The Jammu attack is a watershed in asymmetric warfare and underlines the need for capabilities to deter, detect and neutralise such threats

Two drones allegedly from across the border dropping IEDs on the Indian Air Force's technical airport in Jammu is worrisome. Two other drones were spotted over Kaluchak and Ratnuchak military stations in Jammu in the night of June 27. An alert has been sounded at all military stations to thwart such attacks. Counter-measures, including snipers and jammers, are already in place at the forward bases.

Pakistan-backed terrorist groups and the Inter-Services Intelligence have been using drones to smuggle arms, ammunition and drugs across the border into J&K and Punjab, but never have drones been used before for attacking a military base.

Counter-drone technology will have to be deployed to tackle this threat and to make sure we are able to detect drone presence in time. Use of drone technology by non-state actors represents a major jump in the way insurgency is playing out. The attack is a watershed in asymmetric warfare and underlines the need for armed forces to build capabilities to deter, detect and neutralise such aerial threats.

Drones represent three kinds of risk: privacy risk (illegal surveillance), penetration risk (drones are used to gather intelligence), and security risk (to attack installations, smuggle contraband).In Syria, ISIS has been using drones to drop payloads from the sky and so is the Taliban in Afghanistan. Drone detection can be RF-based or by conventional radars or electro-optic payloads that uses thermal imaging. Once identified, you can launch a kinetic energy weapon against the drone or jam it or confuse it by jamming its GPS. Israel’s Iron Dome and other missile systems act within seconds. Detection and action will happen at a very fast pace but it will take some time to gain that kind of capability.

An official blueprint prepared by central agencies states that unregulated drones, UAVs and remotely-piloted aircraft systems are a “potential threat” to vital installations and sensitive locations and a “compatible solution” is required to counter them.

Chief of defence staff General Bipin Rawat on June 28said that the three services, the Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO), academia and other stakeholders were working together to develop technology to counter the threat from drones at the earliest.

He said DRDO has already achieved some success and even demonstrated its anti-drone technology. It has developed the ability to disable or shoot down hostile drones. Its anti-drone system has a range of two to three kilometres with radar capability to pick up the drone and then use frequencies to jam the unmanned aerial vehicle. A top government official said DRDO has transferred the technology for the production of its anti-drone system to Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL). “DRDO has written to the three services and informed them that the anti-drone system is available,” he said.

India has an estimated over six lakh rogue or unregulated unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and security agencies are analysing modern anti-drone weapons like ‘sky fence’ and ‘drone gun’ to counter terror or similar sabotage bids by these aerial platforms.

A drone gun is capable of jamming the radio, global positioning system (GPS) and mobile signal between the drone and the pilot, and forces the drone to the ground before it can cause any damage. This Australia-designed weapon has an effective range of two kilometres. Another solution to block a lethal drone is the sky fence system that uses a range of signal disruptors to jam the flight path and prevent them from entering their target location.

A Bangalore-based private company, BEML, and Electronics Corporation of India Ltd (ECIL) among others showcased the latest technology available in this domain to the participants of a national conference attended by representatives of the Indian Air Force, the Central Industrial Security Force, Directorate General of Civil Aviation, and Airports Authority of India among others. A drone gun and sky fence looks feasible solutions and are being recommended to the government for consideration, a senior official in the security establishment said.

The Advanced Test High Energy Asset (ATHENA), is another weapon under analysis. It works by firing a high-energy laser beam on a rogue drone resulting in its complete destruction in the air. However, this is a very costly technology and is being currently tested by the US army, officials said. A ‘Skywall 100’, is the ground version of the ‘drone catcher’ and it works by bringing down an UAV using a parachute that is hurled through a net from 100 meters distance.’