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APJ Kalam



Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam

Dr. Avul Pakir Jainulabhudin Adbul Kalam, was born on the 15th October, 1931, at Rameshwaram in TamilNadu. He did his B.Sc. at the St. Joseph's College, Tiruchi, and DMIT in Aeronautical Engineering at the MIT, Madras, during 1954-57. He joined the DRDO in 1958. During 1963-82, he served the ISRO in various capacities.
As Project Director, SLV-3, he was responsible for carrying out design, development, qualification and flight testing of 44 major sub systems. In 1982, as Director, DRDO, was entrusted with the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme. He conceived the programme cnstituting 5 major projects for meeting the requirements of the defence services and for establishing re-entry technology.

The development and successful flight test of Prithvi, Trishul, Akash, Nag, and Agni established the indigeneous capability towards self reliance in defence preparedness. The successful launching of 'Agni' surface-to-surface missile is a unique achievement which made India a member of an exclusive club of highly developed countries. Thus, through SLV and Guided Missile Programme a solid foundation has been created in the indigeneous testing and development of high technology Aerospace Projects.
An Advanced Technology Research Centre, called Research Centre Imarat has also been established by Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam as an extension of DRDL to undertake development in futuristic missile technology areas. He has also established a unique 3 tier management structure to integrate and commit technologists, academic institutions, Industries etc. As a crowing glory to all his achievements, he was appointed Scientific Advisor to Raksha Manthri and Secretary, Dept. of Defence Research and Development.

He is a member of Indian National Academy of Sciences, Astronautical Society of India and many other professional bodies. He has published two books.

He has been Awarded with the India's Highest civilian Award "The Bharat Ratna" in 1998. 
Starting with Anna University's first D.Sc., Honoris Causa, he has received many such including the one given by IIT, Bombay, BHU and others. 
Other prestigious awards include Dr.Biren Roy Space Award, Om Prakash Basin Award for Science and Technology, National Nehru Award, Arya Bhatta Award. 
Dr. Abdul kalam, is praised as a welder of people and a Gandhian Missile Man by R.K. Laxman, in his cartoon in "Times of India." 
As a humanitarian and with his extreme simplicity, easy access, he has become a National Hero. He loves Tamil poetry and is interested in carnatic music. He has himself written poems in Tamil. He adores his Gurus of MIT and cherishes his education and training at MIT. 


Kalam's Anecdotes 

India has to have vision to become a developed nation. A good dream for our young people is the vision. Can we ignite our young minds? These are the thoughts that frequently 'fire' the mind of India's missile man-- this year (1998) Bharat Ratna awardee Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

In an interview to Science Express, the man who built biting molars and awesome muscles into India's missile programme outlined the vision he has of India of tomorrow. "Whenever there is a goal, the dynamics of performance changes, Technology is the economical strength of the nation", says soft-spoken Kalam. "India has people of high calibre and intelligence. The only thing required is more facilities in our labs, government funding and good leadership in scientific areas." After a pause, he fires another missile: "Most importantly, determined youngsters."

No wonder he advices the youth of the country to "dream, dream and dream and convert these into thoughts and later into actions."
Kalam's advice to the youngsters of the nation is to "think big" . "We are a nation of a billion people and we must think like a nation of a billion people. Only then can we become big."

Dr. Kalam's, Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister and Secretary, Defence Research and Development is the second scientist to receive the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award, after the late Dr. Homi Jehangir Baba.

This genius attributes his success to his parents and the team which worked relentlessly to achieve the goal.

Science, according to him, is a global phenomenon. He feels there are a few areas where India can develop its core competence. These areas are software engineering, computer products and design, agriculture and food, aviation, defence research and space technology and chemical engineering.

"This will lead to a highly beneficial economic and social progress for the nation," says Kalam.

The man who said, "Friends, you now have the fire to torch the Agni" turns out to be extremely shy. His love for the Bhagavad Geetha and the long mane almost gives the missile man the halo of a saint. In fact, his views on technology and life make him the copy book saint of science armed with Brahmastras and the power to heal wounds.

That is another passion of Kalam-using missiles that maime and kill to give a fresh hope to the disabled. In a U turn, Kalam has not shied in using the technology behind fire-spewing missiles to build artificial limbs and spring-like coils called stents to keep the heart vessels open.
He is one of those scientists who aims at putting technology created by him to multiple use. He used the light weight carbon-carbon material designed for Agni to make calipers for the polio affected. This carbon-carbon composite material reduced the weight of the calipers to 400 grams (from its original weight of 4kgs.) Nizam's Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS, Hyderabad) was the birthplace for the defence technology spin offs from Kalam's labs via the DRDL (Defence Research and Development Laboratory), DMRL (Defence Metallurgical Research Lab) and the RCI (Research Centre Imarat). "It was a great experience to see, in the orthopaedic Department of NIMS, how the light weight caliper could bring happiness to the polio affected", remembers Kalam.

Another important event that took place in Hyderabad is the development of the Cardiac stent. Cardiac stents are used during a Balloon Angioplasty. The clogged arteries are opened up using a balloon and stents are inserted to prevent the vessels from collapse.
"The stent developed by us costed much less (he is modest not to say that the cost is less than half) than the ones imported," explains Kalam.

Kalam says there are many more avenues wherein defence technology can be used for a social cause. The technology used for defence imaging systems can be used for medical imagery which is yet another value product, he says. "We are also working on a cost-effective lighter substitute for the Jaipur foot," he adds.

He is of the opinion that a mission oriented programme should be chalked out where in medical equipments and their maintenance should grow out of indigenous technology, thus making us self reliant.

But personally, given a chance would he rather opt to use technology solely for social purposes or continue with his missile programmes? "If India has to become a developed nation it has to have overall development. That includes the field of medicine, defence technology and everything else," says Kalam in a matter-of-fact tone.

Having rolled out sophisticated missiles at regular intervals, Kalam is now striving to make the reusable missiles dream a reality. Like the space shuttles, the reusable missiles can carry war-heads to a pre-determined target, deliver the fire power and return for another run.

The reusable missile's close 'cousin' is Nishant - the Remotely Piloted Vehicle (RPV) or a one-time-use missile that can thumb its nose at even sophisticated radars.

Many of Kalam's pet projects like the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) and several other defence ventures under his command, are poised for a quantum leap next year.

According to a status report of major ongoing projects of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) headed by Kalam, the development of the five indigenous missiles under the IGMDP is progressing as per schedule.

"Agni" missile, the crown of the IGMDP, is being given top priority and DRDO scientists have been able to indigenously produce carbon-carbon composite material which could withstand temperatures upto 3500 degrees celsius during the flight of the missile.

UNI quoting Defence Minisry sources said production of 150-Km range "Prithvi" missile for the Army had already commenced and two flight trials of the 250-Km range, Indian Air Force (IAF) version, "Prithvi" had also been completed.

User trials of the other three missiles under the IGMDP - the 9 Km short range low level quick reaction Trishul for the three services, the 25Km medium range surface to air missile "Akash" with multiple target handling capability, the third generation 4Km range anti-tank "Nag" missile - were slated to commence next year.

In many ways, the "Akash" missile is emerging as a key weapon which is being developed by the DRDO as it employs ram rocket propulsion to facilitate carrying of bigger pay loads.

'Akash' is the key in the sense that ram rocket technology is also to be employed by India for the futuristic reusable missile systems.

As far as the current status of India's ambitious Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) was concerned, the second LCA was under integration along with the simultaneous development of technology demonstrator TD-1.

Several new technologies had been established with regard to the LCA. They included carbon fibre composite structure, control law for unstable aircraft, digital fly-by-wire control system and advanced computing system.
The Kaveri engine had been developed and was undergoing evaluation. Its integration with LCA was expected in early 1999.

No country can throttle India's missile programme despite technology denial regimes, believes Kalam.

An important aspect of "the integrated guided missile development programme was identification of critical technologies and their indigenisation as the missile technology control regime was primarily directed at India."

Elaborating on his future plans, the senior most serving defence scientist referred to the Technology Mission 2020 which proposes to change the national status from a developing one to a developed one and involve 500 people from academia, industry and government. He also spoke about working on a 10 year self-reliance programme in defence technologies.

Kalam was born into a family of modest means in Rameshwaram, a small town in TamilNadu. It was his father who wanted him to take up science in the college. After graduating from St.Joseph College, Tiruchirapalli, he joined the Madras Institute of Technology (MIT) to specialise in Aeronautical Engg. This was indeed his launching pad for this promising young man who was destined to become the father of Indian missile programme. After a brief stint in the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), he joined the Indian Space Research organisation (ISRO) in 1963. While at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, he developed the Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV-3) which put the Rohini Satellite into orbit.

He later re-entered DRDO at the Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL), Hyderabad, as the director and this is where most of the research and development of his missile programmes were conceived and created. In his hour of glory, the missile man remembered his parents, co-workers especially at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, Thiruvananthapuram and a Hyderabad-based defence research laboratory, besides teachers who collectively contributed in various ways towards this achievement.

Courtesy: The Indian Express/Science Express, 16th Dec. 1997.
 Special thanks to our beloved senior M.K.Saravanan, 48th batch elex.

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Last updated: February 22, 2000.