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Delays dog desi defence projects

New Delhi, Feb. 12: Major indigenous defence projects are at least three years behind schedule and some are delayed by as long as seven years, according to information given by defence minister A.K. Antony in Parliament today.

The projects were assigned to the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

Denial of technologies by advanced countries is one of six reasons listed by the defence minister for the delays in a written reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha.

The other reasons are:

• Ab initio development of state-of-the-art technologies;

Technical/technological complexities;

Non-availability of infrastructure/test facilities in the country;

Non-availability of critical components in the country and denial of technologies by technologically advanced countries;

Failure of some of the components during trials;

Increase in the scope of work during developmental phase.

In reply to another question, Antony said the cost of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas — probably the most expensive of the projects that has been in development for 25 years — is Rs 7965.56 crore ($1.09 billion).

The cost includes the building of 15 aircraft and creation of infrastructure to make eight aircraft a year.

“This compares with the developmental cost of JAS 39 NG Gripen is $1.80 billion for developing five Proto Vehicles,” the defence minister claimed.

The JAS 39 Gripen, a single-engine combat aircraft like the Tejas, is made by Swedish company SAAB.

Antony said that about 60 per cent of the Tejas would be indigenous. “As a result, production cost as well as life cycle cost of LCA Tejas will be comparatively lower to that of any other comparable class of aircraft,” he said.