Upset over delay and cost overruns in military research and development projects, Union Defence Minister A K Antony on Wednesday rapped on the knuckles of the DRDO by asking it to either “perform or perish”.
Addressing a gathering at an award function here, Antony told the country’s lone defence research and development agency that it should stick to high standards of quality and strict timelines, apart from ensuring customer satisfaction.
Singling out the three-decade-old Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) project, which is yet to get approval, the Defence Minister said: “I am waiting for the LCA to become a reality.”
Antony said he had been given a date for the LCA to get its second Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) and that this date “was final”.
The LCA obtained its first IOC clearance in January 2011 at Bangalore. The aircraft was to get its second IOC in July this year, but the DRDO has postponed it to November-December this year.
The Defence Minister asked the DRDO, Hindustan Aeronautics Limitted and the Indian Air Force to work together to so that the LCA could get its second IOC and later its Final Operational Clearance by 2014 end.
Acknowledging that defence projects are time consuming, he said it was “a Herculean task” to meet deadlines. “But there is a limit to slippages,” he said.
“In a time of cut-throat competition, the choice is very clear -- perform or perish. In delivery of strategic systems, the timelines must be adhered to and user satisfaction is the litmus test,” Antony said.
He also asked the DRDO to focus on its core competence and not to fritter away its resources and energy in other areas of defence research.
“Do not think I am criticising you. I am with you at all times. But as the Minister of Defence, it is my duty to say some things to you,” he said.
Antony also assured the DRDO of all government help to overcome its financial and manpower difficulties.Expressing his dejection over being dependent on military imports, he said, “countries depending on imports can never be great nations.”