Important Institutions: DRDO

  • The Ministry of Defence in the Indian government oversees administrative matters at DRDO.
  • By providing our defence services with systems and solutions that are globally competitive, it is working to establish a world-class science and technology base for India.
  • At present, Dr G. Satheesh Reddy is the DRDO's chairman.

How did DRDO originate and grow?

  • The Technical Development Establishments (TDEs) of the Indian Army and the Directorate of Technical Development & Production (DTDP) with the Defence Science Organization (DSO) were combined to form DRDO, which was established in 1958.
  • The Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) began with ten laboratories and expanded to a network of 52 laboratories. These facilities are actively involved in the development of defence technologies in a variety of fields, including aeronautics, armaments, electronics, combat vehicles, engineering systems, instrumentation, missiles, advanced computing and simulation, unique materials, naval systems, life sciences, training, information systems, and agriculture.
  • Over 5000 scientists and about 25,000 other scientists, technicians, and support staff are currently working for the Organization.
  • Numerous large-scale projects are underway for developing missiles, armaments, light combat aircraft, radars, electronic warfare systems, etc., and significant progress has already been made in several of these technologies.

What is the DRDO's purpose?

  • For our defence services, design, develop, and oversee the production of cutting-edge sensors, weapon systems, platforms, and supporting tools.
  • To maximise combat effectiveness and advance soldier welfare, offer technological solutions to the Services.
  • Invest in infrastructure, hire quality workers, and establish a solid base of homegrown technologies.

The Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP) describes what it is.

  • Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, a renowned scientist, inspired IGMDP.
  • The goal was for missile technology to become self-sufficient.
  • The program acknowledged the need to develop five missile systems after considering the defence forces' needs for various types of missiles.
  • On July 26, 1983, the Indian government formally approved the IGMDP.
  • In order to create the strategic domestic missile systems, it brought together the nation's academic institutions, R&D labs, businesses, and the three defence services.
  • The missiles created through IGMDP include:
    • Prithvi is a short-range surface-to-surface ballistic missile.
    • Agni is an intermediate-range surface-to-surface ballistic missile.
    • Trishul is a short-range, low-level surface-to-air missile.
    • Akash, a medium-range surface-to-air missile
    • Nag, a third-generation anti-tank missile
  • The Agni was later transformed into a ballistic missile with various ranges after being initially developed as a technology demonstrator project in the form of a re-entry vehicle. Dr Kalam significantly aided the development and operationalisation of the Agni and Prithvi missiles.
  • On January 8, 2008, DRDO formally declared the successful completion of IGMDP after achieving the objective of making India self-sufficient in missile technology.
    • The Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) recently conducted a successful test launch of the Agni-P (Prime), a new generation nuclear-capable ballistic missile, from the Dr APJ Abdul Kalam island off the coast of Odisha.
      • The Agni-P is an upgraded version of the Agni class developed as part of the IGMDP (Integrated Guided Missile Development Program).

What are the DRDO's other programs?

  • Robotic System for Mobile Autonomy:
    • The Indian Armed Forces can disarm land mines and inert explosive devices (IEDs) even in hostile environments thanks to MARS, an intelligent, strong robot that can handle them.
    • This system can even be used to dig the object out of the ground and defuse the IED using various techniques with some add-ons.
  • Ladakh's highest terrestrial centre:
    • A natural cold storage unit for the preservation of natural and medicinal plants, Changla's DRDO centre in Ladakh is located at 17,600 feet above sea level close to Pangong Lake.
  • Additional recent DRDO developments:
    • Extreme Cold Weather Clothing System (ECWCS)
    • 'Pralay'.
    • System for Controlled Aerial Delivery.
    • Pinaka-ER Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS), which stands for Pinaka Extended Range
    • Supersonic Missile Assisted Torpedo System (SMART).
    • High-tech chaff technology
    • MPATGM and Akash-NG

What problems does DRDO face?

  • In 2016–17, the Standing Committee on Defence voiced concerns about the DRDO's ongoing projects' insufficient budgetary support.
  • The committee points out that the DRDO's share of the overall defence budget decreased from 5.79% in 2011–12 to 5.34% in 2013–14.
  • Significant projects involving cutting-edge technology have been put on hold due to the government's sluggish revenue commitments to DRDO.
  • Due to improper coordination with the armed forces, the DRDO also struggles with a lack of workforce in key areas.
  • The DRDO's reputation has been harmed by cost inflation and protracted delays.
  • India continues to import a sizable portion of its defence equipment even after the creation of the DRDO 60 years ago. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, India was the largest importer of defence equipment from 2013 to 2017, making up 12% of all imports worldwide.
  • The Agni and Prithvi missiles are primarily on the short list of achievements for the DRDO. It has experienced many more failures. The Kaveri Engine is 16 years behind schedule, and the price has increased by about 800%.
  • There is no accountability, and no one is held accountable for time and cost overruns, so DRDO makes many promises but delivers little.
  • The capabilities of the DRDO were seriously questioned by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in 2011. According to the report, "The organisation, which has a history of its projects experiencing endemic time and cost overruns, needs to sanction projects and decide on a likely date of completion based on a conservative assessment of the technology available and a realistic costing system."
  • According to the CAG report, not all of the technologies created by DRDO were suitable for use by the armed forces. In the last 15 years, the Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE), Pune, has produced products worth 320 crore rupees that the three services have rejected 70% of because they did not meet their standards and requirements.
  • The fact that 97% of the army's air defence is out-of-date, as noted by General V.K. Singh, is also essentially the fault of the technology development agency.
  • Instead of working on cutting-edge technology, DRDO is simply modifying equipment from World War II.
  • Even though DRDO is supposed to maintain systems imported from abroad, if it fails, there are significant gaps in the country's defence.

What steps can be taken?

  • The committee led by P. Rama Rao for the agency's external review in February 2007 recommended that the DRDO be reorganised into a leaner organisation.
  • In addition to reducing project completion times, the committee suggested that the Organization establish a commercial arm to turn a profit.
  • V.K. Saraswat, the former head of the DRDO, has advocated for creating a Defense Technology Commission and giving the agency more authority over choosing the manufacturers of its products.
  • If necessary, the DRDO should be able to choose a capable partner company right away from the private sector.
  • The Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) has started moving in the right direction by considering long-term contracts with Indian information technology (I.T.) vendors like Tata Consultancy Services Ltd (TCS) to develop software solutions for defence projects, changing its short-term project-awarding strategy of going with the lowest bidder.
  • The decision by DRDO to outsource is the right one and will create many opportunities for Indian businesses.
  • The DRDO envisioned an H.R. policy emphasising open book management, participatory management, and free, fair, and fearless knowledge sharing in its document, "DRDO in 2021: H.R. Perspectives." This is a positive development.