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EME unvelils 'Drona' on eve of 57th anniversary

By Our Staff Reporter

BANGALORE, OCT. 12. The Indian Army no longer needs to shell out thousands of rupees to ensure that its troops get sufficient firing practice. It now has "Drona" to help it to do so.

The use of "Drona" -- a small-arms range training simulator -- will save the Army 40 to 50 per cent of the amount usually spent on regular troop training.

Col. K.V.N.Swamy, Officiating Commandant of the 515 Army Base Workshop (ABW) here, shared this information with presspersons on Thursday. The ABW is a wing of the Corps of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (EME) of the Indian Army.

Col. Swamy, who was standing in for ABW Comdt and MD Brig. D.S.Mankotia, guided presspersons to the Drona Project Department at the ABW.

According to him, Drona is a hitech electronic and software-based equipment developed by the Simulator Development Division, Secunderabad. It will drastically cut down expenditure on ammunition, logistics and time spent on troop training.

The equipment comprises a single-lane or multi-lane (usually eight) firing stations connected to an instructor server -- a Pentium III server. Weapons such as the 7.62 mm SLR, 7.62 mm LMG, 5.56 mm INSAS and 5.56 mm LMG are used in the firing station.

When a soldier uses the firing station, he can be shown computer- generated images of any kind of terrain and condition. Other options include day and night firing, right and left-handed use and instructions in English and Hindi. An instructor will also sit in a sound-proof AC cabin to observe the soldiers.

"Earlier, we were using an American single-lane simulator, which cost us Rs. 16 lakhs. Our single-lane version costs Rs. 6.05 lakh while the multi-lane one costs Rs. 20 lakh," the Colonel said.

The ABW has supplied 10 pieces to the Indian Navy. The Army has ordered 576 multi-lane pieces. "In phase II, around 1,800 pieces will be supplied for field Army conditions." The Indian Air Force has ordered 25 multi-lane pieces while there are also requests from the CRPF and the paramilitary forces.

At present, the 515 ABW can manufacture 12 pieces a month "but we will enhance production when the demand increases", the officer said.

Simulator hand grenade

The Colonel and the other officers present, also demonstrated a simulator hand grenade (SHG) which gives soldiers the actual sound and feel of a real grenade. "The cartridge used in a real grenade costs Rs. 500. Moreover, the grenade is used only once. The SHG cartridge costs Rs. 35 and the grenade can be used at least 15 times before being discarded," the officer said.

At present, the ABW has supplied 25,000 SHGs to the field Army.

Artificial limbs

The ABW also manufactures light-weight artificial limbs for soldiers. Around 400 below-the-knee structures of stainless steel have already been manufactured. The steel structure or tube (later encased in a limb-like case) weighs 500 gm and is priced at Rs. 6,000 when compared to imported ones that cost Rs. 60,000 each. It also reportedly lasts a lifetime.

"We are working on developing an above-the-knee structure and an artificial mobile hand," Col. Swamy said. The ABW was also developing an anti-personnel mine simulator, he added.

57th anniversary

Col. Swamy said the 515 ABW of the EME would celebrate its 57th anniversary on October 15. "The 10th Army budget has sanctioned us Rs. 7 crores for modernisation with Rs. 2 crores going in for civil works," he said.

There are eight ABWs in the country, which have an 18,000 civilian workforce. Ten per cent of the Bangalore ABW work goes toward body building commitment, while 90 per cent is in the manufacture of spares. It indigenises spares for a variety of weapons systems such as missiles, BMP (Russian) tanks and Bofors guns. "During Operation Vijay, the EME kept 97 per cent of the equipment in operationally fit condition," he explained.

The workshop currently has 1,500 work orders and is likely to undertake overhauling of sub-assemblies for the Indian Army helicopters. Besides, it may also be involved in indigenising the mine protection vehicle "Cassapier."

Part of the `Drona' simulator system (left); and the engine stand of a BMP Infantry Carrier Vehicle.

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