Tuesday, January 08, 2008

IGMDP Completed

Yes, it is official, IGMDP has been closed down.

The IGMDP has reached a natural closing point - the objectives of the programme have been achieved. The core of the programme was aimed at development of propulsion (solid and liquid fuel systems) technologies, and certain guidance systems (reliable INS). All the systems that were developed under this program are now in production at various PSUs.

On the reseach side, there have been no new personnel hires for the IGMDP and most of the people originally hired for these projects have been reallocated to downstream (Nag,Akash,Prithvi,Agni etc...) projects or retired from service over the last ten years. All the new personnel hires have been for downstream project specific developers and technologists. The money that has been allocated was also directed at specific platforms *not* at technologies related to the core programme. The core of all these missiles is the same thing that kalam and Project Devil folks worked on some thirty years ago - yes I remember everyone who made fun of them.

The IGMDP will be eventually replaced with a new program aimed at intelligent guidance (read UAVs, cruise missiles,GPS-guidance), flight control (far from stability flight, high maneuverability) and advanced propulsion technologies (high efficiency, high speed, novel fuels, ultra high endurance etc...). The conclusion of the IGMDP has been hinted at in several utterances by top level science policy people. There has been talk of new propulsion systems for over a decade now and over that same time scale, UAV/intelligent guidance related development has been undertaken at DRDO with collaboration with a number of foreign countries.

The low innovation-cycle times of these "collaboration" programs and their relative immunity to sanctions regimes have been praised so often in science policy circles that many neutral observers have tended form the association that this strategy of "collaboration" and "tie-up" is the "way of the future" at DRDO. There is a naive belief among some people that the west will easily yeild its technology lead built up over three centuries to an India flush with cash. The prevalence of this feeling among external observers, has sparked a misguided notion that the IGMDP closure reflects a shift in Indian scientific thinking towards a "collaborative" or "participatory" approach.

Saner voices in India have privately pointed out that there are things money can't buy - but the external observers are so high on media hype - that they are failing to see the obvious.


At 12:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...their relative immunity to sanctions regimes..."

How can this statement be true in the Indian context? I offer the fly-by-wire system for the LCA that ADA and Lockheed Martin as one example of how cooperative, joint venture projects are still affected by sanctions regimes.

I think that leveraging foreign and domestic private sector collaboration is helpful to keep projects on schedule, on budget, and on time as well as leaving the defense laboratories to focus on their comparative advantages in high technology research but we shouldn't fool ourselves into believing that these relationships will be unaffected by denial regimes.

At 1:42 PM, Blogger maverick said...

Dear Anonymous,

I think the key words there are "relative immunity"

I think the core idea is that foreign collaboration in the project creates a natural barrier to sanctions. That is, sanctions cannot be imposed on India for this product if your American company is reliant on cheap R&D outsourcing to India.

I feel this misjudges the nature of collaborators i.e. they are mainly there to rape India's intellectual property while ensuring market access.

This is at odds with why the India wants collaborations - to enhance local competence and reduce dependence on imports in critical defense sectors.

It seems that a new sanctions regime could be concieved that meets the needs of the foreign participants.

I am pragmatic, I feel mostly collaborations like this will most likely only produce unreliable but "shiny" new toys for show-and-tell. That should keep the DCH happy. Show then a shiny new toy every now and then and they will jump around with joy.

The task of ultimately taking the product from the "shiny" toy level to something that can be used without interference in India will fall to in house developers. As long as the in house development component is fully integrated with the end users, we should be fine - from a readiness perspective - i.e. assuming ofcourse that the conflict resolution people remain professional about their work.

If on the other hand, the men at arms as a whole become addicted to "shiny" toys, then conflict resolution quality could suffer dramatically.

Our boys would become as utterly useless and ineffective as the Americans. Like DARPA we would spend millions developing a gun that shoots around corners while our soldiers mount increasingly ineffective COIN patrols.

At 1:42 PM, Blogger maverick said...

I think there are two problems with this:

first there is the tech. denial aspect and then there is the shiny toy addiction aspect.

Both things we need to watch out for.

At 12:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you seen this?


At 7:08 PM, Blogger maverick said...

Hello Anonymous,

Yes I have read it.

It is a very good article by Capt. Verma, it captures all the criticms levelled against the IGMDP.

There were really only two main criticms:

1) The IGMDP focused on "core" tech. and not finished products. For the better part of 50 years,
the armed forces were composed of people with the same attitudes as BIA era subalterns. It was a battle hardened third world force, that knew what to do in the field if their weapon failed but that was completely clueless when confronted with a system that failed during trials. The entire force looked up to some reassuring firang to tell them it was going to be alright - right up to Kargil, when the first LGB attack on Muntho Dhalo fell short of expectations. This is just the way it was - it is now changing. The truth is that DRDO's lack of finishing skill alienated most of the armed forces who were fed a staple diet of "old faithfuls". If DRDO had more resources it would have adapted its marketting models accordingly. Things are changing now - India is more technologically confident.

2) The IGMDP's choice of "core" tech. was always debated. This was only indirectly a commentary on the DRDO's competence. It was mostly a play for a more open debate on what was the best thing to pursue out there. The hidden problem here was that during the last 50 years, civilian scientists dominated the choice of R&D targetting. The military was left out of a lot of this. And that generated friction. This friction aired itself in the form of nasty name calling in the media.

As Vermaji points out in the last three decades, we have asked the men (and women) at arms to die in large numbers for the security of our country. We owe it to them and their successors in uniform to create a more responsive R&D environment.

At 6:12 AM, Blogger maverick said...


I am getting emails about how I have double standards i.e. I approve of Capt. Verma's article while saying bad things about people like Aroor.

Yes, dear friends I have a double standard.

There is a fundamental difference between Capt. Verma and idiots like Aroor.

Vermaji has been one of the biggest supporters of indigenisation. Throughout the IGMDP, he supported it with positive publicity via IDR. At no point during the program did he ever voice the slightest criticism in print.

People like Aroor are simply interested in collecting lifafas and constantly harass DRDO.

Today the IGMDP has completed. In the interests of achieving better performance in the future, we need to discuss the IGMDP in its completeness.

If we are to ensure a better future, we must discuss the mistakes of the past.

At 6:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Have you seen the following: http://indiatoday.digitaltoday.in/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&&issueid=37&id=3659&Itemid=1&page=in&latn=2

Can you comment on the ATV program?

At 6:54 AM, Blogger maverick said...


I can't say if any of this stuff is true.

However I note it is very positive about the project. If only the rest of the media was this postive about indigenous technology development in India.

At 6:55 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hello Anonymous,

One more thing, of all the services, the Navy has been at the forefront of indigenization efforts - it has had the most positive interaction with DRDO.

Yes there have been mismatches too, but the Navy really has had good ties with civilian development agencies - Captain Subbarao's point of view non withstanding.


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