Making DRDO Another DARPA Has Many Policy Loopholes

Enormous challenges exist for India to become a net-exporter of arms because of lethargic DPSUs, absence of a spirit of innovation and a lack of institutional motivation in the production of arms for the armed forces.

In spite of huge investments in DPSUs, the country has not been able to produce a viable domestic defence industry under a socialist model of governance.

Moreover, India spends only US $ 62 billion on R&D whereas China spends US $ 372 billion. This is a huge gap that needs to be reduced. For this, the DPSUs need to be energized by privatisation of large and unproductive ordnance factories in a phased manner and the resources freed up need to be invested in R&D.

The private and public sectors need to share the burden by dividing responsibilities into production for the private sector and R&D for DPSUs. Co-production through strategic partnership leverages the motivation of the private sector with the infrastructure of the public sector. To build its own advanced defence systems, large-scale indigenous innovation in defence technology would be required. While small companies can innovate, they typically do not have access to funds for setting up large-scale production plant. Therefore, for now, the government should offer to produce advance weapon systems indigenously developed in India.

In order to enable indigenous innovation, the model of the United States Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) must be studied. DARPA is responsible for development of emerging technologies for use by the United States military. It accomplishes this goal, in part, by funding research projects in organisations of all sizes – from startups, universities, to large multinationals. Its most visible technological success is the Internet itself.

India must enable its vast technologically skilled workforce access to funds for innovation in defence technology. An Indian organisation on the lines of DARPA could fund and coordinate indigenous innovation in the defence industry across startups, government institutions, and large corporations.

The armed forces also need to take a lead in indigenisation and must play a bigger role. The Indian Navy has led the way by establishing the Naval Design Bureau (NDB) for an in-house design capability and does not have to depend on DPSUs for R&D. Moreover, naval shipyards are headed by serving naval officers. From inception, the Navy retains full control over all activities and is able to produce much better results. The other two Services must also follow suit. The army has recently established the Army Design Bureau (ADB) and must emphasise on its success.

Major SK Misra is from 25 Madras and is presently posted at Integrated Headquarters of MoD (Army) – MS 2C, MS Branch at New Delhi

Source: “India – A Net Provider of Security in Indian Ocean Region (lOR) – A Roadmap”, a paper published by United Service Institution of India (USI)

The DRDO, with an annual budget of $2 billion today, stands in similar league with DARPA, the US defence development agency, with about $3 billion annual budget, which is credited with Inventions such as the Internet, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), stealth fighters, etc. DRDO is an organisation with over 60,000 people and DARPA has just around 300 project managers who deliver entirely working through the private industry. It is DARPA and US Department of Defence (DoD) famed CMMI certification that measures the maturity of systems engineering capability. Today, with many CMMI Level 5 companies, India has the knowledge pool to take on relevant system engineering projects and to create defence products and systems.

Anil Sardana, CEO & MD, Tata Power and Rahul Chaudhry, CEO of Tata Strategic Engineering Division

Source: “Defence Policy: Coming together for ‘Create in India”, an article published by Business Today.


  • Shantanu K. Bansal

    Founder of IADN. He has more than 10 years of experience in research and analysis. An award winning researcher, he writes for the leading defence and security journals, think-tanks and in-service publications. He is a senior consultant at the Indian Army Training Command (ARTRAC), Shimla. Contact him at:

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