DRDO fires on towards MIRV capability (With Image)

New Delhi, April 11 (IANS) India’s premier Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is firing on in several directions with the work on hand involving MIRVs (multiple independently-targetable reentry vehicles) and improvements in missiles, aircraft, tanks and artillery.

DRDO director general and scientific adviser to the defence minister V.K. Saraswat told India Strategic (www.indiastrategic.in) magazine that in terms of missile range, Indian scientists had achieved whatever was assigned by the government (about 5000 km) but the effort was now to develop MIRV capability.

“The building blocks, from boosters to radars, seekers and sophisticated mission control centres are there,” he added.

Saraswat, who has just been awarded the country’s third highest civilian award, the Padma Bhushan, said that DRDO had been able to develop key RF (radio frequency) seeker technologies for missiles in cooperation with Russia, and that in the last missile test, the seeker used was made in India. Digital processing in any case is based on DRDO’s own software.

Without the seekers, a missile would be an aimless vehicle.

The RF and IR (infra red) seekers are meant for proximity and precision engagement of targets, and both these technologies are required for the anti-ballistic missile (ABM) capability as well as all kinds of missiles. Saraswat did not give details but said that India also was working on seeker technologies with other countries.

“Today, we are able to design and develop RF seekers, and in about a year or so, we will be independent in this key technology,” Saraswat added.

As for an ABM shield, he said that DRDO had conducted four endo-atmospheric (within the atmosphere) and two exo-atmosphere (outside the atmosphere) missile interception tests and that all six had been successful. “We certainly need more tests but we can say we have been successful in developing this capability.”

The last one, designated Advanced Air Defence (AAD) interceptor missile, and fired on November 23, was in fact a hit-to-kill test.

So far, DRDO has mostly been working on proximity, near-miss or zero-miss acquisition of targets. With these systems, an ABM missile blows itself up some nine metres from its targets. From now on, the effort will be to develop the hit-to-kill capability by directly impacting hostile targets.

Saraswat, however, said that India was not working on an ASAT (Anti-Satellite) missile.

ASAT technology has been developed by the US and China.

On radars, he disclosed that India had initially worked with the Israelis to acquire technology and skills, but now, DRDO had made-in-India long range radars that can discern between aircraft, missiles and other flying objects. The ABM shield being developed has overlapping radar coverage as one cannot “allow any corridors for a missile to slip in”.

He said that DRDO is a technology developer and essentially, it is up to the industry – public and private – to build systems for the users, that is, the armed forces.

For instance, after supplying 119 Arjun Mark-I tanks – the order initially was for 124 – DRDO is now developing the Arjun Mark-II and nearly 80 percent of the improvements/changes sought by the Indian Army had already been incorporated. Work on the remaining features is underway and there would be trials this summer to satisfy the user requirements.

The Arjun Mark-I has already outperformed the T-90, Saraswat said, adding that the Mark-II would have enhanced night fighting capabilities with advanced equipment for the gunner, driver and commander. There will be better rough terrain and amphibious (fording) mobility, better surveillance and firing capability, as well as increased protection.

An agreement is in place with the army for another lot of 118 – or two regiments – of Arjun Mark II tanks.

The Mark-II has a better 120 mm gun, capable of firing anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs). DRDO was examining offers from Israel and Belarusfor the new ATGMs.

Saraswat said that DRDO was in talks with US aviation major Boeing for a transonic wind tunnel for testing models of supersonic aircraft. If the agreement comes through, it will help in easing the queuing problems in testing various systems.

The tunnel is being offered as part of offsets for Boeing aircraft that India is buying.

India has only one wind tunnel, a trisonic one, at the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) in Bangalore. Set up by NAL’s first director, P. Nilakantan, it was commissioned in 1967 and is among the most-used facility of its kind in the world.

Saraswat said that DRDO’s emphasis is on meeting the immediate and foreseeable requirements of the Indian armed forces.

“We do though have a DRDO Vision 2050 document though,” he added.

(Gulshan Luthra writes on strategic affairs. He can be contacted at [email protected])

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