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Realizing the importance of guided missile weapon systems in the modern warfare, a Special Weapon Development Team (SWDT) was formed in 1958. This team was later expanded into DRDL, a full-fledged laboratory in June 1961 at the campus of Defence Science Centre, Delhi. The laboratory was moved to Hyderabad in Feb' 1962, from where starts the story of guided missiles in India.

During the initial phase, the laboratory successfully developed an anti tank missile system and indigenous rockets and proved them through flight trials. IBM 1620 was installed in DRDL as early as in 1965, which was used, for flight simulation studies.

In 1972, Project Devil, a medium range Surface-to-Surface Missile was initiated. A large number of infrastructure and test facilities were established during this period. The main facilities established during this period included Aerodynamic, Structural and Environmental test facilities, Liquid and Solid propulsion facilities; fabrication and engineering facilities; Control, Guidance, FRP, Rubber and computer centers, ground and flight instrumentation and onboard power supplies development facilities. The development of components / systems for Project Devil formed the technology bricks for the future IGMDP Programme.

1982 onwards DRDL took a quantum jump by taking design and development of various types of missiles systems simultaneously leading them to limited series production under Integrated Guided Missiles Development Programme (IGMDP). Prithvi- a surface to surface missile system, Trishul- a quick reaction short range, surface to air missile system, Nag- a third generation anti tank missile system and Akash- a medium range, surface to air missile system, besides Agni- a technology demonstrator were taken up under the Programme.

In order to meet the growing demands of development, integration,testing and quality assurance, three establishments namely Research Center Imarat (RCI), Composite Products Development Centre (CPDC), and Interim Test Range (ITR) came out under the parenthood of DRDL and a separate qualification agency Missile Systems Quality Assurance Agency (MSQAA) were established during this period. Later these establishments acquired independent status. In the year 1999 another laboratory called 'Advanced System Laboratory' was carved out of DRDL to meet the specific requirements of long range systems. This group of laboratories is now called Missile Complex.

Today DRDL, along with other Missile Complex Laboratories is the pioneer Missile Research Institutes in the country.

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