The Indian defense ministry has approved a proposal by Defense Research Development Organization (DRDO) to transfer technology (ToT) of Lakshya pilotless target aircraft (PTA) to an Indian private company, Larsen and Toubro (L&T).
L&T will be able to produce Lakshya PTA commercially and will have to pay a royalty to DRDO for every aircraft produced and sold by it. The ToT is the first instance of a critical defense technology being transferred to private manufacturer on royalty basis.
“This will allow the industry to do what DRDO currently does what it should not really do, i.e., upgradation of a system. We will do the hand-holding. But a private manufacturer with access to base technology can easily develop a newer version, a Mark II for a platform,” the Indian Express news daily reported Sunday quoting an unnamed DRDO official.
Singapore, Malaysia and Israeli militaries are prospective clients for the Lakshya PTA. L&T will have to take permission from the MoD before selling the PTA abroad.
Perspective buyers for Lakshya PTA include foreign militaries, including those of Singapore, Malaysia and Israel.
Before this, critical defense technologies were given to defense PSUs by nomination with little incentive to commercially produce and market them. Defense PSUs were transferred these technologies by DRDO free of cost whereas private defense manufacturers will now pay a royalty for the ToT.
“L&T had been associated with the Lakshya project and had produced the launcher for the Army version of Lakshya. Tatas had produced the launcher for the IAF version of Lakshya PTA,” The news daily quoted unnamed industry sources as saying.
The Lakshya PTA is a reusable subsonic aerial target system developed by the Bangalore-based Aeronautical Development Establishment of DRDO, and was first inducted into the Indian Air Force in 2000. The Navy and Army acquired the Lakshya PTA in 2001 and 2003.
Powered by a gas turbine engine and launched either from land or ship, it carries two towed targets to realistically simulate enemy aircraft threat. These towed targets are used for training of gun and missile crews, and for combat aircraft pilots.
Tatas had produced the launcher for the IAF version of Lakshya PTA.
“This new model of engagement will interest other private defense manufacturers to bid for defense technologies developed by DRDO. It will also help DRDO pull back its resources from constant improvements to an existing platform,” DRDO official said.
Industry sources said that L&T and DRDO will work jointly to build a production model for Lakshya-2, by using the basic Lakshya-2 design and making it production friendly.
The new ToT guidelines framework has been approved by the Defense Minister and is likely to be announced next month. A case by case sanction for ToT from the MoD will not be required once comprehensive guidelines are issued. The new ToT framework will provide all manufacturers, whether private or Defense PSU, an equal opportunity to access defense technology on royalty basis.