DRDO’s Next Chief A Missile Man

The next Director General of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) will be a missile man — either Dr Vijay Saraswat, Chief Controller (Missiles & Strategic Systems) or his senior Dr A Sivathanu Pillai, Chief Controller & CEO of BrahMos Aerospace, both well-known and highly respected scientists from India’s missile programme. Dr Saraswat, two years younger than his formidable competitor, is virtually synonymous with the Prithvi ballistic missile programme, though his recent renown is owed more to India’s markedly successful anti-ballistic missile programme, Programme Air Defence (PAD) that has flourished during its test-phase overseen virtually single-handedly by him at DRDO Headquarters in Delhi.

His competitor, Dr A Sivathanu Pillai is well known as the relatively high-profile chief of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile programme. Apart from his redoubtable qualifications, two other points stand out for Pillai. And as is well known, appointments to sensitive offices in the government work as much on such intangibles as they do on gritty achievements on paper. For one thing, Dr Pillai is a personal friend of Defence Minister AK Antony, and this is somewhat beyond the obvious Kerala connection. In 2007, remember, it was Antony who personally intervened to rescue Pillai from definite superannuation by giving him a generous service extension. Second, and probably as importantly, Pillai supporters feel he has a stronger case considering that he was in the running in 2004 as well, but lost out to M Natarajan, the current DRDO chief, who retires at the end of this month. The veiled hostility between Natarajan and Pillai has become legend within the DRDO — sentiments that came to a head with Natarajan conspicuously left Pillai’s name out from a list sent to the Defence Minister containing recommended extensions for senior scientists. It was at this time that AK Antony jumped into the fray and rescued the BrahMos chief. It was a time of deep tension at the highest echelons of the DRDO, one that has not been seen before or since.

Sources say the government is comfortable with the prospect of appointing a missile man as the next DRDO chief, considering the critical stage at which almost every Indian missile development project currently is at. It is understood that the third contender Dipankar Banerjee, much younger than the other two, is out of the reckoning for two reasons — one, he’s young enough to be a contender for the top office the next time around. And two, the government is more keen to appoint a scientist involved in strategic systems than metallurgy, which happens to be Dr Banerjee’s area of expertise.

These are, of course, only indications. Ultimately, the government has its own way of choosing appointments. Anyway, it won’t be long before we know!

11 thoughts on “DRDO’s Next Chief A Missile Man”

  1. i feel pillai sahab should be given chance ,as he is thesenior most! Both of them are valueble to DRDO and to the entire indian defence industry! cant imagine both of them at being loggerheads just for the sake of a promotion!
    so i request MOD to create two SA posts!

  2. Dr A Sivathanu Pillai is not only the highly respected CEO of BrahMos Aerospace, but also the DRDO's Chief Controller for R & D, and is also the Special Secretary heading the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation. Consequently, he outranks the MoD's Secretary for Defence Production & Supplies and it is for this reason it was not Dr Pillai who had proposed to the MoD that he be appointed the head of a "ManTech (Manufacturing Technology) Cell". For had be made such a proposal, it would had amounted to a 'demotion' in terms of his next assignment. Therefore, the only options for Dr Pillai are either upward (by being appointed as DG of DRDO/Chief Scientific Adviser to RM), or staying on as Chief Controller R & D for the DRDO and concurrently serving as Special Secretary representing India in the heading the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation (his current Russian counterpart is Mikhail Dmitriev).

  3. Abey [email protected] & 1.10AM, I know exactly for which party you're lobbying. Don't you even think of trying to put words into Dr Pillai's mouth as the PDF document does not even contain his name! Kuch toh sharm kar!! I'm warning you that all your efforts to sabotage the most likely candidate's chances of success by spreading disinformation will only put you in my cross-hairs, and you know what will happen to you once you're cornered in a no-escape zone! So, bechke rehna aur Dr Pillai se maafi maang, abhi, isi waqt, nahin toh tere khilaf mein jung ched dunga!!!

  4. Pillar will not be selected because he is incharge of Bhramos. It will set a bad precedent, the guy incharge of the Russian JV becoming head of DRDO. It's the other guys post to loose.

  5. Prasun, why suddenly so defensive? Do you always become like this when you are roadrolled into being proved incorrect? Saala nikamma read the PDF. It is a proposal from BrahMos itself. If it is from BrahMos, where does that buck stop at BrahMos – Pillai, right? Second, you said very confidently, saala, that the proposal is a demotion. In that case how do you account for the proposal being sent by BrahMos. Prasun we are sorry but you have the credibility of a guy on drugs, very sorry to say this. And your using all that aggressive hindi is simply a sign that you are cornered like a rat once again. We should have a separate blog just to record the number of times this idiot prasun gets it wrong. we would need to requisition extra online space for such a blog since there will be about six to seven posts every day most likely. have the basic humility to prove you are wrong, you fool prasun. nobody here has the power to lobby for anybody.

  6. Iy is Pi!!ai who will be next chief of DRDO. I don't know both the contenders. But i do know that Kerala connection shall override any valid/invalid arguments against Pillai. Just watch. only couple of days more.

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