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Drone terror attack on Jammu base: dangerous new turning point

  • Posted By
    10Pointer
  • Categories
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    2nd Jul, 2021
  • Context

    The recent drone strikes at the Indian Air Force Station in Jammu and subsequent sightings of drones close to military stations have set alarm bells ringing.

  • Background

    • A drone attack was conducted on the Jammu Air Force Station on June 27.
    • It was the first such instance of suspected Pakistan-based terrorists deploying unmanned aerial vehicles to strike at vital installations.
  • Analysis

    What is a drone?

    • A drone refers to an unpiloted aircraft or spacecraft.
    • A drone is also called an “unmanned aerial vehicle” or UAV. So, simply put, a drone is a flying robot.

    UAVs in India

    • Heron: In March this year, the Indian Army leased four Heron unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from Israel.
      • Heron is the medium-altitude long endurance UAVs.
    • Ghatak UCAV: The indigenously produced Ghatak UCAV is expected to make its maiden flight next year.
      • DRDO Ghatak is an autonomous stealthy unmanned combat air vehicle.
    • Rustom: The indigenous tactical surveillance UAV Rustom also seems ready for induction into the army.
      • Rustom is a Medium Altitude Long Endurance unmanned air vehicle.
      • It is being developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation for the three services, Indian Army, Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force of the Indian Armed Forces
  • What are the rules on drones in India?

    • The Ministry of Civil Aviation recently notified the Unmanned Aircraft System Rules 2021 that govern the operation of drones and similar systems in India.
    • Weight is the primary basis by which the rules classify drones vis-a-vis the specific rules governing their operation.
    • Permission required from: Director General of Civil Aviation.

    Name

    Weight

    Permission

    Nano drones

    weigh less than or equal to 250gm

    No license or permit is needed to fly such drones

    Micro drones

    weighing more between 250gm and 2kg

    UAS Operator Permit-I (UAOP-I)

    Small drones

    can weigh more than 2kg but should not exceed 25kg

    UAS Operator Permit-I (UAOP-I)

    Medium drones

    can weigh between 25kg and 150kg

     UAS Operator Permit-II (UAOP-II)

     

    Large unmanned aircraft

    weigh more than 150kg

    UAS Operator Permit-II (UAOP-II)

     

  • What are the checks and bans in the Rules?

    Several checks and bans are built into the rules to prevent drones posing a security threat. For example-

    • Return to home option: All drones have to mandatorily contain autonomous flight termination system or return to home (RTH) option.
    • Geo-fencing system: All drones should also come with geo-fencing mechanism.
      • Geo-fencing systems provide a means for restricting the movement of a drone for a real-world geographic location using the global positioning system (GPS) or radio frequency identification.
    • No-permission-no takeoff: Further, all drones, except Nano models, will have to have a tamper-proof 'No Permission–No Takeoff (NPNT) mechanism.
    • No-fly areas: There are also no-fly areas for drones that include airports, strategic locations, and the LoC with Pakistan and LAC with China, etc.
  • Are UAVs the double-edged swords?

    Positive side

    • UAVs have myriad applications—from delivering pizzas, shooting films, inspecting pipelines and power lines to spraying crops and helping cartographers.
    • UAVs have a wide variety of law enforcement application, including mapping crime scenes, providing aerial images, and 3D mapping of crash scenes.

    Negative side

    • But like most technologies, UAVs are also double-edged swords, finding use as powerful weapons and force multipliers for the armed forces.
    • The military UAV umbrella includes everything from aero-models and decoys to reconnaissance and armed drones; some provide commanders with real-time battlefield data to direct fire, while others can carry out precision strikes on targets miles away using satellite guidance.
    • In fact, the latter are slowly taking over a range of dangerous missions that were flown by combat pilots earlier.
  • How UAVs have evolved over the years?

    • First UAVs was used in World War II by
    • Initially used as target drones (for training anti-aircraft gunners)
    • Today, they have become the indispensable robotic air warriors.
    • First modern UCAV appeared in the skies over the Golan Heights in 1973 during the Arab-Israeli war.
  • Why is it a serious issue?

    • Evade detection: Drones fly low, they escape detection by radars and interjection by air defence systems.
    • Lack of effective policy: No universal policy to deal with rogue drones in the country.
    • Underdeveloped capabilities: Indian drone and anti-drone capability is still work in progress.

    Deadly effects of drones

    • Drones have been used with deadly effect, for example,
    • Yemeni soil against the Saudi oil installations.
    • They have also been used militarily with great success against the Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh by Turkey-supported Azerbaijani forces.
    • The Chinese have used drones for aerial surveillance in Ladakh during the current stand-off.
    • The Americans have used armed drones in Afghanistan and in Iraq to eliminate terrorists, and even a high-ranking serving military officer as in the case of the Iranian General Qasem Soleimani.
  • Why terrorist are choosing drone technology?

    • Acts of terrorism in India have been dominated by AK 47-wielding terrorists, fedayeen human bombs, and planting of IED. However, the scenario is changing.
    • Safety for terrorists: Now, use of drones provides terrorists with maximum safety.
    • Cheaper deal: Advances in technology have made the cost so low that it is cheaper than an AK-47.
    • Easily available
    • Can be easily modified for different purposes

    Drone for terror

    • In 2013, Al-Qaeda attempted drone attacks in Pakistan but failed
    • In 2014, Islamic State used drones in Iraq and Syria
    • Islamic State, Hezbollah, and Pakistan-based terror groups use drones for terrorism
  • What immediate measures are required?

    • Drone detection system.
    • High-tech interception, strict regulation a must.
    • UAV defences should be augmented with acquisition of detection technologies.
    • The electronic warfare (EW) capabilities of the armed forces should be enhanced and these should be equipped with kinetic and directed energy kill systems on priority.
  • Conclusion

    The Jammu attack is a wake-up call for India to take stock of its limited UAV inventory. Though the drone used in the Jammu Air Force Station attack was a relatively less sophisticated one, but in future more potent drones with greater reach can be used. India needs to prepare itself for such attacks in future