DRDO’s new chief Satheesh Reddy has his job cut out

M Somasekhar Hyderabad | Updated on August 26, 2018

G Satheesh Reddy

G Satheesh Reddy, the new chief of India’s top defence research establishment, has his job cut out, with many challenges ahead.

The 13th scientist to lead the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) happens to be one of its youngest.

The rise of the 55-year-old guidance and navigation technology scientist has been rapid and impressive.

His elevation also shows the domination of India’s missile programme in defence research.

Reddy is the fourth from the Missile Complex in Hyderabad to reach the top post in DRDO after APJ Abdul Kalam, VK Saraswat and Avinash Chander.

Before being appointed as the Secretary, Defence (R&D) & DG of DRDO, Reddy served a three-year-term as Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister till June this year. His leadership qualities and expertise in key aerospace technologies have counted, and Reddy has rapidly climbed up the DRDO hierarchy. His sustained hard work, work experience with the top DRDO leaders and timely political support weighed in his favour.

He became a distinguished scientist at 49, Director of RCI at 50 and Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister at 52, after having joined the DRDO in 1986.

With all the action in finalising multi-billion dollar defence contracts in the offing, large projects delayed and waiting to be completed, indigenous research efforts under criticism, and ‘Make in India’ making slow progress, the energetic Reddy will have his hands full.

The organisation is also facing a fund crunch and talent issues; hardly any new, big-bang projects have come through in recent years.

Positive public leads

The tremendous success of Agni missiles and the BrahMos supersonic missile, along with the LCA, do give the DRDO chief some positive public leads. However, the large percentage of components and systems that need to be made in India by the domestic industry will challenge his leadership skills.

He will be heading the DRDO with a budget of around ₹15, 000 crore and over 7,500 scientists working in about 50 national labs across the country. Reddy has begun his new innings with a two-year term after the DRDO remained headless for three months.

He should draw on his experience of leadership roles attained early in his career to steer the DRDO, which has come under criticism from Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself as well as the user fraternity (defence forces) for delays, quality standards and accountability.

Reacting to his appointment, Reddy said: “Our main focus will be to work towards fulfilling the mission mandated for DRDO — that is to develop best-in-class systems for the country’s defence. My immediate focus will be to ensure that the entire organisation puts in its best efforts to meet the technological challenges, develop indigenous state-of-the-art products to meet the requirements of the armed forces and strengthen ‘Make in India’.”

With graduate, post-graduate and doctorate degrees in engineering from JNTU Anantapur and Hyderabad, Reddy is credited with contributions towards the indigenous design, development and deployment of diversified missiles and strategic systems, guided weapons and avionics technologies, and for sustained efforts in the advancement of aerospace technologies and industries in India, a DRDO release said. He is actively involved in the country’s fully indigenous Ballistic Missile Defence programme and developed the mission critical technologies for Long Range Agni-5. He is also involved in the development of the country’s first 1,000-kg class guided bomb and laid the foundation for Long Range Smart Guided Weapons, as well as the BrahMos supersonic missile.

Published on August 26, 2018

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