Defence R&D Scientists Need Service Orientation
Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) of India is the major source of Defence R&D undertaking various projects Design & Development of the Defence Equipment for our Armed Forces. The projects in DRDO are essentially of five types namely Mission Mode (MM), Technology Demonstration (TD), Science & Technologies (S&T), Infrastructure (IF) and Product Support (PS). Out of these five, S&T is the one that forms the backbone of the indigenous R&D wherein a new technology is developed. The next in-house R&D pertains to the TD projects which could be based on own technologies or the one available through open sources from anywhere in the world. Even these open-source available technologies may have to be tailored to suit our product requirements through minimal to moderate innovative research or developmental works. These two types of projects (ie S&T and TD) are the one that are mostly taken up by the scientists mostly on their own; and here comes the need for orientation to the requirements of the Armed Forces.
If there is a properly structured “new technology/product requirement” department in the three services of the armed forces, the focus area of the DRDO could be shaped. However, there is either lack of it or inadequacy. Our soldiers (both Offrs & PBOR) are highly disciplined and moulded through training to use their existing equipment in the best possible usage. Anyone who try to apply themselves to have better equipment, is often seen as the one unsatisfied with the in-use equipment and often resented upon. As a result, acquiring/progressing to better/upgraded equipment becomes a risky proposition to the annoyance of the service hierarchy. Although there may be innovative/technological minds among the users, their principal role is in the best/optimum usage rather than technological upgradation/innovation. The actual user in the field may be able to narrate where their equipment is falling short of the performance requirement but they may not be able to pin-point the exact upgradations/innovations required. This is where the role of a defence scientist starts…to know exactly which technologies are required for our armed forces…and here the problem statement starts.
Defence scientists must be taken to the field formations of the three services to appreciate as to how old is the technology of the equipment our forces use vis-à-vis the state-of-the-art equipment used elsewhere in the world? What is the work environment of our forces in which they are operating? What innovation/upgradation could be done in the equipment or altogether a new technology could be offered within the shortest possible time span? These small orientation visits of the defence scientists itself could initiate the thought process as to what S&T or TD project to initiate under a given time frame.
Science and Technology (S&T) projects are aimed at having working knowledge of the futuristic technologies the world over in anticipation of its exploitation at a later date. It serves as a platform for converting scientific knowledge to usable technology. However, many R&D efforts have been able to provide acceptable technology/ products to User services even when taken up in the TD mode since they have evolved during the course of their pendency to provide acceptable technology solutions to the services and have been inducted into regular use.
Technology Demonstration (TD) projects are for the critical technologies which are perceived useful by DRDO, Specialist agencies or the users to be useful in the coming time. In this type of R&D, a new technology is conceived and proven through a bench model in the modular form or integrated in the laboratory set-up. Thereafter, the technology is given a conceptualized product shape in consultation with the users and its performance is evaluated in the actual or simulated environment. The project is closed after performance requirements are broadly met. TD projects are without any GSQR from the users.
Presently most of the scientists initiate these projects without adequate service orientation of the various requirements, work environment, taking in to consideration of the skill levels of the users incl the battlefield stresses. As a result, many of these projects, lack direct/immediate operational utility for our forces for whom the project was initiated. These S&T and TD projects must be either vetted by the users during its conceptualisation or should be borne out of the R&D scientists’ exposure/familarisation to our armed forces.
It is high time all three services of Armed Forces may initiate an ‘R&D section’ that could liaise with DRDO at all levels of project initiation and monitoring. Some amount of Services-DRDO cooperation has been introduced in the last about 10-15 yrs. Hence, adequate interactions to take place in the formulation of AR/QR, draft Specifications, test schedules and the QA requirements that raise user confidence. Taking the scientists of various experience levels to the users esp to the field/forward areas be extremely helpful in initiating a new project as elaborated.