Seeking the future: An interview with Dr G Satheesh Reddy, Director Research Centre Imarat
The brainchild of former President APJ Abdul Kalam, Research Centre Imarat is India's premier missile sub-systems laboratory. With a vast forested campus RCI is the jewel in DRDO's missile crown and is today an institution doing cutting edge research and development in missile guidance systems, control and actuation, onboard computing and even batteries. Moreover under the leadership of its current director Dr G Satheesh Reddy, RCI is graduating to full systems development for precision guided munitions (PGMs). Dr Reddy, a DRDO 'outstanding scientist', has numerous awards to his credit and is a leadinglight in the field of military navigation and sensing technology today. Geek at Large caught up with him in his RCI office...
SauravJha: Dr Reddy, do you feel that India's delivery capability is potent enough over ranges of 5000 kms or more, given that we presently lack a global navigation satellite system of our own and must rely on foreign constellations for updates to remove accumulated errors in the inertial navigation system (INS)?
Satheesh Reddy: Jamming or spoofing over the entire trajectory of 5-6000 km is not really a feasible proposition for anybody given the altitude and the orientation of the missile antenna. Moreover you would note that we are fielding systems that can receive multi-constellation updates. Receivers can also be designed to work in jamming conditions by employing things like null steering antennas. Yes it is possible that the signal itself may be turned off over a stretch approaching the target. Neverthelessthe ring laser gyroscope (RLG) based INS used in our long range missiles gives sufficient accuracy for credible strategic deterrence on its own under any circumstances.
Fig 1: Ring Laser Gyroscope based INS + satellite receiver
SauravJha: Talking about tactical systems, what kind of optical gyroscopes are they using at the moment?
Satheesh Reddy: Fibre Optic Gyroscopes (FOG) mostly. Akash uses a FOG for example. In fact FOG technology is quite mature and FOGs arebeing produced in numbers. 200 FOGs for instance were recently delivered for the Akash program. FOGs are also being used for Tanks. We have FOGs of bias drift less than 0.01 degree per hourat the prototype stage currently. These are meant for ship based applications.
SauravJha: And what would you say about the state of RLG technology at RCI?
Satheesh Reddy: Well, it's 'state of the art'. World standard navigation grade RLGs are quite mature here.
Fig 2: New MEMS based INS with satellite receiver
SauravJha: Where are these RLGs built?
Satheesh Reddy: They are built in and around the RCI campus.
SauravJha: Under a government owned company operated (GOCO) format?
Satheesh Reddy: Similar. Our first GOCO facility is actually the one that builds electrohydraulic servo valves.
SauravJha: Will the proposed new detector facility also be built on this campus?
Satheesh Reddy: No not here. In any case we aren't really being denied high accuracy focal point arrays (FPAs) nowadays.
SauravJha: Dr Reddy, the recently unveiled missile autonomy mission will see the development of tactical missiles that would clearly need seekers for the end game. In that context would you tell us more about the radio frequency (RF) seeker technology being developed here in RCI?
Satheesh Reddy: On the RF seeker front, we have quite a few developments taking place. We have developed a millimeter wave (MMW) seeker that is being produced by private industry. This MMW seeker is capable of both lock-on-after-launch(LOAL) and lock-on-before-launch(LOBL) configurations.
Fig 3: MMW seeker
SauravJha: What is the MMW seeker meant for?
Satheesh Reddy: It is meant for PGMs and for the next generation anti-radiation missile (NGARM).
SauravJha: PGMs of the kind?
Satheesh Reddy:Like the lightweight PGM under development here in RCI at the moment. This PGM has already been test-fired from an unmanned aerial vehicle and a sizeable number can also be carried by a missile like the Prithvi or by an aircraft like the Su-30 MKI. The Prithvi configuration can be used for attacking runways for example.
Continuing on the RF seeker front, RCI is also developing a Ku-band seeker for anti-aircraft applications. This is a scaled down version of an existing active radar seeker developed by us and is a requirement for the Astra. System qualification is expected to commenceearly next year.
An X-band seeker for anti-ship applications is also being pursued very seriously and trials will be held in the first quarter of 2015.
SauravJha:Turning to IIR seekers, Dr Reddy what is the status of the new seeker for the Nag? Will it satisfy the Army's requirement of achieving target acquisition at a range of 4 km even in the most trying desert conditions?
Satheesh Reddy:That seeker is headed for trials this year. It can actually be used out to 6-7 kmsin better conditions.
Fig 4: New IIR seeker
SauravJha: And has work begun on a two colour seeker?
Satheesh Reddy: Design work is under way. We expect it to head for developmental trials in 2016.
SauravJha: Dr Reddy, what is the state of atomic interferometry in India?
Satheesh Reddy: Work has started in Academic and Research institute s. The focus is currently on cold atoms etc.
SauravJha: Coming back to RF seekers, how would you characterize India's current manufacturing capability in this sphere?
Satheesh Reddy:There are at least 5-6 domestic companies now both private and public who are doing credible RF seeker work. With four of them right here in Hyderabad. BEL also has a very good RF practice. As I told you earlier the MMW seeker is already being produced by our companies.
Fig 5: Electro-mechanical actuator (linear)
SauravJha: Dr Reddy to wrap up, what are the kind of munitions expected to have system on chips for their onboard computing requirements?
Fig 6: System on Chip
Satheesh Reddy: Well, things like smart bombs.
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