India Wants More UAS for Maoist Counter-Terrorism Operations

The Indian Government plans to deploy unmanned aircraft in the Maoist-infested areas to gather real time intelligence and help the security forces counter Maoists attacks effectively.

The National Technical Research Organization (NTRO) is jostling to get access to Aviation Research Centre’s (ARC) airbase in Orissa to test UAS. Earlier this month, the NTRO conducted trials and faced problems in launching the UAVs from Begumpet Air Force Base in Andhra Pradesh. It now plans to shift its operations to ARC’s base in Orissa. However, given the ARC’s expertise in handling the drones, the research agency is unsure if it will be allowed access to the base. The NTRO, though, has been authorised at the highest level in the government to purchase and operate UAS.

Allegations of corruption have marred the purchase of UAS. A report prepared by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has exposed a major scam in UAS purchase by the NTRO from an Israeli firm. The report, which is lying with the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), is yet to be made public.

“The NTRO should have developed airstrips and ground control systems at the time of purchasing UAVs. They are paying for having an ill-conceived acquisition plan,” a government source said. Other than the NTRO, the Air Force also has a sizable number of UAS (Heron and Searcher).

Since the trials have largely been unsuccessful and they have failed to gather intelligence for the security forces, the ministry of home affairs is toying with the idea of purchasing the UAS from foreign companies so that they can be used in anti-Maoist operations.

AAI recently demonstrated their UAS to MHA officials at Terminal 3 of the IGI airport. Earlier, the UAS of Honeywell Aerospace (T-Hawk) were tested at the Counter Terrorism and Jungle Warfare College at Kanker in Chhattisgarh but thick foliage posed a serious problem, restricting their ability to spot targets.

The ministry had decided to deploy UAS after the Dantewada massacre in 2010 in which 76 security personnel were killed by the Maoists. According to NTRO sources, downloading data at faraway bases posed a huge problem and resulted in wastage of time. The UAS could penetrate and gather intelligence only when flown at lower altitude but at the same time risked detection, an MHA official said.

The NTRO and the armed forces together have around 600 Herons and Searcher drones being used for reconnaissance and surveillance. Herons, with night operational capability, carry sensors, including infrared and radar systems. The sensors communicate with ground control station via satellite and navigate using GPS receivers. The UAS, with all-weather capability, can either have a pre-programmed flight profile where the system is fully autonomous from take off to landing or can be directed from a ground control station, or a combination of both.

Source: India Today

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