under the consideration of AK Antony, Minister for Defence, and from there it will go to the Union Cabinet. It may take at least four-to-six months for this to take shape.
You were said to be unhappy with the allocation for DRDO in defence budget i.e. just 5.2% (around 10,610 crore). Saraswat said he had asked for around 7-7.5%. Will lesser allocation impact your ambitious plans? Yes, budget is far less than what we expected and the works of some projects may get delayed for paucity of funds. But for critical, strategic needs, there will not be any shortage of funds.
Tell us DRDO's partnerships with academic institutions in establishing network of technology centres.. We have been closely working with more than 50 academic institutions and five more institutes will join in our network soon. It is not a question of expanding our operations but to emphasise on quality of research and it is my effort how to convert knowledge into systems. It is a phased work i.e. we must have ideas first, then we have the requisite knowledge, then comes conversion into systems (weapons) and delivery. In this whole process, I want to involve the Industry into designing of systems.
Are the DRDO projects attracting youngsters as majority of talented lot of IITs and CTFTs evince no interest in pursuing defence research..! See the talented guys, while opting for jobs, always see organisational image and work challenges. DRDO provides both. We have been taking many skilled youth passed out from IITs every year. We will continue to recruit as India needs a lot more trained scientists for its future projects.
What do you say on the trust deficit between DRDO and military because in the past DRDO was accused of over-promises and under-deliveries? We are now slowly bridging the gap between the two. We would like to answer the criticism by delivering the gadgets that are promised and of immediate necessity first. We are now involving the Army in our projects. There is no trust deficit as such since there has been a change in perception from the Armed Forces. For every strategic necessity, they are looking at us, be it radars, night-vision devices or Arjun tanks anything. These equipment are also highly contemporary and not obsolete.
Do you think that Agni-V is a viable deterrent against China, which is making incursions into Indian territory in recent past? I don't take the names of any country but yes, Agni-V was an ultra-modern ICBM (Inter-continental ballistic missile) which can strike the target in a flawless way. It can be of immense use in our strategic deployment of weaponry against any enemy.
China has already designed ICBMs of over 13,000 KM range (DF-5A) and its submarine launched ballistic missile range was around 7200 km. But we are not even half way that of China. Can we match China's military technological might any day? I do not know much about Chinese technological capabilities but we have the capability and knowledge for converting tech capability to build on weapons which can protect the land.