India's Military Programmes: A Waste of Funds on Hopeless Endeavors

"The MoD's long list of failed projects is endless, but a select few serve to highlight the financial waste and technological overreach that unfortunately applies not just to HAL, but also to the eight other Defence Public Sector Units (DPSUs)."

India's Military Programmes: A Waste of Funds on Hopeless Endeavors

The government's Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative, which aims to achieve self-sufficiency in military equipment, has encountered significant roadblocks due to incomplete and ad hoc projects. Unfortunately, these projects continue to consume vast amounts of funding without showing tangible results.

The government-run Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the public sector Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) have undertaken several ambitious programs under this initiative, including the development of aircraft engines, military transport and intermediate multi-purpose civilian aircraft, and intermediate jet trainers (IJTs).

However, these projects have faced delays and setbacks, leading to significant wastage of resources. Despite the challenges, the government remains committed to supporting these programs and ensuring their timely completion.

The successful completion of these projects will play a crucial role in India's journey towards becoming a self-sufficient and technologically advanced nation. The government is taking proactive steps to address the issues faced by these programs, and with the right support and resources, they will eventually come to fruition.

The DRDO's record also includes decades-old attempts to design assault rifles, sub-machine guns, and sniper rifles that have proven to be both ineffectual and futile. Despite being costly and ongoing, these projects continue to languish without any notable progress.

Regrettably, rather than acknowledging the lack of success and scrapping the projects, the DRDO and HAL continue to include them on their 'active' list, consuming vast amounts of funding that could be better utilized elsewhere.

In essence, the government's persistent yet elusive bid for self-sufficiency in military equipment has resulted in a substantial waste of resources. Rather than investing in productive ventures, the government continues to throw good money after bad.

Kaveri Saga Since 34 Years

Back in 1986, the DRDO's Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE) in Bangalore embarked on a mission to develop an afterburning turbofan engine named Kaveri to power the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), which had been approved three years earlier. After three years, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) authorized the Kaveri's full-scale development with a budget of Rs 3.82 billion for a 93-month-long program.

However, in mid-2004, the Kaveri engine failed to pass its high-altitude trials in Russia due to being overweight and inefficient. This put an end to the engine's potential use to power the LCA, and the US General Electric GE-F404IN engine was selected instead. It wasn't until 2016, 33 years after the domestic fighter programme was initiated in 1983, that the LCA finally entered Indian Air Force squadron service.

Despite the setbacks faced by the Kaveri engine, the GTRE received additional funding of Rs 28.39 billion from the MoD in late 2004 to continue the program. The renewed objective was to design a fighter engine with a thrust of 93-100 kiloNewton (kN) to provide the projected platform with greater manoeuvrability, angle of attack, and enhanced payload carrying capacity.

Despite acknowledging the critical handicaps, the DRDO remained undeterred and continued with the development of the Kaveri engine. Periodically, the DRDO announced its intent to develop derivatives to power various types of vehicles, such as tanks, railway locomotives, naval ships, and its under-development 'Ghatak' unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs), but none were produced.

It has been 34 years since the commencement of the Kaveri project, yet it remains incomplete. The dogged DRDO is persisting with the project, speciously reasoning that it is too deeply committed to the bungled programme to quit it.

Not A ‘Saras’ Way

Back in 2004, the first flight of Saras Mk1, a multi-purpose light civilian aircraft designed by the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), generated a lot of excitement. The aircraft was designed to carry between 8 to 19 passengers over varying distances, and the flight was conducted at HAL's Bangalore airport. However, the second prototype of Saras was overweight by 500 kg and crashed some 30 km from Bangalore, killing two IAF test pilots and one flight engineer on board.

The funding for Saras was discontinued in 2013, and three years later, NAL stopped all work on the project, leading to the re-deployment of all engineers and designers involved. However, in 2017, the first Saras prototype was handed over to the IAF Aircraft & Systems Testing Establishment (ASTE) in Bangalore, 13 years after its maiden test flight. It was then reconfigured to carry 14 passengers, and multiple test flights followed, leading to its certification.

In February 2019, the government announced that the project would receive Rs 60 billion for series production at TAD in Kanpur, and the IAF signed a memorandum of understanding for 15 Saras aircraft. However, since then, there has been little or no progress on the project, and it seems to be a perpetual work in progress, a non-starter.

Yet another of pouring good money but without getting any dividend.

The MoD's long list of failed projects is endless, but a select few serve to highlight the financial waste and technological overreach that unfortunately applies not just to HAL, but also to the eight other Defence Public Sector Units (DPSUs).

About The Author

Girish Linganna is a Defence & Aerospace analyst, and is the Director of ADD Engineering Components (India) Private Limited which is a Subsidiary of ADD Engineering GmbH, Germany with manufacturing units in Russia.

(Views expressed are the author's own & do not reflect the editorial stance of Mission Victory India)

For more defence related content, follow us on Twitter: @MVictoryIndia and Facebook: @MissionVictoryIndia

Related Articles


🎉 You've successfully subscribed to Mission Victory India!