As per reports the development Advanced Multi-Role Combat Stealth fighter jet is progressing well

by Dr G Satheesh Reddy

In the second part of the interview, DRDO Chief Dr G Satheesh Reddy talks about the progress made in various projects including the Main Battle Tank for the Indian Army, Light Combat Aircraft and other platforms. Following are the excerpts.

What are the plans for the Main Battle Tank (MBT) ‘Arjun’? Have the technical issues been resolved?

‘Arjun’ is one of the best in the class of Main Battle Tanks. Improvements suggested by the user during the exploitation of the first two regiments of Arjun and a number of upgrades like Track Width Mine Plough (TWMP), Remote Control Weapon System, Explosive Reaction Armour, Automatic Target Tracking, Commander’s Panoramic Sight with Night Vision, etc., have been incorporated in Mk1A version which has undergone user trials.

124 MBTs have already been manufactured at Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) and delivered to the Indian Army. Production capacity exists to meet the Army demand. Placement of indent for additional regiments of Arjun MBT Mk 1A is likely to happen soon.

By when do you think the AIP will be ready to be integrated on the Indian Navy’s submarines?

The AIP has passed the development trials demonstrating the endurance test at limited power levels. Full power trials are scheduled this year. Parallelly, work is also going on in chalking out an integration plan on the submarines by 2024.

Do you have a supply chain like some of the foreign companies have here?

The Indian private sector is involved in the development of various subsystems for DRDO and becomes part of the supply chain during the production phase after successful evaluation of the system. The supply chain of vendors for all products developed by DRDO gets established by the time the evaluation of the system is completed.

Transfer of Technology (TOT) is provided to the concerned industries. The industries working with DRDO have developed good capability and have become established as a proven vendor base for DRDO developed systems.

For example, in Akash missile production there are more than 200 industries involved, supplying various components and subsystems. In fact, the lead production agencies mostly integrate the systems from the components and sub-assemblies sourced from the specified vendors developed by DRDO. Our strength is the industry base developed by us for specific products with quality standards.

What are the projects for the Indian Army that DRDO is focusing on?

DRDO is undertaking a number of projects for the Indian Army – these include Development trials of Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS) which are completed; Development trials of Pinaka guided rocket including salvo firing and demonstration of range with pin-point accuracy has been conducted. Development of Quick Reaction Surface-to-Air Missile (QRSAM) Air Defence on move systems having the capability to search, track and engage targets on short halts have been proven. Indian Air Force (IAF) order for additional squadrons of surface-to-air missile system (SRSAM) Akash has been placed. The Indian Army is also in the process of procuring two more Akash regiments fitted with the indigenous seeker. Medium-Range Surface-to-Air Missile (MRSAM) is in an advanced stage of realization. NAG has completed the development and user trials and is ready for induction. Man-Portable Anti-Tank Guided Missile (MPATGM) & Helina is in advanced stages of development.

A number of variants of radars for different applications have been developed by DRDO for the Army like, ADFCR and ADTCR. Weapon Locating Radar SWATHI has already been deployed after inducted and is being exported now.

What is the status of Advanced Multi-role combat aircraft (AMCA)?

AMCA is a 5+ generation aircraft with twin engines and stealth capability. The design phase is underway seriously. Development plans are made.

DRDO has been involved in the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Project. Are you satisfied with its journey?

LCA ‘Tejas’ has come a long way and matured in terms of the first indigenous fighter aircraft. Final Operational Clearance (FOC) for LCA Tejas has been issued and the production order for Tejas Mk1 has been placed. Successful trials of LCA Navy version from INS Vikramaditya, both landing and take-off have placed India in an exclusive club of nations with this capability. A lot of technologies have been developed, eco-system has emerged and the experience gained in configuration, design and development of fighter class aircraft will help us in taking up much more technologically advanced programs. There are only a few nations in the world that have achieved this feat of making a fighter aircraft of their own and India is one of them.

India has not succeeded in making its own engines. What are the challenges being faced?

We have got a lot of knowledge base during the development of Kaveri engine. Insights were gained in the field of material developments, various subsystem development, manufacturing, and assembly and testing of an engine of this class. Kaveri Engine developed may not meet present LCA requirement, but variants will be used in other applications. Now, the teams are equipped to take up the development of next-generation aircraft engine.