Military & Aerospace

Defence PSUs: The Great Betrayal
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Issue Vol 24.4 Oct-Dec2009 | Date : 05 Oct , 2013


When the Saras crashed, killing its crew, the deafening silence in the media, as also from those who know about flight testing, design and manufacture of aeroplanes, and the unforeseen dangers in this activity, was rudely apparent. What is the Saras for? Who would use it? What kind of pilots would fly such a piece of aeronautical disingenuity? Was the Saras made to order, or was it created without any Qualitative Requirements? Which potential airline or military user was consulted before the Saras design was frozen? Which certification agency oversaw the progress of Saras from the drawing board to the shop floor, and into the air? These and many more questions are out of public domain, and alas, neither the media, nor the aeronautical engineering community, nor the Office of Scientific Adviser (SA)  to the Raksha Mantri (RM), nor the Parliament, nor the Defence Ministry have demanded answers from the Designers or the Flight Testing agency controlling the Saras programme.

No chief of the IAF will ever buy the Saras. Which VIP will fly in this piece of unreliable aeronautics?

Whither Accountability. What can one say about the accountability of these organisations? Three precious lives of the Indian Air Force perished with the Saras. Why were they doing this job on an aeroplane which would never to be inducted into the IAF? Why was this piece of poor aeronautical engineering thrust upon the IAF?

Why Do the Armed Forces Get Unusable Weapons?

Enough Is Enough. It logically leads us to a very basic question – why did the IAF do this for a lemon of an aircraft? No chief of the IAF will ever buy the Saras. Which VIP will fly in this piece of unreliable aeronautics? Just because the National  Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) can make nothing better, must we accept it and then precipitate an avoidable tragedy? What are the credentials of the NAL to design aeroplanes? Are NAL designers willing to travel in the Saras? Indeed, the IAF must support indigenous industry, and it has done so for decades, many times against better judgment, and what is more, that it has sacrificed in men and efforts to boost indigenous technology. After 26/11 the clamour  was: “enough is enough”.

Is it not time for the Indian Armed Forces to say the same thing about the DRDO, specially after the Saras crash? Arguments and justification for PSUs/DRDO/Ord Factories continuing to design and manufacture what the Armed Forces do not want, will remain. It has to stop somewhere, maybe this accident should galvanize us into affirmative action to resist being burdened with weapons that we do not need today, and we will certainly not need tomorrow.

 I was staying at the BSF Mess, and a young constable asked me “Saab, why have we been given the INSAS rifle? It stops more often than it fires”. After pumping crores into Ordnance Factories, they make unreliable rifles for our jawans?

India’s Security in Jeopardy. Some classic examples of our R&D failures are the Arjun tank, INSAS rifle, Saras, Kaveri, Akaash, Nag, Indra Radar, and so many more unknown to me and India. During Aero India 2009, I was staying at the BSF Mess, and a young constable asked me “Saab, why have we been given the INSAS rifle? It stops more often than it fires”. After pumping crores into Ordnance Factories, they make unreliable rifles for our jawans? The recent revelations about DG Ordnance Factory Board, taking bribes from suppliers, tells us what is happening in that organization. What is worse, no one seems to want to remedy the malaise. We faujis have made so much fuss about the 6th Pay Commission, One Rank One Pension, Warrant of Precedence – fasts at Jantar Mantar, but no protest from any quarter, over all these years, about useless equipment being dumped upon the disciplined faujis? In turn the fauji fights and wins the battle. Is this not willful dereliction of duty by successive DRDO scientists, and their supreme commander, SA to RM? Each of them, without exception is guilty.

Forget the investment poured into DRDO, look at the loss of lives because of their incompetence and negligence. The constant failure of the DRDO has placed India’s security in peril.

Most SAs and their scientists are alive and flourishing. Even today in 2009 is it not shameful that we are importing flak jackets and winter clothing? Should DRDO/PSUs be even tasked to design and manufacture equipment for the Armed Forces? Won’t a small entrepreneur in NOIDA or Erode do a better job? Or better, ask Tirupur – they will replace their traditional hosiery with armored jackets for the Armed Forces, CISF, BSF, and ordinary cops. Whenever the Armed Forces want a weapon system, the DRDO invariably says “we can make it” and they have an unassailable record of never delivering. Ultimately, we import that same equipment at ten times the cost. Stories of this perfidy are too many to enumerate. In the interim, battles take place, and till now over the last 62 years, the fauj has delivered victory to India, except in 1962. DRDO cannot boast of such a record. Why not? Forget the investment poured into DRDO, look at the loss of lives because of their incompetence and negligence. The constant failure of the DRDO has placed India’s security in peril. The purpose of this article is not to list the unerring failures of our DRDO laboratories, Defense PSUs, and Ordnance Factories. It is to seek accountability, disciplinary action from those who have put India in jeopardy, by constant failure to give what is promised to the Indian Armed Forces to fight for India and her people.

Who Gets Punished for Non-Performance & Manpower Shortage?

No Accountability. Fauji officers who under perform or commit blunders get punished, they miss promotions and the majority in any case waste out with as little as 25 years of service. DRDO scientists continue unhindered till 60 years, even when they do not deliver. Which DRDO boffin was punished for the Jaguar that blew up over Pokhran, or for repeated failed missiles? Has anyone from Ordnance Factories been punished for the INSAS rifle? For nearly 35 years of their service, DRDO scientists fail to make what they are paid for. They fail in delivering goods. They fail to even copy a weapon system, and then retire gracefully with full benefits.

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Can there be a more pitiable state of affairs in the scientific community of India? How much longer will DRDO and its associates gobble up large parts from the Consolidated Fund of India, with zero returns? How much longer must the Armed Forces be held hostage by non-performing technocrats? Will no one address this malady?

Can India continue to accept this treachery? Is there no one who will free us from these incompetent high priests of technology? Can the media not seize this opportunity to reveal the truth and force remedial action? How come that greatest SA to RM could not ‘ignite the minds’ of his non-performing scientists? The basic cause is that motivational fuses were never inserted into DRDO scientists.

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15 thoughts on “Defence PSUs: The Great Betrayal

  1. Dear Gp Capt Bewoor,
    It take lot of guts to criticize at this level. I do appreciate you for this but it is lot more than you see from outside. I believe bureaucratic structure in Defence PSUs and DRDOs is also responsible for it. In our country everyone wants power at every level, we have to develop a culture of working with own hand let it be a Scinetist C or H, Deputy Engineer or General Manager, Lt or Brig or Commodore. Are you ready to sacrifice your convenience? Now you will be one who will criticise this. We want engineers, scientist, technicians from heart and not officers disguised in form of scientist. We want people who can command machines, technologies and not mere people. The time has changed, If war happens it will be a technology war. We want leaders who can motivate youngsters to build latest technology. We want product based R&D in Defense PSUs and not mere central R&D who aspire to make everything and ends up in nothing. We need to learn from small country like Israel in terms of Defence technology development. We want officers to give away their comfort and become Engineers from there heart and start working on ground with dedication and devotion. We want barrier to be removed in terms of money and procedures which stop young engineers from implementing new ideas. We want promotions in DRDO to be based on the idea they implement and not mere on length of service. It is long way to go sir, it is all about scientific temperament which as country we still lacks.

  2. I’m afraid, Gp Capt AG Bewoor may not be in the know of the complete facts regarding the Saras prototype crash. He seems to imply that lives were lost in flight-testing a sub-standard or an ill-designed prototype.

    May I request the author and other readers to kindly download and read the DGCA’s final report on the investigations into the crash of the Saras prototype available online at :‎.

    Also, for heavens sake please do a bit of background research before putting out an article in this esteemed forum – the Saras programme is NOT under any DRDO or Defence PSU. It is controlled by NAL (National Aeronautics Laboratory), which is under CSIR ( Council of Scientific & Industrial Research), which in turn is partially funded by Min of Science & Technology.

    So your very foundation for this bit of DRDO & Defence PSU bashing appears rather shaky!!

  3. The ‘Saras’ episode can be seen s a part of the developmental process. Many a times an aircraft is designed as a competence building project and there need not be any specific demand for the same. The Folland Gnat was a private venture by its designer, Dr Petter, but later on did very well with the IAF. Here too many test pilots were lost before the teething troubles were corrected. To the best of my belief, the ‘Saras’ could be in the Dornier-228 class of aircraft. What is lamentable is that just because the prototype crashed, all development work has ceased. The route to building a robust aeronautics industry would necessarily be strewn with wrecks – there is just no shortcut. While the DRDO has not been a resounding success, there have been modest tradeoffs. The focus must be on soul-seaching with the aim to remedy the situation. merely criticizing does not lead anywhere.

    • Regardless, is there any justification to kill people in the name of testing technology? Would you agree to your brother, son, friend, etc being the pilot for such planes to test whether it will kill them or not???
      Plz do not support incompetency with rubbish logic.

  4. Part-III
    Corruption has been major malaise stunting our growth and it seems to have overtaken us in every field. As far as possible import of weapon systems should be avoided. DRDO, DGOF,DSU’s, private sector can work on 24×7 format to go whole hog in indigenization.Yes, many old SA, CCR&D’s & retired scientists of DRDO are thankfully still alive as their time has not yet come. Nation would better take advantage of their experience in defence technology which can be learnt more from failures than successes. Perhaps Institute of Defence Scientists & Technologists can bring them & other eminent scientists like G Madhavan Nair on board and address some of the problems of DRDO & re-engineering effort including some v issues brought out by the author.

  5. part-II
    Nothing wrong with INSAS but our army wants to go in for modular assault rifle which can be developed locally. IR homing in Nag or any other such missile requires target to be distinguishable against the background –probably this has been major problem which needs to be resolved. If India can hit an incoming missile with a missile land a near ICBM on dot 5000 km away-surely Nag is not that big issue but time it is taking is matter of concern. Kaveri is yet another area of concern which needs to be overcome even by recalling old stalwarts who had lead the development.

    We have many an imported dud in our inventory like concrete dibbers which ricochet & hardly dig in or eagles which cannot fly straight much less hit any target. No country with super power ambition can fight with imported weapons. Like China we have to go reverse to move forward.
    Whether the crash of ill fated Jaguar was due fuze FBRN or due to other reason has not been established. Before a fuze or for that matter any other system is induced into service it gets cleared by Cemilac & ASTE. It is quite unthinkable how a bad design could have passed the muster? If it has there is reason enough to make Cemilac truly independent.
    Body armour requires proper designing & testing and quite uncompromising inspection therefater. Apparently we don’t have indigenous specifications for bullet proof jackets which would provide protection against threat levels prevalent here. After design has been firmed up, manufacture can be at Tripur, Erode, Ludhiana or Noida which are surely in India.
    A soldier in any war can fight only if entire nation is behind him & has fire power to engage the enemy, economic power to sustain the war & political clout not to be cowed down. Even services had taken up development work like copying a retarder unit in mid seventies but not succeeded.

    • I simply do not unanrstded why all this mystery being cooked in the name of Nirbhay. From DRDO’s hand-outs from time to time it is clear that Nirbhay is a sub-sonic two-stage cruise missile with 700 to 1000 km range,being developed as land, sea and air variants. The land and sea variants probably will have a range of 700 km, while the air variant may be having 1000 km range. The turbo fan engine is from Russia’s NPO-Saturn and its is going to be licence produced in HAL’s Koraput engine division. Its first flight is probably in August or september this year. So pretty soon we will know what it looks like. By the by why all this controversy about what it is suppose to look? It is the performance that counts. As for performance, I am sure our hard working, competent and totally dedicated DRDO scientists will do another Agni-5. I am congratulating Saraswat and his brilliant team in advance!

  6. A considerable number of Navy oriented DRDO projects have been very successful.
    PSUs that are involved in ship building have some outstanding achievements in warship and submarine construction.About 70% of our warship requirements are produced in our indigenous PSU shipyards.
    Time and cost overruns are being brought down too in stages.
    Arihant is a successful nuke submarine project, under the SA to RM.Our missile capability that is envy of many countries in the world is DRDO achieved!
    I agree everything may not be optimum-there is wastage and sloth.
    But that is more a national characteristic than only DRDO specific!
    Now the pvt shipyards are being integrated into the warship and submarine construction initiatives. ABG, Pipava, Bharati, L&T already have Defence orders!

    • The Arjun controversy espexos the Indian Nation down to its naked roots. The Army is playing with the Indian defence, the scientific establishment and the resolute efforts of untold Indians. There is a huge conspiracy about, apart from the usual reasons of corruption and politics. The Russians with Indians as willing partners are destroying our defences, by exercising complete control over the qualitative and quantitative aspects of Indian military hardware. The aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, the Indo – US military transport plane being manufactured in Russia, all point to this phenomenon. We are losing not only countless jobs but making our nation completely dependent on foreign powers who sway from one end to another on a daily basis. There are two glaring defects in our military arsenal. (1) The capability to indigenize relative to our enemies viz. Arjun vs the Chinese T99, JF-17, JF-10 vs LCA, NAG vs its Chinese counterpart, Chinese SAMs equivalent to S-300 vs what with now the Israelis occupying that space etc, etc, etc. It is quite clear by now that the entire Indian military is partial to imported products from wherever they arrive. The big joke is then, how the military deigns to patronize the skills of Indian scientists. There could be nothing more insufferable and treacherous. The media has played a damning role in this venture, the leaders being none other than the Indian Express, the vociferously didactic enforcer of Globalisation – read – Importisation. Can anyone for once believe that the Chinese succeeded in building world class military products from the get – go? No, no one has. You should read what atrocious garbage the military talks on compensating the exchequer for the capital expenditures lost on the Arjun Project. Do these people have any sense of patriotism and will they ever fight for India?(2) The military has no ideas. It is not a student body and only buys products. The training is as shallow as their focus on innovation. The reflections of this pathetic attribute find an echo everywhere. The LCA, Arjun, Missile, Akash, Nag become outdated and irrelevant when ready for induction. Is there a coincidence or a pattern of deliberate malafide appearing as naivete? There is a lack of ideas in everything from structure, doctrine, logistics, products, networking, planning…take a guess. Truly, as one commentator in this thread suggested…India should outsource its military defence, its sportsmen etc.How painful it is to know that the Army purchased 2000 T-90s from the Russians already eliminating Arjun for no reason excepting personal greed! Also, thousands of Milans thereby eliminating Nag.THE ARMY MUST BUY ARJUN IN PLENTY AND SYSTEMATICALLY INDIGENIZE IT COMPLETELY. THAT IS THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE OF INDIA!

  7. Well Groupie Bewoor that is some write up!Treachery,Betrayal wow!
    Sound bites looks ominously close to the rhetoric of Arvind Kejriwal!

    NAL which designed and carrying flight testing the Saras is a CSIR Lab.
    R&D the world over is failure prone, many development projects are unsuccessful.It is part and parcel of the R&D projects.

    Yes the loss of life of the test pilots and the flight engineer are indeed very sad.
    When one volunteers in to these jobs the high risk part of it is accepted by the pilots/flt engineer.Again it is part and parcel of high risk development projects like manned aircraft.

    Who are the private players capable of investing in development of aircrafts?We do not have a Boeing or Lockheed Martin or Airbus or EADS yet in our country.

    Recently MOD has revamped the working of the DRDO quite extensively; decentralizing enhanced financial and project decision making directly to the Labs, thereby increasing accountability . The Labs can directly negotiate technology deals to faster pace R&D with foreign technology giants.
    A faster track system of clearing projects have been put in place which needs apex level decisions.
    This are a culmination of extensive discussions between the MOD and the various stake holders over 3 years-primarily the Armed Forces and other stake holders. CSIR has been integrated into the overall R&D edifice along with DRDO. The MBT Arjun and the LCA both very credible development projects has been pushed down the reluctant Army and Airforce, who have always preferred imports. Improvements and mods in both these projects will follow, since they have a few areas that need improvements. A lot of the DRDO produced
    Navy specific projects

    Will these produce immediatly path breaking changes in R&D management in india?Possibly not, but surely it is one giant leap forward!

    The subject article seems to suffer from serious infirmities in pre-write research and factual analysis and also loaded with excessive accusatory hyperbole!

  8. Why doesn’t Abdul Kalam who pornificates on all and sundry subjects of national importance and that too from high pedestal answer some of the question on DRDO raised by the aut5hor. Don’t forget he was the face of the DRDO for several years besides holding the post of the boss of DRDO and SA to RM as well. He , in my opinion, more of a polkitician than a scientist and sidelined the Army in dealing with the Ministry of Defence.

  9. The PSUs are the VOTE BANKS created by Late Shri Jawaharlal Nehru. They are preserved in the same form for bringing back his party to power. It is also a great Boon for the Bureaucrats to get posted when they do not fit in any where in the hierarchy, to be wasted out with all the facility and perks in pocket. I remember when I joined service, an all weather/multi fuel vehicle was there known as SHAKTHIMAN. In hills it was a death trap, as in sharp curves the STEARING mechanism used to get locked , and before the driver realised, the vehical would be down the gorge about 200 ft killing many occupants. Another gained infamy recently is the BEML, supplying an imported all weather vehicle TATRA, used for ferriyng Medium and Heavy Artillary. We need not comment on it,the world knows about it.

  10. Oh my countrymen. Wake up. Let us together construct a modern guillotine to identify suitable candidates for our experiment. this is not difficult. We could start from anywhere! Let us start with DRDO!!

    • It is so so so good to finally hear smeoone talking of why the T-90 is superior to the Arjun. Fantastic!! 1. Defense suite Shotra – This means that a Shotra like suite (Trophy?) would make the Arjun even more awesome!! Go Arjun!!2. Arjun armor is better – Yes it is. Go Arjun!!3. Remotely Operated Gun Station – I though all tanks had co-axial machine guns. So in those rarest of rare cases when a tank has to engage infantry shooting bullets at it, it can just use the co-axial MG. Then again this is such a ridiculous scenario that it doesnt merit any attention. Infantry shooting AKs at a tank? What next? the T-90 has whirling swords to cut off horses legs?! If infantry is swarming your tank, you should be thinking about incoming AT missiles than AK rounds.4. Arjun has some imported content – Well the whole darn T-90 is imported. And where did you get the idea that Avadi makes the COMPONENTS for T-90??!!You want to make indegenous tank engines, transmissions and main guns, and want to do that for what 124 tanks? What school of finance did you go to? 5. The Arjun is a great tank – Well I have to admit, I dont have any counters to this one. You got me there.I concede defeat. Lets get more T-90s and dump the Arjun.



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