It has been my good fortune to have been associated with the Ministry of Defence in the early eighties as spokesperson for the Ministry, the Armed Forces and the Defence Research and Development Organisation.
The Defence Research and Development Organisation was then headed by Dr. Raja Ramanna, He was followed by Dr Arunachalam and Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam. Those were the days when leading arms manufacturing countries in the West were reluctant to sell defence equipment to India, which was a non-aligned country. The Government of India was doing its best to develop weapons within the country.
When the Defence Minister of the Soviet Union visited India in the early eighties and pointed out that we are mostly purchasing equipment from the West, our Defence Minister R. Venkataraman pointed out that when we asked for Soviet equipment, and we were told that we had to wait for years till the demands from Soviet allies were met. In response, the Soviet Defence Minister invited Venkataraman to visit the Soviet Union and choose the equipment that we need and it would be supplied to us on a priority basis.
I had the opportunity to visit the Soviet Union along with Venkataraman, the representatives from the Defence Ministry, the Service Headquarters and Dr. Arunachalam. There was a display of aircraft and other equipment. The Soviet Union agreed to sell India on rupee payment any weapon that we desired. Dr Arunachalam explored contacts for conducting weapons development in India.
A few months later, I recall a visit to Hyderabad when Defence Minister R. Venkataraman was briefed by the DRDL about its effort to develop a missile. We were witness to a basic exercise as to how a missile was to be launched. It hardly made any news, but the Defence Minister soon gave approval to the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme.
The sanctioned programme, in 1983, was for the development of a tactical surface to surface missile of 150 kilometer range for the Army, later named as Prithvi, ii) a multi-role missile system for the Army , Navy and the Air Force , later named as Trishul, iii) a surface to air missile with 25 kilometer range for the Army and the Air Force, later named Akash, iv) an advanced anti-tank missile for the Army , later named Nag, and a re-entry test vehicle to develop re-entry technology , later named as Agni.
The importance of missiles in modern warfare was established following the Persian Gulf War which was fought from 2nd August 1990 to 28 February 1991. The visuals received in India through the CNN and BBC made us aware that the war was mostly fought through the firing of missiles.
The development of Indian missiles got a boost. Initially we received assistance from the Russian Organisation NPOM in the development of Akash. The collaboration was a success, and on December 5, 1995, the BrahMos was established, and there was no looking backwards. Dr A. Sivathanu Pillai became the founder CEO and MD of BrahMos Aerospace with A. G. Lenov, Director General of NPOM of Russia as a collaborator. The share capital investment in the establishment was 50.5 percent from India and 49.5 percent from Russia.
There has been no looking back since then.
Today, we have been able to develop the BRAHMOS system as a multiple platforms, multiple targets, one missile system approach, making it the world's only universal supersonic cruise missile, capable of launching from land, sea and air against various targets on land and sea. Today, the BrahMos has orders worth US D six billion.
The book narrates the story how the BrahMos, starting from scratch, has evolved into a universal missile. It is now a multi-platform, multi-target, multi-role and multi-trajectory capable missile. All this has been achieved in a record time of just less than a decade, when the missile has emerged from the drawing boards to its deployment by the frontline forces. The young scientists and technology community the country has been able to build, as the author has pointed out, must take on tasks to make India stronger and stronger.
Dr Sivathanu Pillai has pointed out in his book that in the 18th century, a whole new and different dimension was given for the use of gunpowder in the Mysore kingdom by Hyder Ali and later by Tipu Sultan. The invention that Hyder Ali made rockets using gun powder as the charge in a professional manner. Tipu Sultan perfected and produced huge quantities of rockets. He also introduced rocket launchers, each one of which fired three rockets at a time. Tipu paved the way for missile warfare throughout the world.
The book deserves to be on the shelf in every school and college in the country. As Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam says in his preface, the book is a valuable narration to young scientists, technologists, techno-managers and the youth and experienced who aspire to excel in this competitive world.
The story that Sivathanu Pillai narrates is exciting. It describes the journey of BrahMos which made India a world leader in missile technology with the fastest, high precision supersonic cruise missile, realised in a short time with a novel collaborative effort between India and Russia. It is the first time experience in an unexplored path to demonstrate "we can do it".
Today India has a Brahmastra to meet any threat that we may face.
Book Review: The Path Unexplored (The success story of world's best supersonic cruise missile) by A. Sivathanu Pillai. Pages 278. Pentagon Press, Rs. 995/-
Mr. I. Ramamohan Rao is a former Principal Information Officer to the Government of India and currently Chief Editor (Print), ANI.
By I. Ramamohan Rao (ANI)