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INDIA’S DEFENCE RESEARCH AGENCY SLAMMED FOR DELAYS

INDIA’S DEFENCE RESEARCH AGENCY SLAMMED FOR DELAYS
By Bulbul Singh

15 Nov 06. The Indian Finance Ministry has shot down a demand from India’s research agency, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)asking for sharp increase in budget allocations. The Finance Ministry rejected the DRDO demand and has now suggested to the Indian defence Ministry to warn DRDO for the long delays in several of the defence projects.

Sources in the Indian defence ministry say, several of the DRDO’s defence design and development projects, including the missile development will be reassessed that the DRDO will not get any additional projects in view of the long delays in homegrown strategic defence projects.

DRDO had asked the Indian defence ministry last month to make available an extra $2.18bn each for the next ten years over and above the annual budget allocation of DRDO which is around $1.1bn.

The demand of the DRDO has been turned down by the Indian defence ministry, said sources and instead DRDO has been warned that no future projects will be made available to it till the previous projects are completed. However, sources in DRDO said, they need around $2bn extra each year to complete the projects which are in the pipeline in around 50 of its laboratories across the country. Sources said, in case extra funds are not made available then these projects cannot be completed.

DRDO has as many as 439 projects which are worth $3.7bn, and its 50 laboratories, mostly in the south of India are manned by around 30000 personnel.

Some of the key projects in the pipeline include the missile development program under the Integrated Guided Missile Program launched in the 80’s and includes theatre missiles, Nag anti tank missile and Quick Reaction Missile, the ballistic missile program including the 3000 kilometers range China-centric Agni-3 program. The cruise missile program, Sagarika; advanced UAV project; AWACS program for the Indian Air Force; mini nuclear submarine project for the Indian Navy; Light Combat Aircraft; Medium Combat Aircraft; indigenous anti-ballistic project for Air Defence; Communication projects for the C4I program and the air defense systems.

The Agni-3, which plunged into the sea after just five minutes of flight in July, will be tested again only towards mid-2007 while the home-grown AWACS project crashed in 1999.

The nuclear submarine project, launched 31 years ago, is not in sight despite spending over $1bn while the Light Combat Aircraft project launched in 1983 will produce an outdated aircraft if it is developed in the next ten years, after decades of delay. The Arjun Man Battle Tank has yet to be cleared by the Indian Army for combat and only five tanks have been produced as show pieces.

Most of these projects are delayed by over 10 to 15 years and some projects like the Trishul Quick Reaction Missile project will almost certainly be dumped by the user defence forces, while the scheduled date of induction of Light Combat Aircraft is still not in sight.

DRDO had been getting boost from the Indian defence ministry and also the funding in the name self-reliance with the objective of cutting down imports in the long run. However India continues to rely heavily on imported weaponry and equipment, spending around 35 per cent of its budget on the Capital Head for imports. India has now emerged as the largest importer of weapons and equipment in the developing world.

In the early 1990’s DRDO itself had promised nearly 70 per cent reliance by 2005 on homegrown weaponry and equipment. However, at present most of the projects, including the Tank, Missile project, Light Combat Aircraft project are suffering from long delays and cost overruns.

The delay in the LCA program has jeopardized the fleet strength of the Indian Air Force and forced it to over use its ageing combat aircraft like the MiG 21’s which has led to an increasing number of air accidents.

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