India to conclude guided missile programme


New Delhi : With the successful fabrication of the Akash air defence system, India plans to formally conclude its prestigious integrated missile development programme (IGMDP) that has seen the development of four missile systems, with user trials of an anti-tank system scheduled for later this year.

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Prahlada, chief controller of research and development at the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), told reporters Tuesday it would henceforth need only five to six years to develop a missile system as compared to two decades by opting for technological tie-ups with Indian industry and foreign countries.

However, strategic projects like the Agni missile systems would not be covered under the new philosophy, the top scientist said, adding that more than 16 countries were eager to join hands with the DRDO for joint development and manufacture of top-of-the-line defence systems.

Elaborating on the integrated missile programme, he said 2008 would see “the dream of (former president A.P.J.) Abdul Kalam coming to a happy end.”

Kalam, as the DRDO head in the 1980s, was the chief architect of indigenously designing and developing missiles like Prithvi (range of 200 km), Agni-I, II and III intermediate range ballistic missiles, the Akash and Trishul air defence systems and the Nag anti-tank missile.

Prahlada said that besides Nag, the Agni, Prithvi, Trishul and Akash systems were ready for deployment while the Nag missile would be ready by the end of the year.

Once that happened, the DRDO would formally close down its prestigious IGMDP, the scientist said, adding the DRDO had learnt many lessons in the last 24 years of the programme.

He said when Kalam launched the programme, no country was willing to share its know-how with India and the industrial base here was also not up to the mark.

“Our scientists took up the challenge and came up with world class systems despite technology denials. Now, many countries were keen to partner with India for joint development and production of weapon systems, Prahlada added.

Terming the technology denial regime of the earlier years as a boon, he said it saw India emerging as a technology giant, with many countries like the US, Britain, Singapore, Israel, Germany and France eager to collaborate with the D