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Poor technology, communication hamper chopper use in surgical strikes: Report

Unreliable air-to-ground communication compromises the ability of pilots to cater to last-minute changes in battle plans, track down lost soldiers or identify troops deployed at the frontline

india Updated: Mar 26, 2017 07:44 IST
Rahul Singh
Surgical strikes

The T-90 battle tanks are unable to operate for sustained periods in high temperatures due to radiator problems.(Vipin Kumar/HT Photo)

Poor communication between the army’s helicopter units and soldiers deployed on the ground restrict the force’s ability to optimally use its air assets for conducting surgical strikes, a new report has said.

Unreliable air-to-ground communication also compromises the ability of pilots to cater to last-minute changes in battle plans, track down lost soldiers or identify troops deployed at the frontline.

In its latest report, the army design bureau (ADB) has identified improvement of communication between army aviation helicopters and ground troops as one of the 28 new problems that need to be resolved swiftly. These are in addition to 50 problems that the ADB had identified in a previous report.

“Surgical operations like infiltration/exfiltration of Special Forces teams from enemy territory, induction of pathfinder teams into enemy territory and casualty evacuation operations require the pilot to be aware of the exact location of own troops,” said the 72-page report, released by army chief General Bipin Rawat on Friday.

An initiative of the Modi government, the ADB has been tasked with promoting research and development and acts as a bridge between the force and the private sector to meet the army’s requirements.

The report said in an active war scenario as well as during anti-terrorist operations, the battlefield situation is always vague and helicopter operations ride on a fair amount of uncertainty.

The other problem areas listed in the report include degraded engine performance of tanks and infantry combat vehicles deployed at high altitude, inability of T-90 tanks to operate for sustained periods in high temperatures due to radiator problems and laying bridges for movement of troops and vehicles in mountains.

The report said helicopters and ground troops operated at a very high frequency band.

The report
  • The army design bureau has identified 28 new problems in addition to the 50 mentioned in its previous report
  • Improvement in communication between army aviation helicopters and ground troops needed
  • Degraded engine performance of tanks and infantry combat vehicles deployed at high altitude
  • Radiators of T-90 tanks don’t match standards. The tanks cannot be operated for long periods in high temperatures
  • Laying bridges for movement of troops and vehicles in mountains is another problem area.

“Air-ground communication is extremely difficult on high frequency band. On very high frequency band, the spectrum is preoccupied with air-to-air communication. If air-ground communication is further added to it, it will lead to congestion which will be detrimental to flying operations,” the report pointed out.

The army’s advanced light helicopters have been provided with high frequency radio sets but the communication mode has been found extremely unreliable.

The army has now set its sights on providing uninterrupted and secure air-to-ground communication to ride over the problem being encountered by pilots and ground troops. The report said user trials for the new technology to be inducted should take place within a 30-month time frame.

“Air-ground communication is extremely difficult on high frequency band. On very high frequency band, the spectrum is preoccupied with air-to-air communication. If air-ground communication is further added to it, it will lead to congestion which will be detrimental to flying operations,” the report pointed out.

The army’s advanced light helicopters have been provided with high frequency radio sets but the communication mode has been found extremely unreliable.

The army has now set its sights on providing uninterrupted and secure air-to-ground communication to ride over the problem being encountered by pilots and ground troops. The report said user trials for the new technology to be inducted should take place within a 30-month time frame.