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“IRNSS is important for the India’s sovereignty”

Aug 2014 | No Comment

Shri Avinash Chander

Secretary Department of Defense R&D, DG R&D and Scientific Advisor to RM, Government of India

What are the key challenges for you as the head of the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO)?

The complexion of warfare and associated security scenario are fast changing due to rapidly advancing technologies, emergence of proxy warfare tactics and increasing number of technologically well equipped non-state players. India’s security environment is even more complex due to conventional threats and unique geopolitical environment. Finding innovative technology solutions to meet resultant security challenges on a continuous basis and converting these technologies into manufactured products is a challenging task for which DRDO is geared up. DRDO is committed to indigenous development of state of the art Platforms, Weapons, Ammunitions and the Force Multipliers and leading these to production. At National level we need to develop capabilities in the Industry and nurture it to come up to the military quality standards. On the other hand, the time cycles for the products which used to be 10-15 years are now coming down to 05 to 07 years. We need to re-structure, re-invent and re-align ourselves for future challenges. The R&D capabilities for future technologies need to be developed in Academic and R&D institutes across the country. A futuristic technology management wing has been created in DRDO to pursue the advanced research in focused areas.

You were in-charge of the navigation system development of the Prithivi Missile Project in the early 70’s. What has been the highlights of Indian navigation technology over these years?

Indeed, I was privileged to be one of the members of the initial team which worked on the Navigation System in the 1970s. In fact the first system what we made was Platform Navigation System which we had flight tested in Canberra Aircraft and later a Strapdown System was developed for SS45 Missile. In1988 a Dynamically Tuned Gyroscope (DTG) based INS weighing 50 kg was successfully flight tested in the first Indian Ballistic Missile Prithvi. For developing the INS, many of my team members worked day and night for almost 15 years and developed right from scratch, the algorithms, calibration and testing mechanisms, integration and interface modalities on our own. Today, the state-ofthe- art systems developed and flight tested in ICBM class Agni-5 yielding better than 100 mts accuracy over a range of 5000 kms weigh just about about 150 gm. In the process, all the sensors and sub-systems such as DTG, FOG, RLG, high accuracy Accelerometers, Hybrid Navigation Systems as well as complex Algorithms, all comparable to the best available, were developed and realized indigenously. The Navigation Systems Group where my journey as a technologist began is today a world class R&D Laboratory.

Which DRDO projects would you say are poised to make the biggest difference in India in the next two-three years?

DRDO has entered a new phase wherein very large number of critical Systems with potential to make a difference for the country are in advanced stage of operationalization. Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) is nearing ‘Final Operational Clearance’ (FOC), on its way to strengthening capabilities of our Air Force. Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AEWCS) is flying and will be inducted soon. Rustom II UAV currently undergoing taxi trials in preparation for its flight trials will be another force multiplier.

Induction of Long Range strategic missiles Agni IV and Agni V will be completed. The Air to Air Missile Astra is in advanced stage of its trials, while work on its MkII version with longer range is going on. Nirbhay sub sonic cruise missile will be flight tested this year.

Arjun Mark II is one of the most modern Battle tanks with very high capabilities and is slated for series of tests before production clearances. Another thrust area, which we have taken up, is the development of an advanced 155 mm Gun field gun. On the Naval side, we have strengthened our Sonar ssystems which are getting integrated in the ships. ‘Varunastra’ Torpedo is undergoing trials.

Electronic Warfare-EW systems is another strong and major thrust area of DRDO with very high level of self-reliance. Wide range of indigenous radar systems, Night vision devices and other electro-optic systems are in various stages of induction and operationalisation.

These indigenously designed and developed products manufactured in our own industries, I am confident, will prove to be a game changer, not just in terms of strengthening our country’s defence and strategic capabilities but also in giving a boost to our industry leading to employment generation and economic growth.

As the head of DRDO as well as a person who has a background in spatial technology, how do you view the growth of mapping technology in India?

Firstly, as a Navigation man, looking into the civilian sector application, it is fantastic scenario to drive a car in India completely guided by the maps and the GPS. The maps of each and every nook and corner are available and we just need to feed the address and then it starts guiding you with directions to the eventual destination. Spatial technology has gained importance with the type of payloads providing very high resolution images, weather information, aerial survey and other applications. Satellite Navigation is used in each and every vehicle and so today many countries are trying to have their own Satellite Constellation. India’s IRNSS planned to be in place by 2016. The future will be dominated by the Space technologies.

How important is spatial technology for DRDO activities?

Space has become very crucial and world over Research is going on in Spatial technologies for Defence applications. The spatial technology is used for high resolution images, weather forecasting, locating various assets of the adversaries. Spatial technology becomes important for DRDO and we need to utilize the modern space payloads like Synthetic Aperture Radars, high resolution imaging systems, Navigation Signals and Communication Systems. We need to embark in this area and effectively use space for these diversified applications.

What kind of research is being carried out at DRDO as far positioning, navigation and spatial technology is concerned?

Extensive research is going on in these areas of Navigation and Positioning Systems for Surface and aerial applications based on Inertial Technologies, Satellite Navigation Receivers and INS Hybrid Navigation Systems. Also, we use the Satellite Imagery for analysis.

How do you think costeffective navigation systems for India could be developed?

Cost effectiveness of the Navigation Solutions primarily depends on the cost of the Sensors and the quantities of the Systems being produced. Today, many of the materials which are required in the Sensors are not available in the country and the required machinery is also being imported. There is need for many of these critical things to be produced in India and the required infrastructure in the country need to be created. Industry should gear up to produce the systems in large numbers competing with the world markets, both in quality and price. This will result in high volumes of production thereby reducing the cost further. Today, miniaturized navigation system what we made for smart munitions costs only about 06-08 lakh. Also the GPS-GLONASS-GAGAN Receiver (G3OM) on a single module can be utilized for civilian applications.

What benefits can DRDO look forward to from the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) constellation? Has there been any role of DRDO labs in its development?

No country can afford to depend on the foreign country’s constellations during war scenarios. IRNSS will make Indian Armed Forces self-reliant. As we know, the advanced nations like USA and Russia are having GPS and GLONASS. Countries like China, European Union and Japan are trying to have their own full-fledged or partial constellations. Our own IRNSS is important for the country’s sovereignty and strategic requirements. The IRNSS is a Programme launched by ISRO and DRDO does not have a role in its Research.

What has been DRDO’s initiative as far as UAV R&D is concerned?

UAVs are one of the thrust areas for us and we have been doing lot of focused research as they have potential usage in Surveillance for both Civilian and Defence applications. Rustom 2 with a long endurance of 24 hours is planned to be flight tested by the end of this year. Lakshya has been playing major role as a Target in the testing of Missiles. Also we have plans for developing Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV) and mini UAVs.

We have been hearing about foreign direct investment in the defense sector. How is it going to be beneficial in general and to DRDO and its activities in particular?

The FDI in defence sector, as recently announced by the Governments is expected to bring in newer technologies and contemporary manufacturing processes besides infusing funds in the Indian industries. This would lead to greater impetus to indigenous manufacturing of military hardware and components. Besides meeting in house requirements, this is also likely to enhance the export potential of products manufactured in India, in turn reducing costs.

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