Counter-drone systems should be part of a “smart” air defense network


By Ashish Rajvanshi

Entrusting the manufacture of a drone detection system to a private Indian industry designed by state organizations marks the pivotal moment of a first common step towards the indigenization of defence. Notably, Defense Minister Rajnath Singh’s handover of Technology Transfer (ToT) documents on April 7 also closely followed the third list of 100 items from the Ministry of Defense (MoD) to be procured/developed/manufactured in the country and not by imports. This carries the seriousness of the effort to achieve defense indigenization.

From a purely technological and doctrinal point of view, the armed forces should now consider integrating counter-drone systems into a larger, highly networked, “smart” and “computerized” environment – ​​approaches used by potential adversaries. . Counter drone systems could also be airborne on other drones themselves, instead operating as smaller airborne early warning (AEW) systems merged with larger AEW aircraft and other anti-aircraft platforms. UAV on the ground.

Anchored in a larger, high-density network linking land, sea, airborne, space and individual combatants, they allow C-UAVs to evolve from stand-alone platforms to become part of a larger configuration that enhances situational awareness of frontline combatants and military personnel. decision makers.

With a new concept of operations fueled by new technologies (AI, Machine Learning, Big Data, Quantum Computing and Quantum Communications), the government should now undertake a study to determine whether the new techno-military doctrines are relevant for India . Simultaneous development of other relevant technologies such as Directed Energy Weapons (DEW) should continue, standardized to be compatible with other C-UAVs.

Depending on battlefield needs and doctrines, C-UAVs can also deploy “hard-kill” options like missiles and cannons, either attached to the system or directed to other batteries or ground units for start shooting. But arming all units with such portable and easy-to-deploy systems is vital because battlefield drones, large and small, are likely to be used in almost any scenario. India is creating Integrated Battle Groups (IBGs) with mixed armour, infantry, artillery, mechanized infantry, combat engineers, signals and air defense units, where C- UAVs of different sizes should be deployed with each arm.

Adversaries target not only combat formations, but also combat support and support units to degrade overall military combat capability, especially during large force-on-force contacts. And while larger armed drones can be taken down with missiles and gunfire, advanced soft kill options like radio frequency (RF) jamming, spoofing, and possibly hacking are just as effective. It is the ability to develop non-kinetic hard and soft destruction systems that reflect a country’s industrial and technological advancement. Also used in cyber warfare and space warfare which are poised to be the next frontiers of the battlefield, the development of electronics and hardware manufacturing capabilities that go into soft destruction systems is crucial and should receive more attention as part of the government’s “Aatmanirbharta” objective.

For example, millimeter microwave radars (MMR) that transmit radio frequencies at short wavelengths would be effective against small swarming drones. China recently tested swarm drones launched from vehicle-mounted boxes, released through several tubes stacked together, which once in the air in groups of dozens, spread their wings and can work together to perform a variety of tasks.

Possibly AI-enabled, they can overwhelm an air defense system or ground formation firing their fire, act as loiter munitions to take out well-defended targets, provide a mass air surveillance capability, acting as a smaller part of its Command Control Intelligence Network Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) communications coordination to provide better situational awareness. This is in line with China’s “computerized” and “smart” warfare doctrines.

The possibilities are endless, and the removal of small, well-connected swarm drones is also limited. This is where non-kinetic hard and soft destruction systems come in. India should therefore develop an industrial capacity to manufacture high-tech electronics like powerful lasers, RF jammers, MMRs and microwave weapons that can simultaneously disable swarm drones.

Although this only relates to counter drone systems, the drone manufacturing capacity itself can be improved in India. While structures such as arms, upper and lower skins, fixed/retractable landing gear, internal mounts and payload mounts are made in India, propellers and motors are largely imported from China , Taiwan and Germany. India even lags behind in electronics and avionics systems such as speed controllers, GPS modules, power distribution boards, signal receivers, flight controllers, telemetry modules, devices communications and GPS hardware that go into both drone and counter-drone systems.

Our ability to build our own IR/thermal electro-optical systems, synthetic aperture radars and medium power radars leaves much to be desired. The promotion of MSMEs who develop and manufacture them can also lead to considerable economic benefits. Over the next 15 years, the Indian Army plans to induct drones at the battalion level, while the Indian Air Force aspires to have at least six squadrons of 18 armed and unarmed drone fleets. With Requests for Information / Requests for Proposals (RFIs / RFPs) estimated at around 100 per year, the development of these advanced electronic devices in-house reduces imports, with India perhaps becoming their exporter to the very countries where we buy them !

To sum up, India must first develop a basic academic understanding of where counter-drone and drone systems fit into the larger scheme of things involving emerging technologies, military concepts, industrial capabilities and capabilities. opposing nations. This should be a joint effort between government, services, industry and academia.

Second, defense indigenization should not be seen as a stand-alone effort, but as a broader goal of becoming industrially advanced with high-tech and electronics manufacturing in mind. Drones and counter-drone systems use these same systems and having an integrated approach automatically synergizes the efforts of all stakeholders, realizing overall national power and a “whole nation” approach that can withstand to any adversity.

(The author is spearheading the Adani Group’s growth and sustainability philosophy to work towards building a 100-year-old organization. Currently, he is President and CEO of Adani Defense & Aerospace. And is passionate about building an ecosystem of indigenous capabilities in defense and aerospace in the country, supporting MSMEs through inclusive growth. The opinions expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online. Reproduction of this content without permission is prohibited).


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