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DRDO fires on towards MIRV capability

By Gulshan Luthra Published: April 2013

New Delhi. India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is firing on in several directions with work at hand involving MIRVs (Multiple Independently Targetable Reentry Vehicles) and improvements in missiles, aircraft, tanks and artillery.


DRDO Director General and Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister Dr VK Saraswat told India Strategic that in terms of range, the Indian scientists had achieved whatever was assigned by the Government (about 5,000 km) but the effort was now to develop the MIRV capability. “The building blocks from boosters to radars, seekers and sophisticated mission control centres are there.

” Dr Saraswat, who has just been awarded the country’s one of the highest achievement awards, the Padma Bhushan, said that DRDO had been able to develop key RF (Radio Frequency) seeker technologies for missiles in cooperation with Russia, and that in the last missile test, the seeker used was made in India. Digital processing in any case is based on DRDO’s own software.

Without the seekers, a missile would be an aimless vehicle.

The RF and IR (Infra Red) seekers are meant for proximity and precision engagement of targets, and both these technologies are required for the anti-ballistic missile (ABM) capability as well as all kinds of missiles. He did not give details but said that India was working on some seeker technologies with other countries also.

“Today, we are able to design and develop RF seekers, and in about a year or so, we will be independent in this key technology,” Dr Saraswat said in an interview with India Strategic.

As for an ABM shield, he said that DRDO had conducted four endo-atmospheric (within the atmosphere) and two exo-atmospheric (outside the atmosphere) missile interception tests and that all these six had been successful. “We certainly need more tests but we can say we have been successful in developing this capability.”

The last one, designated Advanced Air Defence (AAD) interceptor missile, and fired on November 23, was in fact a hit-to-kill test.

So far, DRDO has mostly been working on proximity, near-miss or zero-miss acquisition of targets. With these systems, an ABM missile blows itself within a few meters of the targets – less than 9 meters. From now on, the effort is to develop the hit-to-kill capability by directly impacting hostile targets.

DRDO is working on Long Range and Medium Range missiles with Israel and for Short Range missiles with France.

But Dr Gupta pointed out that India was not working on an ASAT (Anti- Satellite) missile.

On radars, he disclosed that India had initially worked with the Israelis to acquire some technology and skills, but now, DRDO had made-in-India long range radars which can discern between aircraft, missiles and other flying objects. The ABM shield being developed has overlapping radar coverage as one cannot “allow any corridors for a missile to slip in.”

He said that DRDO is a technology developer and essentially, it is up to the industry – public and private – to build systems for the users, that is the armed forces.

For instance, after supplying 119 Arjun Mark-I tanks – the order initially was for 124 – DRDO is now developing the Arjun Mark-II, and nearly 80 percent of the improvements/changes sought by the Indian Army had already been incorporated. Work on the remaining features is underway and this summer, there would be trials to satisfy the user requirements.

The Arjun Mark-I has already outperformed the T-90, and the Mark-II would have enhanced night fighting capabilities with advanced equipment for the gunner, driver and commander. There will be better rough terrain and amphibious (fording) mobility, better surveillance and firing capability as well as increased protection.

An agreement is in place with the Army for another lot of 118 – or two regiments – of Arjun Mark II tanks. The Mark-II has a better 120 mm gun, capable of firing anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs).

DRDO was examining offers from Israel and Belarus for the new ATGMs. As for aircraft, Dr Saraswat said that he expected the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas to get the Final Operational Clearance (FOC) in 2014, and Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) within 2013. The aircraft is designed by DRDO’s Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and is to be manufactured by HAL as a 4-plus generation aircraft.

Effort is also on to further develop Rustam, DRDO’s unmanned aerial vehicle. The Indian Air Force (IAF) is keen for an armed version, or UCAV (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle).

Dr Saraswat said that DRDO was in talks with US Boeing for a transonic wind tunnel for supersonic aircraft testing. If the agreement comes through, it will help in easing the queuing problems in testing various systems.

The tunnel is being offered as part of offsets for Boeing aircraft that India is buying.

India has only one wind tunnel, a trisonic one, at the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) in Bangalore. Set up by NAL’s first director Dr P Nilakantan, it was commissioned in 1967, and is among the most-used facility of its kind in the world.

DRDO is also working on Artificial Intelligence and robotics. But that would take time. Nonetheless, he observed that in the coming decades, swarms of armed drones would be independently capable of doing big battles by themselves, and without any guidance or commands from their mission control centres.

The emphasis right now is to meet the immediate and foreseeable requirements of the Indian armed forces. “We give them inputs, take some inputs, discuss with them, and then plan what needs to be done,” Dr Saraswat said, adding: “We do have a DRDO Vision 2050 document” but DRDO makes its strategy based on the Long Term Integrated Perspective Plans of the armed forces.

  © India Strategic  
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