NEW DELHI: Ten major projects of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), including its combat plane and missile programmes, are delayed, Union Minister of Defence Arun Jaitley informed the Lok Sabha on Friday. However, he assured that corrective steps to address the issue was being taken.
Replying to various questions, Jaitley also mentioned that 19 fighter aircraft and 11 helicopters of the Armed Forces had crashed in the last three years claiming the lives of 24 military personnel.
Besides the Air Force’s Light Combat Aircraft, other delayed projects include the Navy’s Light Combat Aircraft, aero-engine Kaveri, Airborne Early Warning and Control System aircraft and Long Range Surface-to-Air missile. The air-to-air missile Astra, Advanced Light Weight Torpedo, Dual Colour Missile Approach Warning System for fighter aircraft, among others, too have had time overruns, Jaitley said.
“As far as delays are concerned, I think absolute delay may be a little bit of a misnomer. Where there is a large programme, the delay refers to the conclusion of the programme,” he said.
On remedial measures to complete projects without further delay, the Defence Minister said the DRDO was adopting the ‘consortium approach’ for design, development and fabrication of critical components, apart from promoting synergy and better co-ordination among user services, the DRDO and production agencies through cluster meetings.
“Funds have been increasingly made available to the DRDO. Last year, for instance, the funding was `11,500 crore. This year, we have increased it further by `3,000 crore,” he said.
On a proposal to allow 49 per cent FDI in the defence sector, Jaitley said the objective is to bring best technologies to the country. The government has decided that now it would be “Indian majority controlled” and it would bring the best technologies in the defence sector, the Minister said.
The country has to come out of the situation where India is the largest buyer of defence equipment and ensure that “we have domestic capacity within India”, he noted. Responding to another query, Jaitley said the government has not taken any decision with regard to the DRDO collaborating with private players abroad.
On the issue of scientists quitting the DRDO, the Minister said, “it (the number) is not unusually large”. The number of those who resigned in 2013 was less than one per cent of the total DRDO scientists, he said, noting that of the 7,574 scientists, only 57 resigned.
On the air crashes, the Defence Minister said a total of nine combat planes and four choppers had crashed in 2011-12, in which seven service personnel lost their lives. This was the highest number in the last three years. The aircraft that crashed that year included two French-origin Mirage-2000 planes.
In 2012-13, four combat jets and five helicopters crashed, in which 15 service personnel were killed. In 2014-15, so far only one fighter aircraft has crashed, claiming the life of one military personnel. During special operations in aid to civil and military agencies, two helicopters of the IAF crashed and a total of five IAF personnel and 15 civilian and paramilitary personnel were killed.