Jammu airbase drone attack: The threat of low cost warfare is real now

The drone attack on a Jammu airbase on Sunday has introduced a new dimension to terror attacks in the country.

This is a threat that experts had long flagged as one that would have an unprecedented impact on the security of military assets across the nation. The attack, which missed expensive assets like medium-lift helicopters and fixed-wing drones based at Jammu, has exposed the vulnerability of conventional warfighting equipment against low-cost threats like drones and loitering munitions.

While there is as yet no clarity on the nature of the drones that were used, sources said the attacks could have been carried out with commercially available drones, like quadcopters, rigged to carry an Improvised Explosive Device.

As per initial inputs, the drones seem to be low-cost quadcopters that have been used in the past by Pakistan-based terrorists to ferry across rifles and ammunition.

The commercially available drone can cost about Rs 20,000 and carry a 5-8 kg payload and cause significant damage if accurately targeted.

While investigations are underway to determine the origin of the attack, the controller seems to have been present within line of sight of the drone, as heavy communication equipment for long distance control would have limited its ability to carry the explosives payload.

Sources said the drone attack took place metres away from Army residential areas that are placed on the boundary of the airbase and had the potential to cause civilian casualties as well.

Though bases like Jammu that house military equipment are geared to deal with conventional threats including missiles, enemy aircraft and large unmanned combat aerial vehicles, the threat of commercially available drones with a low-radar signature does not yet have a credible counter.

Using expensive missiles like the Spyder and the soon-to-be inducted S 400 against mass-produced, low-cost drones is not an optimum solution. Experts have said that other measures, including involving the local police force in identifying potential base operation areas, could be the key to countering such threats.

The Defence Research and Development Organisation as well as private players in India have also been working on developing low-cost anti-drone systems, several of which work by cutting off communication and jamming controls.


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