Friday, December 08, 2017

The Indian drone that crashed in China could be a goldmine for Chinese weapons engineers

The news of the loss of an Indian Army unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) raises many questions.

The Indian Army official statement has said that it was on a training mission and strayed across the LAC in the Sikkim area. But what is awaited is the report about whether it crashed on its own or was brought down by the Chinese. The next issue is whether it was a Searcher Mk II or a Heron – both imported from Israel.

There are four reasons why this loss is worrisome, irrespective of the type of the UAV.

First: it is the loss of an aviation asset that is difficult to come by. The Heron/Searcher is imported from Israel and to get a new bird as a replacement would take years to process in our bureaucratic maze.

Second: while we would be one UAV less, it is the loss of a reconnaissance capability that would hurt operationally. A UAV, especially of the Heron class, brings with it high altitude transit and reconnaissance capability, which is vital in our northern borders. Flying inside national airspace, the payloads carried by the Heron can look across the border without the adversary realising that it is being snooped on; it would paint as a blip on his radar without him able to do anything about it. The closer the flight path is to the border, and if across, better is the quality of information that would be available.

Third: if it has fallen into unwanted hands, it is really worrisome. The Chinese would surely strip the payload for its technology and improve their own.

It is a well-known fact that Israeli electronics are one of the best in the world, while those of China are not. Even though Israel would not have sold their latest version of the payload to India, it would be safe to assume that the Chinese engineers would be eager to get a hand on the electronics.

The Chinese are known to aggressively pursue getting hold of western technology. They reportedly got hold of the electronics and stealth data of the F-117 shot down in March 1999 during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. There are reports they had a look at the American Special Forces H-60 stealth Blackhawk helicopter that crashed during the Osama bin Laden raid in Abbottabad.
07/12/17 AVM Manmohan Bahadur(Retd)/The Print