Lt Gen P Shankar (Retd)
IIT Madras entered the field of defence on its own steam on April 18. It established a stall in the Defexpo 2018 in Chennai. Many of its students and faculty got their first exposure to the exciting world of aerospace and defence. It even held a seminar at the event. However, the seminar was poorly attended since it was a last-minute inclusion, and many did not even know that IIT Madras was going to hold a seminar. Since then things have changed and IIT Madras has traversed some distance. The Institute is participating in the forthcoming Defexpo 2020 at Lucknow with a much bigger footprint.
The two years in between have been all about taking small steps but with a lot of enthusiasm. The Institute participated in several events to formulate its thoughts so that some original ideas could bubble forth. The Institute started collaborating with the Tamil Nadu Government to establish the Defence Industrial Corridor. Today it is the ‘Knowledge Partner’ for the State Government and is almost a mandatory and active participant in all activities related to the establishment of the Tamil Nadu (TN) Defence Industrial Corridor. It is also carrying out a feasibility study to enable the TN Government to set up an Aerospace Hub at Ulundurpet which will encompass design, development, training and MRO activities.
In the process, a disused airfield will be re-energized and locals will be benefitted. The Institute has participated in all the Army Technology Seminars wherein its students got an opportunity to display their innovations in the Manekshaw Centre at Delhi. The Institute started interacting with the Services and Defence Industry in a more focused manner. Faculty of IIT Madras has addressed the students attending the prestigious National Defence College, New Delhi and Higher Command Course at Army War College. Officers of 21 Corps were also addressed. A special address was given at the BAE Suppliers Summit. IIT Madras has also started encouraging its students and startups to innovate and enter the field of defence.
Along the way, a course on Overview of Defence Technologies was started for its students as an elective: which has received an overwhelming response. The Institute came into its own when it conducted two major defence-related events. The 12th International High Energy Materials Conference & Exhibit - 2019 (HEMCE 19) was conducted from 16- 18 Dec 2019. The conference discussed the latest technologies in rocket propellants, explosives and pyrotechnics. It established a major connection with the users for their valuable inputs so that technologies get developed as per services requirements. The marquee event was a national workshop on the subject which was graced by the Deputy Chief of Army Staff of the Indian Army.
The second event was the SHAASTRA-2020, the annual student tech-fest of IIT Madras, held from 3-5 Jan 2020. The theme for the event was Defence Technology and the focus was on disruptive technologies of the future – AI, Robotics (autonomous and unmanned systems), IOT Networks, Cyber Security, Augmented and Virtual Reality. The institute is now set to participate in various activities in the forthcoming Defexpo2020 in Lucknow.
Defexpo 2020 Lucknow
Display- The Institute, being the Knowledge Partner of the Tamil Nadu Defence Corridor will form part of the TIDCO Pavilion in the Defence Expo. It will be displaying some special projects on next-gen technologies which it has embarked upon. Also, efforts of defence-related startups which are participating in the IDEX and are being incubated at the IITM Research Park will be on display. The outline of the projects is as under.
Multi-Role Expendable UAVs- IIT Madras is in the process of indigenous design and development of a range of multirole expendable UAVs to encompass Surveillance, Logistics, NBC Monitoring, Met and offensive roles. The project, when completed will build substantial non-contact warfare capabilities into our Armed Forces.
Next Generation ACCCCS (Fire Control Network)- IIT Madras has made significant progress on an indigenous Processor called Shakti. It is now embarked to build the next generation of the Artillery Combat Command and Control Network indigenously. The fire control network has been proposed to be based on indigenous Shakti Processor in a lightweight tablet configuration. It will be a precursor to secure net-centricity in the Armed Forces incorporating all-new weapon systems.
Ramjet Projectile- IIT Madras is on the verge of a breakthrough in ramjet technology for incorporation in Artillery projectiles. This project when successful will double the range of engagement of targets and will make a substantial difference in our combat capabilities. We have taken a clue from the Long Range Precision Fires Program of USA. However, we are approaching it with our strengths.
Seminars- The Institute will also be participating actively in Seminars in the Defexpo 2020 whose details are as under: -
On 4th Feb, a faculty from IIT Madras will be a Key Industry Speaker in the Special Interest Group Meet in Defence Technologies being held at IIT Kanpur as a precursor to the Defexpo
On 6th Feb, IIT Madras will be moderating the Seminar being conducted by TN Government/TIDEL Park on Tamil Nadu - The Emerging Global Aerospace & Defence Manufacturing Destination.
On 6th Feb, IIT Madras in conjunction with Bharat Shakti will be conducting a seminar on Harnessing Strengths of R&D Establishments, Academia and MSMEs for Triggering Defence Manufacturing and Exports. The focus will be on Synchronizing the Academia and Defence Industry Relationship.
MOUs- IIT Madras has been working with the Defence Industry on several issues. There is now a broader understanding that the Institute can contribute immensely to niche and emerging technologies. In his effort, the following umbrella MOUs will be inked during the Defexpo 2020
An MOU will be signed with the Ordnance Factory Board for the establishment of a joint Centre of Excellence for Ammunition in emerging technologies in hypersonic/ supersonic ballistics and their impact on the design of Ordnance and Ammunition and damage to platforms/ materials
An MOU will be signed with Bharat Electronics Limited for the establishment of research and collaboration in the areas of ‘Propellants, Explosives and Related Technologies.
This is also an open invitation for officials and members of the Services, MOD, PSUs, Defence Industry including Heavyweights, Chambers, Startups and all defence enthusiasts to interact with representatives of IIT Madras at the Defexpo 2020. There is a need for cutting edge technology in our weapon systems. Equally, there is a need for cutting edge technology resident in IIT Madras to be unleashed. Synergising both requirements is the national need.
This may also please be considered as a special invitation for those who are interested to attend the seminars in which IIT Madras is participating. We are going to put out some new ideas and technologies and will be willing to share it with all. The program is as under.
*Author is former DG Artillery and is a faculty at IIT, Madras