DRDO’s Rustom II UAV Has Achieved its Target Altitude of 28,000 feet.

The thrust is defence. The government has focused heavily on policies and is investigating several options for boosting defence industry in India. It is presently sufficient. Multiple announcements within the context of the DAP 2020 have laid out clear actions as it unfolds the objective as to how the defence sector would be.

According to SIPRI, the top five spenders in 2020 will be the United States, China, India, Russia, and the United Kingdom, accounting for 62% of worldwide military spending. In 2020, the United States’ military spending was predicted to be $778 billion, while China’s military spending, the world’s second biggest, was estimated to be $252 billion.

In the current fiscal year, India’s defence expenditure totaled USD 70 billion (2022-2023). Leave aside US military spending and military advancement for the time being since there are plenty of such, but China cannot be ignored. We already have the Chinese military at our doors, which necessitates the credo of ‘capability- comparability.’

To begin, the capital outlay for the modernisation of the Armed Forces has been boosted by 12.82 percent within the defence budget, with an allocation of USD 20.36 billion. In addition, in acknowledgement of the modernization shortfall, the defence budget allots 25% of the entire R&D budget to private enterprise.

So, what is our overall defence R&D budget? Taking the Defence Budget 2022-23 into account, it comes to roughly INR 12000 crores, while another rough calculation of R&D for the Industry comes to around INR 3000 crores.

R&D allocation in the current defence budget for 2022-23 is less than 2% of total defence budget. According to the Lok Sabha Standing Committee on Defence 2019-2020, R&D in the PRC accounts for 20% of the Chinese defence expenditure. According to the 2021 budget, China could spend up to $70 billion this year alone on equipment for procurement and military R&D.

While defence has been the driver for many technological achievements, it is now more relevant than ever with the overall transformation of the battlefield.

In this environment, R&D in defence calls for more funding for technology development in microelectronics, hypersonics, artificial intelligence (AI), cyber security, and other high-priority military capabilities. This would drive the militarization of the fourth industrial revolution via artificial intelligence, big data, man-machine interface, autonomous unmanned systems, 5G networking, and other means, in order to establish new dominant military-technological advantages. This strengthens the case for Indigenization.

Such is the impact of policies that prioritise R&D in the defence sector as a whole. The statistical spread is meant to help understand the military innovation ecosystem. And, within that, India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) has been at the forefront of some of the most successful defence advances, such as the incremental advancement of indigenous missile systems.

DRDO has set out to push the boundaries in its new incarnation, with institutional changes and a focus on responsibility. Dr. G Satheesh Reddy, Secretary DDR&D and Chairman DRDO, has been largely responsible for recent developments. Dr. Reddy chats with Manish Kumar Jha of BW Businessworld in an exclusive interview about the vast spectrum of scientific advances and innovations taking place in DRDO facilities across India.

During the discussion, he projected the timeline for defence innovation, which is critical for the applications and efficacy in the production of military gear. He also discusses the critical link between the DRDO and industry.

Satheesh Reddy discusses the relationship with Bharat Forge and TATA, beginning with the Advanced Towed Artillery Gun Systems (ATAGS) and ending with the Light Tank. Despite the fact that the project was entirely conceived by DRDO, he is open to providing proper credit to the other companies participating. “We collaborated with two industries to build two firearms.” Things that are significant are common. “However, these are different units created with their own skills,” he explains.

But the more significant announcement he makes is for the massive endeavour to create the A medium-altitude long-endurance UAV (MALE UAV). What about having such a capability that could conduct credible ISR operations and operate as an import substitute? As he tells me, this is about Rustom II: First and first, I’d want to share some good news with you on the test we performed the day before. We have surpassed the elevation of 27500 feet. So we’ve almost achieved our goal altitude.

Image Courtesy: Business World

Reddy discusses the important technologies for the aero engine on the critical mission for AMCA: advanced materials, processing method for the single crystal blade, and success storey for the propulsion systems.

On the naval front, the DRDO demonstrated the Air Independent Prolusion (AIP) System. The problem that Reddy mentions is the greater capacity fuel cell for AIP.

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