A cash prize of Rs 1 lakh to its ‘hit’ team, an assortment of jammers and spoofers and multi-layered patrols by security personnel are some of the measures taken by the Border Security Force (BSF) to check the increasing infiltration of drones carrying drugs and arms from Pakistan into India.
The well-fortified and fenced border along the two neighbouring countries is witnessing an “onslaught” of drones, the most being in Punjab, with sightings more than tripled and shooting of the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) gone up multiple times in 2022 as compared to the last year, official data showed.
Each BSF ‘hit’ team at the border that brings down a drone through rifle firing or use of jamming technology is being rewarded with a cash incentive of Rs 1 lakh, according to latest policy decision taken by the force sometime back to motivate the troops in battling the drones menace, a senior BSF officer told PTI.
A similar amount of reward was announced by the Jalandhar-based Punjab frontier of the force in April for the locals or the public who inform the BSF about those elements who use drones to get drugs and arms from Pakistan, he said.
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This year, till December 25, the BSF has downed 22 drones and the reward of Rs 1 lakh each has been handed out to more than a dozen ‘hit’ or shooting teams deployed on the front, till now. An awardee could be a single trooper or more than one on a case-by-case basis, he said.
All the 22 drone kills, this year, have taken place along the Punjab border.
Only one drone each was shot down by the BSF in 2020 and last year (in Jammu in 2020 and in Punjab in 2021), the data said.
According to official data, drone sightings along the 2,289-km-long India-Pakistan International Border (IB) running along Jammu, Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat has increased from 77 in 2020 to 104 last year and 311 this year (till December 23). Almost 75 per cent of these sightings have been made in Punjab, where drones have been majorly used by the other side to push in and drop drugs.
The border guarding force has also deployed an assortment of electronic jammers and spoofers to block the frequencies and navigation path of these narcotics and arms carrying drones leading to their immobilisation.
Jammers and spoofers are gadgets that emit electromagnetic waves and send fake GPS (global positioning system) signals respectively to cripple a flying drone and they are subsequently taken down either by controlled piloting of the device called ‘soft kill’ or just by firing at it using a gun, also called a ‘hard kill’.
“There have been few instances where the electronic devices deployed by the force in the border areas jammed the drones originating from Pakistan and once the device gets stationary in the air, it was shot down,” a senior officer said refusing to disclose further details.
What BSF is doing now is that it has deployed a number of quick position-changing ‘hit’ teams and ‘depth patrols’ in the border areas so that they can make maximum kills and even if the drones escape after dropping the payload of drugs or arms, criminal elements are not able to pick it up, the officer said.
The Punjab Police has provided as many as 200 of its personnel to carry out this task with the paramilitary force.
BSF Director General Pankaj Kumar Singh had said last month that the force has been “bombarded” by the onslaught of drone flights at the western front from across the Pakistan border.
“The BSF has has been at the receiving end of the drone menace for quite some time… the versatility of the drone, which is very well known, has been posing problems to us with respect to nefarious elements who have found new uses of the drone and the anonymity, the quick flight and quick getting back bypassing the frontiers of the country by going to a sufficient height,” he said.
The problem, the DG said, was grave.
“We do not have a foolproof solution as of now. They (drones) have been bringing across narcotics, arms and ammunition, counterfeit currency and all kinds of things,” the BSF chief said.
The force has now begun performing a forensic analysis of the chips recovered from the downed drones to analyse their flight path, launching and landing point, timing and GPS coordinates, Singh said.