Bengaluru: Top missile scientist Dr Tessy Thomas has been appointed as the Director General, Aeronautical Systems (DG-Aero) of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
The appointment is on expected lines as Dr Tessy was selected as the top choice for the post a month back, to replace the current incumbent C P Ramanarayanan, who is set to retire on May 31. She will take charge on June 1.
Currently she is the Director of Advanced Systems Laboratories (ASL), Hyderabad.
Dr Tessy, already celebrated as the first woman DRDO scientist to head any missile project, will be DRDO’s third DG (Aero) following the restructuring a couple of years back.
She also becomes DRDO’s third woman DG at the technical level.
Dr Tessy will now shift her operational base from her favourite Missile Complex in Hyderabad to C V Raman Nagar in Bengaluru.
A palatial office, functioning out of Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), awaits her. She will now be responsible for all programmes under the Aero Cluster, which is part of the seven wings of DRDO.
While her expertise all through has been on missiles, the appointment has already raised some eyebrows within DRDO. “Yet again a very talented and committed soul gets a wrong posting,” was a cryptic response from a DRDO insider.
The Aero cluster labs that will be under Dr Tessy’s command, include: Defence Avionics Research Establishment (DARE), Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE), Centre For Air Borne System (CABS), Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), Centre for Military Airworthiness & Certification (CEMILAC) and Agra-based Aerial Delivery Research and Development Establishment (ADRDE).
Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) – an autonomous body of DRDO – responsible for Tejas and all future combat fighter projects -- too will fall under her ambit.
Interestingly, Dr Tessy has named her son after Tejas, a programme she will have to now propel with renewed vigour. The Final Operational Clearance (FOC) of Tejas, the future of India’s lone sub-sonic cruise missile Nirbhay and progress of Rustom-2 UAV will top her menu.
Tessy will also have to placate a section of DRDO scientists in Bengaluru, who have been ‘sidelined’ after refusing to toe the line of former DRDO chairman Dr S Christopher, who retired on May 28 (yesterday).
“By the time she understands the functioning of various labs we would have lost six months (November). Tejas FOC will be on the final lap by then and initial preparations for the next edition of Aero India will also fly in. Going by the work profile of last two DGs, she will mostly be shuttling between Delhi and Bengaluru. Unless this trend stops and DRDO decentralizes powers DGS sticking to the true spirit of cluster segmentation, it will be a very tiring job,” says a scientist, now part of DG (Aero) secretariat.
Hailing from Alappuzha in Kerala, Dr Tessy’s father was an accountant in a private firm and mother in-charge of house chores. Despite financial constraints, she completed her B Tech (Electrical) from Thrissur Engineering College and later ME (Guided Missiles) from Pune University. She was awarded her PhD in Missile Guidance from JNTU Hyderabad.
“I am sure the appointment will inspire young women scientists in India. It will also inspire girls to take up science and aeronautical streams. I have not thought about any action plan yet,” Dr Tessy said.
The 1963-born scientist has close to 30 years of service in DRDO. Often referred to as the ‘Agni Putri,’ following her long association with the Agni series of missiles, Dr Tessy has her task cut out with a series of delayed programmes already queuing up for attention.
(The writer is an independent aerospace and defence journalist and tweets @writetake.)