The Indian Army has enhanced its drone capabilities, inducting 75 indigenous unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that can also be used for combat missions to target enemy positions.
The combat drones that were part of the ‘swarm technology’ display at the Army Day Parade on January 15 have been inducted in phases since August 2020, boosting army’s surveillance capabilities and also bringing in an element of surprise to carry out targeted strikes to assist troops on the ground.
Initially, only five of these drones were bought in August 2020 but in the last few months, as tensions escalated with China in Ladakh and spiking ceasefire violations by Pakistan at the Line of Control (LoC), more of these were purchased, officials said.
What are swarm drones?
The drones being unleashed in a bunch is a tactic called swarm drone technology. Not only are these drones light weighted and low cost but the high-tech artificial intelligence enables these to be crucial in future warfare.
Swarm drones can create havoc as it is part of deception warfare with radars or air defence systems often unable to pick up the multiple drones but see it as one big object.
The technology is used worldwide. In 2018, two Russian military bases were attacked using swarm drones in Russia.
Drone formations such as these employed to take down multiple targets simultaneously are often referred to as “Kamikaze missions”. Drones are expected to play a huge role in future wars; recently what we saw in the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
Drones offer highly stealthy capabilities that can be matched with very few other devices. It was the go-to option for the Iranians when they planned an attack on Saudi’s Abqaiq oil facilities in 2019. The Iranians targeted the oil facilities with delta wing drones apart from other long-range missiles, but it was these drones that did the most damage. The most damning fact of this attack was that the targets were all hit by drone attacks launched from Saudi territory, possibly inside the range of Saudi air defences.
With a range of 50 km, these drones can make deep inroads behind enemy lines with a capability to hit targets from a distance of 500 metres. The UAV has a mother drone that has an attached child drone meant to fire and self-destroy after hitting the target.
These drones were out on a public display as the Indian Army carried out a live demonstration of Drone Swarming capability using 75 indigenously designed and developed drones which executed an array of Artificial Intelligence (AI) enabled simulated offensive missions and close support tasks during the Army Day Parade held at Delhi Cantt on Friday.
“This demonstration is recognition of the Indian Army’s steady embrace of emerging and disruptive technologies to transform itself from a manpower-intensive to a technology-enabled force to meet future security challenges. The Indian Army is investing heavily into Artificial Intelligence (AI), Autonomous Weapon Systems, Quantum Technologies, Robotics, Cloud Computing and Algorithm Warfare in order to achieve a convergence between the Army’s warfighting philosophies and military attributes of these technologies,” Indian Army said in a statement.
These drones carry out automated, randomised sonic missions to the target area with the use of artificial intelligence and onboard adaptive computers. It is driven by continuous satellite feeds.
These drones can also be pressed into action for airdropping food, medicine, ammunition or any other essential needs for soldiers in forward locations cut away from supply lines.
The Indian Army has undertaken a wide array of technology initiatives in coordination with Dreamers, Startups, MSMEs, Private Sector, Academia, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs).
One such project is the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Offensive Drone Operations which has been incubated with an Indian start-up. This project symbolises the beginning of the Indian Army’s tryst with autonomy in weapon platforms and showcases the Army’s commitment towards merging the cutting-edge of digital technologies with its human resource, the army said.
These are not the only drone technologies Indian Army is looking to procure indigenously. Recently the army ordered more than 100 drones costing around Rs 140 crore for high-altitude areas. These are aimed at enhancing surveillance capabilities at more than 15,000 feet just like the friction areas of the current India-China standoff in Ladakh.