Drones can provide standoff, which can enable terrorists to conduct multiple attacks nearly simultaneously, rapidly magnifying their overall effect.
A terrorist attack is meant to create an atmosphere of fear to influence a target audience which can be a civilian population or government to force or impose political change.
Between 1994 and 2018, more than 14 planned or attempted terrorist attacks took place using aerial drones. Some of these were:-
- In 1994, Aum Shinrikyo attempted to use a remote-controlled helicopter to spray sarin gas, but tests failed as the helicopter crashed;
- In 2013, a planned attack by Al-Qaeda in Pakistan using multiple drones was stopped by local law enforcement;
- In 2014, the Islamic State began using commercial off-the-shelf and homemade aerial drones at scale during military operations in Iraq and Syria;
- In August 2018, two GPS–guided drones, laden with explosives, were used in a failed attempt to assassinate Venezuelan President Maduro; and,
- In January 2018, a swarm of 13 homemade aerial drones attacked two Russian military bases in Syria.
Why Sindh region is preferred by Pakistani terror drones
Terrorists prefer a mode of disguised operation where in they either stay completely secluded from civilian locations or stay disguised within civilian areas.
The first one is a kind of heat operation which is very suitable for the terrorists who conduct planned surgical strikes on critical infrastructures in the vicinity of the border.
Pathankot air base attack (2 Jan 2016) and the Uri attack (16 Sep 2016) are the best examples of this case.
And the second type of operation is a cold operation preferred for intelligence gathering, replenishment, and logistics exchanges.
What favors the Pakistani terror Drones
The usage of drones in terrorism can directly be linked to easy access to multi-grade drones in a wide range of markets. Yahoo Finance reveals that the Asia Pacific region alone accounts for 53% of the drone market.
Further, these terrorists easily meet their requirements by using the DJI S1000, S 900, MATRICE 600, and MATRICE 100 drones which are easily affordable on multiple online platforms.
These are the types of drones that were spotted very often on the Punjab-Pakistan border they are very similar to the ones available on online markets.
Thereby the role of China in aiding terrorists for drones can be ruled out (except for military purpose).
And more particularly, these drones are Ariel vehicles which can be easily spotted, and have limited endurance of 15 – 30 minutes hence they need to be operated quickly, this forces the terrorists to choose those areas which are extremely close to the border.
Pertaining to the pay-load capacity these drones can carry loads up to 6 – 20 kg, thus one drone can easily equip:-
- A typical AK 47 (fully loaded) – around 5 kg,
- 2 – 3 IEDs, explosives around 3 kg.
Therefore the Sindh region (Punjab – Pakistan) is an excellent location for this purpose.
The region has civilian activities very close to the border, mainly due to agricultural activities, as the Sindh region is blessed with water resources.
This is the main factor which favors the terrorists to stick very close to the border and operate the drones to the other side. This facilitation is unavailable in any other region across the Indo – Pak border.
From the map it is very clear that, apart from Sindh (and some regions in J&K), there are no favorable locations for operating drones, which can easily be spotted as the readily available commercial drones have operational range of 4 – 8 Km.
These are the regions where in any drone operation can easily be spotted. Thus it is very evident that Pakistani terrorists use Punjab borders to conduct their drone activities.
Solutions to avert cross-border drone operation
- RF jamming:-
- During RF jamming, communication between the drone and the pilot or GPS is disrupted.
- RF-jamming systems range in size and portability, from rifle-size jammers to those mounted on vehicles or buildings.
- These systems transmit a radio signal that overwhelms the GPS signal or the operator’s transmitter.
- Interrupting this signal causes many drones to act under a lost signal response and either land, or, if enabled, return to a preprogrammed location. RF-jamming systems vary significantly in range and effectiveness.
- RF jamming has a limited effective distance, and unintended interference makes the use of RF jamming ineffective for continuous countermeasures across large areas.
- Physical nets:-
- Nets are more advantageous than a physical impactor or birdshot, as they create a larger contact area against a moving target and are thus more likely to entangle and disable an aerial drone’s rotating blades.
- Net guns range in size from a handheld flashlight-shaped device, which shoots a 10 by 10 ft (3 by 3-m) net with a range of 49 ft (15 m),45 to a shoulder- fired net bazooka, with a range between 328 and 820 ft (100 and 250 m).
- Birds of prey:-
- They are unreliable, but were utilized earlier for a short time as a natural kinetic impactor.
- Due to their limited operational hours, territorial natures and many other complicating factors, they have largely been retired from drone countermeasure operations.
- Similarly, marine mammals have been used by the U.S Navy since the 1960s to identify mines, retrieve equipment and identify intruders.
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