Seeking to jettison its widespread reputation as a laggard in delivering cutting-edge weapons to armed forces, the Defence Research and Development Organization is planning a flurry of missile and other tests as well as futuristic projects this year.
From spy and combat drones, cyber-security and directed-energy weapons to tests of the two-tier missile shield, the 5,000-km nuclear-capable Agni-V ballistic missile and Nirbhay cruise missile, sea trials of nuclear submarine INS Arihant, final operational clearances for Tejas fighter and Arjun Mark-II tank, DRDO is promising them all.
During the Def-Expo on Friday, DRDO chief Avinash Chander expressed confidence that the Agni-V and INS Arihant, the country's first intercontinental ballistic missile and first SSBN (nuclear-powered submarine armed with nuclear-tipped missiles), would be ready for induction by next year.
There has been some concern over the delay in sea trials of the 6,000-tonne INS Arihant, whose 83 MW pressurized light-water reactor went "critical'' on August 10 last year. "The submarine is undergoing the power-raising (in the miniature nuclear reactor) phase, which I am sure will be completed in a month or two. Thereafter, it will go for sea trials. The K-15 missiles (nuclear-tipped with a 750-km strike range) are fully ready and will be tested from the submarine this year," said Chander.DRDO is also working on a longer range submarine-launched ballistic missile called K-4, with a 3,500-km range, which is likely to be tested for the first time from a submerged pontoon next year.
While the 4,000-km Agni-IV is now ready for induction after completing its three developmental trials, the Agni-V will be tested in a canister-launch version later this year, said Chander.
A canisterized Agni-V, which brings the whole of China within its strike envelope, will allow the armed forces the requisite operational flexibility to swiftly transport and fire the missile from atop a launcher truck. "After two-three trials, Agni-V should be ready for induction by end-2015," said Chander.
On the ballistic missile defence front, the DRDO chief said the final "system configuration" of the two-tier system -- designed to track and destroy ballistic missiles both inside (endo) and outside (exo) the earth's atmosphere - was now being frozen after seven developmental tests. "It will be tested in its final configuration in a month or so," he said.
But the sprawling DRDO, with over 50 labs and 532 R&D projects worth Rs 47,575 crore under its belt, has often failed to live up to its promises with huge time and cost overruns.
Chander, however, contended that DRDO had undergone an "internal transformation" over the last one year to ensure it becomes dynamic and capable of faster delivery of military hardware and software to the armed forces.
As per recommendations of the Rama Rao Committee report, submitted way back in February 2008, DRDO has been re-organized into seven vertical technology clusters like missiles and strategic systems, aeronautics, armament and combat engineering, life sciences, electronics and communication, naval systems and material sciences. But the key reforms of creating a Defence Technology Commission and a commercial arm are yet to be implemented. - Times of india