Projects of National Importance:Between Failure and Success

Recent stories of India’s capability in product development may make one hopeful about India emerging as a major manufacturing nation. However, some of the failures make even the most optimistic ones skeptics too.

The success story of DRDO’s third interceptor test to provide the country with Ballistic Missile Defence System, BMD, is one such case. It is all indigenous effort, designed and developed by Indian scientists and technocrats.

India has some unscrupulously unreliable and politically unpredictable neighbours in China and Pakistan with nuclear capable ballistic missiles that can create havocs in India. The BMD system can only provide India with an effective defence shield against the wide variety of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles with the enemy countries.

DRDO is engaged in developing BMD system, capable of tracking and destroying hostile missiles both inside (endo) and outside (exo) the earth’s atmosphere. DRDO has already conducted tests successfully. The exo-atmospheric test at 48-km altitude on November 27, 2006, and the endo-atmospheric at 15-km on December 6, 2007, were the part of the same game plan. The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has also flight tested third Ballistic Missile Interceptor from Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Wheeler Island successfully achieving the mission objectives set. The two-stage Interceptor Missile fitted with advanced systems has neutralized the target, enemy missile at 75 Kms altitude. The incoming enemy’s Dhanush missile was launched from ship about 100 km away from Coast. The Interceptor missile was launched using mobile launcher located on Wheeler Island Launch Complex and damaged Dhanush hitting accurately.

It was certainly a great achievement and got noticed by the defence scientists world over. However, I am afraid if with the record of the inductions of indigenously developed defence products in services are encouraging. The people in operations are skeptical about their performance standard and the reliability, as its serves their vested interest. And so a natural question is to be answered. Will the officers who matter prefer one from among US (Patriot Advanced Capability-3), Russia (S-300V) and Israel (Arrow-2) that are hawking their systems to India over the home grown ones from DRDO arsenals?

However, the story of another prestigious project, the 14-seater Saras, a multi-role light transport aircraft, aimed at meeting the requirements of executive transport, air ambulance and other community services, was totally different. A Saras aircraft, the second prototype, crashed during a test flight killing three IAF pilots of the Aircraft Systems and Testing Establishment (ASTE). It is shocking. Though the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has announced its resolve to go ahead with its development of the aircraft despite the crash, many like me feel something seriously wrong with its management and success. Something has constrained putting the right talents required to get such projects through all stages. It is unfortunate while some government organizations perform wonderfully well others keep on surviving with regularly failing lots because of the lack of accountability. Remember Saras project was initiated as early as 1996.

I wish the next government brings in reform in this regards. It is serous as it demoralizing for a nation with so much of recognized capability. India needs the right CEO of such projects of national importance and that makes the difference between the success and failure of the stories.

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