Rajnath Singh lauds “new energy” of defence start-ups; Zeus Numerix shows how it's done - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Thursday 16 February 2023

Rajnath Singh lauds “new energy” of defence start-ups; Zeus Numerix shows how it's done

A guidance kit, designed by Zeus Numerix, that effectively converts a dumb iron bomb into a precision guidance munition

By Ajai Shukla

Yelahanka, Bengaluru


Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday equated defence start-ups with “new energy, new commitment and new enthusiasm” at the “Start-Up Manthan” at Aero India 2023.


Praising the Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) initiative, launched under the Defence Innovation Organisation (DIO) by the Ministry of Defence (MoD),
he said this has enabled the emergence of talent from across the country.


Amongst those listening were Basant Gupta and Abhishek Jain who together launched Zeus Numerix, a small modelling and simulation design house. Zeus Numerix quickly illustrated the potential of young Indian scientists and technologists by carrying out a “stage separation analysis” of the BrahMos cruise missile for the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in 2010.


In the following years, Zeus Numerix worked with 17 different DRDO laboratories, delivering 160 assignments that allowed the defence design agency to focus on systems integration.


Gupta says the door to high-tech innovation was really opened to small defence firms when, after 2014, the new government implemented the “Make in India” policy, which prioritised procurement from Indian companies with the help of monetary grants from the MoD.


In 2018, the MoD gave Zeus Numerix a grant of Rs 5 crore, under the Technology Development Fund (TDF) to develop a “composite material sea water pump” for warships. Zeus Numerix built a pump that is lighter than the current one and resistant to corrosion. 


Those pumps are now installed in two of the navy’s frontline destroyers: Indian Naval Ship (INS) Kolkata and INS Delhi.


The start of the Ukraine-Russia conflict in 2014 put the Tejas fighter programme under severe stress, since the Ukraine defence industry, which had been supplying a key hydraulic pump for the Indian fighter, was no longer able to build or supply them. Zeus Numerix and Godrej Aerospace came to the rescue, partnering to design and manufacture that critical sub-system. The cost: Rs 5 crore.


Later, under the Make 2 procedure – under which private firms themselves fund the development of indigenous products --  Zeus Numerix took on the challenge of developing a substitute for the US-supplied guidance kit for Excalibur artillery shells. The new kit takes on the role of guidance, ensuring a far higher degree of accuracy in hitting the target.


Illustrating the many options available to technology innovators today, Zeus Numerix obtained a loan from the Maharashtra Defence and Aerospace Venture Fund (MDAVF), which is managed by IDBI Capital and which is managed by IDBI Capital.


Zeus Numerix is currently working on three projects: a guidance kit for artillery shells; another one for 81 millimetre mortars and the ruggedisation of guidance electronics.


The firm has succeeded in evolving a guidance solution for artillery shells, reducing its dispersion of 300 metres (the distance from the aiming point a shell actually strikes) to just 35 metres.


The dispersion of the 81 millimetre mortar shell has been curtailed from 100 metres to just 5-10 metres.


The last challenge is a difficult one. When a shell is fired, the forces experienced by its guidance electronics range from 10,000 to 20,000 times the pressure of the atmosphere – enough to crush any electronics. But Zeus Numerix has built electronics that can withstand a force of 17,000 times gravity.


“We have done all the miniaturisation and ruggedisation in-house,” says Jain. “We will meet the targets the MoD has stipulated.”


As more and more “technology challenges” are given to young defence innovators, the solutions save money and add to indigenisation. On Wednesday, Rajnath Singh launched the Ninth Edition of Defence India Start-up Challenges (DISC-9) on “Cybersecurity” with 28 problem statements, and the iDEX Investor Hub (iIH). 


“More than Rs 200 crores have already been pledged under iIH by leading Indian investors,” stated the MoD.

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