– By Vaibhav Ugale
In an era characterized by the relentless march of technological progress, armed forces worldwide are equipping themselves with cutting-edge systems, including loitering munitions, direct energy weapons, unmanned combat vehicles, ramjet artillery, and hypersonic missiles. Among these technological marvels, unmanned aerial vehicles, affectionately known as drones, have emerged as a transformative force.
The evolution of drone technology has undergone a seismic shift, largely attributed to the advent of additive manufacturing and 3D printing. This transformative wave has ushered in a marked reduction in production costs, democratizing access to drones not just for governments and commercial entities but also for civilians. The integration of Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and the inclusion of Obstacles Avoidance Sensors has elevated these aerial machines to previously unimaginable levels of autonomy and operational finesse.
Drones manifest in an array of types, each meticulously designed to fulfill specific roles within designated operational theaters. High-Altitude Long Endurance (HALE), Medium-Altitude Long Endurance (MALE), and tactical UAVs, for instance, serve as the vanguards of long-range strikes. However, their substantial radar cross-section renders them vulnerable to radar detection, thus exposing them to the perils of air defense systems. Moreover, the prohibitive costs associated with their operation and maintenance restrict their utilization primarily to military entities.
In stark contrast, loitering munitions and drones classified under the small to micro category present a cost-effective and readily producible alternative. Their diminutive radar cross-section poses an enigmatic challenge for conventional radar systems, necessitating the imperative development of robust counter-Unmanned Aerial System (C-UAS) technologies.
The Armenia-Azerbaijan (Nagorno-Karabakh) conflict serves as a poignant reminder of the pivotal role of C-UAS systems. Armenia, lacking such defenses, sustained substantial losses. In stark contrast, Azerbaijani forces deftly deployed Israeli-made IAI Harop, an anti-radiation loitering munition, to effectively neutralize Armenian air defense systems, thereby carving out a secure passage for TB-2 UCAV strikes.
In the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, loitering munitions have taken center stage, with Russia employing Zala Lancet and the Iranian-origin Shaheed-136, while Ukraine harnesses American Switchblade, Polish Warmet, and munition-laden First-Person-View (FPV) drones.
Notably, the rise of terrorist organizations such as the Houthis, Hamas, Hayat Tahrir-al-Sham, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Al-Shabaab has ushered in an era of increased drone attacks. The attack on the Indian Air Force base in Jammu on June 21, 2021, serves as a stark testament to the urgent need for robust Indian counter-drone systems. This audacious incident resulted in minor injuries to two Indian Air Force personnel, prompting security agencies to cast a suspicious eye toward the involvement of the Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist organization.
India has not been immune to the nefarious use of drones, with multiple instances of these aerial vehicles being employed for smuggling weapons and narcotics across its borders. The attack on the Indian Air Force base served as a catalyst for significant advancements in Indian counter-UAS system development, also known as Anti-Drone Systems.
Counter-UAS systems can be broadly classified into two distinct categories
- Soft Kill: This non-lethal method hinges on the art of jamming, specifically the interference with GPS or communication signals received by the targeted drone. RF-based jammers, such as the Leather Dazzler and Net Guns, exemplify this approach. The former is adept at disrupting the functionality of optical sensors through the inducement of disability glare.
- Hard Kill: In stark contrast, the hard kill method harnesses kinetic strikes to neutralize drones. This approach employs a plethora of weaponry, including anti-air guns, direct energy weapons, man-portable air defense systems, and micro anti-air missiles.
Several Indian companies have emerged as pioneers in the development of these cutting-edge counter-UAS systems. In this article, we embark on a comprehensive exploration of these systems, meticulously shedding light on their capabilities and their indomitable contributions to modern defense strategies.
Now, let’s dive into the details of these innovative systems:
BEL-DRDO D-4 Anti-Drone System
Designed collaboratively by DRDO and expertly manufactured by BEL, the D-4 system stands as a paragon of counter-drone prowess. This formidable system marries both soft-kill and hard-kill capabilities, integrating a formidable array of components, including:
- AESA RADAR
- EO/IR sensor complete with a Laser rangefinder
- Radio frequency jammer and GPS jammer
- A potent 2KW Direct Energy Weapon (DEW) hard-kill system
- Boasting a targeting range that extends up to 1 km
- Currently in service with the Indian Army, Indian Air Force, and Indian Navy
Zen Technologies C-UAS System
Zen Technologies spearheads the development of an illustrious C-UAS System designed to counter the ever-present drone threat. This system encompasses an impressive arsenal, featuring:
- An RF-based drone detector (Radar)
- A Ground Control station
- Day and Night camera sensor engineered for drone identification and tracking.
- An astute Data fusion and command center
- An impressive ability to integrate seamlessly with the L-70 Air Defence gun for Hard Kill operations
- Targeting Range stretching up to 1 km
Grene Robotic Indrajaal
Grene Robotic’s Indrajaal system is a shining example of AI-enabled counter-drone solutions meticulously designed to safeguard sprawling urban centers, airports, government sites, and military installations from the looming drone threat. This cutting-edge system boasts a robust suite of components, including:
- Active RF Detectors
- Passive RF Detectors meticulously designed for Detecting and Tracking Drones
- An uncanny ability to integrate with existing weaponry such as Direct Energy Weapons, Anti-Drone Missiles, Man-Portable Air-Defence Systems (ManPADS), and Repulsor Jammers.
- An ingenious Auto Drone Ports that launch countermeasure drones, aptly named “Zombie,” equipped with explosives to intercept looming threat drones. Another drone, ‘SkyCorp,’ takes on the mantle of threat monitoring.
- The critical Command and Control Unit orchestrating the entire defense mechanism
- Currently, these systems have found deployment at strategic locations, where they are actively undergoing rigorous testing.
Big Bang Boom Solutions C-UAS System
Big Bang Boom Solutions enters the arena with their C-UAS System, distinguished by its utilization of X Band and S Band RF Trackers and Jammers. This formidable system boasts an astounding:
- 20 Km Detection Range
- A striking 15 Km Targeting Range
- EO/IR tracking functionality, with an impressive 3 Km Range, enhanced further by an AI-enabled recognition system
- Remarkably, this system is operable by a single person
- Currently, it stands in active service with the Indian Air Force
IIO Technologies contributes to the landscape with their RF Drone Detectors and Jammers, offering an impressive operational range extending up to 5 Km. These systems are already in active service, bolstering India’s defense capabilities.
BEL Laser Dazzler
The BEL Laser Dazzler operates in the realm of “soft kill” countermeasures, expertly suppressing the functionality of optical sensors through the ingenious implementation of disability glare.
Gurutvaa System Dronaam
The Gurutvaa System’s Dronaam solution encompasses handheld and backpack devices meticulously engineered for “soft kill” operations through GPS and RF jamming, further reinforcing India’s defense capabilities.
Throttle Aerospace Systems Defender
The Defender system stands as an exemplar of ingenuity, featuring a drone-mounted net launcher capable of neutralizing drones weighing up to 5 kg, boasting a diagonal size of up to 5 meters.
Solar Industries/ EEL Bhargavastra
The Bhargavastra system represents a formidable “hard-kill” counter-drone solution, characterized by 2 Kg micro-missiles capable of targeting threats at a range of up to 2 Km. This impressive system is further defined by:
- Missiles neatly stored within a cassette/pod containing 24/36/48 missiles
- Radar with a detection range extending from 4 to 5 Km
- An Electro-Optical system boasting a detection range of 2 Km
- Soft-Kill RF communication and GPS jamming capabilities
- A versatile mountability on 4×4, 2.5-ton vehicles
- Currently, it is in the developmental phase, poised to enhance India’s counter-UAS capabilities upon completion.
These revelations lay bare the intricacies and capabilities of the various Indian counter-UAS systems, ultimately underscoring their pivotal role in modern defense strategies. India, with its relentless pursuit of innovation and security, stands poised to confront emerging threats with unwavering resolve and technological prowess.