‘State support’ behind drone strike, says top Army officer
The technology used in the aerial attack on an India Air Force (IAF) facility in Jammu on June 27 indicated “State support and the possible involvement of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Taiba terror groups”, a top Indian Army officer aware of the matter said on Wednesday.
The army has tightened security at its key forward installations in the Kashmir Valley following the attack, he added.
“We have identified some key military installations and activated countermeasures to pre-empt drone attacks. Steps have been taken in coordination with intelligence agencies,” said Lieutenant General DP Pandey, who heads the Srinagar-based HQs 15 Corps.
He said the drones and explosives used for aerial attacks cannot be assembled on the roadside and are likely to be state-supported systems. He said there appeared to be an “element of guidance from State actors” to modify the drones for aerial attacks. “It’s a new and emerging threat that we have to stay prepared for,” Pandey said.
The June 27 attack was the first-ever offensive use of drones to target an Indian military facility. IAF has also beefed up defence at its forward airbases in the western sector to pre-empt fresh drone attacks, as reported by HT on June 29. Snipers, jammers and other countermeasures have been activated at forward IAF bases.
The drone attack is a watershed in asymmetric warfare and underlines the need for the armed forces to build capabilities to deter, detect and neutralise such aerial threats.
Chief of defence staff General Bipin Rawat on Monday said that India has to start preparing for future generation warfare. He said the three services, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), academia and other stakeholders were working together to develop technology to counter the threat from drones at the earliest.
DRDO chief G Satheesh Reddy said that the counter-drone technology developed by his organisation could provide the armed forces with the capability to swiftly detect, intercept and destroy small drones that pose a security threat. He said DRDO’s anti-drone system would give the military both “soft kill” and “hard kill” options to tackle the aerial threat. The first refers to jamming the hostile drone, while the second involves a laser-based kill system.
After the aerial attack at the air force station in Jammu on June 27, another attack was thwarted in the early hours of Monday. Drones were also sighted near military installations in Jammu between 1 am and 4.30 am on Tuesday, indicating terrorist groups could be trying to replicate Sunday’s strike. Drones were again seen hovering over Kaluchak and Kunjwani military stations on Wednesday.
The National Investigation Agency has taken over the probe into the June 27 attack and registered a case under the Explosive Substances Act, UAPA, and IPC sections on criminal conspiracy and attempt to murder.
Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur (retd) said: “Jammu is a wake up call but it must be appreciated that the threat has been long in existence, and the anti-dote to terror drones is a whole-of-government approach since it’s not only military installations that are threatened but civilian infrastructure of importance too.”
“Thus, the IB, RAW and other intelligence agencies have to work hand-in-hand to preempt attacks and terminal anti-drone defences have to be provided to key installations. In these Covid crunch times, finances would have to be provisioned from somewhere by the government,” the former additional director general at Centre for Air Power Studies said.