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Navy signs contract with BEL for anti-drone system; Army, IAF to follow suit

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The Indian Navy on Tuesday signed a contract with Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) for India’s first locally made naval anti-drone system (NADS) with both “hard kill” and “soft kill capabilities”, the defence ministry said in a statement.

The deal comes two months after small drones were used to target the Jammu air force station. The June 27 Jammu attack was the first-ever offensive use of drones to target an Indian military facility.

BEL will sign similar contracts with the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force, the statement said.

The anti-drone system will give the military both “soft kill” and “hard kill” options to tackle the new and fast-emerging aerial threat. The first refers to jamming the hostile drone, while the second involves a laser-based kill system.

The indigenous anti-drone system has been developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and manufactured by BEL. The DRDO says its counter-drone technology can provide the armed forces with the capability to swiftly detect, intercept and destroy small drones that pose a security threat.

“The NADS can instantly detect and jam micro drones and use a laser-based kill mechanism to terminate targets. It will be an effective, all-encompassing counter to the increased drone threat to strategic naval installations,” the statement said. The Jammu drone attack was a watershed in asymmetric warfare and underlined the need for the armed forces to build capabilities to counter the aerial threat, experts previously said.

The system was deployed for VVIP protection duties during Republic Day 2020, the visit of US President Donald Trump to Motera stadium in Ahmedabad, Independence Day 2020, Republic Day 2021 and Independence Day 2021. DRDO demonstrated its counter-drone technology to different security agencies at the Hindon air force station in January 2020 and the National Security Guard (NSG) campus in Manesar in August 2020 and January 2021. Both the static and mobile versions of NADS will be supplied to the navy shortly.

The counter-drone technology uses a variety of methods to neutralise the danger from aerial attacks, as previously reported by Hindustan Times.

The solution consists of a radar system that offers 360-degree coverage with detection of micro-drones when they are 4 kilometres away, electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensors for detection of micro-drones up to 2 kilometres and a radio frequency (RF) detector to detect RF communication up to 3 kilometres.

The RF/Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) jammer can detect the frequency being used by the controller and jam signals from a distance of 3 kilometres. The laser-based hard kill system can neutralise micro drones at distances between 150 m and 1 kilometre. The system is integrated through a command post.

The radar detects micro drones and hands over the track for soft kill and hard kill after due verification by a sensor. Once confirmed by RF detection and verified by EO/IR sensor, the system is ready to jam RF/GNSS signals or use laser weapon as per standard operating procedures.

DRDO is also ready to transfer technology to private companies to produce the anti-drone system.