In this increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex, ambigious (VUCA) and polarised world, India’s national interest has witnessed multiple challenges rising due to recent developments in the global security scenario triggered by re-alignment of regional, sub-regional blocks of economic & security interests. This is particularly true for India’s neighbourhood, which has had direct impact on its national security needs and thus, has led to special emphasis on self-reliance in its defence sector.
It is expected that the defence sector will be a high investment domain for all the major stakeholders – Government agencies, Industry, Research institutes and Academia. Over the last five years, India has been ranked among the top importers of defence equipment to gain technological advantages. To achieve the vision of ‘Aatma Nirbhar Bharat’, the Government of India aims to modernise its armed forces and reduce dependency over external dependence for defence procurement. Several initiatives have been taken by the government to encourage ‘Make in India’ activities via policy support initiatives.
Thus, although India has kept a steady and deliberate progress of self-reliance in addressing its security concerns through progressive policy reviews regarding defence procurement and incentivisation to domestic industry. However, the current geopolitical situation in prevailing in the world created due to Russia-Ukraine Conflict, threat looming of China-Taiwan conflict, emergence of QUAD a threat in being to China, further accentuated with resultant economic turbulence especially in Asian region, has forced India to revisit its policy of self-reliance in defence technology to address specific emerging security concerns.
Although, Government of India has evolved a new and very firm policy regarding meeting our defence sector requirements through indigenous manufacturing, the achievement of self-reliance cannot be without core competency of our Research & Development capability to gain ownership and control in the defence sector. Though domestic defence related industry has evolved itself in terms of capability, technology knowhow and gained global confidence, a robust self-reliance eco-system cannot be achieved without the support of strong Research & Development. Thus, the role of DRDO led R&D, which is besides technology demonstration, provides dedicated support to domestic industry and handholding in design and development.
|To summarise, DRDO continues to have a pivotal role in India’s vision of Atama nirbharta through indigenous Design and Development. It has developed a core competency of highly trained team of experts and specialists along with state-of-the-art infrastructure to support R & D including trials and testing facilities. It has helped support the growth of DPSUs as well as private defence through realistic evaluation of indigenous design and local content and effective management of IPR, ToT and AHSP. It has played a pivotal role to advise, support and handholding of domestic industry in its capability to develop world class defence equipment. It has helped in efficient utilisation of R & D budget including advising government in optimisation of R & D budget for private industry. Further, through collaboration with academia it has helped to develop future experts and scientists and lastly, it has made contributions beyond its call of duty as a trusted partner in times of crisis.|
DRDO, leading from the front
It is a well-established premise that inherent Research & Development capability is key to indigenous manufacturing. There are several fundamentals of Design and Development which require a resilient and efficient organisation with core competency to manage key aspects of R&D. These will include building technical core competency in critical technologies required for domestic industry as well as DPSUs. Further, it should support in handholding and facilitating private domestic defence industry for development and production.
It is important that the organization supports to realise and define true IPR though ownership, control, and factoring in local content parameters. And most importantly, the organization must facilitate in creating market eco-system with empowerment of domestic skilled youth-employment generation, generate export demand through demonstrated technology expertise and counter hegemony of global players and create a tool for diplomatic negotiations. Hence, in line with above, it is important to bring forward the role of DRDO in R&D for various domains.
The Defence Research and Development Organization is the premier defence R&D organisation of the country which was established in 1958. It functions under the Department of Defence Research and Development, Ministry of Defence, and is headed by the Secretary DDR&D who is also the Chairman of DRDO. The primary role of DRDO is to contribute to the security of the nation by indigenously developing critical defence technologies and leading them towards production.
Defence R&D is a highly evolved process, thus requires holistic approach towards various scientific fields like communications technology and software designs, material sciences including metallurgy and technical textiles, engine design, gas turbine engines, propulsion technologies, explosives research for a variety of munitions etc. Historically, DRDO has attracted the best scientific talent in the country and have a have a resilient team of highly trained scientists with vast experience and expertise. In a nutshell, they are in the best position to perform the Design & Development for technological advancements.
Further, in terms of infrastructure to support R & D, it has forty five world class technical labs and 5 Young scientist lab (DYSL) spread across the country, which are organised into seven different technology clusters dealing with Naval Systems & Management, Aeronautical Systems, Armament & Combat Engineering Systems, Missiles and Strategic Systems, Electronics and Communication Systems, Life Sciences and Micro-Electrical Devices, Computational Systems, and Cyber Systems. These labs under these clusters are further organised based on their domain specificity.
DRDO has been contributing towards achieving Aatmanirbharta. Although achievements in technological advancements are growing day by day, however, to name a few, some appreciable achievements in world class equipment will include Pinaka rocket system including rockets, NAG anti-tank missile system, Arjun tanks, air defence weapon systems with associated command & control systems, advance towed gun system and ASTRA beyond visual range air to air missile systems etc. It has developed expertise in the niche technology of long-range missile systems including core technologies of seeker and guidance units.
DRDO has not only excelled in its traditional defence technology domain but has also ventured and achieved the impossible in totally different domains in the field of technical textile research, designed special clothing for extreme cold weather.
Earlier this year, Dr G Satheesh Reddy announced the DRDO has budgeted ₹ 1,200 Crore to support academic research in the defence sector. He also mentioned that at least 300 academic institutions are working with DRDO for its various academic research programmes and more than 1,200 students are enrolled in these programmes.
The importance of R & D
The most appreciable achievement has been its contributions in the times when entire Nation was engulfed with COVID. DRDO came out as one of the most trusted establishments which produced PPE kits, critical oxygen cylinders and medical equipment at a short notice.
Therefore, in view of the lessons learnt from current security concerns, leading to lack assured supply of defence needs; Government of India has enunciated a clearly defined new acquisition policy to give boost to indigenous technologies by banning import of defence equipment. This has triggered need for accelerated indigenous design, development, and production, wherein DRDO has a primary role to fulfil in the immediate future. To create core competencies in important defence technologies required for self-reliance DRDO is providing expert support system and technical handholding.
A well coordinated system for optimal and coordinated utilisation of R & D reserved funds especially for private industry and start ups. It should assist in realistic assessment system for IPR, IC & ID as well as materials and software for true value of indigenous technologies. It will also play a significant role to create more transparent and trustworthy selection system of selection of DCPP/Pas from across entire spectrum of domestic defence industry. Further, it must play a stronger role to incorporate MSMEs and start-ups in the defence eco-system.
And lastly, to reiterate the DRDO role in the defence eco-system and society at large, cutting-edge research and development work by DRDO is a major contributory factor to the robustness of our armed forces. Addressing all the varying needs of the defence services is a daunting challenge which the scientists and engineers of DRDO work hard to meet. For an Aatma nirbhar Bharat, Aatmanirbharta in defence is essential and, in the R&D domain DRDO will be the lynchpin.