Lamenting that time and cost overruns were the real problems in military research projects, Defence Minister A K Antony on Tuesday pulled up the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) for delays in several of its projects, including the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft and Sitara Intermediate Jet Trainers (IJTs). He said he was “impatient” to see Tejas fully operational.
Addressing the three-day aerospace seminar here a day ahead of Aero India 2013, Antony also expressed his dissatisfaction over the volume of money spent on research and development (R&D) in India by both the government and public sector. He warned that it would be difficult for the country to compete on the world stage and maintain its position among the top five economies in the world if enough was not spent on R&D.
“I am happy for the DRDO’s achievements, but not fully happy with your performance. Delay in delivery is a real problem,” Antony said, as he mentioned the two-decade delay in the Tejas and Sitara projects.
“With regard to Tejas, you (the DRDO) have achieved first Initial Operational Clearance. But I am impatient for its Final Operational Clearance. Try to speed up your development process. Bring down time taken for research, development and production. Delays should be avoided and quality must improve,” he said.
Tejas is being developed by the DRDO’s Aeronautical Development Agency, while defence public sector Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is the nodal agency for production. “Try to focus on one project of Indian Air Force (IAF). The IJT is delayed, delayed, delayed. But make it a reality by the next aerospace seminar (in 2015) and tell the success story of the IJT then,” the Defence Minister said. Antony’s views echoed the concerns raised earlier by IAF chief N A K Browne, who noted that his force’s modernisation programmes had been restricted due to timeline slippages in domestic military projects.
In this context, Browne suggested imposing financial penalties “in case of poor performance of the work centre, either by withholding further payments or recovery of money already spent”.