Zeus Numerix at cutting edge of Make-in-India defence technology

Zeus Numerix has designed a better muzzle brake for the Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS), which is being developed by the DRDO. At least 1,500 ATAGS are likely to be inducted into army service
In Aero India 2019, Indian exhibitors pay vast amounts to showcase weapons and equipment they are building with technologies licensed from foreign vendors. However, there are also a handful of Indian innovators with such technological confidence that they do not even bother to rent a display booth.

One such company is Zeus Numerix, whose co-founders Abhishek Jain and Basant Kumar Gupta move from one client meeting to another. For a company with only 40 employees, their impressive string of technological innovations makes them sought after by the Defence Research and Development Organisation  (DRDO), BrahMos Aerospace, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) and the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro). In 2005, Zeus Numerix moved out of a small room in the aerospace department of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay, and started competing for design projects. Since then, they have logged success in projects such as integrating the BrahMos missile on the Sukhoi-30MKI fighter, detecting and deceiving laser-guided bombs and designing a ramjet engine for South Korea for missile applications. 

Former HAL chairman RK Tyagi said Russia asked for Rs 1,300 crore to integrate the BrahMos missile into the Sukhoi-30MKI, but Indian firms like Zeus managed to do the job for only Rs 80 crore. Signalling Zeus' credentials in genuine research and development (R&D), in 2004 it became the first and only Indian company to develop software in the complex field of computational fluid dynamics, especially its most cutting edge application in hypersonic missiles.

In 2007, they developed India's first and only prediction software for stealth, which makes an aircraft or warship near-invisible to enemy radar. Their code for stealth is being used in the most advanced Make in India projects - such as the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft and in fine-tuning missile seekers to home onto their targets more effectively.

Partnering Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE) in designing an inshore patrol vessel, Zeus reduced its stealth signature by 70 per cent. 

Along the way, they won the Lockheed Martin India Innovation Growth Medal, which is a highly competitive programme for honouring innovation in India and helping commercialise successful innovations.

"Very early, we recognised the need to indigenise more deeply by not just accumulating manufacturing know-how, but mastering the process of designing those products and improving them," said Jain. 

In 2009, they won their first design and development order for a testing facility for the DRDO, which incorporates a rocket sled that moves at a velocity of 1,800 kilometres per hour - the only such facility in Asia.

By 2010, top scientists in DRDO, BrahMos and HAL saw the potential of Zeus' young team and began mentoring them in developing advanced technologies that fed into projects like the integration of the BrahMos missile into the Sukhoi-30MKI.

To work in this field, one requires the highest level of aerospace certification and this was accorded to Zeus by the DRDO's certification agency, Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification (CEMILAC).

In March 2018, Zeus became the first small company to be awarded a project under the defence ministry's Technology Development Fund to develop a sea water pump made of composite materials that are light and do not corrode. This pump is currently being tested. If it is successful, Zeus will be the world's second company - after US firm, SIMSITE - to have succeeded in this.

The Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) has recognised Zeus as an R&D company, which brings in tax benefits and opportunities to work in government-funded R&D programmes with foreign collaborators. Already, Zeus has executed over 200 assignments in defence for the DRDO, DPSUs and major private defence firms in India. These include designing a framework for "low noise aircraft wing" for Airbus Innovation Works, which funds futuristic technologies. 

Underscoring its focus on cutting edge R&D, the company is guided by a technology team composed of IIT Bombay professors and alumni. It has raised money once from an angel investor, but now says its on-going projects provide all the funds they need.

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