PUNE: The defence research and development organisation (DRDO), which has been allocated Rs 10,640 crore in the Union Budget 2012, will put a major thrust on projects including development of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), Kaveri-II engine for the light combat aircraft, and new generation and tactical short-range missiles, in the year ahead.
“The allocation is 6% more than what we had received last year. We expected an 8% increase, but the allocation meets our requirements by and large,” said DRDO’s director general V K Saraswat during a visit to the Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (VRDE) at Ahmednagar, about 110 km from here.
Saraswat, who is also the scientific advisor to the minister of defence, performed the ‘ground breaking’ ritual for the country’s first of its kind vehicle dynamics test track. The Rs 26.99-crore facility will go operational from November 2013 at the VRDE for testing of defence and commercial vehicles. Chief controller of research and development S Sundaresh and VRDE director C P Ramanarayanan accompanied Saraswat.
The DRDO chief identified other thrust areas related to development of a new system for the 155-mm artillery gun, a bi-modular charge system, which is ammunition for the 155-mm Howitzer gun, and new materials for high-temperature and armoured applications, including those required for hypersonic missiles and new generation turbines.
He said, “Almost 40% of the DRDO’s budget goes into development of strategic systems, while the remaining 60% is utilised for the science and technology-based programmes. The UAVs form a key component of these programmes while the focus is also on the new generation missile systems that go beyond the existing Agni V.”
Referring to the area of armament, Saraswat said, “It has been almost a couple of decades since the country has opted for development of a new gun system. The time is ripe for us to do undertake strong activities in this area. The Pune-based Armament Research and Development Establishment is working on this new system.”
He added, “The bi-modular charge system or BMCS, as it is commonly referred to, has successfully gone through various trial processes and is now set to go for production by the Ordnance Factories soon.”
Asked about the defence offset from the $ 11-billion deal for 126 French-made Rafale combat aircraft for the Indian Air Force, Saraswat said, “The matter is being handled by another department (the Defence Offset Facilitation Agency), but we expect that the provision of offset is used to bridge the technology gap. We have given a list of items to our offset management team to work on.”
The offsets, which were first introduced in the Defence Procurement Policies of 2005 and 2006, refer to the provision of foreign vendors, who are awarded defence contracts worth Rs 300 crore or more, to plough back at least 30% of the contract value into Indian defence production or R&D.
The upcoming vehicle dynamics test track forms part of the DRDO’s effort to further the armed forces’ requirement of state-of-the-art ground vehicles with excellent manoeuvrability and power to weight ratio under low intensity conflict operations.
Incorporation of high-end technologies like anti-lock braking and anti-roll over mechanism become crucial to achieve this objective. Evaluation of technology-intensive vehicles meant for induction in the Army need special purpose tracks and instrumentation systems. The test track will seek to address these requirements.