V.K. Saraswat, Director General of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), on Friday gave a restrained leg up to enhancing foreign direct investment (FDI) cap in defence sector to 40 to 45 per cent from the current 26, but felt any hike beyond that would give away control of systems and equipment thus developed to foreign countries.
“Participation of foreign industries in indigenous defence manufacturing is welcome, but we don’t want the control to be with foreign countries… It is better that we decide the ratio of FDI on a case-to-case basis,” Mr. Saraswat told the media at Marine Drive after inaugurating Kerala’s first defence expo, Suraksha-2013, jointly organised by Swadeshi Science Movement and the DRDO, with its Naval Physical and Oceanographic Laboratory (NPOL) at Thrikkakara taking the lead.
Earlier in the day, Mr. Saraswat said DRDO was working towards increasing self-reliance content in defence from the present 55 per cent to 70 per cent in the next 10 years.
Effective self-reliance, he said, would be cost-effective, qualitative indigenisation independent of foreign control.
On the DRDO’s unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) programme, which is largely under wraps, he said the Kaveri engine developed for the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas, was being modified to power the Indian drone. “At the moment, it is a directed science and technology programme on the design stage,” he said.
Putting apprehensions to rest, he said there was no plan to shelve development of the ambitious fifth-generation advanced medium combat aircraft (AMCA), which would have super cruise, thrust vectoring and stealth capabilities, supplemented by modern avionics and state-of-the-art technologies. “Only the other day, we had a full-day review of its design at DRDO lab, Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA). In a year’s time we are going to the government seeking for its project sanction,” he said.
The LCA Tejas Air Force version was developing well, bracing for complete initial operational clearance (IOC-II) in June-July and final operational clearance next year, he said.
Nine aircraft have so far done some 2,000 sorties and the second aircraft (production aircraft) is under construction for the force.
“In order to meet the Air Force requirements, we need to augment production capability for LCA. The government is seized of the matter and a whole new advanced production line is being set up at HAL for this,” he said.
Meanwhile, the naval variant of the LCA was gearing up for its first ski-jump or arrested landing by the end of the year at the soon-to-be commissioned shore-based test facility at INS Hansa in Goa.
The DRDO, Mr. Saraswat said, was trying to make an ‘engineering model’ of a fuel cell-based air independent propulsion (AIP) system for fitment on board India’s future submarines with a view to enhancing their endurance.
“This may even go on board the Scorpenes constructed under Project-75,” he said in response to a query.
On the Mark-2 variant of MBT Arjun, Mr. Saraswat said the modifications suggested by the army had been successfully incorporated in the tanks.
“After its summer trials in June-July, we will seek clearance for making it from next year onwards… We’ve even demonstrated firing of missile from the MBT,” he said.
To a question, Mr. Saraswat said attrition rate in DRDO was less at 2 per cent. “We only lost 140 engineers in the last five years,” he said.