India's first indigenous unmanned, remote controlled tank, developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), has been rolled out of the Chennai lab.
'Muntra', as it has been dubbed, has three variants - surveillance, mine detection and reconnaissance in areas with nuclear and bio threats.
Though developed and tested for the Army by Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (CVRDE) in Avadi, paramilitary forces have expressed interest to use them at Naxal-hit areas. This will require a few modifications.
The two remotely operated vehicles designed like an armoured tank were on display at an exhibition - Science for Soldiers - organised by DRDO as a tribute to former President A P J Abdul Kalam at CVRDe in Avadi.
Muntra-S has been developed for unmanned surveillance missions, whereas Muntra-M is built for detecting mines. Muntra-N will be deployed in areas where nuclear radiation or bio weapon risk is high.
The vehicle has been tested at Mahajan field firing range in Rajasthan under dusty desert conditions where temperatures touched 52°C. It has surveillance radar, an integrated camera along with laser range finder which can be used to spy on ground target 15km away – which may be a crawling men or heavy vehicles.
The exhibition also showcased a CCPT vehicle which is a remote command centre.
From helmet-mounted night vision to nano-driven thermal and electromagnetic protection and laser weapons, DRDO showcased hundreds of products in an exhibition aimed at boosting the confidence of its employees and to change a negative perception of the organisation in the government.
Besides heavy vehicles, DRDO labs also showcased a few inventions like a handheld wall penetration radar which if placed on a wall will project on a screen the presence of people inside a building, a nano-based electro-magnetic shield which protects combat systems from electromagnetic attack, and a GSM monitoring system which helps to listen in on encrypted calls on mobile phones.
S Christopher, the DRDO chairman, said the products displayed would convey the technical competence of the organisation to the soldiers and the society.
He also said DRDO was working on installing AWAC (Airborne Early Warning and Control System) on an A330 aircraft. The system is now perfected for use on a smaller Embraer plane.
The exhibition will be open to the public on Sunday.
DRDO is looking for exporting versions of some weapon systems which have become redundant for the Army because they have acquired newer versions, said Christopher on Friday.
"Older versions are good for some countries which have shown interest. Some of the systems under development too could be exported. It would also create goodwill,'' he said. He however did not name any country.
Christopher also said DRDO products were ranked well the world over. "We are fourth in the world in AWAC and fighter planes, fifth in missiles. Arjun is not far away from being the best among some countries."
As the thrust is on roping in private companies, DRDO is looking at capitalising on intellectual property. Private companies are being roped in because they are better placed to market and manufacture DRDO products and the Army seems to be more receptive when products are presented by private companies. Already 1 lakh crore has been generated in two years.
"If we can generate Rs5 lakh crore in five years we do not have to depend on government for funds," he said.