Vallampadugai Srinivasa Raghavan Arunachalam (10 November 1935–16 August 2023) was an Indian scientist and former head of Defence Research & Development Organization (DRDO). He was the founder and chairman of CSTEP, a science and technology think tank.

Early life and education

Arunachalam was born on 10 November 1935.[1] He held bachelor's and master's degrees in science and received his PhD degree in materials science and engineering from the University of Wales, in 1965. He was also alumnus of Sharada Vilas College Mysuru.[citation needed]


Arunachalam worked as a scientist at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, National Aeronautical Laboratory in Bangalore, and Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory in Hyderabad. He was the head of DRDO for about ten years in the 1980s.[2] During his tenure the budget of DRDO increased eightfold, and he is credited with being able to get over both bureaucratic and financial hurdles.[3] He initiated major defence projects like the Light Combat Aircraft and the Integrated Guided Missiles programmes.

Arunachalam served as defence scientific advisor to the defence minister of India between 1982 and 1992, serving ten defence ministers and five prime ministers,[4] and as secretary, Department of Defence Research for Government of India.[5] He advised the government on the definition, assessment and review of a number of major technological and societal programs such as optical fiber communications for India, development of indigenous iron and steel technologies, scientific and technological missions for the country to eradicate illiteracy, infant mortality etc. He also advised the government in the area of graduate education in engineering.[6]

Arunachalam was a collaborating professor of engineering and public policy at the Carnegie Mellon University,[7] and an honorary professor at the UK's University of Warwick. He was a member of the Defence Research & Development Service (DRDS).


Arunachalam received numerous awards and medals, including the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize for Science and Technology in Engineering Science in 1980. He was the first Indian to be elected as a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, UK.[5]

Arunachalam was conferred Padma Bhushan (1985) and Padma Vibhushan (1990) for his contribution to Indian science.[8] In 2015, he was awarded Defence Research and Development Organisation's (DRDO's) lifetime achievement award for his outstanding contribution in the field of scientific research and technology.[9]


Arunachalam died in California on 16 August 2023, at the age of 87.[10][11]


  1. ^ "Awardee Details: Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize". 18 August 2023. Retrieved 18 August 2023.
  2. ^ RAMADAS P SHENOY. "DEFENCE RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT ORGANISATION 1958–1982" (PDF). Retrieved 17 November 2015.
  3. ^ WPS Siddhu (15 September 1992). "Off course DRDO's budget jumps, major projects get delayed". India Today. Retrieved 17 November 2015.
  4. ^ Rajagopalan, Rajesh; Mishra, Atul (2014). Nuclear South Asia: Keywords and Concepts. Routledge India. pp. 69–70. ISBN 978-1138795730.
  5. ^ a b "Indian Fellow". Indian National Science Academy. Retrieved 19 November 2015.
  6. ^ "Dr. V. S. Arunachalam on IRGC". IRGC. Retrieved 19 November 2015.
  7. ^ "V.S. Arunachalam on CMU". CMU. Retrieved 18 November 2015.
  8. ^ "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  9. ^ "V S Arunachalam gets DRDO lifetime achievement award". Business Standard. 23 September 2015. Retrieved 10 November 2015.
  10. ^ "Former DRDO Chief V.S. Arunachalam no more". The Hindu. 16 August 2023. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 16 August 2023.
  11. ^ "Former defence research body chief VS Arunachalam passes away in America". India Today. Retrieved 16 August 2023.