DRDO wants say in procurements: Says indigenous weapon programmes should not be scuttled by substandard production - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Wednesday 21 March 2012

DRDO wants say in procurements: Says indigenous weapon programmes should not be scuttled by substandard production

The Akash production line at Bharat Electronics Ltd, Bangalore. The DRDO wants to choose the production agency for the weapons platforms that it builds

Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 22nd Mar 12

Besides asking for more funds for research and development (R&D), the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) has pleaded not to let its successful indigenous weapon programmes be scuttled by substandard manufacture in defence public sector undertakings (DPSUs) and in production units of the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB).

There is a serious concern within the DRDO after the Arjun tank, which outperformed the Russian T-90 tank in army trials last year, disappointed the frontline combat units for whom it was bulk-produced by the Heavy Vehicles Factory, Avadi (HVF). The apparent reason: poor manufacture and ineffective quality control.

DRDO chief V K Saraswat, during the organisation’s 36th Laboratory Directors’ Conference that concluded here, on Wednesday, demanded that DRDO have a say in choosing the factory that manufactures its systems.

Seeking intervention of the defence minister, Saraswat stated: “DRDO is mandated to develop prototypes and then hand over to production agencies for large-scale manufacture. But we have realised that a substantial amount of handholding is required in the post-development phase. DRDO would like to play a lead role in (the) selection of production partners and the lead integrator for production of DRDO-developed products, so as to ensure seamless transfer of technology, productionisation and product support."

DRDO seeks to pre-empt potential production glitches in the 248 Arjun Mark II tanks that HVF Avadi will build. Another concern is the Tejas light combat aircraft. While the DRDO-headed Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) has developed the Tejas, it will be mass-produced by public sector giant, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, which is apparently insufficiently prepared for the job. Saraswat also drew attention to the need for “hand-holding” by DRDO in producing the Akash missile system, being built by two DPSUs — Bharat Electronics Ltd and Bharat Dynamics Ltd.

Top DRDO sources tell Business Standard that identifying a production partner at the start of a project, and involving that partner through the development process, is essential for successfully delivering a high-tech product to the military. Instead of the current practice of the MoD arbitrarily nominating a DPSU or OFB factory to build the product, usually when development is almost completed, the DRDO would select a capable partner company from the outset, from the private sector if necessary.

But the MoD quickly made it clear that DRDO would not be given discretionary powers. Defence Secretary Shashi Kant Sharma agreed it was crucial to involve a production partner from the beginning of a project, but arbitrary selection was not an option. “For selection of a production partner at the development stage itself, a fair and transparent methodology is much (sic) essential. Also, preferably, there should be multiple development of production partners instead of a single production partner,” said Sharma.

Defence Minister A K Antony also implicitly opposed Saraswat’s proposal, suggesting DRDO discretion might contravene the requirement for transparency. “You must develop this collaboration in a transparent manner. Otherwise, midway, you will land in trouble. We will not tolerate any malpractices… otherwise, ultimately, we will have to cancel the collaboration. At every stage, you must see that we are proceeding as per correct procedure.”

“The problem is that nominating a DPSU like BEL, or an ordnance factory, for mass producing an equipment is considered transparent. But choosing a private sector company, even on logical grounds, risks being viewed as a malpractice,” says the CEO of a private sector company pursuing opportunities in defence production.

Almost Rs 1,50,000 crore worth of DRDO-developed military equipment has already been introduced into service with the military. The bulk of this has been produced by the public sector, although private sector manufacturers are now beginning to get a small share of the production.


  1. The Armed Forces should support DRDO in this.

  2. That's one bold and much awaited move. DRDO had enough and one burning example is INSAS. In words of one Gorkha NCo who is small arms instructor at one training school" During tests, they even demonstrated military bike run-over on magazine with magazine getting absolutely no damage but one that comes from standard lot breaks even after fall from 4-5ft.....may be it's because of corruption at production level".

  3. The point here is the kickbacks in procurement and contracts dont flow upwards till the centre in case of private companies

  4. Good production practices cannot come at the push of a button.

    They come with work -discipline,expertise,good managers,motivation,leadership,sense of direction,morale,autonomy in decision making and a host of such factors.
    Most unfortunately are not found in our PSUs which have a monopoly on Defense production.
    A private partner does not automatically mean perfection,still is is a proven fact that a private party whose job and existence is on the line(unlike a PSU)if they fail,do perform better given the right playing field.

  5. DRDO wants to ensure seamless transfer of technology, productionisation and product support. That is very nice.

    The concern expressed by DRDO is legitimate.

  6. Its all bull shit!!! There is accountability for HAL and BEL..but not for scientists of DRDO!!! Every order goes to Astra micro wave pvt ltd in Hyd? why? The difference in quotes are few thousands only...that means some body from DRDO leaks info to these pvt sectors, who have vested interests!!!! Is this type of manipulation DRDO wants?

  7. The quality operates from the point of product conceptualization to the point of full customer satisfaction. So there is substance in what DRDO says. Other PSUs should be given preference only if they maintain the strictest quality controls to the surprise of many others. If so, the role of DRDO may be discontinued after say completion of two or three rounds of production.

    Ultimately the free competition and privatization are the remedies for the maladies of the industrialization.

  8. DRDO has to ensure the designs are productionised. From INSAS to MBT story is endless. Take a case of simple Hand Grenade DRDO design can only be produced at Laboratory scale. They controlled the Quality of PINAKA Rockets what happened. Now they want to have a say in productin. DRDO is in every committee and what is their contribution?

  9. are DRDO designs are world standards first of all?They name their projects big after legendary mythological characters....like that character exists or not in the epics,
    the product performance also same!!!
    i dont know about chicken developed by DRDO for soldiers fighting up in siachen and mosquito repellents and bio digesters!!!!

  10. Sir, can you please post the answers to the J-20 question you asked a few weeks ago?

  11. Sir
    Today the electronics media reported that chinese aircrafts intruded seven KM inside Indian territory. Did the radars fail to trace the foreign aircrafts violating Indian airspace. Why did IAF not scramble the sukhois located in NE India. What for these costly equipments are being bought if IAF is not ready to use them at the time of its need.

    The army must remember that India can fight a war with China only with weapons totally manufactured in India.

    The army and airforce must move more men and materials to the front to counter chinese intrusions.

  12. Do not give control to DRDO. This causes more inefficiency and corruption. Let the end users (Eg. army) select the final vendor with DRDO with certain entry and exit protocols in place with a minimum gaurantee clause. Make sure there are penalties involved for every non-conformance issue.

  13. Why do the trucks look like straight out of the 1970's? Can someone answer?

  14. Thank you for this insightful article. I hope and pray the situation will be rectified as soon as possible.

  15. Choice is between the devil & deep blue sea! Give defence production to private companies and they decide when and where the country goes to war. For the production to continue and profit to be generated the product is to be expended. The situation that prevails in the USA. Leave it to the PSUs and you have low quality product that ensures our soldiers are disadvantaged even before the battle is joined.

    What to do? I do not have an answer. Our DRDO which is a Research oriented organisation has no more than 5% of its employees who are PhDs! Tatas do not produce tea. Batas do not produce shoes, likewise BEL does not produce any thing. Our soldiers will continue wearing the "woolen jersey" without a single strand of wool in it and fight with INSAS rifles prone to stoppages.

  16. Anon 16:18

    Dude you mean K-series missile named after our beloved ex-President 'Kalam' is a mythological character. Just wait until this missile fries you...probably than you will be in better position to interpret our mythology.

  17. ^^^ dudd!!! how many Prithhvi missiles failed to take off during the so called user trials. Hve a big name for a programmme!!! make few phoren trips!!! Develop a rickety prototype and dump on either BEL,HAL ,ECIL or another bakara in the name of transfer of technology!!!!! while the PSU goats will be getting the blame, some dude in DRDO gets young scientwist award and a gold medal from PM or RM !!!!There ends the project for DRDO,claiming that india has become the nth country in the world to have this technology...Poor public sector goats!!!! There are many learned intellectuals in DRDO ,but their intellect is not culminating in the design and development of product which is useful to the user and becomes a vital import substitute..With due respects Kalam sahab has been made a mythological character... Does he have any say in any of the ongoing defence product design and selection?

  18. Anonymous at 26 March 2012 16:10 said:

    "how many Prithhvi missiles failed to take off during the so called user trials."

    That's why it's called a trial, dumb ass.

  19. Ghorcharrah Gabbar3 April 2012 at 12:33

    See my comments, particularly bearing time-stamp 31 March 2010 20:17, under the pseudonym Ghorcharrah Gabbar at http://ajaishukla.blogspot.in/2010/03/arjun-tank-outruns-outguns-russian-t-90.html

    Arjun is headed the Vijayanta way - poor systems engineering from the outset with abysmal quality control and quality assurance during manufacture.

  20. GG, your bias against the Arjun is by now well known and many of your claims and argumenst have been rubbished substantially. The Arjun will sink or swim on its own merits, you please continue to sit in Gandhi class seats and make a ruckus..makes no difference to the program. As they say, elephants walk, jackals howl...but the elephant continues to walk.


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