The author's observation during the Arms export ban, Indian self-reliance index rose much faster with Indigenous developed product, comparable with the best at much lesser cost, is the way forward on self reliance.
The Research & Development (R&D) activities in armament commenced at the erstwhile Technical Development Establishments a decade prior to the Independence. The Post-Independence Era saw further strengthening through the establishment of three new R&D labs in the area of weapons and ammunition, high explosive materials, and terminal ballistics. In the initial stages, Defence Research & Development Organization, (DRDO),along with its four laboratories viz., Armament Research & Development Establishment (ARDE), High Energy Materials Research Laboratory (HEMRL), Terminal Ballistics Research Laboratory (TBRL) and PXE took up the R&D work with the limited objective of import substitution and development of simple conventional armament systems. Each of these laboratories focuses and specialize on specific aspects of development of Armaments. ARDE is the lead laboratory responsible for development of armament systems and related technologies. Moving from the limited mandate of import substitution and product improvement to major system design, the armament laboratories developed number of item tabulated below for the defence services.
|75/24 Pack Howitzer, Indian Field Gun (IFG)||LIMPET/Advanced LIMPET Mines||68 mm Arrow Rocket|
|Bar Mines and Grenades||30 mm Naval Ammunition||Cluster Weapon|
| 122 mm Grad Rockets Air Defence and Field Artillery Systems, PINAKA MK-1||Cartridge Submerge Ejector Signal||250 kg/450 kg HSLD Bombs|
|PZT materials, Smart Munitions||VT Fuze for 76.2mm Naval Ammunition||Fuzes (Tail & Nose) for Aircraft Bombs|
|Gun/Mortar ammunition and Training Device||MRECM and SRECM Rockets||---|
|Charge Line Mine Clearing, Bund Blasting Device||Anti Submarine RGB-25 Rocket||---|
|Small Arms and Ammunition, Automatic Grenade Launcher||---||---|
|Armament for MBT Arjun||---||---|
|Time and Proximity Fuzes||---||---|
There is no denial of the fact that the Defence Research & Development Organization (DRDO), has made a significant progress in the field of missile systems and has made the country proud. The recent development and successful trials of Nirbhay, Agni, and Nag missiles are good enough to substantiate this fact. However, one generally overlooks and forgets its paramount progress in development of armament and explosives. As on date about more than 300 items of armaments and ammunition worth over Rs 120,000 crores based on DRDO technologies have been either inducted or are under induction in the defence services.
The quality of the product design of some of the defence products/technologies compares favorably with the best available in the world. Some technologies like illuminating ammunition, FSAPDS shots and gun/rocket/missile propellants even surpass the performance of the contemporary design in many respects. The technologies pertaining to conventional armament have come to a matured level and the country has achieved a reasonable level of self-reliance in this area.
Apart from the above mentioned some of the major technologies that are currently being developed by DRDO and its laboratories are discussed below.
120 mm PCB Ammunition: 120mm penetration-cum-blast ordnance for MBT Arjun has been undertaken. It has the ability to penetrate a 500 mm thick RCC wall at a range of more than 1.5 km. DRDO expected to operationalise the ammunition by next year.
ICL-20: A powerful explosive - Indian CL-20 is being developed that can substantially reduce the weight and size of the warhead on a missile, bomb or some other delivery system. It is 15 times as powerful as HMX or Octoge. The development of this explosive has elevated India to an elite club of countries with advanced capabilities in the field of energetic materials.
Advance Towed Artillery Guns System (ATAGS) : The Advance Towed Artillery Guns System (ATAGS), a light-weight long-range automated 155 mm artillery gun is being developed by DRDO with industry participation including L&T, TPSED and Bharat forge etc.
Electromagnetic Bomb (E-BOMB) : TBRL has started with the development of electromagnetic bomb (e-bomb). The weapon would be designed to neutralise an enemy's command, control and communication systems, as well as cause huge destruction without harming humans.
Next Generation (NG) Laser Guided Bombs (LGB) : ARDE is developing a next-generation bomb (NG-LGB) for the Indian Air Force, which will address the problem of rolling of the bomb after its release. The development is expected to be completed by 2015.
Multi-Caliber Individual Weapon System (MCIWS): The multi-caliber individual weapon system (MCIWS) is being developed by the ARDE which will allow operators to alternatively fire 7.62mm, 5.56mm and 6.8 mm rounds by changing the barrel group, breech block & magazine.
Corner Firing Weapon : The lightweight rifle is made of composite materials and is multi-calibre, capable of firing both 5.56 and 7.62 rounds.
Explosive Detection Kit : Explosive Detection Kit for paramilitary and police forces designed by DRDO is being made by Vantage Security Solutions. Technology has been taken by a US firm too and has been launched in the US market.
Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA) MK-II : HEMRL is working on ERA Mark II which promises to be better in performance than the Mk-1developed earlier equipping over 600 Combat Improved Ajay tank.
Pinaka Mark-2 : After the Pinaka Mark-1 multi-barrel rocket launcher, the DRDO is now developing Pinaka Mark-2, which is undergoing development trials.
Issues and Concerns
The fact we tend to gloss when the arms exporting countries had shut their doors for India, making import option non-available, self-reliance index rose much faster and led over a period to products as good as or better than the best elsewhere. Over the years we have achieved maturity of R&D in armament with the development of highly challenging and complex systems, developed at much lower costs compared to other counties.
Despite the push by the MoD in the direction of Indigenisation / Self reliance since last 2-3 decades, the budget allocation towards R&D has not increased comparatively. For example Chine allocates approx 20%, USA allocates 14-16 % of defence budget on R&D, whereas India spends merely 5-6 % of the defence budget. This results in a serious resource crunch in achieving indigenization or becoming self-sufficient in defence production. To draw a parallel, the total number of scientists engaged in defence R&D in India have been much lesser than those in many single facility abroad devoted to a single area e.g. submarine or aircraft R&D.
The defence R&D in India never had the freedom to choose its production partner, barring a very few project, they have to go with DPSUs which seriously effects the overall development. Today, private sector has grown in quality and quantity thanks to their entrepreneurship and association over the decades with DRDO. If we can trust private sector from foreign country and go on to import, we are unable to understand why can't our own private sector to produce Small Arms and Ammunition?
If India is serious about making itself more self-sufficient in defence production, we need besides policy tweaks; an entirely new mindset from all stakeholders. The users need to understand the existing absorption and production capability. The product design cannot come out from wish list. The technical parameters set as part of GSQR definition combine the best in the world in all aspects, without realizing the existing absorption and production capability. The users also need to ensure that the GSQR is within the threshold and not changed every time. The Indian scenario can change drastically with understanding of the development process and incremental upgrade of technology through indigenous base. Users tendency to procure the best of the shelf ex-import rather than indigenous development and concept of “Spiral co-development” i.e., equipment capabilities gradually improve as design and development continues with association of Users. At the same time Users need to harmonise the varieties of product range.
In the past the stakeholders have functioned as a cohesive team and the armament products required by the Services have been taken from the stage of inception to mass production in a synergic mode. Some of the major defence platforms developed with the participation of users and other organisations are 75/24 Pack Howitzer and 105mm IFG. The stakeholders participation, will enthuse the feeling pride in co-ownership in development by the production and Users.