New Delhi: The Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) is today the main provider of strategic defence technologies and state-of-the-art tactical weapons systems in the country, according to Dr Prahlada, chief controller (R&D) DRDO.
In an exclusive interview with the Asian News International, Dr Prahlada said the DRDO has been able to evolve an indigenous missile defence shield comparable to the best elsewhere in the world. The US offer of the Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC III) missile "would not affect our own programme of having an indigenous missile defence shield which would be ready by 2010-12."
"It is far better to have indigenous weapons systems instead of importing them from abroad because it will keep money within the country," said Dr. Prahlada, who is also the chairman of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) board.
"It will also encourage the domestic industries to improve their infrastructure and give a boost to the economy," he added.
Dr. Prahlada described the Akash as the first indigenous surface-to-air missile that has a "milestone technology that the country has developed."
He pointed out that the criticism of Akash was not based on facts. As a guided missile system, Akash has performed with accuracy and consistency without failure during field trials, he said. The missile has achieved all targeted kills in the January 2006 and the December 2007 tests.
Commenting on the delay in the completion of the Akash project, which was to be finished in 12-13 years time by 1995, Dr Prahlada said: "One must understand the background of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme It was started at a time when there was no help forthcoming from anywhere. That situation is not there now."
He accepted that Akash or other strategic defence systems have been delayed because the DRDO lost crucial manpower due to the economic boom in the 1990's. Scientific innovations have more uncertainties than building of a bridge, he added.
"In the 1980's, our industry's maturity level was weak and at the same time one has to understand that no country is willing to part with their strategic weapons systems," Dr. Prahlada said.
Even the Patriot missile of the US or Barak missile of Israel have also taken more than 20 years to become operational, he claimed.
" Now we are not dependent on foreign collaborations in the production of missiles. Our own industries -- over 45 of them - are able to provide the components," Dr. Prahlada said.
He said that the speed of our projects has been affected by "denial regimes", but ''thanks to the hard work of our scientists and the people involved in them, we have been able to develop them.''
The traditional mindset is changing and many countries are ready to work with India in the field of defence production. They were not ready to work as partners in 1980's or early 1990's, he said.
Asked about reality check and course correction of DRDO projects, Dr Prahlada said every project has a review mechanism and two years ago "we did the review".
"We tried to rectify the systematic problems, but technical hurdles take time and require continuous development," he added.
Talking about future weapons systems, which the DRDO will provide to the services over the next five years, Dr Prahlada said that the Astra (air-to-air missile) and the Air Defence System are ready.
New sonars, heavyweight torpedoes, improved Nishant and Lakshya, radars for all the three services, ground borne and air borne surveillance radar, remotely operated underwater vehicle and aerostat would be ready in next five years, he said.
Dr. Prahlada added that lot of new generation electronic warfare systems -- airborne, ship-borne and helicopter borne -- will be ready soon.
Commenting on some media reports with a negative bias at his press conference on January 8, Dr. Prahlada said that the Integrated Guided Missile Development programme would come to a successful conclusion in December this year with the final testing of the Nag anti-tank missile.
The IGMDP was started with plans for the Agni, Prithvi, Trishul, Akash and Nag missiles on July 22, 1983 by DRDO scientists Anand Parthasarthy and APJ Abdul Kalam. Each programme under the IGMDP was supposed to have been completed by December 1995.
"All these missiles have since been developed and are entering service in one form or another. With this, objectives of the IGMDP as originally envisaged stands completed," said Dr Prahlada.
The successful completion of the IGMDP does not mean that all work on the five missile projects is stopped immediately, he said.