A new year for DRDO
Right folks, it is the beginning of the year (well, we are still in the first quarter at least) and 'Geek at Large' has decided to take a look at what we can expect from the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) in the coming period. In the first quarter of this year itself we are likely to see the first ever test of the Agni-V Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) from a canister and may also see the official unveiling of the K-4 submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM). The Nirbhay Ground Launched Cruise Missile (GLCM) is also set be tested for a second time soon. However, this post will focus on other programs that are just as significant for national security as the above.
India's internal security environment has got better in recent times. Nevertheless, beyond improvements in tactics and training there is a need to leverage new technology to completely defang asymmetric warfare strategies being used by insurgents on Indian soil. It is here that DRDO's 'Divya Chaksu' program becomes significant given that under its aegis, sensors especially useful for providing situational awareness in low intensity warfare environments are being developed. Most significant among these are indigenous versions of foliage penetrating Radar (FOPEN), ground penetrating radar (GPR) and through wall detection radar (TWDR).
FOPEN mounted on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or even ground based platforms obviously makes a lot of sense given that Indian forces often have to undertake counter-insurgency operations in wooded areas. A rugged militarized GPR will prove rather significant in detecting tunnels and the counter-IED fight. TWDRs are naturally quite useful in built-up areas to locate targets hiding behind concrete structures. These systems are of course already available from companies abroad but cost and security considerations ordain that indigenous development and production be pursued.
The electronic warfare realm will be further bolstered in 2014 when India's first dedicated electronic intelligence satellite, CCI-SAT will be lofted into space by a PSLV. CCI-SAT could well augment the joint Signal Intelligence Directorate - DRDO program 'Divya Dhrishti' which is an extensive electronic support measures (ESM) network consisting of some 12 ground stations connected via satellite along India's borders and has the capability to detect otherwise difficult to detect aircraft. Of course CCI-SAT is more oriented towards picking up signals from enemy communication networks. Incidentally, developments in the field of multi-static radars are on the anvil as well.
2014 may also see forward movement in the area of directed energy weapons with Indian efforts in the arena of solid state lasers being unveiled. Much work has already been done in the field of gas dynamic laser(GDL) and chemical oxygen iodine lasers (COIL). For instance enclosed below(see Fig I) is the 'solid model' of a 25 kilowatt (KW) vehicle mounted GDL developed by DRDO's Laser Science and Technology Centre (LASTEC) that has been successfully tested against airborne in the past. The auto laser pointing system used on this 'transportable' GDL originally belongs to a 100 KW GDL. Solid state systems with 20 per cent laser efficiency have also been developed.
Perhaps a future LASTEC developed free electron laser (which are also being researched) could be miniaturized enough to fit the Rustom-2 UAV (see fig 2 below) which will soon take to the skies for the first time. A future post at 'Geek at large' will detail some of the engine options for this UAV which has been designed to fly at 30,000 feet with an endurance of up to 35 hours putting it in the medium altitude long endurance (MALE) category.
More 'earthbound' developments likely to gain momentum this year include the Arjun Mk-2 MBT (see Fig 3 below) which has already featured in this year's Republic Day parade and which needs to be ordered by the Indian Army in the high hundreds for India's overall tank programme to justify the production of homegrown (with some foreign help) 1500 HP and 1800 HP class gas turbine engines.
Looking to fulfil its brief of also directly augmenting the most basic unit of warfare, i.e the soldier itself, DRDO is set to unveil the multi-caliber individual weapon system (MCIWS) being develped by the Armaments Research and Development Establishment (ARDE), Pune, (see Fig 4 and 5 below)
which will allow operators to alternatively fire 7.62mm, 5.56mm and 6.8 mm rounds by changing the barrel group, breech block & magazine. Provision has also been made to mount an indigenous 40 mm Under Barrel grenade Launcher (UBGL) (pictured above) capable of firing programmable air-burst rounds. CCD camera day sight and thermal imaging night sight can also be mounted on its picatinny rail system to engage targets in day & night conditions. The weapon body is machined with Aluminium alloy and a metal insert based 30 Round engineering plastic magazine and adjustable butt are also featured. Ambidextrous features for cocking, lever change and magazine change have also been incorporated.
DRDO believes that MCIWS is a contemporary assault rifle and will help put an end to a recurring critique focused on the vintage of the existing INSAS family.
More about Saurav Jha
Saurav Jha studied economics (and debated politics) at Presidency College, Calcutta, and Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He writes and researches on global energy and security issues and is a regular contributor to publications such as World Politics Review, The Diplomat and Le Monde Diplomatique, and has written for Deccan Herald, The Telegraph and Hindustan Times. He is the Consulting Editor of Geopolitics magazine. His first book, The Upside Down Book of Nuclear Power, was published in March 2010 to excellent reviews. He is presently working on The Heat and Dust Project, a quirky travelogue, based on an intense budget journey through India, co-authored with his wife Devapriya.
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