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February 15, 2014

More organized approach could've got LCA faster: DRDO official


In light of defence minister A K Antony recently expressing concern over delay in development of the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), Avinash Chander, director general (R&D) in Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), said government should adopt an organized approach in such projects.

Chander, who is also the scientific advisor to defence ministry, was in the city to attend valediction function of Indian Ordnance Factory Service (IOFS) probationers, passing out from the National Academy of Defence Production (NADP), here. He said, "both research, production of prototypes and trials should go simultaneously. However, in the current system, a separate approval is required for each stage."

In LCA, first 9 prototypes were made and then trials followed. Each step of initial development, trials and making fresh units needs separate permission. An integrated approach will work better, said Chander. Finally with a substantial 40 LCAs ready, the DRDO can hope for faster progress in subsequent stages, he said. The project was sanctioned in 1994 and given the track record of other aircraft including F-16s, it takes at least 15-16 years to develop a new plane, he said.

Chander also pointed out at low budgetary allocation for defence research. In India, around 5.2% of the total defence budget is earmarked for research. In South Korea, it is as much as 20% and China spends 16% of the defence budget on research. On LCA's Kaveri engine that failed to meet the requirements of aircraft, he said it had been subsequently evolved to be now used in the futuristic unmanned combat aircraft to be made by DRDO. The failure of Kaveri engine in LCA was called a major setback. DRDO is now depending on US-made GE engines for the aircraft.

Chander said one of the biggest challenges before DRDO now was to make guided artillery shells. At present, the artillery has conventional shells. These needed repeated bombarding to ensure the target was hit. Guided shells are like smart bombs that can be pinpointed at the target. However, the challenge is to develop a technology that would prevent electronic guiding equipment embedded in shells from getting damaged when the gun fired. Artillery guns fire with almost 60,000 G-force. Even as the design for smart shells was there, the technology to resist the impact was yet to be developed, he said.

DRDO to turn to campus

DRDO is planning to reach out to the campuses to hunt for research ideas. Avinash Chander said plans were under way to start separate centres dealing in different areas of research for tying up with the universities. So far, research outside of DRDO was limited to ordnance factories. In coming years, many new ideas could come from the campuses, he said.
- Times of india

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