Thursday, May 03, 2007

Hope For Trishul

As we've read in a few recent reports, and to be made official by the Ministry of Defence later this month, DRDO's Trishul point defence SAM programme will become an 51:49 BrahMos-like joint venture between the Hyderabad-based Defence Research & Development Lab (DRDL) and French missile firm MBDA. The tri-service utility programme envisages a technological and financial infusion by MBDA into the Trishul programme to engender what reports suggest are the Revati low-level quick reaction missile for the Navy, Maitri for the Army and Rohini (not to be confused with an upcoming BEL radar) for the IAF. It is understood that the government and MBDA will each invest $240 million, and look to a productionisation deadline of late 2009 or early 2010.

The Trishul programme's final days were probably its most political. The lack of anything even resembling an operational missile after 21 years of research, Rs 250 crore and the collective work of 200 scientists meant that it was easy meat as the underdog when the CBI shovelled up charges in October last year of (ho hum) kickbacks in the IAI-Rafael Barak SAM purchase. The day after the charges were announced against George Fernandes, I faxed DRDO a small list of questions on the Trishul and was amazed to receive a return fax with the organisation's replies in less than a day. Here's what they had to say:

"Consistency of the missile guidance and control system - 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."

But closure had been underway for a while already. Research and development on the programme had received orders to stop a year before directly from the DRD council, and the programme was all but in the process of winding up. Full chunks of manpower were given the opportunity to shift to the February 2006-signed Rs 2,606.2 crore Barak-II programme (another JV, between DRDL, IAI and Rafael with a deadline of 2011), Bharat Dynamics, even the hush-hush Sagarika programme and a few to BrahMos Aerospace.

The term technology demonstrator suddenly hung like a millstone around DRDL's neck -- not because there's anything inherently wrong with being a TD, but because, as DRDO admitted itself in a pang of candour in its written replies, it was just "unable to bring closure to the technologies developed under the programme". Those are tough words, and tougher to admit.

Everyone remembers what a mess last October was -- I remember dashing to George Fernandes' house on Krishna Menon Marg the minute I heard about the charges in the Barak purchase case (predictably, Barakgate). In astoundingly feeble form, Fernandes waxed eloquent on the Barak purchase, claimed complete ignorance about the progress of the Trishul. In the ensuing days, mud was boisterously flung at former Navy chief Admiral Susheel Kumar, President Kalam and a scattering of others. Trishul and Barak were suddenly sexy in a full-frontal political sense. Everyone had a field day.

So many questions still left unanswered though -- that's the problem.For example, if since October last year, DRDO has consistently fig-leafed the programme by saying Trishul was always meant only to be a TD, then it's obviously being entirely disingenuous -- letters from Kalam opposing the Barak purchase (in anticipation of proximal clearance for the Trishul) and then finally acquiescing are now a matter of record. Why does DRDO still say the Trishul is ready for user trials (most recently in Parliament answers of late 2006)? Is there something we really don't know? What has DRDO finally got after the programme -- an official record of what technology it has mastered (it certainly hasn't composite beam guidance, or they wouldn't admit it on paper). According to most accounts, the missile projectile itself is a fine piece of work, but it's all over the place once it leaves Dronacharya, so what's the point.

Now we have two joint venture SAM programmes, both ambitious, both expensive, both promising. Who does what on the Maitri programme? Not sure how accurate this is, but FORCE reports that MBDA will make the active radar seeker and vector-control propulsion systems, while DRDO will make the flight control applications, command and control systems, fire-control posts, stabilised vertical launchers. If anyone has more information on the technologies that DRDL has got down pat with the Trishul programme, do comment. More details on the Maitri JV when it's signed this month.


figher said...

Mind explaining this report?? So IAF has no problem with trishul and IA will test it further. IN has no need for trishul as barak-1 has been inducted and barak-2 is a JV with israel.

Shiv Aroor said...

well, the IAF is buying the SpyDer for its immediate LLQRM needs, so what's all this about "partial" indusctions?

Srirangan said...


Please See: DRDO, MBDA to Jointly Develop Maitri Quick Reaction Missile

Are you saying the new 'Maitri' missile is a replacement for the Trishul? Or that the JV will redevelope Trishul along with this new missile system?

The tie up news has been floating around in the public domain since Feb atleast - while the rumours have for even longer.

- Sri

Anonymous said...

lets come to the truth. the trishul worked in the last iaf trials but it was too late. as honorable GF had already announced it as TD and funding was gone.

secondly they mastered composite beam guidance and it is on paper. look in defence science journal. you journos think habitually that drdo is hiding facts when it is open with info, too open in fact. u just dont have knowledge base to understand it.

so why was trishul pulled if it was working? because the IN version was dead thanks to the barak purchase, and the IAF is more interested in fancy, non command guidance seeker equioped missiles.

a lot of technology was mastered via the trishul, from its guidance, to propulsion and materials, to radar altimeters for sea skimming trials, to work on tracking radars to accurately guide the missile in, this involved modifying the signaal radar without OEMs help, no easy task. further features were to be added, so a search on move capability was imported from thales to be indigenized via a indian replacement, but by then funding had been pulled. other stuff is fast servo drives and launchers, eccm techniques for the radar which we put into the thales/signaal system, the missiles control system including actuators and flight control system.

its easy to make fun of drdo until you see what each of these stuffs are for in terms of future potential. as a result of this, these systems will be of optimal use in any Joint venture, since variansts can be made

Srirangan said...

I tend to agree with anonymous - Knowhow gained is an asset for the future.


What I'm specifically interest is whether we'll end up where there are multiple missile systems developed for a particular military requirement.

Shiv Says: The tri-service utility programme envisages a technological and financial infusion by MBDA into the Trishul programme to engender what reports suggest are the Revati low-level quick reaction missile for the Navy, Maitri for the Army and Rohini (not to be confused with an upcoming BEL radar) for the IAF.

Revati, Maitri and Rohini ... would these be variants/derivatives of a common trishul platform?

If not, people at some stage will be wasting time re-inventing the wheel.

- Sri

Anonymous said...

The reports of user trials are for IAF version. IAF will not use Dronacharya.
Where Trishul failed is to act as a anti-ASHM.

Wonder why IAF is buying Spyder and not Barak? If Barak can bring down incomimg missile how difficult is it to shoot aircrafts?
This shows that for different role you need different type of missile.
Trishul tried to do both.

I am yet to read any reports that it hasn't worked in an anti-Aircraft role.

Abhiman said...

Hello Mr. Aroor. I fully agree with all the views of the commentators on this article.

The "promised" user-trials of the Trishul SAM system by the IAF have not yet materialized. The user-trials of the Akash SAM system were scheduled in February (after the infamous and unjustified comment by Mr. Tyagi, that "DRDO let us down").

The reasoning that has been given by the IAF for purchasing the Spyder missile system, that it is being purchased due to delays in Akash is WHOLLY inaccurate, because the Akash is not in the same class as the Spyder SAM system, whereas the Trishul is.
Yet, instead of asking for user-trials of the Trishul, the IAF has unilaterally purchased the Spyder SAMs from abroad.

In only 4 months from now, it will be 1 year since the Trishul-Barak missile scam came to light. It was to silence a 'rambunctious' media---which said that the "Trishul is dead"---that the DRDO and the then Defence minister Mr. Mukherjee announced that th Trishul system has been completed and negotiations with the IAF shall commence tod ecide the parameters for the user-trails of the same.

The Maitri missile shall NOT involve any ToT from Israel; it is rather a non-sharing collaboration in which some components like the active-seeker shall be developed by Israel, whereas the flight-control & systems integration etc. shall be developed by DRDO. Israel shall not release the technology to produce the active-seeker to India.

In my view, the Trishul was never given a chance to prove itself, whereas foreign missiles like the Barak despite having a 50% failure rate in tests conducted from the mid to late 1990s, were given ample opportunities. In another discussion board, I had posted a compilation of all successful tests of the Trishul from 2003 to June 2006. There were a total of 20 tests, out of which 14 were successful whereas the DRDO did not comment on the remaining tests.

It is also fully accurate that the 3-beam guidance system of the Trishul had been solved.

Following is an excerpt of an interview as given by Dr. VK Saraswat in 2004 :

"Agni has also been inducted and is being produced. For the other three missiles — Akash, Nag and Trishul — the production phase is ready.

The technical difficulties have largely been sorted out with the users. While Akash (medium-range surface-to-air) will go for user trials this year and production in 2005, Nag (anti-tank) is ready for user trial and is likely to enter production late 2005. The versatile multi-role Trishul is set to be the first to get into production as the entire infrastructure is ready at the BDL. The IAF recently came up with suggestions for certain modifications and once they say okay, it can be manufactured in quick time.

The control and guidance problems associated with Trishul, India's surface-to-air missile, had been solved. "We are focussing now on the possibility of Trishul being used by the IAF," he said.

Thus, from the above it is apparent that the "kinks" must have been removed but since the Navy had already committed itself fully to the Barak, the Trishul's was user-trials were not paid attention.I may repeat once again that the reasoning of the IAF to purchase the Spyder SAM systems because of a delay in Akash is unclear because the Akash is not a quick-reaction SAM like Trishul and Spyder. The most "suspicious" event is that the IAF did not even wait for user-trials of the Trishul, and instead awarded a contract to purchase the Spyder system instead.

Thank you.

References :

Anonymous said...

is funny that Shiv aroor says rohini and revathi- not to be confused with a BEL radar. Thats not BEL radar, journalist, but a DRDO radar manufactured by BEL!! Dont think you will admit it though, since it is again a success for drdo, 3D radar with 150km range, with 9 radar already ordered for few hundred crore

Zero said...

Sham Aroor
"well, the IAF is buying the SpyDer for its immediate LLQRM needs, so what's all this about "partial" indusctions?"

Simple, have you heard of limited series production before full scale induction? If not follow LCA development. Follow Agni, Prithvi and Brahmos units being raised in phased manner and issued tackled out in the deployed products.

Oh by the way.. more news for you

Anonymous said...

#$$$....that sangraha news is awesome...all the IN ships, subs and aircraft are getting drdo developed electronic warfare items...another example of drdo betraying indian interests by not doing what the arms dealers want!;-)

Anonymous said...

Hi Shiv,

The trishul is complete. Its just that the services want something sexier. The trend today is for autonomous seeker equipped missiles not command guided ones, but at high cost. So the revised threat perception, blah blah calls for a new LLQRM. On our part, we have the 3 beam guidance- if we want to use it, radar and ECCM techniques, launchers for the system, communications link with anti-jam and freq hopping, plus c3i center. On the french side, they have the experience of the MICA its going to be another Brahmos..basically a MIca style system but with indian fire control, radars, communications..
This is a sensible move by DRDO. They get experience with world class technology, develop other items and deliver a world class product to the services on time. And the experience from this project can help in others.