06 May, 2021

No Bang For The Buck

An annual budget of Rs 4,000 crore, 51 hi-tech laboratories... Yet India's premier defence R&D organisation—DRDO—has little to show for it.

R. S Kumar
No Bang For The Buck
It was a cold, clear February morning when Wing Commander Ravi Khanna took off from Bikaner on a routine flight commanding the Jaguar squadron. He was preparing for the Maha Vayu Shakti 2004 air exercise, the first major one in the new millennium. Except that plane and pilot exploded in an angry fireball over the desertscape.

Now, an official court of inquiry (CoI) has identified a fuse as the culprit for the February 26 mishap. Of course, no one will be punished for the failure of the fuse. Yet, the inquiry into the air crash has for the first time held the Defence Research and Development Organisation's Pune laboratory responsible for the accident. The report, which was sourced by Outlook, recreates the incident in damning detail. Soon after takeoff, Khanna followed the lead aircraft in the squadron, flying at a distance of 13 km. His target located, Khanna released the bomb. In less than one-tenth of a second, the fighter pilot and his plane exploded.

The report blamed the...

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