It is vital that we do not let ourselves get trapped in a defensive and reactive stance, confined to consequence management. The emphasis must shift from mere protection to punishment.
On Sunday, 27 June, Pakistan crossed a significant escalation threshold in its asymmetric war in Jammu and Kashmir. Two drones struck the strategic air base of Jammu between 0127 and 0130 hours in the morning. They came at the height of 100m and dropped 2 kg charges of high-grade military explosives (probably RDX) with impact detonators. Their likely targets were the helicopters hanger and Air Control Tower (ACT), but they missed. One created a hole in the roof of a concrete building and the other exploded on the ground. Two Air Force boys were injured slightly. This was a significant qualitative escalation in the asymmetric war being waged in Kashmir. By using drones to target a strategic air base, Pakistan had ushered in the era of drone warfare in South Asia with a low cost- high impact strike using COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf Technology) of quad copter drones. The simple fact is that such plastic, battery operated drones have a zero radar cross-section and are very difficult to detect and even harder to stop. Thus, they are a very optimal and cost- effective solution for any attacker. The defender will always be at disadvantage in such a scenario.
Post the strike, there was the usual strident media outcry. How were we caught napping again, especially since intelligence agencies had warned us that drones may be employed? Such scapegoat seeking narratives betray a complete ignorance of the technological complexities involved in detecting and shooting down such small drones. The fact is, Indian Air Force (IAF) is well equipped to detect and deal with HALE (High Altitude Long Endurance) and MALE (Mid Altitude Long Endurance) class of larger drones, but such small and cheap drones present an entirely different set of problems.
ERA OF DRONE WARFARE
Drones have been extensively employed for decades now. Surprisingly, their use in fact dates back to the Vietnam War. Their employment in the Bosnia conflict indicated their vulnerability in a dense AD environment….