Drone Threat – The Big Picture
Lt Gen (Dr) V K Saxena (Retd), PVSM, AVSM, VSM

The media was in frenzy post the drone attack on Jammu Air Force Station on the night of 26/27 Jun 2021. The volcano of breaking news and minute-to-minute reporting was trying to show us the face of danger that awaits us from the little monsters called drones.

This article is an attempt to show the big picture embracing all aspects of drone threat of which the Jammu incident forms only a small part.

Revisiting the Jammu Incident

To start the analysis, the following factual details have been captured regarding the Jammu incident:-

  1. Two drones carrying explosives crashed into Jammu Air Force Station on the night of 26/27 June 2021.
  2. Two explosions were heard at 1:27 AM and 1:32 AM respectively.
  3. One drone caused damage to the roof of an administrative building, the other one exploded in an open area.
  4. National Investigation Agency assisted by Police, BSF and Air Force authorities has taken over the investigation. A First Investigation Report (FIR) has been registered under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and other relevant acts (not stated).
  5. Post the initial strike on 26/27 June drones have been sighted in the nearby Kaluchak Military Station area and some other nearby places.v
  6. Police sources have stated that a Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operative was nabbed with 6 kg of explosive material in the nearby area which was planned to be planted at a crowded place thus averting a possible terror attack. v
  7. Sporadic drone sightings continue in border areas.
Salient Points to Ponder:-
  1. In the first place, this terror attack is not a stand-alone incident. There has been a pattern of using light-weight drones to serve nefarious designs.
  2. Such drones have been used to drop small arms (pistols, assault rifles, AK 47s, semi-auto carbines etc.), magazines loaded with ammunition, Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), grenades, drugs etc.
  3. Ever since the attack on Pathankot air base in Jan 2016, the pattern of drone-drops have been a regular phenomenon4:-
    1. Aug 2019 – Police recovered a hexacopter (a six-rotor drone) from a village near Amritsar.
    2. Sept 2019 – According to the information provided by a captured terrorist, eight sorties were utilised to deliver arms and munitions in Tarn Taran area of Punjab.
    3. June 2020- BSF shot down a hexacopter near Kathua.
    4. Sept 20 – Weapon drop/sighting at four occasions- 9 Sept (Samba), 12 Sept (Poonch), 18 Sept (Rajauri), 22 Sept (Akhnoor).
    5. Subsequent drone sightings/arms/drugs drops have been reported on 17 Nov 2021 (Arnia), 18 Jan 2021 (Ramban), 14 Feb 2021 (Samba), May 2021 ( Samba) and now on 26/27 Jun 2021.
What is Different in this Strike?
  1. While by hyphenating the current incident with the series of similar incidents in the past, a pattern of sorts may be seen, but that will be an incorrect deduction.
  2. This is so because of the following reasons:-
    1. This is the first time that a drone attack has taken place on a military facility.
    2. All the previous drone sighting /droppings have been in the areas very close to the Line of Control (LoC), this time around, the drone has come in a good 14 km inside to Jammu Air Force Station.

Following points arise:-

  1. If a capability of controlling the drone and activating the warhead from the Ground Control Station (GCS) to a range as much as 14 km has been achieved, it is a significant enhancement in the capability of our western neighbour.
  2. Worst still, if a degree of autonomy has been achieved using the tools of artificial intelligence (AI), augmented/virtual reality and machine learning etc. which allows a drone to operate at such ranges independent of the Ground Control Station (GCS), it is a bigger warning sign.
  3. That said, in all probability the drones appear to have been launched from areas closer to the airfield.
  4. It is also to be granted that the drones were successfully recovered by their handlers as no debris/crashed remains etc., were found near the attack site; a neat delivery of warhead and return has been achieved.
What is Most Worrisome?
  1. Out of this entire incident, the most worrisome part is the fact that two drones managed to enter the high security area of an Air Force Station, located just a few kms away from the LoC, delivered warheads and went away without the base surveillance and tracking devices getting any hang of them. A total surprise of sorts! This is worrisome.
  2. With that as given, wasn’t the entire airbase lay open to them to be destroyed at will? Many theories are doing the rounds. As per one, the actual target was theMI-17 helicopters in the dispersal area close to where the drone struck. Another construct is that it was by design as to not lift the threshold of conflict beyond a certain level.

That much for the incident and small drones. This will be connected later as a part of the overall threat continuum.

The Threat We Face from the Unmanned Aerial Systems
The Threat Spectrum

To refer to the entire drone family, a more encompassing term, Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) has been used in this analysis. The UAS threat spectrum is spread across six verticals. Each of these has a direct relationship to how the UAS actually evolved. The same are briefly covered

  1. The ISTAR Threat
  2. ISTAR standing for Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance relate to the earliest type of UAS basically providing elevated eyes and ears for a ‘look-see across the hill’ or do some basic battle functions as listed in the above expanded acronym. The threat from ISTAR machines is limited to the loss of information, locational/positional secrecy or loss of battle-critical information.

  3. The UCAV Threat
  4. UCAV standing for the Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles is the metamorphosis of ISTAR machines over time wherein, these were mated with limited weapons on board such as guided rockets, bombs, air-to -surface missiles (ASMs) etc. UCAVs could take on targets in the tactical battle area (TBA) such as personnel, vehicles, mechanised targets, field fortifications etc.

  5. Dedicated UAS Threat
  6. The next type of threat is from dedicated UAS complete with their niche communication, surveillance and navigation suite based on GPS/INS navigation and a slew of weaponry to include precision guided munitions (PGMs), ASMs, guided bombs and rockets, smart/loiter munitions etc. Such machines have long ranges, high service ceilings (highest operating altitude) and long endurances. With a capability to operate for long hours in any weather, terrain, climate and environment (contaminated etc.) with adequate lethal power and without issues like crew-fatigue or crew-fatalities etc., such dedicated UAS came to acquire the infamous tag of being ‘dull, dirty and dangerous’.

    Normally classified as HALE (high altitude long endurance –altitude >30,000 ft, endurance > 48 hrs) and MALE (medium altitude long endurance - altitude 10,000-30,000ft, endurance 24-48hrs), these machines are a substantial threat as aerial strike platforms5.

  7. The MUMT Threat
  8. This is a variety of HALE/MALE type of UAS which areespecially enabled to operate in joint missions with the manned platforms in what is called the Manned and Unmanned Teaming (MUMT) missions. Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the combat pilot, such machines greatly enhance situational awareness, effectiveness and the cumulative strike capability of the threat package. Of course there is a huge hue-and-cry and a long on-going ethical debate on the issue of‘machine-over-man’ in authorising an MUMT-enabled UAS to ‘strike independently’ upon target selection and worse, re-strike without man-in-the-loop. (a subject by itself; not discussed further).

  9. The Small Drone Threat
    1. Small-sized drones (mostly DIY variety or cheaply manufactured elementary designs) have come to pose a big threat as on date. Normally the physical signatures of these vehicles are-length 7-8 ft, breadth - 6-7 ft, weight 15-20 kg, warhead carrying capability 5-10 kg, configuration – quad/hexarotor ( four/six rotors).
    2. These small monsters have basically three features; 1. A communication/navigation facility based on GPS, a battery-power pack for rotor-propulsion and a payload with varying options for warhead carriage.
    3. These can cause the type of damage that happened in Jammu.
    4. There are huge challenges in countering this type of drone threat (covered later).
  10. Drone Swarms Threat6
  11. Drone swarms are a further manifestation of small drone threat. It has the following peculiar signatures:-

    1. A body of small drones (10-100s may be more)are threaded together to behave as one integrated body (swarm – standing for Smart Warfighting Array of Reconfigurable Modules).
    2. The swarm inspired by the amazing intelligence of a locust swarm displays ‘collective intelligence’. Programmed by the tools of AI, swarms are capable of taking decisions, show tolerance for ambiguity to take default actions where no orders exist as also possess the capability to conduct ‘intelligent autonomous warfare’.
    3. Swarms can quickly adapt to unexpected changes and respond.
    4. Swarm drones have a capability of ‘group think’ to shoot down multiple threats simultaneously.
    5. With their sheer numbers, they can simply overwhelm the finite capability of conventional air defences to respond through kinetic countermeasures. Sample the following:-
      1. In a first ever documented swarm drone attack, a group of just 13 drones attacked a Russian air base at Khmeimim and Tartus naval facility in West Syria. Even after launching Pantzir S missiles (unit cost of the system 13.15 - 14.67 million USD) as well as, a soft-kill attack, three drones still landed at the air base.
      2. In Sept 2019 just 14 drones struck two state-run Saudi oil production facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais respectively. The havoc caused such a level of disruption that it stalled the country’s oil production capability to half at 5.7million barrels of crude oil. The Patriot air defence system available at the bases was unable to detect the small drone strike. That is the power of small drones!

We Face a Full Spectrum UAS Threat from China and Pakistan
Specific Threat from China

China is a strong UAS power, having machines in each of the threat verticals described above. Salient points:-

  1. ISTAR machines though available across genre are not detailed here as aerial combat ‘threat’ vehicles per se. Suffice to say that with such a threat at play, the security of our equipment-related information, as well as critical information on the instant progress of operations will be at stake, and would require to be guarded.

  2. In the UCAV and dedicated UAS category, China has both the MALE UAS (BZK 005, GJ 1 and GJ 2; service ceiling 9000 m and endurance up to 24 hrs) as well as HALE UAS (EA 03 and WZ 7 service ceiling 18000m and endurance up to 24 hrs) 7.
  3. One UAS that deserves a special mention is the Wing Loong-I UAS (improved version is Wing Loog II- range 4000 Km, endurance of 20 hrs, service ceiling 5000 meters, maximum speed of 370 km/h.) This UAS is actually in the same class as MQ 9 Reaper, or MQ1-C Gray Eagle etc. (both US UCAVs on top of the line).
  4. MUMT capable, Wing Loong can carry a payload 480 Kg which could include precision munitions, guided bombs, ASMs, guided rockets, anti-radiation missiles etc. (one possible configuration of a Wing Loong payload may be–Bombs FT 7- 130 kg, FT 9 - 50 kg, FT 10 - 25 kg, or ARM -BRM 1, guided rockets and AKD 10 and GB10- a flare seeker bomb). For sea-based threats, Wing Loong can carry an anti-ship missile - YJ9E. 8
    Another typical payload variation for Wing Loong is - BA-7 air-to-ground missiles, YZ212 laser-guided cluster bombs, YZ 102A cluster bombs and 50 kg LS-6 which are miniature guided bombs9. This UAS can not only, defeat radiating targets like radars and surveillance devices, but can also take on non-radiating ones like bunkers, fortifications and vehicles etc.

  5. Besides the above mainframe UAS, there is a whole range of technology-driven UASs held by China. These include platforms that are capable of Vertical Take Off and Landing. There are also morphing-enabled UAS. Morphing is the capabilityto adaptto changing flying conditions by modifying vehicle/wing configuration. There are also rotary wing platforms and such other UAS which are nearly independent of Ground Control Station (GCS). Later generation UAS have a reckonable stealth capability. 10.
  6. Some other UAS worthy of mention are the MUMT enabled Tianying/Skyhawk drone (speed 200 km/h, endurance 6-12 h), Gongji 11 (combat radius 1000 km) and WZ8 supersonic ISTAR platforms.
  7. As regards swarm drones, both the fixed wing as well as the rotary wing machines called helicopter swarms are reported as developed11. .
Specific UAS Threat from Pakistan

Pakistan (more so in collusion with China) also poses a reckonable UAS threat to India. The same course is many notches below China. Salient points are briefly covered:-

  1. Pakistan started out in nineties by making ISTAR machines. Over the years a large range was produced (Ababeel, Bazz, Uquaab, Jasoosetc) 12. , Some ISTAR platforms came through import (Stingray - range 45 km endurance 1 hour, Flemingo with an endurance 6-8 hrs and a range of 200 km.) 13,14. .
  2. Pakistan’s ISTAR inventory mainly grew through import from multiple countries. The imported Chinese UAS are mainly of two types, ASN 105A and ASN 206. ASN 105A has an endurance of 2 hrs and a range of 155 km while ASN 206 has an endurance of 6-8 hrs and a range of 200 km. Imported from Germany is Luna UAS (range 100 km, endurance 5 hrs). Snipe Mk II and Streak are of British origin (Snipe - range 8 km, endurance 35 minutes, Streak - range not known, endurance 20 min). From Italy, Pakistan has imported Falco UAS (range 200 Km endurance 8-12 hrs)while from South Africa there is Seeker with an endurance of 9 hrs and a range of 200 Km,.
  3. As to UCAVs Pakistan tried for many years to get the US Predator strike drone on the pretext doing search-and-hunt missions on the 2500 km stretch of Durand Line. It did not succeed in doing so (technology proliferation?) 15,16. .
  4. Faced with above fait-accompli, it started on the indigenous combat UAS development programme around 2009. The UAS was named Burraq. The design went through a series of iterations and was realized after about seven years of run time. Some salient details about this mainframe UAS are as under:-
    1. Burraq’s is inspired in design features and operational performance by the US Predator UAS and CH3 - Rainbow, a Chinese front-ranking UCAV17. .
    2. The UAS has a range of 1000km and a cruising speed of 215 Km. It has a service ceiling of 7500m and an endurance of 12h. Burraq can carry guided bombs (YC 200) and AR-1 ASM (a Chinese supersonic anti-tank missile with a range of 10 km and adapted for use by unmanned platforms). 18,19.
    3. Burraq can also carry two Barq ASM laser-guided missiles20. This weapon is effective both against stationery, as well as, moving targets21. .
  5. In 2018, a significant development took place. It was reported that China is likely to sell 48 Wing Loong II UCAVs to Pakistan22. . This was on the capability-enhancement mode with arrangements for joint-production with limited Transfer of Technology (ToT).23.
  6. While the current status of this deal is not known in the open source, it has been reported in July this year that China had supplied 4 Wing Loong II fully-formed drones for the protection of the Gwadar Port and the all- important China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) 24.
  7. In Jan 2021, Pakistan reportedly received 4 CH-4 drones which are only a shade lesser in capabilities than Wing Loong (payload 345ks, speed 235km/h) 25 .

That much for the UAS threat from Pakistan

Countering the UAS Challenge

In a typical air defence cycle, addressing a UAS threat will involve three steps; detection, identification and destruction. The Challenge in each of these is enumerated below.

The Detection Challenge
  1. UAS in general have a very small Radar Cross Section (RCS). Very simply, RCS is a degree of detectability of an objectto an electronic surveillance device such as radar. Higher the RCS, greater will be the visibility of the object to the radar and thus greater will be its chances of detection at longer and longer ranges. A typical RCS of a UAS may be just 0.3-0.5m2. How small is this can be judged by comparing some typical RCS of combat aircraft – MIG 21 - 3 m2, SU 30 MKI 4m2, F16 C – 1.2m226. Stealth muscle however reduces the RCS of combat aircrafts drastically ( F -35 - .005 m2, J 10 -0.5-1.5m2, J 20 – 1-3 m2- design flaw) 27
  2. Due to this, such drones, particularly small drones remain undetected by conventional radars.
  3. The first challenge is therefore to detect low RCS targets. Following is stated28:-
    1. While old conventional radars primarily dedicated for long range early warning (EW), or tactical control ( EW + auto-target designation) or Fire control (FC) of towed /self-propelled guns or missile guidanceetc. are not meant to detect the order of RCS possessed by small drones, two modern day radars have been found to be very effective.
    2. These include the Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) Radars and some other precise radars working in the radar frequency bands of 6-15 GHZ band. Normally radars are qualified with the frequency or the wavelength (bands) they operate on. The above radars relate to the radar bands called C,X, Ku and Ka band.
    3. Another type of radar which is suited for small RCS target detection is the Frequency Modulated Continuous Wave (FMCW) radar. (technical details not explained).It is important to state here that we have the indigenous capability to produce every type of radar as stated above. In fact AESA radars and other radars in the bands specified are already in service with various air defence systems.

    4. More than the radars, the most ideal means to detect drones are the Electro-Optical(EO) surveillance devices. In fact the modern drone killers feature a complete solution called the Electro Optical Fire Control System (EOFCS). There are five main components of EOFCS; 1. Day camera, 2. Thermal (Night) camera (based on forward looking infra-red or FLIR), 3. Laser Range Finder (LRF), 4. Fire Control Computing Device (FCCD) and 5. Video Display Unit (VDU).
    5. How does a basic EOFCS operate? Small drones which actually operate in visual domain, are detected either by day/night cameras while the range to target is dynamically assessed by the LRF. The FCCD calculates the future position of the target (also called the predicted point of impact). Once this data is available, the kill means on board (discussed later) destroy/ disable the drone. All that the operator has to do is to keep the target on the cross-wires in the VDU.
    6. Acoustic sensors have also been found effective to listen on to the very peculiar and very distinct buzz of the quad/hexacopters. These are very effective drone detection measures.
    7. Modern day technology allows the EOFCS to be mounted along with mainframe FC/missile guidance radars.
The Kill Challenge

One of the most important points in drone kill is ‘balance’. By that it is implied that the ‘cost of kill’ must have a degree of equivalence to the ‘cost of attack’. There is no point in killing a few thousand dollars drone (worst still some DIY type drones of less than 100$) with SAMs each costing millions of dollars. If this happens, not only the attacker has already succeeded in inflicting asymmetric costs on the defender, but also, the latter cannot even kill all the small monsters if they are in a swarm! (cases in point- swarm attack on Russian bases Western Syria Jan 2018, swarm attack in Saudi oil facility – Sept 201929). ‘Pennies must be killed by pennies’ is the key issue. With the above in mind following is stated as to kill means:-

  1. Small Arms (SA) Kill
  2. In the spirit of balanced cost-of-kill, small arms are ideal to take on small drones in the visual domain. To enhance the capability of SA to detect small drones there are strap-on EO sights which can be fitted on mainframe rifles and MMGs (AK 47, AK203 etc.). Navy has recently ordered 2000 (SMASH 2000) kits from Israel30. This technology is well within our domestic reach to produce.

  3. Radio Frequency (RF) Kill
  4. The most potent way to kill drones is by RF, i.e. by jamming /disrupting the GPS/INS signal used by the drone for its navigation or crippling the connectivity between the drone and the GCS. Cheap RF drone guns are available to affect the kill and make the drone rudderless/ force it to return to base on default command.31 M2K Technologies India has produced and demonstrated excellent RF drone guns (M2K RF Drone).

  5. Close-in-Weapon System (CIWS) Kill
  6. Another good idea is to employ high rate of fire CIWS such as towed/self-propelled air defence guns (typical rate of fire -2000-8000 rounds per minute) to saturate the area with intense fire thereby achieving kinetic kill on the drones. The high explosive (HE) ammunition of these guns can be modified to have a proximity fusing element which will make it explode in proximity of drone thereby killing it even without a catastrophic collision. Russia has developed SAMUM (Super-mobile Multi-Purpose Artillery Station) counter drone system. It features a ZU 23 gun with EOFCS and proximity fuzed ammunition on a high mobility vehicle32.

    India has ZU 23 gun in large numbers. We also have our indigenous EOFCS. There could be a requirement of some technical assistance from a foreign vendor to modify ZU-23 ammunition.

  7. Soft kill
  8. Anchored on the concept of fighting the electronics, electromagnetics and the commination/navigation connectivity between the drone and GCS, any number of soft-kill solutions are available in the market. These could include:-

    1. Spoofing devices with a capability to misguide the drone and disorientate/corrupt its navigation signals.33 A typical spoofing weapon has two parts, a tracking system that acquires the nature of GPS signals used by the drone and a digital signal processor that creates spoofing (misguiding/disorientating) signals for attack. SKYctrl anti-drone system from Saudi Arabia is an example of this weapon34.

    2. Hacking the drone guidance and navigation system and commanding it to a safe place for destruction. It has been reported that the downing of US RQ 170 UAV by Iran on 05 Dec 2011 was a case of this form of attack35.
    3. Erecting an ‘electronic fence’ (500-700m) and subjecting the intruding drones to jamming attacks thus crippling them and forcing them to initiate a default ‘return to base’ command.
  9. Directed Energy Kills
  10. Using lasers (already a reality) or high-power microwave or charged particle beams (in future) to simply ‘fry-up’ the sensitive electronics and electromagnetic components of the drones thus making them impotent is an ideal drone-kill solution already in wide use.

    India is a powerful software power. Designing and mass producing any of soft kill solution is highly within our capability. More than 400 players are already inti such core competencies.

  11. Integrated Approach ( DRDO’s anti drone system -ADS).

As stated, the trend is to have integrated weapon approach wherein, a single platform features an EOFCS for drone detection along with RF and Laser systems as kill means.

DRDO has come out with an integrated counter drone solution called ADS. It has EO/IR sensors including a frequency modulated continuous wave (FMCW) radar for small RCS drone detection up to a range of 4 km. For kill system it has an RF/GNSS jamming system with a range up to 3 km and a laser kill system with a range of 150m to 1 km.

A Possible Way Ahead

As a takeaway from this work, a possible way ahead to deal with the drone threat end-to-end, is enumerated.

  1. At the onset, it is stated that the larger drones in the category of UCAVs or HALE/MALE UAS most of which will be MUMT capable will be like conventional air threat vehicles (for instance Wing Loong I/II, Burraq, CH4, BZK 005, GJ 1 and GJ 2, EA03, WZ 7 etc.). These are not small RCS vehicles like small drones, the kind of which struck Jammu on 26/27 Jun 2021.
  2. For defence against these, regular air defence means consisting of EW/TC sensors for detection and guns, SAMs and soft kill means for destruction, all controlled by the Integrated Air Command and Control System ( IACCS) of the Indian Air Force as a part of Integrated Air Defence System ( IADS) will suffice.

    The challenge is small drone threat that defeats radar detection and renders destruction by conventional air defence means asymmetric.

  3. The first requirement for dealing with the little monsters is an integrated approach involving the three Services, BSF, Ministries of Home and Civil Aviation ( MHA, MoCA) , NTRO and RAW & IB.
  4. The above multiple agencies should earmark one apex body. The aim is not to pile up one more agency in the already clogged chain. The reference is to some kind of a core group representative of the multiple agencies stated above, that can take stock of the things at one central level and drive counter-drone actions in a co-ordinated manner.
  5. For the sake of reference, let us call it an Anti-Drone Task Force (ADTF). The ADTF has a huge agenda.
  6. While we have a drone policy evolved over the years, (Unmanned Aircraft System Rules 2021- details not covered36), a lot needs to be done to put in place some sort overarching policy that not only deals with routine issues like classification of drone types, drone registrations, authorisations/restrictions to fly, allocation of unique identification numbers, training needs etc. The policy being referred has to deal with small drone threat end-to-end i.e. Detection-Identification-Destruction.

While it is not possible to lay down all the imperatives for such a policy in this limited work, only some key points are enumerated.

  1. At the first place a large void between the un-accounted for drones needs to be covered. (as per one report, out of an estimated 4-6 lakh drones in the country, only some 25, 400 have been registered by MoCA).
  2. Taking stock of all the drones and their prospective fliers is a herculean task. It will require some national-level technology solution for data capture. May be developing an App will do. Such an app will automatically pin the user to an entire chain of identifications, authorisations, permissions, restrictions, terms and conditions, GO/NO GO areas and more.
  3. Alternatively, pinning every user to some national level identity (Aadhar/PAN/VIC) may be helpful. Multiple challenges are to be encountered -micro level penetration for data capture, registration, licensing, enforcement regime, penaltiesfor non-compliance etc.

    Certainly it willnot be easy to walk the talk on the cliché No Permission No take Off (NPNT) policy as enunciated in the current rules. Even the nation-wide promulgation of such a policy so that it reaches the eyes and rears of 1.3 billion is a mammoth task.

  4. As a negative measure and at top priority, the ADTF must lay down and enforce every strictly, the ‘no-drone areas’. These are those Vulnerable Areas and points (VAs/VPs) close to our borders with adversaries on which drones attack will prove to be injurious to national security. In delineating the VAs/VPs following points are important.
    1. Small drones normally operate in visual domain. Communication and navigation wise, it will be prudent to cater for their strike reach of 12-15 km.
    2. The above broad parameter will give some idea what needs tobe earmarked as VAs/VPs for small drone attacks.
    3. Basically two types of VAs/VPs would have to be earmarked. One across border areas and two in the hinterland for inland mischief creators/powers inimical to our national interests operating by themselves or through proxies, inland.
    4. While delineating the VAs/VPs it must be understood that it is neither possible, nor desirable to protect everyinch of area to drone attack.
    5. While delineating ‘no-drone areas’ or otherwise restricting drone use, it must be understood that everything cannot be banned. Commercial drone activity, drones for legitimate civilian use/disaster relief/search-and-rescue missions/ experimental/ developmental use, use of drones by our industry to check out R&D and do proofs of concepts ( PsoC) etc. on the tasks assigned, all have to co-exist along with ‘no drone areas’. The list of VAs/VPs must be kept very minimal, very finite and only related to real criticalities.
    6. In fact there are voices from the environment, as well as, from the industry that if drone-related prowess (both in the drones as well as, counter-drone areas) has to grow in the country. Drone use cannot be stymied. Blanket bans will be counter-productive. In essence, ‘to the ends permitted by security considerations a more ‘permissive’ and a more ‘liberal’ rather than ‘stricter’ Drone Policy is required for India’37.
  1. On each of the vulnerabilities identified, drone detection and kill means need to be deployed very selectively. Following points are valid:-
    1. If on one drone strike we proliferate the struck base with tens of anti-drone systems, the adversary has already inflicted asymmetric costs38.
    2. Our approach must not be reactive/ symptomatic (sic) but a well thought-out and all encompassing.
    3. Each VA/VP will have a unique solution. Somewhere SA will be adequate, some other place CIWS may suffice, while at some a combo of multiple solution may be better.
    4. This could be a possible logical sequence:-
      1. Identify VAs/VPs based on the criteria stated above.
      2. Prioritise them as Priority I/II/III.
      3. Involve subject-matter-experts to relate the drone threat to each VA/VP and identify what anti-drone solution (type and quantum) of the range available will be most suitable.
      4. Deploy the recommended anti-drone solutions on the VAs/VPs based on the priorities identified.
  1. How to make the systems available? A viewpoint is presented:-
    1. We already have a new age EO/RF/Radar/laser based counter drone solution by DRDO. Instead of just one Production Agency (PA), i.e. Bharat Electronics Limited, open the offer to private players to build the system. Produce the same in large numbers in the country through multiple PAs. The system is simple and our industry has both the will and the capability to mass produce it. Only requirement is assured orders.
    2. As regards other simple solutions like the RF Gun or jamming/hacking/spoofing solutions, electronic fences etc, these can also be produced easily by our industry. The need is to connect, collate, sift, select and allot contracts. There could be a national level ‘dare competition’ with suitable incentives to draw in the best of Indian intellect, innovation and talent.
    3. It must be the business of the MoD to make available multiple counter-drone systems on mission mode by cutting across the red tape of Defence Acquisition Policy of 2020.
    4. Under the regime of air defence rules of engagement and control and reporting procedures, it is very much possible to put in place varying degree of autonomy in dealing with small drone threat on each VA/VP as only a few fleeting moments will be available from detection to destruction.
A Strong Case for Indigenous

Suffice to say, nothing needs to be imported as regards fielding a strong anti drone solution end-to-end.

As stated, not only we already have a DRDO solution, the private industry has all technology muscle to cover every field of anti-drone solution-be it software or hardware, EO/IR/RF surveillance means, drone detection and identification capability, RF-kill means, laser-kill means and more. We need not look to others but have faith in our private and public industry.

Besides the above, the pitfall of the non-indigenous solution in the software domain are all well known. Just to state briefly:-

  1. Danger of malwares, trapdoors, backdoors.
  2. Possibility of triggering of a Trojan in the firmware programmed to cripple our system at a critical moment/date/time (15Aug 10 AM??).
  3. If the intellectual property (IP) for the source code is not ours, not only our sensitive air defence systems (of which the anti-drone will bea small part) will get exposed, these could be crippled/ corrupted at will.

One article will be insufficient to deal with the charter of ADTF. It is a vertical by itself.

That said, time will be of essence, If years are spent only in deliberations and firming up ideas and many more in procurement, the game is over.

The threat is here and now. It needs to be dealt with here and now.

  1. “Drone attack at Jammu air base,”atwww.economictime.indiatimes.com.Accessed on 30 Jun 2021.
  2. Drone attacks on Indian Air Force base in Jammu underscores new threat,”atwww.the diplomat.com.Accessed on 30 Jun 2021.
  3. Sinister terror plot: Drone attack on Air Force base in Jammu..,” at www.youtube.CRUX.Accessed on 30 Jun 2021.
  4. “Pakistan rouge drones, “ atwww.indiatoday.in. Accessed on 30 Jun 2021.
  5. Medium altitude long endurance unmanned aerial vehicle,” at www.en.m.wikipedia.org.Accessed on 01 Jul 2021.
  6. “Drone swarms- a growing reality,” at www.vifindia.org. Accessed on 03 Jul 2021.
  7. ibid. Accessed on 03 Jul 2021.
  8. ibid. Accessed on 03 Jul 2021.
  9. "China's Wing Loong II aerial drone built to rival US MQ 9 Reaper," at www.chinatopix.com. Accessed on 05 Jul 2021.
  10. 5 ibid. Accessed 05 Jul 2021.
  11. “China is making 1,000 UAV drone swarms now,” at www.popsci.com. Accessed on 05 Jul 2021.
  12. 5 ibid. Accessed 05 Jul 2021.
  13. "SATUMA Flamingo" at satuma.co.pk. Accessed on 06 Jul 2021.
  14. Stingray", at www.ruvsa.com. Accessed on 07 Jul 2021.
  15. 2 ibid. Accessed 07 Jul 2021.
  16. BokhariFarhan" Pakistan to deploy its own UAVs over FATA" Janes Defence Weekly.
  17. "CH-3 Rainbow" at www.militaryfactory.com. Accessed 07 Jul 2021.
  18. “AR 1,”at www.deagel.com. Accessed on 07 Jul 2021.
  19. "CH-3 Rainbow" at www.militaryfactory.com. Accessed on 07 Jul 2021.
  20. NESCOM Burraq Unmanned Combat aerial Vehicle," at www.militaryfactory.com.Accessed 08 Jul 2021.
  21. Pakistan to show missile muscle," at www.defwnce .pk. Accessed on 08 Jul 2021.
  22. China to sell 48 high-end military drones to Pakistan," at www.economivtimes.indiatimes.com. Accessed on 08 Jul 2021
  23. "China, Pakistan to co-produce 48 strike capable Wing Loong II drones, " at www.thediplomat.com. Accessed 08 Jul 2021
  24. “China to supply 4 attack drones to Pak..,” at www.hindustantimes.com. Accessed on 09 Jul 2021.
  25. Pakistan receives CH 4 drones from China,”atwww.defenseworld.net. Accessed on 09 Jul 2021.
  26. “Radar Cross Section,” at www.global security.org. Accessed on 10 Jul 2021.
  27. “Radar cross section : the measure of stealth,” at www.militaryembedded.com. Accessed on 10 Jul 2021.
  28. “The drones of Nagorno Kabarakh, where are we?, at www.vifindia.org. Accessed on 10 Jul 2021.
  29. “Why the drones of Nogorno Kabarkh turned the tide for Azerbaijan” at www.vifinfdia.org. accessed on 10 Jul 2021.
  30. “Navy orders Israeli SMASH 2000 plus systems to tackledrones,” at www.theprint.in. Accessed on 10Jul 2021
  31. “12 ways to defend a drone attack…,”at www.defence.capital/2020/12/01/12. Acccessed on 10 Jul 2021.
  32. This ATV is an unmanned answer to cheap drones,”atwww.c4isrnet.com.Accessed on 11 Jul 2021.
  33. Ibid. Accessed on 11 Jul 2021.
  34. SKYctrl anti-drone system, “at www.guard.apssystems.tech/anti_dronee/system.Accessed on 11 Jul 2021.
  35. Iran-USRQ -170 incident,” at www.en.wikipedia.org.Accessed on 11 Jul 2021.
  36. Unmanned Aircraft System rules,” at www.dgca.gov.in.Accessed on 11 Jul 2021.
  37. “A more liberal , not stricter drone policy reqired for India,”atwww.youtu.be?KxqdIUIGTLk.aCCESSED on 11Jul 2021
  38. “IAF to acquire 10 ‘made-in-India’ anti-drone systems.., “at www.indiatoday.in. Accessed on 11 Jul 2021.

(The paper is the author’s individual scholastic articulation. The author certifies that the article/paper is original in content, unpublished and it has not been submitted for publication/web upload elsewhere, and that the facts and figures quoted are duly referenced, as needed, and are believed to be correct). (The paper does not necessarily represent the organisational stance... More >>

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