UAV/India — Maoist Insurgency and UAVs

A very use­ful arti­cle on the employ­ment of UAVs in anti-Nax­al oper­a­tions. In the forest­ed envi­ron­ment of Nax­al affect­ed area, the mini and small UAVs will be restrict­ed in oper­a­tion due to forests and foliage. Pure EO sen­sors will have severe lim­i­ta­tions. IR sen­sors will be essen­tial. Also foliage pen­e­tra­tion radars and under­ground detec­tion radars, which are in evo­lu­tion in the West, need to be intro­duced here. The medi­um alti­tude UAVs are like­ly to pro­vide the best result. Using Searcher type of UAV would be opti­mal. The mul­ti­ple sen­sors give phe­nom­e­nal amount of data. To extract intel­li­gence out of this maze of data, soft­ware automa­tion is essen­tial. It would be facial recog­ni­tion, change of scene detec­tion and so on. While it is easy to pro­cure UAVs and sen­sors, the most chal­leng­ing part is to acquire and adapt auto­mat­ed soft­ware for our con­di­tions.

 -
This arti­cle is pub­lished with the kind per­mis­sion of “Defence and Secu­ri­ty Alert (DSA) Mag­a­zine” New Del­hi-India
Defence and Security Alert (DSA

Maoist insur­gency in 232 plus dis­tricts is a socio-polit­i­cal prob­lem need­ing efforts in mul­ti­ple fronts for a solu­tion. Social­ly the entire pop­u­la­tion has to be engaged in inclu­sive growth schemes deal­ing with the occu­pa­tion­al enter­pris­es like agri­cul­ture, hand­i­craft, min­ing, forest­ing etc. Polit­i­cal­ly they need to be weaned away from bank­rupt Marx­ism. They need to be edu­cat­ed in suit­able form about the demise of com­mu­nism in for­mer Sovi­et Union, the chang­ing face of Chi­nese mar­ket ori­ent­ed com­mu­nism and clos­er home the expe­ri­ence of com­mu­nist regimes in Ker­ala and West Ben­gal.

For the above to take place, it is essen­tial for secu­ri­ty forces (police force, para­mil­i­tary force) to cre­ate and sus­tain a safe envi­ron­ment which will per­mit imple­men­ta­tion of socio-polit­i­cal plan with­out the vio­lence unleashed by Maoists affect­ing its imple­men­ta­tion. Quite obvi­ous­ly the bedrock of suc­cess for secu­ri­ty forces plan would be the cor­rect and time­ly intel­li­gence on Maoist lead­er­ship, organ­i­sa­tion, polit­i­cal indoc­tri­na­tion camps, camps for arms train­ing and their sources of intel­li­gence, finances, arms pro­cure­ment, exter­nal sup­port etc.

UAVs can con­tribute a lion’s share in this intel­li­gence col­lect­ing. Indeed UAVs are already being used as report­ed in the press. The press report stat­ed that UAV oper­a­tions are being planned since April 2010 after dead­ly Maoist ambush in which 75 CRPF per­son­nel were killed. The report men­tioned the use of mini UAV Netra — some­thing sim­i­lar as shown in the movie “3 Idiots”. Also larg­er UAVs col­lect­ed SIGINT cap­tur­ing rebel’s tele­phon­ic con­ver­sa­tion and spot­ted Maoist cadres dur­ing their move from one place to anoth­er. The press report fur­ther states Home Ministry’s plans to induct more UAVs for the Secu­ri­ty Forces.

Maoist ter­rain

Most of the Nax­al affect­ed area con­sists of trop­i­cal dry decid­u­ous for­est con­tain­ing many nation­al parks and wildlife sanc­tu­ar­ies. The area is pas­toral with arable ter­rain. Elec­tri­fi­ca­tion is sparse. The affect­ed com­bined forest­ed area in states of MP, Maha­rash­tra, Odisha and AP is approx­i­mate­ly 3,42,000 sq km. The area has Baux­ite, Iron ore and plen­ti­ful coal­fields. Agri­cul­ture is pre­dom­i­nant­ly rice and oil seeds cul­ti­va­tion. Indus­tri­al­ly it is a poor­ly devel­oped area. Pop­u­la­tion den­si­ty varies from 101–300 per sq km. There is less pen­e­tra­tion of tele­vi­sion and radio.

Need­less to say there must be a well orches­trat­ed plan for inte­grat­ed Intel­li­gence, Sur­veil­lance and Recon­nais­sance (ISR) effort. How­ev­er, the fol­low­ing sug­ges­tions / expla­na­tions are offered more for gen­er­al aware­ness and under­stand­ing. ISR is under­tak­en by var­i­ous gov­ern­ment organ­i­sa­tions. These ini­tial­ly evolved as ver­ti­cal­ly organ­ised, sep­a­rat­ed from each oth­er sim­i­lar to smoke-stack indus­tries in the past. The lat­er­al inter­ac­tion and co-ordi­na­tion was a peri­od­ic activ­i­ty, the fre­quen­cy of inter­ac­tion decid­ing on the time­li­ness of inte­grat­ed intel­li­gence. But the world has wit­nessed mas­sive com­mu­ni­ca­tion change in the last two decades.

In the forest­ed envi­ron­ment of Nax­al affect­ed area, the mini and small UAVs will be restrict­ed in oper­a­tion due to forests and foliage. Pure EO sen­sors will have severe lim­i­ta­tions. IR sen­sors will be essen­tial. Also foliage pen­e­tra­tion radars and under­ground detec­tion radars, which are in evo­lu­tion in the West, need to be intro­duced here. The medi­um alti­tude UAVs are like­ly to pro­vide the best result. Using Searcher type of UAV, psy­cho­log­i­cal employ­ment can def­i­nite­ly put the nax­als at dis­ad­van­tage. This must be cap­i­talised on.

UAVs are more demand­ing in oper­a­tion than nor­mal manned aero­planes. It is a full time job and soon to be a life­long pro­fes­sion. Air­man­ship, a core com­pe­tence of Air Force is also a req­ui­site com­pe­ten­cy for UAV oper­a­tions. There­fore, prop­er UAV oper­a­tions are best under­tak­en by Air Force. No mat­ter how sin­cere the effort, the oth­er para­mil­i­tary forces will be sub-opti­mal in this art and sci­ence of fly­ing. The UAV oper­a­tions room needs to be manned by experts in Intel­li­gence analy­sis and the oper­a­tional experts to select the suit­able armed response

The mod­ern world is FLAT and so seam­less­ly inter­con­nect­ed, that if con­nect­ing net­work fails, there is eco­nom­ic chaos. An apt exam­ple is anybody’s abil­i­ty to use an ATM card any­where in the world for either eco­nom­ic trans­ac­tions or with­draw­al of instant mon­ey. How­ev­er, this kind of inte­gra­tion in ISR is the dream of all coun­tries. USA, Israel and some oth­ers are in the van­guard of this inte­grat­ed ISR pur­suit. Oth­ers are fol­low­ing at var­i­ous stages depend­ing upon the effort made.

How is mod­ern ISR inte­grat­ed in a seam­less man­ner? Obvi­ous­ly by con­nect­ing all agen­cies in real time and pro­cess­ing the enor­mous infor­ma­tion gath­ered by intel­li­gence experts mak­ing copi­ous use of soft­ware algo­rithms. Let us see one such mod­el in detail.

Small UAVs will con­tin­ue to be oper­at­ed more in decen­tralised fash­ion. It is their ISR data which needs cen­tral­i­sa­tion. This is inevitable and is the only way for suc­cess

Satel­lites

Satel­lites with their EO / IR / SAR sen­sors con­stant­ly map / sense the area over which they pass in each orbit. Their orbital time varies between 90 min­utes to 120 min­utes and each orbit cov­ers a new swathe. A com­bi­na­tion of many satel­lites could increase the fre­quen­cy with which they can cov­er the same area. Their dig­i­tal infor­ma­tion is stored and trans­mit­ted to suit­able ground sta­tion. If pro­grammed the satel­lites can detect desired object / area / infor­ma­tion and pass it in real time to ISR oper­a­tions room. Also it could cue low­er fly­ing UAVs to the des­ig­nat­ed area for a clos­er look on detect­ed activ­i­ty.

UAVs

UAVs of vary­ing size from micro (wing span less than 15 cms) to very large (wing span 100 feet plus) size are already in use. A brief look at dif­fer­ent types fol­lows:

High / medi­um alti­tude UAVs (HALE / MALE)

These UAVs name­ly Glob­al Hawk, Reaper, Preda­tor, Heron, Her­mes etc. fly at 20,000 to 65,000 feet. The high­er the UAV, larg­er is the area it can see but the size of the object that can be seen increas­es. To see max­i­mum details and small sized objects, like a human being from the top, UAVs need to fly low­er. So the UAV could be used either in iso­la­tion or in a net­worked man­ner. Satel­lites cue­ing can take the UAV to the imme­di­ate area of inter­est to exam­ine the data in greater detail. These UAVs hav­ing endurance vary­ing between 24 to 50 hours enable good per­sis­tence. But then these also need a prop­er oper­a­tions room manned and equipped suit­ably to han­dle the vast amount of data. When mul­ti­ple sen­sors are net­worked / inte­grat­ed then oper­a­tions room also needs suit­able upgra­da­tion.

Small­er UAVs

There are a num­ber of UAVs from size range in few cms to few meters and of low­er endurance as well as low­er oper­at­ing alti­tude. These are main­ly for the secu­ri­ty forces out on patrol, own con­voy pro­tec­tion, IED spot­ting, route clear­ance, urban area ISR etc. How­ev­er, these could be inte­grat­ed with oper­a­tions room in order to pass sig­nif­i­cant intel­li­gence. More so in time of crit­i­cal tar­get­ing this link becomes essen­tial not only with the oper­a­tions room but also with armed strike air­craft / armed UAV or an armed heli­copter on alert.

Area of search

While the ISR net­work can watch over a wide area 24 hours a day, the real­i­ty is not so sim­ple. Pure search with­out any oth­er intel­li­gence is a high­ly time con­sum­ing, painstak­ing, monot­o­nous work result­ing in quick fatigue to the sen­sor oper­a­tor. As per one source it requires about 8 hours of UAV work to ful­ly search an area of 5 sq km. But with suit­able intel­li­gence inputs this search can be expe­dit­ed. Hence the inescapable need of all agen­cies being net­worked and in as real time as pos­si­ble.

Auto­mat­ed pro­cess­ing

The mul­ti­ple sen­sors give phe­nom­e­nal amount of data. To extract intel­li­gence out of this maze of data, soft­ware automa­tion is essen­tial. It would be facial recog­ni­tion, change of scene detec­tion and so on. While it is easy to pro­cure UAVs and sen­sors, the most chal­leng­ing part is to acquire and adapt auto­mat­ed soft­ware for our con­di­tions. It is only with con­stant usage and expe­ri­ence that this soft­ware can be devel­oped and refined.

Cen­tralised oper­a­tions

If each agency is going to work in near iso­la­tion then the mag­ic of UAVs would be miss­ing. UAVs are more demand­ing in oper­a­tion than nor­mal manned aero­planes. It is a full time job and soon to be a life­long pro­fes­sion. Air­man­ship, a core com­pe­tence of Air Force is also a req­ui­site com­pe­ten­cy for UAV oper­a­tions. There­fore, prop­er UAV oper­a­tions are best under­tak­en by Air Force. No mat­ter how sin­cere the effort, the oth­er Para­mil­i­tary forces will be sub-opti­mal in this art and sci­ence of fly­ing. The UAV oper­a­tions room needs to be manned by experts in Intel­li­gence analy­sis and the oper­a­tional experts to select the suit­able armed response. Then we need the sup­port of armed UAVs / air­craft / heli-borne teams to deal with action­able intel­li­gence. The bril­liant suc­cess of Israelis against ter­ror­ists, the Amer­i­cans’ drone strikes in Afghanistan-Pak­istan area are all a result of painstak­ing yet rev­o­lu­tion­ary net­worked approach as described above. Except their efforts are far more com­plex to utilise larg­er ISR resources avail­able. Cen­tralised refers to the process of cen­tralised pro­cess­ing of data and arriv­ing at required deci­sions prompt­ly. The exe­cu­tion, there­fore, has to be decen­tralised as per the resources and demands of the site. Sim­i­lar­ly small UAVs will con­tin­ue to be oper­at­ed more in decen­tralised fash­ion. It is their ISR data which needs cen­tral­i­sa­tion. This is inevitable and is the only way for suc­cess. Shown above is schemat­ic of an ISR oper­a­tions room, which is a part of an Air Oper­a­tion Cen­tre.

About the Author
Air Vice Mar­shal A K Tiwary VSM (retd) — The writer com­mand­ed a MiG-29 Squadron in late 80s. His var­i­ous com­mand and staff appoint­ments like Chief Oper­a­tions Offi­cer at a major Wing, oper­a­tional plan­ning at Com­mand lev­el, Direc­tor Con­cept Stud­ies at Air HQ, Com­mand of a major fly­ing base, Head of the Train­ing Team (Air) at Defence Ser­vices Staff Col­lege and Senior Direct­ing Staff (Air) at Nation­al Defence Col­lege have con­ferred a rich prac­ti­cal expe­ri­ence. The air staff course at DSSC Welling­ton (TN), Com­mand and Air War Course at the Air Uni­ver­si­ty, Maxwell Air­base, Mont­gomery (USA), all induct­ed and accel­er­at­ed his inter­est in air war stud­ies. After pre­ma­ture retire­ment he now flies as Com­man­der on Boe­ing 737–800 NG.

Note by the Author:
There are a num­ber of UAVs from size range in few cms to few meters and of low­er endurance as well as low­er oper­at­ing alti­tude. These are main­ly for the secu­ri­ty forces out on patrol, own con­voy pro­tec­tion, IED spot­ting, route clear­ance, urban area ISR etc. How­ev­er, these could be inte­grat­ed with oper­a­tions room in order to pass sig­nif­i­cant intel­li­gence. More so in time crit­i­cal tar­get­ing of this link becomes essen­tial not only with the oper­a­tions room but also with armed strike air­craft / armed UAV or an armed heli­copter on alert

Defence and Secu­ri­ty Alert (DSA
Defence and Secu­ri­ty Alert (DSA) mag­a­zine is the only ISO 9001:2008 cer­ti­fied, pre­mier world class, new wave month­ly mag­a­zine which fea­tures par­a­digm chang­ing in-depth analy­ses on defence, secu­ri­ty, safe­ty and sur­veil­lance, focus­ing on devel­op­ing and strate­gic future sce­nar­ios in India and around the world.

Team GlobDef

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefenc.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →