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Govt drives final nail to 'Trishul' coffin

Given DRDO's records, the cancellation of the indigenous Trishul project is of no surprise, reports Rahul Singh.

india Updated: Oct 16, 2006 23:53 IST

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) opposed the Barak deal, signed in October 2000, arguing that the indigenous Trishul would be operational soon. Had the navy trusted the DRDO, it would still have been scouting for an anti-missile defence system.

Twenty three years after the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) was sanctioned, the final nail has been driven in the Trishul’s coffin with the government preparing to close down the project in December 2006. Sources in the Ministry of Defence said all development work on the indigenous missile had been completed but there were no orders from prospective users.

The Trishul project, which involved 200 scientists, cost the government Rs 250 crore. The factors that derailed it included problems with the missile guidance and control systems, non-availability of critical components due to sanctions imposed on the country and depletion of specialist manpower during critical phases of development. Five of the 20 Trishul tests conducted after mid-2003 were unsuccessful.

The DRDO would like to believe that the experience gained from the project would come in handy for the co-development of the Barak-II missile with Israel, for which the Hyderabad-based Defence Research and Development Laboratory has already inked a pact.

But many feel that the myth of Trishul’s indigenisation needs to be exposed. Navy sources, who did not wish to be named, told Hindustan Times, "The Trishul package is a hybrid of a Dutch surveillance radar called Signal DA-08, a Swedish fire control system known as Contraves sea guard radar system and missiles developed in Russia. The only indigenous improvisation is the bulky launcher, which is a technological embarrassment."

The Trishul’s launcher weighs some 27 tonne compared to 0.8 tonne of the Barak’s. A senior officer said the Trishul could have never been mounted on aircraft carrier Viraat because of the launcher’s weight.

Admiral Sushil Kumar, who has been named in the CBI FIR in the Barak case, told HT that the Trishul was not given to the navy for sea-based trials until the Kargil war. He added, "We were quite certain that the naval version would not be ready for user trials at sea for several years. The naval version was extremely complex as it involved installation on a moving platform, which had to be stabilised for pitch and roll of the ship."

Trishul also had to be integrated with other equipment on board to ensure that electro magnetic interference from other systems was obviated.

Trishul is just one of the several DRDO projects that have been languishing for decades. The Tejas light combat aircraft, the Akash missile and the Nag anti-tank missile are still not ready.

The first sizeable orders for main battle tank Arjun, conceived in mid-1970s, have come in only now. Despite crores of rupees being funnelled into the indigenisation programme, the services are still being forced to upgrade obsolescent equipment or turn to foreign vendors.

Lieutenant General SS Sangra, a former Western Army commander, said the DRDO should be held accountable for such delays and should set realistic targets to facilitate import.

Set up in 1958 with the objective of cutting down arms imports, the DRDO may have achieved success in some of its endeavours -- including vegetable research and agriculture production -- but as far as "hard-core defence technologies" are concerned, many in the armed forces believe that the DRDO has let them down time and again.

First Published: Oct 16, 2006 22:40 IST