Drone warfare: India needs building drone strike power

By K N Pandita

Drone, usually called Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV) is a new and effective weapon that has found a place in modern warfare. Its role in future wars is likely to be crucial.

Big powers and others have developed drone technology but in the last few years, China has taken big strides in developing drone manufacturing technology. India has lagged and drone balance has tilted in favour of Pakistan because China has sold 50 Wing Loong II armed drones to her besides five CH-4 unmanned aircraft and armed drones. CH-4 developer claims it has shown a 99 % kill rate.

Last year, several reports of Pakistani drones crossing the international border had been detected flying over sensitive locales in Punjab and Jammu regions. In one attack aimed at Jammu airport, a bomb was dropped by an alien drone that failed to hit the sensitive target but injured one air force guard.

In a case of militancy, a civilian was arrested by the police somewhere along a by-pass in Jammu and the ammunition including RDX seized from his possession was said to have been dropped by a Pakistani drone. Indian security establishment streamlined anti-drone operations along the long border with Pakistan and the number of drone intrusions has come down considerably.

But this does not mean that Pakistan has abandoned the operation of drones against us, especially in the border areas. Pakistan has received cooperation from Turkey in streamlining its drone technology and arsenal both.

In the latest fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia, the two former Trans-Caspian States of the then Soviet Union, Armenian military camp and depots were smashed by the Azerbaijani drones and this ultimately resulted in forcing Armenia to sue for peace. Experts conducted studies into the abrupt and unexpected debacle of the Armenian troops and it was found that Turkey had provided its deadly drones called Bayraktar to the Azerbaijan military. Turkey is reported to have conducted serious research in upgrading drones and is now considered foremost in drone technology in the world.

We are aware that for some time Turkey has adopted an unfriendly attitude towards India. President Erdogan is making anti-India speeches in the UN and Human Rights Council on Kashmir. In responding to Pakistan’s entireties, he has been finding fault with PM Modi in his treatment of the Muslim minority in India.

Not content with bringing baseless accusations against India, Erdogan is reported to have spread anti-India tentacles in Kashmir Valley. Turkey is encouraging Kashmiri Muslim boys and girls to develop an anti-India attitude by giving them easy admission in Turkish institutes plus scholarships and many facilities. Many Kashmiri boys and girls have been provided jobs in Turkey and a daughter of late Ali Shah Geelani is reported to have opened a private television channel that is pouring out anti-India venom.

The reason for Erdogan to take an anti-India stance is to be traced in the deep rivalry between the Arab and non-Arab Islamic States in which the latter want to snatch away the leadership of the Islamic ummah from the hands of the Saudis. Pakistan, Turkey, Malaysia and Iran had tried to come together to confront the Saudi monarchy because the Saudi Crown Prince who has studied in the US is inclined to bring about modernization and transparency in his country. The orthodox Islamists consider it a direct challenge to them and therefore they oppose it. However, the conspiracy failed and the Saudi retaliated as it should have. Relations between the Saudis and Pakistan could never return to normalcy.

Turkey is also building warships for Pakistan and lending her full support in upgrading the fighting capacity of Pakistan. She is reported to have shifted drone technology also to Islamabad.

After the Jammu drone incidents, defence planners categorically resolved that India must immediately enhance its drone production and operational capability. On 15 January 2021, on the occasion of the Army Day parade, a swarm of 75 drones appeared in the Indian sky that identified and then destroyed a variety of fake targets-tanks, terrorist camps and helipads. The announcer said that the demonstration was only the beginning. It meant that India had a comprehensive programme of developing her drone arsenal to match both China and Pakistan.

It is understood that the army is contemplating collaborating with the private sector to develop a swarm of a thousand drones that would operate autonomously… Although the main usage of the drones will be the battlefield, India has other civilian areas where drone services are most fitted and she would not keep these areas out of the range of its drones. This being the enterprise under public-private partnership in which the government is likely to make financial investments, India has also imported drones and drone technology from Israel and the United States.

It is not that India has been taking the drone menace lightly. Since a good time, Indian defence experts are seized by the idea of developing a stealthy combat drone for the Air Force. The one module they are working at is Ghatak capable of flying into the enemy territory undetected to drop bombs and precision-guided missiles. India has leased two Predator drones from the US and hopes to sign a $3 billion deal for 30 more.

India’s public sector research organizations are facing some difficulties no doubt and the private sector has found doing far better. For example companies like ideaForge have supplied drone aircraft to the Indian security forces, including the Indian Army. Sagar Defence Engineering is developing an unmanned, autonomous drone that floats on the ocean surface and collects data that it relays to satellites. Indian Navy is interested in this drone.

What prompts India to go the whole hog for the sophistication of drone technology is the ability of groups and individuals to attain access to and deploy drones that threaten India’s security y and stability. Terrorist organizations based in Pakistan are capable of exploiting India’s deterrence weakness. For example, In June 2021, Pakistani terrorist group Lashkar-i-Taiyyaba sent drones to drop homemade bombs on the Indian Air Force base in the Jammu region. It has come to the notice of the BSF that drones are also used to smuggle drugs on India’s border with Pakistan. In a report, BSF Chief said that 67 drones were sighted in 2021. Some might have gone unnoticed. It is difficult to shoot down a drone.

We think that the era of drone warfare has begun. It is of much concern to India because China has the most advanced drone system and technology which India does not have. Pakistan, our adversary on the west, too, has equipped herself with effective and lethal drones given to her by Turkey and China. Indian defence strategists need to focus on the impact of drone warfare if we do not have either the protective shield or counter-strategy. In September last, the US and India had agreed to share costs and work together to develop an air-launched drone that would benefit their respective air forces. Is this initiative going to be speeded up or is it that India must depend on indigenous resources and technology to meet the challenge. Voices are demanding that international ban should be imposed on drones taking into consideration that these machines have the capability of carrying any payload imaginable: anti-tank missiles, electronic warfare equipment, or simply guns and bombs.

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