DRDO achievements in 2016: A look back at a year in Indian defence technologies

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has had a busy year, and we look back at some of the most innovative technological solutions developed for the armed forces over the course of 2016.

Portable Telemedicine System for Armed Forces
The Portable Telemedicine System (PDF) for Armed Forces was developed by the Defence Bioengineering and Electromedical Laboratory (DEBEL), Bengaluru in early 2016. The system is a means of providing remote assistance to injured personnel in a field hospital or a ship out at sea. The rugged and portable system is capable of taking various readings including blood pressure, temperature, heart rate, and includes an electrocardiogram.

Image: DRDO/DEBEL

Image: DRDO/DEBEL

The system can store and transmit annoted data, and can open up a real time live channel for high quality video conferencing. The data can be transmitted over various communication channels, and includes the capability to interface with satellites. The Biomedical Data Acquisition System (BioDAS) on board was developed indigenously. An archival software on board the system maintains records in a secure environment. The telemedicine system was successfully demonstrated on board the ships INS Deepak, Gomati, and Talwar.

Devastating new Tank Ammunition
Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE) and the High Energy Materials Research Laboratory (HEMRL), research wings of the DRDO based in Pune designed new ammunition meant specifically for the Arjun tank. The Penetration-cum-Blast (PCB) and Thermobaric (TB) Ammunition were successfully test fired in Odisha, demonstrating the devastating power of the ammunition against concrete structures, fortifications and armour plates.

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The test firing of the new tank ammunition. Image: DRDO

The HEMRL lab researchers new high energy materials to be used in warheads and ammunition. The newly developed ammunition uses atmospheric oxygen for the explosions instead of the oxidiser included in the compound, as is done in conventional explosives. This means that the resulting mixture is far more explosive for the same amount of weight. The test firing successfully managed to destroy a derelict tank that had been fitted with various sensors to measure the shock, blast pressure and temperature of the new ammunition. It was the first time in India that the effectiveness of the new ammunition was measured in such detail.

Indian Navy goes green with biodiesel patrolling boats
The Indian Navy has created a Energy and Environment Cell that is tasked with making the Indian Navy an environmentally responsible force. The Indian Navy took the opportunity of World Environment Day to outline some of the initiatives to reduce the carbon footprint of the Indian Navy. During the International Fleet Review held at Visakhapatnam in, the Navy showcased Fast Interception Craft (FIC) in the Presidential column that were running on biodiesel.

Image: Indian Navy

Image: Indian Navy

The biodiesel was produced by the Defence Institute of Bio-Energy Research (DIBER). The efficiency and performance of the machines and Navy equipment using the biodiesel is not compromised, but there are environmental benefits to using alternative fuels. The FIC running on biodiesel are marked with two green stripes, and are known as the Green Strike Force.

Indigenous Sonar Dome
The Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar flagged off the first indigenous composites Sonar dome during the Defexpo 2016. India joined a select group of countries capable of manufacturing such structures. The Sonar dome is attached to the bottom of ships, and scans the seas for submarine threats. The requirements of manufacturing such domes are technologically demanding, with a need for a solid and robust structure that is also acoustically transparent.

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Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar flagging off the indigenously made Sonar Dome.

The research and development needed for manufacturing the dome was conducted by a Pune based DRDO lab known as Research and Development Establishment (Engrs) (RDE(E)). The dome was manufactured by Kineco Ltd, a composites manufacturing company based in Pilerne, Goa. The Vacuum Assisted Resin Transfer Molding (VARTM) Process with a process monitoring capability, to ensure that a quality product was manufactured. Sucessfully manufacturing the Sonar Dome indigenously means that India now has the capability for manufacturing more advanced structures, such as entire ship hulls. There are land based and aerospace applications that stand to benefit from the advancement in manufacturing capabilities.

Varunastra torpedo
The Defense minister Manohar Parrikar handed over the Varunastra to the Indian Navy at the end of June. Varunastra is a ship launched heavy weight torpedo, also known as an underwater missile. The torpedo was developed by Naval Science and Technological Laboratory (NSTL) in partnership with Bharat Dynamics. The torpedo is manufactured by using 95 per cent of indigenous parts.

Image: DRDO

Image: DRDO Defense minister Manohar Parrikar with the Varunastra

During the handover, Parrikar said "In these high technology areas, DRDO’s contribution with 95 per cent of indigenous content is an apt example of Indigenously Designed Developed and Manufactured category." The torpedo was an important milestone in pushing India towards self reliance when it comes to underwater defense capabilities. The Rajput and Delhi class of warships can be equipped with the new torpedos, and future Anti-Submarine Warfare capable ships will also have the capability. The torpedo is capable of taking down stealth submarines in deep or shallow waters.

HAL Tejas
The Indian Air Force inducted two Tejas aircraft into its 45th Squadron on July 1. The Light Combat Aircraft were jointly developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA). The aircraft can take up a variety of roles in combat, and are supersonic. India has been developing the aircraft since 1980. Prior to the induction, the aircraft participated in 3,200 sorties  to demonstrate their capabilities.

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Image: DRDO/HAL/ADA

Prime minister Modi said "Induction of indigenously made Tejas fighter jet into the Air Force fills our hearts with unparalleled pride and happiness. I laud HAL and ADA on the induction of Tejas fighter jet. This illustrates our skills and strengths to enhance indigenous defence manufacturing." The Tejas is capable of carrying four tonnes of weapons. The aircraft are capable of firing air-to-air missiles, and dropping laser guided bombs. The aircraft includes a head mounted display for the pilot, and a glass cockpit on which realtime information is displayed. The Indian Air Force has placed an order for an additional 20 Tejas fighter jets.

Medium Range Surface-to-Air Missile 
Even as the Tejas fighter jet was being inducted into the Indian Air Force, there were a series of three tests of medium range surface-to-air missiles (MRSAM) conducted on the Integrated Test Range off Odisha Coast. The Research Centre Imarat (RCI), Hyderabad developed the MRSAM in a collaboration with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). A number of other DRDO laboratories, private and public companies contributed to the various sub systems that are part of the missile.

A MRSAM being test fired.

A MRSAM being test fired. Image: DRDO.

All three tests went of flawlessly, and the missile hit the designated target every time. President Pranab Mukerjee said "I extend hearty congratulations to all those associated with the successful test-firing of the Medium Range Surface-to-Air Missile (MRSAM), developed jointly with Israel. The nation is proud of the achievement made by the DRDO and looks upon DRDO to make even greater efforts to boost India’s indigenous defence capabilities in technologically challenging areas." The missiles have a range of 70 kilometres, and are meant to handle any kind of aerial threats including fighter aircraft and helicopters.

Long Range Surface-to-Air Missile
In September, the DRDO conducted two tests of a Long Range Surface-to-Air Missile (LRSAM). The missiles were developed jointly by DRDO and Israel Aerospace Industries, similar to the MRSAM. The LRSAM was test fired against two pilotless target aircraft, at different ranges and altitudes. Both missiles successfully hit their targets. President Pranab Mukerjee congratulated the defence establishment by saying "The nation is proud of this achievement. I am sure that this success will further boost India’s defence capabilities in technologically challenging areas."

Image: DRDO

Image: DRDO

A number of Indian companies contributed various components to the missile. The missiles are tracked using Radar. During the tests, all the systems on board functioned as expected. These included the radar guidance system, the communications launch system, and the missile system. The missiles were also tested on a flying target in Israel. The MRSAM test was one of the landmark achievements of the cooperation of the two countries in an effort to create advanced weapons systems.

Rustom-II UAV
In November, DRDO successfully carried out the maiden flight of the Rustom-II unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The UAV is combat capable and can be equipped with electro optic sensors, radar, electronic intelligence, communication intelligence and situational awareness payloads. The Rustom-II is a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV. The maiden flight was carried out at the Aeronautical Test Range (ATR), Chitradurga, near Bengaluru, a new facility dedicated to testing UAVs and manned aircraft. The tests proved the capabilities of the flying platform, including take-off, banking, level flight and landing.

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The Rustom-II test flight. Image: DRDO.

The development of the UAV contributes to the Make in India initiative, as many sub systems were developed and manufactured entirely in India, with the participation of private companies. The air frame, landing gear, flight control, and avionics sub systems were made entirely in India. The UAV is meant for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) roles. The UAV is going to undergo further test and trials, for validation of the design parameters. The next step for the UAV is user validation trials.

Nag anti-tank missile
The Nag anti-tank missile joined the ranks of indigenously developed missiles by the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) a program that was lead by former president Abdul Kalam. The Nag joins Agni, Prithvi, Trishul and Akash. The Nag is a lockon-before-launch (LOBL), fire-and-forget, anti-tank guided missile, and was successfully tested against targets up to a range of four kilometres.

Image: DRDO

Image: DRDO

The test flights tested the the indigenously developed  Thermal Target System and the Infrared Imaging Seeker on board the missile. Real time image processing algorithms on board the missile process the accuracy of the flight in real time. The Nag missile is meant to tackle modern battle tanks and other heavily armoured tanks. There is a high chance of neutralising the target with a single missile. The Nag can be fired from land or air based platforms, and and there are amphibious and mobility tests being conducted. The Nag missile is ready for induction into the Indian Army.

The many technological advancements over the year, show a serious dedication to developing the technological capabilities on home ground. A number of research labs by DRDO across the country are involved in the Make in India initiative, and the participation of private and public sector defense contractors increases the capability of manufacturing in India.


Published Date: Dec 19, 2016 04:07 pm | Updated Date: Dec 19, 2016 04:07 pm