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Strengthening India’s Army Design Bureau: A Catalyst for Defense Self-Reliance

Introduction:

The Army Design Bureau (ADB), established in August 2016, serves as a pivotal interface between the Indian Army, industry, the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO), and academia. Its primary mission is to provide the Indian Army with cutting-edge technological solutions while fostering self-reliance in defense production. The ADB identifies and articulates the army’s technological needs, interfaces with industry and R&D entities, and aligns army requirements with industry capabilities. To facilitate this, the ADB publishes a “Compendium of Problem Statements,” a document that outlines the Indian Army’s specific needs.

The ADB plays a critical role in advancing the Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India) policy, acting as a crucial link between the Indian Army and stakeholders dedicated to indigenous defense initiatives. Led by a Major General and supported by officers from various arms and services, the ADB’s team comprises subject matter experts who continually explore niche technologies worldwide to address capability gaps and enhance operational efficiency.

Evolving Structure and Roles:

Initially under the Perspective Planning Directorate of the Indian Army, the ADB was later reorganized in 2020 to operate directly under the Deputy Chief of Army Staff, Capability Development and Sustenance (DCOAS(CD&S)). This change streamlined the decision-making process for defense procurement and ensured that the ADB remains well-informed about the army’s evolving requirements.

Facilitating Industry Growth:

The ADB goes above and beyond to assist the defense industry in its efforts to develop cutting-edge products. It offers industry players access to various equipment, such as engines, night sights, sniper rifles, medium machine guns, and small arms ammunition for testing and validation during the development phase. Additionally, the ADB has coordinated over 100 capability demonstrations by industry participants, leading to the shortlisting of more than 20 products for potential procurement.

Regional Collaboration and Academic Engagement:

To harness regional technology ecosystems and tap into emerging talent, the ADB has established Regional Technology Nodes in Pune and Bengaluru, with plans for additional nodes in the pipeline. Collaborative research initiatives are encouraged through the Indian Army Cell at IIT Delhi, with plans to establish similar cells at IIT Kanpur and IISc Bengaluru. These initiatives aim to engage young, innovative minds and nurture collaborative R&D projects.

Driving Innovation and Progress:

The ADB has actively managed a range of MAKE-II projects, some of which have reached the prototype stage. It currently oversees more than 150 R&D and D&D cases while continuously identifying and launching new projects. Its collaborative efforts with academia, esteemed research institutions, and industry partners have yielded promising results.

In addition to its ongoing efforts, the Army Design Bureau (ADB) has recently joined forces with the Drone Federation of India (DFI) to develop high-impact drone solutions for Indian soldiers. This collaboration aims to create innovative drone applications that can support Indian Army operations, particularly in the challenging Himalayan terrains. They have initiated an event named ‘Indian Army’s Him-Drone-a-thon,’ where proposals for drone-based solutions will be solicited.

Under this Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), DFI and ADB will work together on various aspects, including planning, research, testing, manufacturing, and adoption of drones and counter-drone technologies to enhance the Indian Army’s operational capabilities. The ADB will offer mentorship and facilitate field visits for selected participants, providing the Indian industry with insights into real-life operational scenarios.

 

Conclusion:

While the ADB has made significant strides since its inception, it is important to recognize that defense projects involve long gestation periods. Thus, assessing the organization’s efficacy within its six-year existence may be premature, especially when initial results have been promising. As such, it is our considered opinion that there is no immediate need for substantial changes to the Army Design Bureau’s structure or operations. Instead, we should continue to support and nurture its growth as a vital pillar in India’s journey towards defense self-reliance.

About Rajesh Uppal

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