The Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO), India's leading military R&D institution, is playing a pivotal role in achieving self-reliance (Atmanirbharta) in defence. In 2023, it successfully delivered, inducted or transferred various systems, showcasing its commitment to bolstering the nation's defence capabilities.

The Ministry of Defence allocated an unprecedented Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) of over Rs. 1,42,000 crore last year for the induction of multiple DRDO-developed systems. It is the highest-ever AoN accorded to DRDO-developed systems in a single year to the Indian defence industry. It is a crucial element in pursuing self-reliance in defence production, asserted Chairman Samir V. Kamat on its foundation day on January 1.

He said numerous systems have either completed or are in the final stages of user evaluation, while many others are currently undergoing developmental trials. Kamat asserted that the DRDO will ensure these systems get user acceptance in 2024 and prepare them for induction.

So far, the DRDO has accorded transfer of technology (ToT) for 1,650 in-house developed systems to Indian industries. Among these, 109 Licensing Agreements for Transfer of Technology (LAToTs) were executed with indigenous companies last year alone, enabling them to manufacture the respective products. The government-owned research institution submitted over 141 patents in 2023, and there will be a substantial increase in this figure in the upcoming years.

The other notable success stories in 2023 included the successful landing of the TEJAS Navy on the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier INS Vikrant II, the firing of the Astra Mk1 air-to-air missile from TEJAS and the successful testing of the Crew Escape System (CES) for ISRO's spacecraft as part of the Gaganyaan Program. DRDO’s successful development of such critical technologies indigenously showcases ‘Atmanirbharta’ in aerospace technology.

World-Class Innovations

DRDO achieved notable success last year with a ground breaking innovation in torpedoes. The indigenously designed and developed Heavy Weight Torpedo (HWT) named 'Varunastra' underwent a successful test-firing with a live warhead against an undersea target on June 5, under the supervision of the Indian Navy. According to the R&D agency, this demonstration was the first of its kind in the country, possibly even globally.

The DRDO successfully demonstrated the successful flight trial of what it called the Autonomous Flying Wing Technology Demonstrator - an indigenous high-speed flying wing UAV from the Aeronautical Test Range (ATR) at the end of the year put India into the elite club of countries to have mastered the controls for the flying wing technology. The autonomous landing of the UAV, without the need for ground radars and the infrastructure of a pilot, showcased a unique capability.

On December 18, it announced via Twitter that India had achieved a significant milestone by showcasing the capability to engage four aerial targets simultaneously at a range of 25 km using a single firing unit through command guidance.

The test was conducted by the Indian Air Force (IAF) using the Akash Weapon System. Akash is a short-range surface-to-air missile primarily deployed for safeguarding vulnerable areas and points from air threats. This missile system is one of the key platforms India exports to friendly nations. Developed by DRDO and manufactured by BEL/BDL, the Akash Weapon System garnered attention when, in March, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) entered into contracts for the procurement of two regiments of the enhanced Akash Weapon System with BDL, incurring a cost exceeding Rs. 8,160 crore.

Focus On Long-Range Naval Missiles Development:

DRDO is actively pursuing development of multiple anti-ship and land attack missiles to meet the diverse requirements of the Indian Navy and IAF. Currently, DRDO's emphasis is on the long-range naval missile development domain.

It encompasses various programs, such as the evolution of derivatives from the Nirbhay subsonic cruise missile, the creation of a new subsonic Naval Anti-Ship Missile (NASM) series, an initiative for extending the range of the supersonic BrahMos missile, the development of a smaller version of the BrahMos, dubbed BrahMos NG, and the introduction of a ballistic Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRAShM).

It is credited with developing the Nirbhay missile, marking India's first indigenous cruise missile. The Nirbhay, a subsonic cruise missile, shares visual similarities with the US Tomahawk and Russian Club SS-N-27 missiles. It is deployed with a land-based mobile launcher, and there are indications that it may also find application on submarines.

In a discreet test conducted in February, DRDO successfully tested an indigenous submarine-launched cruise missile (SLCM). This missile boasts a speed of 0.7 Mach and an impressive strike range of 500 kilometers. DRDO envisions integrating this missile with submarines such as the Kalvari class, Sindhughosh class, and potentially the Project-75I class submarines.

There is a directive for its laboratories to concentrate on the creation of complex, first-of-its-kind systems and the development of advanced and critical technologies. This strategic focus is imperative for fostering the country's self-reliance (Atmanirbharta) and positioning it as a leader in defence technology.