THE DRDO's missile programme, both tactical and strategic, is marching ahead. Agni-II, Agni-I, Agni-III and Prithvi and its variants such as Dhanush and Prithvi-II, all strategic missiles that can carry nuclear warheads, have been inducted into the Army. Agni-II's range is more than 2,500 km, Agni-I's more than 700 km and Agni-III's about 3,500 km. The maiden launch of Agni-V, which will have a range of 5,000 km, will be in September 2011.
BrahMos, developed by India and Russia, is the world's only supersonic cruise missile. It can be launched from a ship or from land. BrahMos variants that can be launched from submarines and fighter aircraft are on the way. In December 2010, BrahMos' 24th launch took place using advanced guidance and updated software. “The flight established the missile's precision strike capability in mountain warfare,” said A. Sivathanu Pillai, CEO and Managing Director, BrahMos Aerospace Ltd.
The DRDO's interceptor missile missions, too, have been a great success. Astra, the air-to-air missile, is under advanced stage of development. K. Sekhar, Chief Controller R&D (Missiles and Low Intensity Conflict), DRDO, said, “If the flight tests [from the ground] are successful, carriage trials will take place. If these are successful, we will do hot tests with an actual missile firing from an aircraft.” The DRDO has planned to develop two new versions of Astra: Astra Mark I will have a range of 40 km and Mark II 100 km.
“Nag, the third-generation anti-tank missile, has performed well in its recent flights and the Army is likely to clear it for acceptance,” said Sekhar. Nag can destroy tanks as far as 4 km away. The DRDO is working on NAMICA (Nag Missile Carrier), a modified BMP Infantry Fighting Vehicle from which Nag can be fired.
“Protect the protector” is the philosophy that drives the DRDO's Defence Bioengineering and Electromedical Laboratory (DEBEL) in Bangalore. This becomes clear when V.C. Padaki, Director, lists the products developed so far: clothing ensembles to protect submariners when their boat sinks, anti-gravity suits, a portable telemedicine system, and many more. DEBEL in collaboration with other Indian institutions has developed a critical care ventilator for patients, which costs Rs.5 lakh; the imported unit costs Rs.10 lakh.