DRDO Endeavors to Become India’s Prime Defence Exporter

By Editor 25-Aug-2021

DRDO has taken various initiatives to fulfill the government mandate for ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ and to position India amongst the leading countries of the world in Defence sector. DRDO has transferred a large number of technologies to industries for production; some of them are being exported. The industries have been provided handholding at each stage and are encouraged to produce and export the products. “With the development of futuristic, cutting-edge defence technologies and equipment, our endeavor will be to become a net exporter of defence equipment as envisaged by the Prime Minister,” said Dr. G Satheesh Reddy, Secretary of the Department of Defence R&D and Chairman of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). In an interview with Aeromag, he talks about the DRDO domestic and export operations.

Could you share the details of DRDO’s export operations? How do you intend to boost the defence export prowess of India?

DRDO has taken various initiatives to fulfill the government mandate for ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ and to position India amongst the leading countries of the world in Defence sector. DRDO is part of the various export facilitation measures taken by the Government.

DRDO has displayed cutting-edge defence technologies and systems in many international exhibitions at different locations around the world. Wide publicity of DRDO products is ensured during various international exhibitions and flagship defence exhibitions of India like ‘DefExpo’ and ‘Aero Show’ with an aim to showcase Indian defence export prowess to visiting global leaders and decision-makers. DRDO products like Akash, Ashlesha Radar, BFSR, WLR-Swathi, Revathi Radar, SONARS, aircrafts and missiles have attracted interest from large number of countries.

A compendium of 156 world-class export-ready products has been launched during Aero India-2021 and is available on DRDO website along with procedures and policies for export.

DRDO has transferred a large number of technologies to industries for production; some of them are being exported. The industries have been provided handholding at each stage and are encouraged to produce and export the products.

What are DRDO policy initiatives to promote collaboration by foreign OEMs and companies? How important is strengthening links with foreign players?

DRDO follows various policies of the government to promote collaboration with foreign OEMs and companies. DRDO is actively involved in the joint-development of large weapon systems, which are produced by Indian industries, with international players thus contributing towards ‘Make in India’.

Strengthening links with foreign players is very important for the country to realize its ambition of being a significant player in the global defence scene. And the best way to do this is through co-development and co-production of systems and platforms in the country.

Right from the beginning of the pandemic, DRDO has been inventing many technologies and products to fight Covid? Could you talk more about it? How did the pandemic affect the business?

Right from the beginning of the pandemic, DRDO took the initiative of creating counter measures to deal with Covid-19 in our country. Apart from the mandated R&D work, our scientists worked round the clock and developed many products like ventilators, N99 masks, PPE kits, sanitizing system and many other aids which were produced by industries and supplied to the various hospitals, government agencies and healthcare workers on a war footing.

DRDO also took the challenge of establishing a Covid Hospital with 1000 beds at Delhi. The design, development and operationalisation of the facility were done and the facility was built in a record time of 11 days to meet the emergency requirement.  Based on this efficient and effective model of augmenting the health care infrastructure, DRDO built and operationalised 13 COVID hospitals at various locations across the country, with approval of the government during the more virulent second wave period.

Based on DRDO technology, 866 nos. of Medical Oxygen Plants are being set up by industry partners in every district hospital funded by PMCARES across the country, to make medical oxygen. DRDO has developed a unique system, "Oxycare" which senses the individual's SPO2 level and accordingly regulates oxygen supply from a cylinder. This helps to optimize the quantity of oxygen used by the patient. Funded through PMCARES, 1.5 lakhs such systems are being procured by the Govt. of India.

DRDO has also developed SARS-CoV-2 lgG Antibody ELISA Detection kit which is a rapid and reliable antibody test kit.

An anti-COVID-19 therapeutic application of the drug 2-DG (2-deoxy-D-Glucose) has been developed by DRDO to benefit the people suffering from COVID-19. Clinical trial results have shown that this molecule helps in faster recovery of hospitalized patients and reduces supplemental oxygen dependence. Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) has approved the emergency use of this drug.

Even during the pandemic, the defence R&D efforts were going on in full swing without any significant impact on our work. In fact, the pandemic provided us with an opportunity for making India Atmanirbhar by indigenously developing more than 80 nos. of Covid related products and 20 technologies. ToTs of the products have been given to more than 175 industries.

There is a need to build an indigenous defence system in the country to reduce imports. How important is private participation in this regard and how does DRDO support Atmanirbhar Bharat?

Harnessing available expertise and capabilities of the private sector is important for building an indigenous defence system in the country and promoting self-reliance in defence. DRDO has taken appropriate initiatives in this regard by starting a number of industry-friendly initiatives to support the indigenous development as well as manufacturing. A list of 108 items, comprising systems and subsystems has been released that will be developed and manufactured only by Indian industries. Free access of DRDO patents by Indian industries has been implemented. Technology Development Fund (TDF) has been created under DRDO to promote self-reliance in defence technology through participation of public/private industries especially MSMEs and start-ups.  Identifying Development cum Production Partners (DcPP) has been introduced for all projects of DRDO. DRDO test facilities have been opened to the industry. Performance Bank Security for development contracts by DRDO has been waived off. With the promulgation of new ToT policy of incorporating zero per cent ToT fee and zero per cent royalty, for DP/PA/DcPP of DRDO, a large number of defence manufacturers have shown interest.

DRDO has helped in transforming many private companies from simple fabricators to major defence manufacturers. India will become completely self-reliant in defence manufacturing in the next few years and will not need critical technologies from outside.

Could you share with us the future programs of DRDO and the major objectives?

DRDO has come up with many new programs like next generation Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA), Long Range Radars, Advanced Missile Technologies, Advanced SONARS, EW Systems etc. AMCA will have capability to be operated in stealth and non-stealth modes and it will be equipped with many advanced technologies making it lethal and apt for crucial and reliable missions. Development of next-generation aircraft engine within the country will also be taken up. We are also developing light tank for the Indian Army for deployment in mountainous terrain. This light tank will be able to fire multiple ammunitions.

DRDO is deeply engaged in the development of drone technology, counter drone technologies, artificial intelligence, robotics and unmanned systems, stealth technology, as well as swarm drones.  We are also working on the development of high power microwave and laser based Directed Energy Weapons (DEWs) technology. 

With the development of futuristic, cutting-edge defence technologies and equipment, our endeavor will be to become a net exporter of defence equipment as envisaged by the Prime Minister.