The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has identified delays in the completion of a project intended to create a “high-grade” security solution for securing video, phone, and fax communication between VVIP aircraft and designated ground stations.
The Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (CAIR), a top laboratory of the Defence Research and Development Organisation, created the Meghdoot project (DRDO). Due to the lack of sufficient bandwidth and satellite communication, the project was terminated before it could be put into service. Now, the CAG has highlighted the delays in the project’s completion.
According to the CAG report, the government approved the Rs 11,09 crore “Security of Video, Voice, and Fax Communication between Airborne Platforms and Ground Stations — MEGHDOOT” project (revised). The project was anticipated to be finished by December 2013.
“The goal of the project was to design, build, and use a high-level security system to protect video, phone, and fax communications between planes and ground stations. The VVIP (BBJ) aircraft was the identified platform, according to a report given to the Lok Sabha on December 21 by the CAG.
“After installation of the CAIR-developed security solution on VVIP aircraft, the IAF conducted User Trials in May 2013, during which an increase in temperature of the on-board security solution was noted,” the report stated.
“CAIR realised (in December 2013) that owing to insufficient bandwidth and satellite connection, they could not resolve the communication network disruption issue, and thus requested the air HQ to terminate the project. The IAF provided an official authorization for service use in August 2016, according to the paper titled “Management and Outcome of Mission Mode Projects at DRDO.”
“The Air HQ informed CAIR in January 2018 that the currently constructed system was deemed unsuitable for operational use due to insufficient satellite bandwidth and massive delay and packet drops detected on the communication channels.” In August of 2019, the Air Force finally announced the project’s conclusion. The CAIR then sent the required statement of expenditures to the Controller of Defence Accounts (CDA). According to the audit, the CDA did not get the statement of expenditures that had been checked until July 2021.
“Additionally, the administrative closure report of the project was not submitted until February 2022 due to a delay in conducting trials/acceptance tests and significant time spent by the Air Force and the CDA to review project expenditures,” the report stated.
“According to DRDO headquarters (August 2021), the project was initiated to meet an urgent need for secure communication between VVIP aircraft and specified ground stations. When the project was initiated, the aircraft, satellite-based communication systems, and ground components were all nearing completion. The Meghdoot system may be made operational by providing the requisite bandwidth, which is currently affordable and accessible. The User told Audit (February 2021) that the project was cancelled, and no product was put into operation, according to the report.
“Therefore, even after receiving notice from the Air Force in August 2019, there was a delay of roughly 28 months in preparing the Closure Report, and the project accounts were not closed,” the report continued.