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By Bulbul Singh

29 Jun 08. India’s only defence research agency, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) with 50 laboratories, has embarked on a new course for the future. Henceforth DRDO will design and develop secretive and hi-tech defence programs in association with foreign entities, this will help speed up procurements.

It is estimated that DRDO will work with overseas entities in programs worth over $13bn.

Israeli and French companies and research agencies are top of the agenda. DRDO is likely to tie up with Elta, IAI and Rafael in several programs including the co-development of advanced air defence systems, UAVs and radars.

DRDO was established fifty years ago primarily with the need for self-reliance in defence, it has a workforce of 30,000, including 7000 scientists, with an annual budget of around $1.7bn. DRDO is engaged in missile systems, electronics, computer sciences, material sciences, aeronautics, armaments and combat vehicles, naval systems and strategic systems.

The Indian government has restricted DRDO to developing core technologies and encourage tie ups with overseas entities as most DRDO pro grams have been bogged down for decades. The Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) program which began in the 1980’s has yet to be inducted while the Main Battle Tank, Arjun, started in 1974, has yet to be cleared for combat by the Indian Army. Though some missile programs have been successful, its theatre missiles have failed.

There has been a regular battle between the Indian defence forces and DRDO over weapon procurement, with the latter insisting on an in-country solution, whilst the former presses for off-the-shelf purchases.

DRDO’s ongoing projects where foreign collaboration would be needed include:

1) Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AEW & C)
2) Development of Advanced Laser Guidance Kit for 1000 lb bombs
3) Development of Scramjet engine
4) Hypersonic technology demonstrator vehicle
5) Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
6) Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV)
7) Naval stealth technology– for reduction of sound, IR, electromagnetic signatures of warships
8) 3-D Central Acquisition Radar (like the Green Pine)
9) Reconnaissance systems for manned and unmanned aircraft
10) Advanced microwave and millimetre wave system and components (MIDAS)
11) Fuel Cells for land and underwater platforms.
12) future high speed torpedo technologies
13) Tube launched missiles for Arjun
14) MALE (Medium Altitude Long Endurance) UAVs
15) Lakshya-2, upgrade of the Lakshya pilotless target aircraft
16) Directed energy weapons– for anti-UAV systems
17) LR-SAM for Navy and IAF

DRDO has drawn a list of futuristic programs which are likely to see collaboration which includes:

(a)Advance Surveillance Platforms: This will include development of Aerostat surveillance systems and Medium and high altitude long range UAVs.
DRDO has technology tie-up with IAI of Israel. They are currently planning to develop a long endurance high altitude UAV called Rustam.

DRDO has also last month inked a pact with IAI and Rafael of Israel for joint development of new generation Aerostat radars.
The Indian Army has already bought four Aerostat radars.

b)Extended Range projects: This will include the development of next generation combat aircraft technologies and Hypersonic air vehicle technologies.

DRDO is seeking a development partner for stealth technology. DRDO has conducted dialogues with all the MMRCA bidders including Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Saab, Eurofighter, Dassault and MiG Corporation, but none have committed to this new program. For Hypersonic Air Vehicle Technologies, DRDO is in early stage dialogue with IAI of Israel.

c) Extended Range Air Defence and Ballistic missile development

DRDO initiated this program under an India-Israel government-to-government defence pro

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