The euthanasia of the Defence Research and Development Organisation’s Trishul anti-missile defence system has been delayed by a year. After keeping the navy waiting for the indigenous missile system for over a decade and despite blank order books, the DRDO has been successful in getting the probable date of completion (PDC) for the project extended from December 2006 to December 2007.
Against the backdrop of a barrage of media reports on junking of the Trishul programme, Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee said on Tuesday, “There has been some confusion about the shelving of the Trishul project. I would like to point out that it’s still on. The DRDO sought my approval for extension. I granted it on September 29. A project is envisaged along with a date of completion. So that was an old decision (of closing down the programme in December 2006.)” He was speaking to journalists on the sidelines of the navy’s senior officers’ conference.
A defence ministry release said work on Trishul, which forms part of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP), was likely to be completed by December 2007. There may be no orders from the armed forces but the release claims “a number of milestones have been achieved by the Indian defence scientists while working on the Trishul project.”
It adds, “The milestones include guidance and control of missile in sea skimming mode against sea skimming targets, intercept of air target by warhead system, showing accuracy and efficacy; integration of surveillance radar, tracking radar, missile guidance system and launcher in one vehicle system.”
The ministry claims the status of IGMDP was reviewed by the Guided Missile Board (GMB), chaired by the scientific advisor to the defence minister M Natrajan, at a meeting held on November 11, 2005. It says the review indicated that “there was a need for establishing long term production requirement in addition to proving the system for services which merits further PDC extension.”
The DRDO opposed the Barak deal, signed in October 2000, arguing that the indigenous Trishul would be operational soon.
However, 23 years after the IGMDP was sanctioned, Trishul still remains a “technology demonstrator.” The project involved 200 scientists and has so far cost the government Rs 250 crore.
The factors that derailed the Trishul programme included problems with the missile guidance and control systems, non-availability of critical components, devices and subsystems due to embargoes imposed upon the country and depletion of specialist manpower during critical phases of development.