The Age Of Drones
India Legal|October 14, 2019
The infiltration of Chinese drones into Punjab shows serious gaps in India’s aerial defences. Future conflict will shift from high-cost military grade UAVs to swarms of unmanned aerial systems.
Maj Gen Ashok Mehta

ON September 14 at around 2 am, a swarm of low-flying drones, allegedly operated by Houthi rebels in Yemen, ducked the highly sophisticated Saudi-US air defense radar network of Patriot III and THAAD systems. They struck at Abqaiq, the world’s largest oil processing facility and Khurais, Saudi Arabia’s second-largest oilfield. Saudi oil production fell by 5.7 mn barrels a day from 9.8 mn barrels a day, the largest disruption to the oil market by a terrorist attack.

Apparently, the drones were rudimentary and inexpensive and cleverly wired to wreak havoc and disruption. Just think about it. This happened despite such an attack having been simulated in February 2012 at the Interdisciplinary Centre, Herzliya, Israel, with counter-measures worked out. The ripples of the stunning success of the Iran-backed Houthi rebel attacks have shaken the Middle East and the rest of the oil-producing world. They will undoubtedly raise their anti-drone/missile safety net with an expensive array of defensive systems such as the Russian S400. What is obviously needed is an early warning and surveillance air defense network to destroy low-flying drones.

In India, commercial drones completely surprised the Punjab police, BSF, Army and IAF air defense systems between September 9-16. At least four Chinese commercial drones were able to infiltrate across the border near Tarn Taran and execute eight to 10 sorties over eight days. Just think about it. The third-largest army in the world and the second-largest police and paramilitary force were caught napping till module members of the Khalistan Zindabad Force (KZF) were arrested and led the Punjab police to a cache of military stores and the crash site of one of the disabled drones.

An extremely grave breach of aerial security on the Pakistan-Punjab border was fortuitously discovered through the Punjab police capturing KZF module members who were to receive the weapons consignment and smuggle it into J&K following the abrogation of Article 370.

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