Road to Self Reliance :
The Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS) was firing at the Pokhran firing ranges in Rajasthan at the end of April, with temperatures reaching 50°C. After the winter trial in December of last year, a summer trial was held to assess the guns performance.
The ATAGS is one of 88 projects that fall under the Development-cum-Production Partner (DCPP) concept. It was designed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and built in two versions by Tata and Bharat Forge.
The DRDO distributes documentation, drawings, and designs to the industry, which is tasked with creating a prototype and is further assisted by the armed forces during trials and tests. It’s a developing success story in the field of atmanirbharta (self-sufficiency) in military-equipment manufacturing. The DRDO will continue to be a designer, while industry — both public and private — will be a production partner, speeding up the process.
The long and short of it is as follows:
The ATAGS is the first Indian-designed and built artillery cannon, with a range of 48 kilometres. It’s only a matter of time before I’m formally inducted into the Army. The Dhanush artillery cannon, introduced in 2018, is based on a design of the Bofors gun, which was introduced in Sweden in 1987.
L&T is collaborating on light tanks, and the first one could be ready for trials soon. Tata is producing the DRDO-designed Wheeled Armoured Amphibious Platform (WhAP) for transporting troops. The first of these vehicles was delivered to the Indian Army in April, and the army is searching for 500 more for usage in the Himalayas.
The Very Short Range Air Defence (VSHORAD) missile has been assigned to Adani Group, while Bharat Forge manufactures long-range guided air-launched bombs and Economic Explosives Ltd in Nagpur manufactures the ‘guided’ Pinaka missile and grenades.
Automatic Chemical Agent Detector & Alarm (ACADA) and Chemical Agent Monitor (CAM), both of which have completed third-party review by an authorised laboratory of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in the Netherlands, are on the list.
Handheld radars that can see through walls, autonomous ground vehicles, anti-drone systems, and extreme cold weather apparel are all being developed as a result of these collaborations, while existing technology for making warship-grade steel is being shared with industry partners.
The DRDO and IIT Delhi partnership has created two variants of a bulletproof jacket for troops that can survive steel core AK-47 bullets as well as bullets from self-loading weapons and sniper rifles such as the Dragunov.
PSUs Investment Continues
PSUs continue to invest in high-tech technologies such as fighter jets, whose design and engine remain in the public sector. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is developing the next-generation Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) as well as a naval fighter jet. HAL would be the front-runner for a joint venture in jet engine production. Bharat Dynamics Limited manufactures missiles, while indigenous ‘seekers’ lead missiles to their precise targets.
The DRDO-built Rustom II medium altitude drone can fly for 18 hours at a height of 28,000 feet. “These criteria have been tested,” adds DRDO chairman Dr. G Satheesh Reddy. So yet, the drone can only be used for surveillance and does not carry weaponry.
The role of academia
The DRDO is providing funding for research and collaboration with academia and industry for defence applications, with findings pertinent to the armed services’ vital and futuristic technology requirements. Start-ups and industry are brought on board as development partners after a successful design concept, development of a lab model, testing, and product development.
Ten DRDO Industry Academia — Centres of Excellence (DIA-COE) have been established to conduct research in over 50 identified thrust areas, including hypersonics, directed energy technology, quantum technology, artificial intelligence, robotics, material sciences, biotechnology, computing and communication technology, cyber security, and so on.
IIT Delhi, IIT Bombay, IIT Madras, IIT Hyderabad, IISC Bangalore, University of Hyderabad, Jadavpur University, Central University of Jammu, Mizoram University, Gujarat University, and Bharathiar University have these research cells.
At IIT Delhi’s Centre of Excellence, research initiatives have been launched to create indigenous technology for quantum-based secure communication through fiber-based transmission lines and free space communication. A collaborative team of DRDO and IIT Delhi scientists successfully demonstrated a safe ‘Quantum link’ over a 100-kilometer distance between Prayagraj and Vindhyachal for the first time.
R&D should be prioritised
In the current defence budget, Rs 11,981 crore has been set aside for research and development. Start-ups, universities, and private sector will be permitted to claim 25% of this to work with DRDO to create military platforms and equipment. Approximately 68 percent of the money spent on procurement by the services will go toward indigenous things.