Homeland Security

Terror’s Third Dimension
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 03 Oct , 2019

In a recent bid to revive militancy in Punjab, Pakistan has tried to smuggle in arms and ammunition from across the border, in multiple sorties using drones. The cargo was meant for the Khalistan Zindabad Force – a proscribed organisation.  Intelligence was a tad late in getting this information on time. Had it not been for the arrest of a terror module this incident would not have come to light.

…Pakistan sponsored proxy-war against India, drones can add the third dimension to the entire scenario.

Police reports suggest that the drones made as many as ten sorties across the Indo-Pak border to deliver lethal wares like Kalashnikov assault rifles, ammunition, explosives, communication devices and counterfeit currency.

Of late, drones have flooded the civil market and are being used for disparate purposes – legal or otherwise. The Government of India, in December 2018 legalised flying of remotely piloted aircraft systems (drones) of all categories. Government’s Drone Regulations 1.0 makes it mandatory to acquire unmanned aircraft operator permit before flying a drone, have a unique identification number, fly a drone only during day away from restricted and prohibited areas and with prior approval from digital sky platform – an agency meant for managing the airspace.However, many drone pilots complain that the platform is dysfunctional.Use of drones in facilitating nefarious activities comes at a time when the e-commerce companies were gearing up to bolster their delivery system using these machines.

Drones are user-friendly machines, capable of vertical take-off and landing. It battles the gravity with the help of power of its rotors. These are normally available in four rotors (quadcopter) format.Depending up on the mission requirement, a drone with more rotors can also be fabricated – six rotors (hexacopter) or eight (octacopter).

Barring a few operational restrictions, the parameters of a drone can be customised using components which are available off-the-shelf. Normally, the payload of drones available in the market is in the range of 0.5-2 kgs with an endurance of about 15-20 minutes.  Drones follow pre-programmed flight path; can land at the designated site and return to the base using the same or different course using ground positioning system.

Factors like weight, power, speed, ceiling and endurance affect the overall design of a drone. An increase in the weight or payload of the machine results into more power requirement (bigger batteries) and reduced speed, ceiling and endurance. Large drones are quite noisy unlike their smaller counterparts and unsuitable for surreptitious activities.

Use of drones is really an innovative idea from Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence. It can have inevitable ramifications for counter-terror and narcotics control operations

Drones can also be flown by two pilots at the same time provided they have similarly programmed remote controls.

Owing to the simplicity of the design and availability of components, drones can be assembled easily. In the context of Pakistan sponsored proxy-war against India, drones can add the third dimension to the entire scenario.

Indo-Pak borders, be it the international border or line of control pass through a tapestry of terrain and cover. Keeping such a terrain under round the clock surveillance is very difficult. It is no surprise that India has been struggling very hard to curb the infiltration. Narcotics and fake currency smuggling is yet another motivation for Pakistan to use drones.

India has erected wire fence along the international border and line of control. The international border is so well lit at night, but still the terrorists and smugglers manage to sneak in using innovative means like tunnels.

Drones can really be very cost-effective alternative to infiltration. These can be launched from a vantage point – a hillock, watch tower or a border out post as close as possible to the border or line of control. Maintaining a ceiling of 30-50 feet drones remain undetected from the electronic surveillance and can travel up to a depth of 10-15 kms inside the Indian territory.

Village Bhusse (Tarn Taran, Punjab) from where a half-burnt drone was recovered by police appears to have been carefully chosen as landing site by Pakistan. It is just 6 kms from the border. The drone, had it not developed a snag after landing, could have flown back to Pakistan.

Use of drones is really an innovative idea from Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence. It can have inevitable ramifications for counter-terror and narcotics control operations. The troops manning the border and the police in depth areas are not trained to counter this new threat. It could pose serious problems in border management and counter-infiltration tasks. Dropping of arms, ammunition,narcotics and counterfeit currency poses a serious problem. Given to the vastness of border areas, some of the incidents most probably may not come to light, as it happened in Punjab.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Col US Rathore

is a threat and risk analyst and security consultant.

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One thought on “Terror’s Third Dimension

  1. In my understanding drones fly low – somewhere above tree-top level. Since radars are effective for detection only at much higer levels, drones could easily evade radar based defence system. However, they are easily destroyed by anti-aircraft fire from ground. The noise in their motors generates enough acoustic signature for detection without much expensive setup. Thus with time and right preparations India should be able to defeat such technology used by Pakistan for unleashing terrorism.

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