Last year was a fantastic one for the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), with its string of big ticket achievements (aside, that is, from the high-profile failure of the maiden launch of the nuclear-capable Agni-II Prime missile).
The test launch in March of India’s new Advanced Air Defence (AAD) Interceptor Missile—capable of destroying hostile missiles—also had failed. But the DRDO didn’t give up, despite this reversal, and went on to conduct the fourth successful test in a row of the Interceptor Missile, in endo-atmospheric mode and at an altitude of 15 kilometres, at the Interim Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur, Orissa, in July.
The DRDO also added many other feathers to its cap in 2010: the Light Combat Aircraft Tejas inched closer to its induction into the Indian Air Force, the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) was unveiled and took its first flight on March 29 and the Armed Version of ALH Dhruv and the Main Battle Tank Arjun finally received bulk orders. The 5.5 ton capacity indigenously designed and developed LCH is equipped with forward-looking infra red imaging technology and laser range finder facilities for target acquisition, and is due to get its Initial Operational Clearance this December. The first LCA Navy, NP-I, too is getting closer to induction in the armed forces. Its first flight is due to take place later this year, and it’s ready for systems integration tests that lead to ground runs and taxi trials.
Meanwhile, the government initiated a long-awaited restructuring of the DRDO, approving it on May 13, including accepting a key recommendation made by the committee headed by P Rama Rao. The restructuring of DRDO is aimed at encouraging the private sector’s participation in defence production. One of the proposals of the committee was the setting up of a Defence Technology Commission to be headed by the defence minister. The Indian Defence Ministry plans to make this commission functional next month.