by P. Chacko Joseph
Dr. K. Santhanam of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in a panel discussion for indigenization of equipment in Indian armed forces famously quoted “The first point is I would like to talk about is the process of General Staff Qualitative Requirement (GSQR) itself. It has been characterized in very simple terms for a layman to understand. It is called BBC – Best of Brochure Claims. The answer comes back from Indian R&D is that UDIPI – you demand and I produce immediately.” He was gracious enough not to mention that GSQR is also made after reading the Pakistani propaganda.
A host of retired Air Marshals, colonels and Major Generals from Indian Air Force (IAF) and Indian Army (IA) have decided to take up writing and commenting for newspapers and magazines. Since they cannot write on the conditions of IA and IAF, for which they themselves are to blame, they have started to write on the state of DRDO. It is safe to write about DRDO, because, DRDO does not strike back. My apologies to the retired armed forces community, which has served the Indian forces, who made the best use of the situation and weapons to defeat the enemies. While we have this unprofessional tribe from the armed forces, we also have retired officers like Major General (Retd) Eustance D’Souza, Air Marshal Philip Rajkumar, who have tirelessly worked on the positive aspects of armed forces.
Recently an 8 edition “self proclaimed investigative” article on DRDO was penned by Indian Express reporters. They quoted one of this retired Indian Army, DRDO bashing tribe member Brigadier D K Babbar, who also happens to be the points man for trials of Arjun tank “The Arjun tank has no future. It still cannot fire straight. The T-90, a far superior tank, can kill the Arjun. We would not cross any border with these tanks.”
But let us look at what IA was cooking up when he was in service. Each time the Arjun Tank was close to production, Indian Army handed out a new GSQR. In 1990’s there was a news report in Pakistani papers that they were testing M1A1 Abrams. Based on that Indian Army gave DRDO a new GSQR. DRDO fulfilled the GSQR with a product that has same capability of M1A1 Abrams with 10 ton less weight. However Pakistan never purchased the tank and instead went ahead and purchased T-80UD from Ukraine after a decade. In a knee jerk reaction and in spite of severe opposition and failing in trials, Indian Army went ahead and purchased T-90S tanks. The government just recovering from a limited war in Kashmir gave in to the demands of the Army. Indian Army did not stop there, it did not want Arjun tank and hence there were calibrated leaks to media on the technical problems of tanks and when they were on the verge of being fixed, India Army went on complaining about the weight of the tank and the cost and foreign content. T-90S is a total foreign tank, having same technical problems which Arjun Tank faced initially. While Indian Army kept returning the 5 production Arjun Tanks to the manufacturer for corrections, the Russian manufacturer of T-90S refuses to take the tanks back for correction. As a result, in June 2006, an Indian Army offices not willing to be named told a newspaper that “In one armoured regiment in Punjab, an alarming 30 of 40 tanks were “off-road.” Even after such serious issues, Indian Army wants to import another 300+ T-90S tanks from Russia. Arjun Tank production is put into back burner. The only saving grace for IA is that the Pakistani T-80UD’s are in no better condition.
Let’s move on to IAF, which along with IA is a usual suspect for bad mouthing DRDO products. The latest of the IAF member of the retired DRDO bashing tribe, Air Marshal Brijesh D. Jayal has penned an article in the Telegraph “Forces on Review -Why is the DRDO stagnating? He goes on and on about bashing DRDO and then blames Ministry of Defence for the failures. Understandably, he says nothing about how IAF killed DRDO projects. IAF has the worst record than IA when it comes to indigenization. DRDO designed Hindustan Fighter – 24 (HF-24) also called Marut, when India could not design a car. It was a remarkable aircraft, but, the HF-24 fell short due to the lack of a proper engine. By re-designing they fitted two GNAT engines on the aircraft. The aircraft was very good but in the initial stages it was still under powered. With a right engine, the aircraft was designed to fly at Mach 2.6. A number of trainer aircraft of HF-24 went supersonic straight and level. Considering it has no after burner it was a remarkable achievement. IAF dropped the plane from its inventory. The senior IAF officers did not want the plane. Today the IAF has a wish list of aircraft going supersonic without after burner as a future technology.
The HF-24 had a ground attack variant called HF-73. HF-73 featured an up-rated engine by Gas Turbine research Engine (GTRE). HF-24 could fly 640 knots at low level with four drop tanks, a huge task for even modern day deep penetration attack aircrafts. However the up-rated engine produced more drag on HF-24 airframe hence it had to be redesigned. IAF was desperate for buying the Jaguar aircraft from UK. IAF prevailed on the Ministry of Defence and purchased Jaguar. The matter did not end there. Jaguar was supposed to be part of the nuclear bomb delivery vehicles that was of the points IAF used to buy Jaguar. So when the nuclear bomb was actually mated, IAF found that the wings were too low and the bomb touched the ground when the Jaguar tried to take off. The situation did not improve. IAF graduated into knee jerk purchases when Pakistanis inducted F-16’s. IAF reacted by buying MiG-23, MiG-29 and Mirage – 2000 aircrafts. While MiG-29 had engine problems, IAF pilots did not know what o do with the Mirages. Mirages were very sophisticated aircrafts. Finally they mastered it. Light Combat Aircraft was being designed by then. IAF played its role by changing GSQR repeatedly as the F-16 in Pakistan kept getting better capabilities. Finally, Pakistan was embargoed and it had problems getting any new type of aircraft. It was a golden chance to freeze the LCA design and get in limited production which would make a base for better version of LCA, that’s how all great planes were designed. IAF choose to keep upgrading the GSQR till the point the IAF squadron strength kept dropping because of the high attrition rates of MiG-21 due to poor parts quality as USSR had disintegrated and there were no spares supply. IAF hadn’t learnt its lesson. Another of the IAF follies was a 20 year period wait for its Advanced Jet Trainer. The HF-24 had a potential to be excellent Advanced Jet Trainers. IAF kept killing its pilots but would still wait for a foreign trainer.
The Retd. Air Marshal Brijesh D. Jayal asserts that DRDO and MoD are responsible for state of IA and IAF’s equipment woes. India never had equipment advantage over Pakistan. 1965 and 1971 wars were fought with obsolete weapons. First time in history of IAF, it has advantage over Pakistan and can even reach China with Su-30 MKI. It still has a chance to freeze LCA design, incorporate foreign equipment weapon and engine, till Indian option succeed. LCA can come out as Mark I, then Mark II etc than again waiting for perfect LCA to rollout and then get into production. Couple of months back an unnamed IAF source was quoted saying that any aircraft without AESA will be obsolete, in reference to LCA. These are the officers who belt out GSQR? F-18 AESA radar, the first deployed AESA radar is not working properly. It’s not expected to be or as a matter of fact any AESA radar is expected to be fully operational before 2015. Then the IAF goes on and tells DRDO to redesign the LCA wings for some weapon integration. All this as IAF wants to cite delay in LCA to buy outdated and obsolete design MRCA’s. IAF seems to be taking the induction of an obsolete design fighter called JF-17 in neighborhood as a serious development.
Interestingly, something was amiss with the Su-30 acquisition too. Mirage-2000 figures in both requirements of a Long range combat aircraft and medium range combat requirement. Only IAF can explain why? The Su-30 purchase was more of a political decision. IAF with no strategic vision came up with GSQR in shabby manner. That is why the SU-30 MKI deliveries became delayed. I had met the Sukhoi representatives in one of the Dubai Airshows. On being asked on the delivery schedules for SU-30 MKI’s, one of the Sukhoi representatives said mockingly “How do we know? IAF has not been able to give us the qualitative requirement.”
The worse our Retd. Air Marshal Brijesh D. Jayal could come up was “As numerous examples have shown, these organizations have readily accepted the commitments but rarely delivered.” The Retired Air Marshal forgets to tell us who else would have accepted the commitments? Except, LCA, Arjun and Trishul, which other systems have not been delivered? Has the retired Air Marshal ever wondered how the Indian Navy has no such problems? It’s a popular opinion that the LCA naval version will be operational faster than the Air Force version in spite of being started late. It gives us pride to see Indigenous Air Craft Carriers have been designed to accommodate the Naval Light Combat Aircrafts.
There is no second doubt on the professionalism of IA and IAF when it comes war fighting. When it comes to infighting, IA and IAF are the most unprofessional forces. So, next time you hear a bad report on DRDO, you can safely point your fingers on the usual suspects, the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force.
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