As Modi’s ‘Make in India’ campaign gains momentum, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) doesn’t want to be left behind. Director General Avinash Chander tells Pranav Kulkarni about the big plans they have going forward
Do you expect more money from the government in the next budget?
Our budget had been stagnant for the past five-six years. Purchasing powers were much worse. Salaries were going up, so less and less money was available for projects. This has been restored. We are now able to take on new projects. Armed forces’ need is tremendous. Our aim is that as Make in India enhances further, funding should come from private industry for research and development. So we will look at partnerships.
A higher average age and extensions given to scientists are considered problems for the agency.
We have 7,500 scientists, 18 of them on extension. This does not change DRDO’s profile. We have been trying to get some manpower and have made a case before the government. We should have an intake of 300-400 scientists per year on an average so that our average age remains static. The proposal has been under evaluation for the past few years. Today our intake is 120-130 per year.
The PM had suggested setting up of five laboratories headed by young scientists. How far has that come?
We have created seven centres to take on challenging projects. And they are on the job. We are picking up young scientists from labs, putting them together, giving them freedom to take their decisions and empowering them like the director of a lab. We have identified that in the next five years, we want to create 10,000 scientists working on defence at various centres — MTechs, PhDs, a network of knowledge being created. We have signed MoUs with IIT Mumbai, Chennai for propulsion systems, Jadhavpur University for robotics, IIT Jodhpur for materials. The target is to have 10 centres in next five years and each centre should have 500 scientists to carry out research funded by DRDO.
What is the future of some major platforms?
We are still studying. The Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) is in the paper design phase… We feel aircraft development is a 15-year cycle, so by 2027-2030, we should be able to have AMCA. Light Combat Aircraft variants will keep coming out by then. Short Range Surface to Air Missile (SRSAM) required by the IAF and Navy was taken up by DRDO as a joint technology development. But with Akash having matured well, IAF feels that most of their requirements will be met by Akash and versions of Akash, so it (SRSAM) is being re-evaluated.