“AMCA can be operated in manned, unmanned, stealth and non-stealth modes,” Dr. G Satheesh Reddy, Chairman, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
By Rohit Srivastava
On last ten years of DRDO
Dr. G Satheesh Reddy - Last decade has been significant for DRDO, as many systems have productionised and inducted. DRDO has become a matured organisation in the development of indigenous defence systems. DRDO has been continuously and consistently putting its best efforts in realizing the advanced defence systems and technologies for Indian Armed Forces.
DRDO is making the country self-reliant in defence systems by indigenously developing equipment such as Missiles, Light Combat Aircraft, Multi-barrel Rocket Launcher, Electronic Surveillance, Radars, Missile-based Air Defence System, Naval Systems, Life Support & Survivable Systems and many more world class products giving a quantum jump to India’s military might. Success of ‘Mission Shakti’ proved our capability in designing systems for execution of complex missions.
We have Main Battle Tank Arjun Mk1 & Mk1A, Tejas LCA, Radars, Sonars for submarines and EW systems, AEW&C, Advanced Towed Gun System ATAGS, which are some of the major spectacular technological breakthroughs for the country. We have successfully developed and flight-tested the long range subsonic cruise missile. LCA Navy programme recorded significant milestones by conducting arrested landing and take-off from INS Vikramaditya. This puts India in a select group of nations having this technology. A number of defence systems designed and developed by DRDO have been inducted into the Armed Forces.
On plans for next ten years
Dr. Reddy - In next ten years, DRDO is concentrating on new research areas like Artificial Intelligence, Smart Materials, Quantum technology, Asymmetric technologies and Cognitive Technologies. DRDO will come up with many more new innovations like next gen Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA), LCA AF Mk-II, long range Radars, advanced missile technologies, Arjun Mk II etc. Looking ahead into the future, we have already started working on technologies which will be essential for futuristic weapon systems in areas of cyber security, space and artificial intelligence.
In this endeavour, DRDO is partnering with academic institutes, research and development Startups and the industry to work on advanced and futuristic technologies to make India self-reliant in the defence sector. Our thrust would be on developing an ecosystem, where there is a total focus on integration and innovation. The thrust would also be to become a defence exporter.
On indeginous engine development
Dr. Reddy - Aircraft engine is an important element that we have not developed completely. 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 aero engine of this class. Kaveri engine in current configuration 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.
On ongoing missile development program
Dr. Reddy - India has tested ten missiles within a span of thirty five days during 2020. Major ones being the indigenously designed Rudram-I which is an anti radiation missile that can detect enemy radars and specifically target them, the air launched BrahMos missile, Supersonic Missile Assisted Release of Torpedo (SMART), Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV) to name a few. We are now able to develop any type of missile system as per Armed Forces requirement with shortest possible development times.
On Quantum Computing and AI
Dr. Reddy - Quantum Computing and Artificial Intelligence are the two emerging areas of technology that our Young Scientist Labs are working on. Quantum technologies involve designing and developing quantum computer using superconducting Circuit based Qubits that can be hosted on a cloud platform for nation-wide access. This will help in developing indigenous Quantum Computing Resources within India. Recently DRDL and RCI, two Hyderabad based DRDO labs performed quantum communication under realistic conditions, using time-bin QKD technology.
The technology enables two communicators to produce a random secret key known only to them and later it can be used to encrypt and decrypt messages. QKD is a significant achievement towards the development of futuristic quantum communication technologies which are vital for our Armed Forces.
Our Young Scientist lab at Bengaluru, along with laboratories CAIR and R&DE (E) are working on many products with AI based technologies. One such technology is the AI enabled face recognition based contactless attendance system. AI based intelligent COVID-19 detector technology for medical assistance (ATMAN) is application software that has been prepared.
On Swarm of Drone and Self-Reliance in UCAV
Dr. Reddy - Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles (UCAVs) or swarm drones are useful for surveillance, attack or intelligence gathering. In terms of drones, the DRDO has to its credit the Pilotless Target Aircraft (PTA) “Lakshya” and Multimission Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) “Nishant”. Micro Aerial Vehicles (MAVs), which are fully autonomous, have been developed by ADE along with National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL).
Directed Energy Weapons (DEWs) would play a major role in future warfare. These DEWs are capable of quietly disabling enemy drones without collateral damage. DRDO is also working on the development of high power microwave/ laser based DEW technology to neutralise drone/swarm threats.
On AMCA program
Dr. Reddy - The configuration of AMCA is frozen and formal. The detailed design activities have now commenced and rollout of the first prototype is planned by 2024. Indian industries are already participating in many development activities like manufacturing of a full-scale model for stealth measurements. The AMCA which can be operated in manned, unmanned, stealth and non-stealth modes, carries many advanced technologies making it lethal and apt for dangerous missions.
On Astra based SAM
Dr. Reddy - Astra is India’s first beyond-visual-range (BVR) air-to-air missile indigenously designed and developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). Astra has been planned to equip both the Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy. The Astra missile is also being modified for launching from ship as a SAM and its maiden test-firing in vertical launch mode has also taken place recently off the Odisha coastline. A few more trials will be conducted before deployment on Indian Naval ships. Once deployed, the VL-SRSAM system will prove to be a force multiplier for the Navy.