By Lt Gen P R Shankar, (Retd)
“If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.”
No one teaches you how to fish in the secretive and myriad world of defence technology and capability development. It is a do-it-yourself process, in which India lags. War is a violent endeavor where applied technology is the difference between victory and defeat. The core technology which dominates the battlefield is ammunition technology, which is an end product of fusion of complicated technologies – old and new, hard and soft, real and virtual. Ammunition technology is the fastest growing and most complex in the field in the larger set of defense technologies. No one teaches another how to fish for ammunition technologies. On the other hand, India will be destined to buy rotten fish at exorbitant rates if it does not know how to fish. To be ‘Atmanirbhar’ we should know to grow our own fish and to even catch them to eat.
At IIT Madras, there is an endeavor to make India future ready and self-sufficient in cutting-edge ammunition technologies. A Center of Ammunition Research and Development (CARD) that can develop futuristic ammunition requirements of Services was conceptualised when it was realised that IIT Madras has acquired the potential to establish such a centre. It revolves around two facts. Currently it is the only institution which has the capability to carry out meaningful research in explosive material, as related to defence besides, DRDO and ISRO. In addition, IIT Madras has acquired adequate expertise in practical and applied research based on real life projects given by the Indian Army and DRDO. It has also assimilated certain cutting edge technologies and established facilities for ammunition development in the recent past. These have been tabulated below.
Conceptually, a three tier system is being put in place as in the graphic below. The middle tier indicates the core of the Centre for Ammunition Research and Development (CARD). It is proposed to be established and located at the Aerospace Engineering Department in IIT Madras in the near future. It will carry out Research, Design and Development of ammunition and related technologies based on futuristic concepts. It can do so based on in house multidisciplinary expertise along with assistance/collaboration from other IITs, CSIR Labs, DRDO, ISRO and BARC with which it has extensive linkages. Efforts are on to establish international collaboration with friendly foreign countries. It will also conduct academic programs in ammunition technology for Services, Industry and DPSUs. The top tier will have user nodes established at Instructional establishments, firing ranges and other facilities of the Army, Navy and Air Force. The bottom tier will consist of industry cells which will be formulated with private and public industry.
The focus areas of ammunition research in CARD will be on precision technologies, enhancing lethality of ammunition to do more with less, advanced propulsion technologies and designs to extend ranges of engagement, and building intelligence into ammunition. The fifth area of research will be Import Substitution wherein it is being attempted to increase age and provide life extension facilities for existing systems as also upgrade them into next generation ammunition. This is specially important since ammunition is costly and stays in inventory for long. It needs periodic life extension/upgradation through propellant replacement. Most importantly, India holds huge quantities of Russian and Ukrainian ammunition whose life has to be extended indigenously hereafter. Initial discussions have been held with industry and Services who are enthusiastic and have assured of full participation in this endeavour.
The idea is also to develop ammunition “by the Services and for the Services” based on their requirements identified by them. The centre aims to develop fishermen and simply not fish-eaters. Hence the crux of CARD are the proposed academic programs. It is intended to conduct M Tech programs for Service officers and industry as tabulated below. These courses are likely to commence in the forthcoming academic year in 2023. Discussion is underway between IIT M and Service HQs to commence the courses on schedule. The academic courses are ideally suited to officers freshly posted as instructors in various schools of instruction/training establishments so that it is coterminous with their instructional tenures. Officers can be selected based on a simple entrance exam which will be designed in consultation with the Services and industry. Projects in these programs can be based on requirement and broad approval by respective service and the background /field experience of the officer. Once an idea is fully developed and found fit to meet service requirements, it can be taken up for full scale development. The fundamental theme will be ‘ideation to induction’.
All details, timelines and further formalities will be disseminated through proper channels once finalised. Till then, those interested can send their inquiry/response to respective training directorates of their Service. Those interested in attending these courses through industry can approach Aerospace Engineering Department through respective organisations. However it is for information that an online M Tech program on weapon technology has already commenced for officers of Munitions India Limited. This whole idea is not an exercise in shooting in the air. CARD should be in place in a couple of months.
All that has been outlined is subject to refinement and change. The whole concept is long term in nature and will grow with time. In the opinion of many knowledgeable people, it is an idea whose time has come. CARD cannot be compared to DRDO in scale but will be competitive intellectually. It will however be complimentary to DRDO as it grows.
A major aspect which is being highlighted is that CARD is being established without a penny in the pocket and without any financial assistance or grants. However, the CARD team is confident that given the potential of the idea, financial issues will take care of themselves. Already Services are supportive of the idea and some defense industrial establishments are committed to the cause. More will join in due course. I am confident that the Government will support the idea and assists IITM to realize the national aim of Atmanirbhatra as sounded by our Prime Minister. It all about learning to fish than just eating it.
The author is PVSM, AVSM, VSM, and a retired Director General of Artillery.
He is currently a Professor in the Aerospace Department of IIT Madras. He
writes extensively on defence and strategic affairs @ www.gunnersshot.com.
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