Nirbhay, Rustom, Uttam, Astra : DRDO Projects Continues To Miss Deadlines
The Defence Research and Development Organisation continues to miss deadlines in critical military projects with alarming regularity.
Leave alone the much-talked-about Tejas light combat aircraft and Arjun main-battle tank, several projects ranging from spy drones and missiles to radars and artillery guns continue to languish with time and cost overruns.
Official documents, for instance, show that two important projects were to be completed this month but have got "revised dates of completion" now.
The first project, launched in January , 2012, was to build an active electronically-scanned array radar, which is the norm in modern fighter jets, at a cost of 445 crore rupees.
But the radar called `Uttam' is nowhere near being ready with its deadline now extended to May 2019.
The second project was for developing a medium-altitude long-endurance UAV called Rustom-II, along with an aeronautical test range at Chitradurga, which was approved in February , 2011, at a cost of 1,649 crore rupees. But its completion date has been pushed to February 2017.
Absence of an indigenous AESA radar has meant that the first 20 Tejas light combat aircraft - the first two jets were finally delivered to IAF last month under the LCA project approved in 1983 -will have an older mechanically-steered radar.
Moreover, a hunt is now underway to get a suitable AESA radar electronic warfare package from global arms majors like Raytheon, Israeli Aerospace Industries, Thales, Saab and others for the next 100 upgraded Tejas Mark-1A fighters to be delivered from 2020 onwards.
Similarly , in the absence of indigenous UAVs, the armed forces continue to induct highly-expensive Israeli drones.
DRDO, of course, has to contend with technology denial regimes, frequent midterm revision in qualitative requirements by the armed forces, problems in absorbing high-end technologies by the production agencies defence PSUs as well as continuing scarcity of scientific manpower and funds.
"China spends around 20% of its defence outlay on R&D. But DRDO gets only 5-7% of the defence budget," said a scientist.
All this is certainly true, and there is no getting away from the fact that India has to become largely self-reliant in defence to avoid becoming strategically vulnerable in times of crisis.
But as of now, revised timelines remain a recurring theme for DRDO projects across the board, which coupled with shoddy performance of the five defence PSUs, four shipyards and 39 ordnance factories, means India continues to import over 60% of its military requirements.
The much-touted 'Nirbhay' cruise missile, designed to carry nuclear warheads with a strike range of 1,000km, for instance, is already three years overdue and still far from induction.
The Astra air-to-air missile is not ready 12 years after it was sanctioned at a cost of Rs 955 crore.
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