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Christopher DRDO Chief; Satheesh Reddy Scientific Advisor to Defence Minister

By Dr Anantha Krishnan M

Ezhimala (Kerala), May 29:  After months of uncertainty and speculation, the government on Thursday night appointed Dr S Christopher as the full-time Chief of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

The government also appointed DRDO's young brain and a missile navigation specialist Dr G Satheesh Reddy as the Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister (officially known as SA to RM).


Currently Dr Christopher is the Programme Director of Bengaluru-based Centre for Air-Borne Systems (CABS), a premier DRDO lab. The lab is currently integrating India's Prying Plane -- Airborne Early Warning and Control system (AEW&C) on an improvised Embraer aircraft EMB-145I.

DRDO has a new chief

Dr Satheesh is currently the Director of Hyderabad-based Research Centre Imarat (RCI), a top-notch lab supporting various missile programmes. He is credited with development of the Redundant Navigation System for long-duration missiles, including the Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) Agni V.

A notification issued by the Appointments Committee of Cabinet (ACC) says both the scientists will have tenure of two years each. Dr Christopher will be the Secretary, Department of Defence Research and Development and Director General of DRDO.

With these top appointments, the government has now bifurcated the responsibilities of DRDO Chief. Earlier the DRDO Chief doubled up as the SA to RM as well.

A tough job on hand for Christopher

Dr Christopher's elevation to the top post was on the expected lines once the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) decided to look beyond candidates who are on an extension in DRDO.

He is taking the mantle of DRDO, which is yet to recover from the shock treatment given by the government following the sacking of its Dr Avinash Chander from the top post in January 2015.

With a host of programmes running behind the schedule, Christopher's job is cut out, especially with a demanding and unpredictable government at the top. His first major litmus test will be to up the morale of his team, which is now on an all-time low.

The impending Final Operational Clearance (FOC) of Tejas, filling the vacant posts in DRDO, getting the Finance Ministry's nod for pending projects and establishing a cordial relationship with the never-happy Services are some of the uphill tasks awaiting Dr Christopher.

DRDO's new Chief is known as a great team leader and many credit him with the success of rejuvenating CABS.

A blessing in disguise for the new SA to RM

For 51-years-old Dr Satheesh Reddy, the early call for the coveted SA to RM's post, without the burden of running the DRDO, is definitely a blessing in disguise. It is also a great opportunity for the top navigation brain to get enough exposure before taking up higher responsibilities in future.

As Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar's advisor, he is expected to grasp the ‘Delhi dynamics' first and then watch closely as to how Dr Christopher builds a DRDO-Ver2, clearing the current mess.

The Parrikar-Satheesh combo will be watched closely by the PMO and if sources were to be believed then PM Modi & Co is said to be highly impressed with Dr Satheesh's credentials.

Dr Satheesh's contribution as a scientist and his leadership skills will be surely missed by the scientists at the Missile Complex in Hyderabad. Many feel that even the man of the moment himself will also miss the day-to-day challenges of aiding various missile programmes.

All is well that ends well. But for the DRDO, probably the stage is set for a new story to unfold.

Watch this space!

(The writer is a seasoned aerospace and defence journalist in India. He is the Consultant Editor (Defence) with OneIndia. He tweets @writetake.)


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