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Confident of doubling range of the Astra, will be the most lethal air to air missile: DRDO Chief

In this second part of an interview with ET’s Manu Pubby, DRDO Chief G Sateesh Reddy describes the indigenous ASTRA missile as ready for induction and detailed how all components for the Ballistic Missile Defence system are now ready.

Two new missile projects by DRDO have stood out – the ASTRA air to air missile and the ballistic missile defence system designed to protect India against a nuclear attack. Where do we stand on these?
ASTRA initially had some technological challenges which have been overcome successfully. With our persistent effort and with active IAF support, all the user evaluation has been completed and ASTRA is now ready for induction. We are very confident of extending the range to nearly double of its existing range, making it the most lethal BVR missile.

India is one of the few countries which has its own active and successful BMD programme. We have demonstrated our capability through both simulation studies as well as live target engagements in both endo and exo regions. All essential technologies required for BMD, like propulsion system, sensors, precision control systems and terminal intercept technology with kill vehicle development have matured and have been proven through various tests.

After the success of the Anti-Satellite test, what are the next plans for DRDO in the field of space?
With the ASAT test, DRDO has demonstrated the capability to neutralize enemy satellites. We are not in favour of weaponization of space. However, we need to have technological capabilities to defend our national interest. DRDO will keep working in the area of advanced technologies for air and missile defence systems. Future activities will depend on the guidelines of the government.

Another focus area for the government is encouraging defence exports. What steps need to be taken for this?
The government has come out with several policies to promote exports. We are creating awareness of DRDO-developed products and systems by showcasing them in international defence and aero shows. Many countries have shown keen interests for different systems. We will support the industry with technologies to enhance their export competitiveness. Royalty has been reduced for DRDO products being exported to friendly nations. Free handholding support has been extended for the industry for absorbing the technology.

Is there a possibility of the Arjun Tank and its advanced variants also being ordered in significant numbers in the near future?
MBT Arjun is one of the most potent fighting platforms in its class. Mark I is inducted and being used by Army. Mark IA has gone through extensive use trials. Two Regiments of upgraded Arjun Mk IA are in the process of being inducted.

On talent acquisition, how has DRDO fared, especially as private companies offer attractive financial options for bright young scientists and engineers.
Nowadays DRDO is a preferred employer and we are able to get talent from prestigious institutes. Prospects for career growth are good with schemes like Merit based flexible Complementing Scheme. Financial incentives are also good with provision of variable increment based on performance. Scientists are also sponsored for higher studies and are deputed abroad for various conferences, seminars etc. There are various awards in recognition to performance of scientists.

Can you please share an update on the Agni program and the next steps planned for it.
Development of Agni Series of missiles has been completed and are in the process of induction.

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