Rajat Sharma

Our armed forces must teach a lesson to Pakistan over cross border drone attacks

akbA new danger is now lurking on our border with Pakistan, after four drones were sighted within a span of two days in Jammu and Kashmir. Terrorists across the border are using Chinese-made drones fitted with explosives to inflict damage. After two low intensity blasts shook the Indian Air Force station in Jammu on Saturday night, the army sighted two more drones over Kaluchak and Ratnuchak military installations on Sunday night. Quick Reaction Teams of the army fired before both the drones crossed over to Pakistan border.

Though there was no major damage caused by these drones, yet they point towards a fresh danger to our border installations. It appears to be part of a larger sinister conspiracy against India and this requires immediate counter measures. Already, during the last two years, the army has been successful in liquidating most of the terrorists in the Valley, giving the political leadership leeway to restart the democratic process. The terror groups sitting in Pakistan have now started a new tactic to confront the army. By using drones fitted with explosives, these groups need not bother to infiltrate terrorists nor engaged the armed forces in encounters.

I spoke to several military experts, who said that use of drone for carrying out attacks inside Indian territory could continue in the near future. Experts said, China is manufacturing long-range remote-controlled drones and supplying them to Pakistan to carry out terror acts inside India. I recollect what Gen Bipin Rawat said when he was the Army Chief. Gen. Rawat had said that future warfare could be technology based, in which two armies may not confront each other on battlefields. All attacks guided remotely will be unmanned.

The sighting of drone over Kaluchak reminds me on the terror attack that took place in the same area 19 years ago, in May 2002, when 31 people were killed. It is a matter of concern when remotely controlled drones enter 14 to 15 km inside our territory and try to inflict damage. The two drones that came over the IAF station in Jammu were fitted with impact IEDs (improvised explosive devices) that could pinpoint targets and cause damage. Traditional air defence radars that we have on our border are equipped to identify larger flying objects like an aeroplane, a helicopter or an unmanned aerial vehicle, not small quadcopter drones that fly at low heights. If these radar installations are configured to identify incoming small objects like drones, because, in that case, even if a bird flies into India at a lower level, it could become a drawback and create unnecessary alarm.

Our armed forces have anti-drone jammers, which can neutralize drones if they come within a certain radius. They can even be neutralized from 200 metres away. Also, DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organization) has developed an anti-drone device that can intercept a micro drone 3 kilometres away. Our forces are also equipped with high-powered electro-magnetic system, which can jam a drone flying at a certain height. But this system cannot be used near airports or air bases, because the electro-magnetic pulse system can disturb flight movements and jam air traffic control.

Can our armed forces stop a huge swarm of drones if they descend into our territory like locusts? We have hobby drones that can be equipped like grenade- or small IED carriers. Drones can be used for launching bombs or missiles too. Some drones have stealth features that can outwit a radar. Israel has already developed a Command Center to neutralize drone and missile attacks. A few weeks ago, the world noticed how the Israeli Iron Dome system neutralized missiles launched by Palestine militants in air. Israel has already developed drones that can carry out pinpoint attacks. Reaper drones and Predator drones had been used for years by the US armed forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan to liquidate terrorists and their camps. There are reports that the Indian Navy could acquire 30 such Predator drones for surveillance over seas.

During last year’s war, Azerbaijan used drones to attack targets inside Armenia. India has to face two enemies, China and Pakistan, on its border and needs to equip its armed forces with state-of-the-art technology to counter drone attacks. Enemy drones can be neutralized both by jammer or by using laser beams. The Chinese commercial drones that are available openly in the market, can carry up to 10 kg explosive. The anti-drone system, that was deployed during last year’s Independence Day and Republic Day events, has a range of two to three kilometres. It has radar capability to pick up the drone through radar and then target it by using laser beams.

It is now an open secret that whenever India starts peace initiatives in the Kashmir valley, terror groups and their Pakistani masterminds sitting across the border, become active and carry out indiscriminate attacks to foil the peace bid. In the valley, the situation is now peaceful, terrorists have been completely sidelined, mainstream political parties are gearing up for elections and there has been a lot of developmental projects during the last two years. State and non-state actors sitting inside Pakistan are now desperate to create violence and mayhem in the state.

The traditional response over the past three decades has been to infiltrate more terrorists from Pakistan, but now the strategy appears to have changed. The political masters of terrorists want to carry out attacks by using drones. Since 2019, they had been using drones for transporting weapons in Kashmir and drugs in Punjab, but this was on a small scale. This is the first time that drones were used against our military installations.

I have full confidence in our strategists working in our armed forces. Already Israel has made much progress in use of computerized control system for countering drone warfare. They have also developed advanced radars to locate unmanned aerial vehicles, including drones. Our military commanders need to assure the people that our armed forces are fully capable of countering drone attacks from across the border, with speed and accuracy. To nip such sinister conspiracies in the bud requires a major counter action to teach a lesson to the handlers of terror groups sitting inside Pakistan.

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