What CBI doesnít say: Trishul a DRDO dud, thatís why Barak deal

The CBI, while naming former Defence Minister George Fernandes in its FIR on the Barak deal case, claimed that he opted for the Israeli missile system despite the objection of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) which was pitching for the indigenous Trishul. What the CBI and DRDO don't say is that the Trishul was not ready then, not now. Two hundred scientists, Rs 250 crore and 21 years later, Trishul remains a technology demonstrator.

In a written response to queries sent by The Indian Express, the DRDO today admitted to the major problems that crippled the Trishul programme: "Consistency of the missile guidance and control system ó mainly the technical problems in perfecting the three-beam missile guidance system. Non-availability of critical components, devices and subsystems due to embargoes imposed upon the country and also depletion of experienced specialist manpower during a critical phase of the development has led to delay in the project."

The "technology demonstrator" designation, officially stated two months ago by Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee in Parliament, is no compliment to the country`s Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP). For the Trishul, the "TD" suffix principally labels it a technology pool from which other, newer systems may borrow technology. But this speaks little of the Ministry's own frustration with the Trishul, even if the missile's imported replacement, the Israeli Barak, is now in the eye of a political storm.

In April this year, with inputs from IAF deputy chief Air Marshal AK Nagalia, the Defence Ministry provided unusually forthright testimony to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence. "The Trishul weapon system which was to replace OSA-AK weapon system has not met with success. These delays have derailed modernisation/replacement programme resulting in critical voids," it told the Panel for the latter's 11th report.

In March, DRDO chief M Natarajan, whose area of specialisation is armoured vehicles, told the Defence Ministry that the Trishul was ready for user trials. At any rate, three of the seven Chief Controllers (CCs), Dr Prahlad, Dr A Sivathanu Pillai and Dr VK Saraswat, among the more decorated scientists in the country, have been involved with the Trishul and the IGMDP at large.

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