Emergency procurement of anti drone technology! Regulation of Defence Research: Keeping the perspective right

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July 02, 2021 6:05 PM

To deal with the growing number of drone threats, this system provides the ability to hit any ground or airborne targets and eliminate the threat effectively.

The most glaring example here was DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation) itself staking the claim that since last one year they have developed the anti-drone technology but it is not being used.The most glaring example here was DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation) itself staking the claim that since last one year they have developed the anti-drone technology but it is not being used.

The recent drone attack at Jammu airbase highlighted multiple shortcomings in India’s preparedness to deter emerging innovations in asymmetric warfare. However, it was remarkable to note that some agencies came out publicly to announce that the anti-drone technology is already available within the country and Defence forces are solely responsible for not using them.

The most glaring example here was DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation) itself staking the claim that since last one year they have developed the anti-drone technology but it is not being used.

What did the DRDO Chief say about the Anti Drone System?

Earlier this week as has been reported, DRDO chief G Satheesh Reddy had told the media that the counter-drone technology developed by his organization has the capability to not only swiftly detect, but to also intercept and destroy small drones that pose a security threat. His comments came two days after the first ever drone attacks which had targeted the Jammu Air Force Station.

The DRDO system was first deployed in 2020 during various national events as well as VVIP protection duties, and it was a surprise to note that Armed Forces were not geared with such a system. In expert’s view, “in most probability, the anti-drone system may not be meeting the efficacy of the border security.”

Sources confirmed that the DRDO had demonstrated its anti-drone technology to different security agencies at the Hindon Air Force station last year in January and at the National Security Guard (NSG) campus in Manesar in August 2020 and January 2021.

And this technology has transferred the technology for the production to Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL). Letters have been sent to the three services informing them about the system which has been developed by the DRDO and its capabilities.

Anti-Drone Technology

However, following the drone attack on June 27, 2021, the armed forces are looking at emergency procurement of anti-drone technology in large numbers. The Border Security Force and the Indian Army are both in discussions with the Israeli company for acquiring Smash-2000.

In the annual presser of the Indian Navy last December, Navy chief Admiral Karambir Singh in response to a media question had said that the Navy was procuring SMASH-2000s as anti-drone equipment to protect against attacking drones.

The Indian Navy in 2020 has already placed an order for an unspecified number of Smash-2000 fire control systems from Israel’s Smart Shooter Company. This can be used to counter a drone attack and will also help in improving the accuracy and speed of hitting targets by a soldier. The order was placed by the Ministry of Defence for SMASH (an electro-optic sight system) 2000 Plus Fire Control Systems. These can be installed on AK-47 and AK 203 rifles.

To deal with the growing number of drone threats, this system provides the ability to hit any ground or airborne targets and eliminate the threat effectively.

Announcements by DRDO and Status

Each year DRDO gets a big chunk from the Defence funds. Yet, DRDO has said on various occasions that the armed forces have not asked for it.

Besides the anti-drone system, Exo-skeleton is another product for which R&D was carried out and the DRDO told Financial Express Online that there had been no order from the Indian Army until 2020. In June 2021, in an email response, DRDO said it is now working on two different types of Exo-skeleton for the Indian Army.

As per Defence experts, “it is usually a case where the R&D equipment proposed is more at the science project level and does not even meet the internal DRDO standards. And, in any case, the trial cycles for R&D items run into multiple years without urgency for delivery, with funding allocation on yearly basis.”

The other glaring example is the AIP (Air-Independent Propulsion) for Scorpene class submarines. Before the commissioning of each submarine a Press note from DRDO states that the AIP has been developed and ready to be fitted.

“Unfortunately, a development in the Lab environment requires major re-configuration to make the systems fighting fit and amenable to fitment onboard an aircraft, warship or military hardware. This gap is not easy to patch up and most of the DRDO projects are unable to finally make it to the field exploitation, despite large commitment of resources by the Defence,” a senior naval officer had told Financial Express Online in an earlier report.

Institutionalise the procedure of research related announcements

There is an urgent need for the government to institutionalize the procedure of making Research related announcements, especially for items related to National security and medicine (in the present pandemic times).

“DRDO is not a production agency, therefore their announcements should actually be made by those who will be doing the production — DPSU or private industry, after they complete the due trial reports,” explained a defence officer on condition of anonymity.

Adding, “At any given time, Armed Forces are always keen to undertake trials of various equipment, systems or subsystems, whether the item meets their immediate or future requirements.

The Armed Forces cannot be seen from the perspective of the Developmental agencies and are already busy handling threats at the National level to give time or importance to unilateral announcements in Defence Research since it is clear that Defence role cannot be seen from a developer’s perspective.”

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