DRDO scrapping a Rs 100 cr communication system
(Sunday Guardian-New Delhi – 22 August 2010)
Appu Esthose Suresh
The Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) is on the verge of scrapping the Near Vertical Incidence Skywave (NVIS) mode project worth Rs 100 cr. Sources allege that this is being done so that DRDO leadership can continue to import expensive satellite communication system from abroad.
NVIS, which was successfully tested 10 years ago, is a radio propagation mode that establishes seamless and reliable communication in mountainous terrain over a radius of 0-200 miles. According to a senior DRDO official, “The NVIS is a low cost strategic communication project which will replace the expensive satellite based communication system. The present DRDO leadership is sabotaging a project which will drastically reduce the import of satellite communication-based equipment.”
During the Kargil War the Indian Army reported obstruction and communication blackout in Leh, Kargil and Drass. To provide round-the-clock uninterrupted communication in mountainous terrain, Defence Electronic Application Laboratory (DEAL) was asked to develop the NVIS project.
Letters exchanged between the Indian Army and DEAL in 2000, which are in the possession of this newspaper, contradict the DRDO’s claims.
The project was put on the back burner for five years until DEAL restarted the NVIS study in 2005. Between 2005 and 2010, the Indian Army, using the NVIS study, established several communication networks in the Himalayan region. In 2009, studies were carried out in a ship in the Indian Ocean to assess the suitability of NVIS for the Navy. Last year, DEAL scientists were developing an antenna for helicopters to incorporate NVIS, similar to what the United States has done in Iraq with Apache helicopters. The disappearance of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S.R. Reddy’s helicopter augmented interest in the project.
According to a DEAL scientist, “The project was halted by the DRDO leadership saying that there was no positive response from the armed forces and the project would continue after we get a definite commitment from the armed forces.”
In 2000, DEAL successfully carried out high frequency propagation studies in Pir Panjal and Zanskar ranges. Following the study, 8 Mountain Division of the Army wrote to DEAL and Army Centre for Electromagnetics in Mhow for carrying out trials in Leh, Kargil and Drass, a request which is still pending with DEAL.
A scientist associated with the NVIS project said, “Flimsy arguments are being given to discontinue the project. In case of a nuclear attack, NVIS is the only mode of communication which can be used, because the network depends on reflexes from the ionosphere. The US is still researching the system, why cannot we do the same?”