China Expands Drone Surveillance Near India Border Aera

High above the snowy peaks of the Himalayas, it was but a sparkling
light.The unidentified object was, however, bright enough to catch the
attention of officers of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) force,
who were on a recent patrol in the difficult high terrain along India’s
disputed mountainous border with China.The bright speck, they knew, was
out of place among the gently flickering stars that usually keep them
company on cold night patrols.
The ITBP and military experts believe the sighting was only the
latest confirmation of a military programme across the border that is
revolutionising China’s surveillance capabilities — the country’s
fast-expanding domestic Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), or “drone”,
industry.
The programme’s success was easier to spot in Beijing this week,
where Chinese companies displayed a range of domestically-developed
UAVs at an exhibition on police equipment and anti-terrorism
technology.
Once reluctant to discuss the state of development of the country’s
home-grown “drones”, Chinese authorities are increasingly showcasing the
industry’s rapid progress, as well as looking for foreign markets.
At last year’s air-show in Zhuhai, foreign observers were left
stunned by 25 UAVs that were displayed, at stages of development far
more advanced than earlier thought.
“The Zhuhai display showed substantial variations in Chinese
capabilities, and indicates that their science and technology, as well
as research and development, is quite phenomenal in this area,” said
Srikanth Kondapalli, professor of Chinese studies and an expert on the
Chinese military at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).
In Beijing this week, industry representatives were bullish about the
UAV industry, suggesting a significant expansion was on the cards.
Representatives of the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC),
one of China’s biggest UAV manufacturers, said UAVs would play a bigger
role in China’s anti-terrorism missions.
While the drones are being designed primarily for anti-terrorism,
their use has also been expanded to border reconnaissance, particularly
over the Taiwan Straits, still a focus of China’s military interests.
UAVs “will be useful for reconnaissance along border areas, where
natural conditions are inhospitable,” Li Wei, director of the
anti-terrorism research center at the China Institutes of Contemporary
International Relations (CICIR), an official think-tank in Beijing, told
the State-run China Daily in a recent interview.
The drones are dual-use — they will also be deployed for civilian
purposes. Beijing police officials said at the symposium they would
consider using UAVs in emergencies, and also to monitor traffic.
But it is China’s military programme that has received most attention.
Also on display this week were drones with domestically-designed weapon platforms.
For a programme that was only launched a decade ago, growth has been
rapid. Ten years ago, China was reliant on Israel for its supply of
Heron UAVs. However, American concerns over their deployment in the
Taiwan Straits subsequently forced China to seek alternatives.
The first domestically-produced UAV was unveiled only four years ago, at the previous Zhuhai air-show.
Recently, the UAVs have been “used substantially in Tibet and
Xinjiang,” Mr. Kondapalli said. “Since the number one national security
threat number is the Three Evils [terrorism, separatism and religious
extremism], they are providing real-time information to the government
on the ground, whether any Al-Qaeda operatives are sneaking into
Kashgar [near Xinjiang’s western border].”
The drones are also useful for border surveillance. China’s biggest
drone, the ASN-229 A, has a 2,000 km operating radius, and is directed
by satellite.
China’s success, Mr. Kondapalli said, “would impact India’s own
thinking process,” with the country still reliant on Israeli UAVs.
Underscoring the widening gap in capabilities across the border, the
recent sightings by the ITBP could not be documented with certainty,
given the lack of sophisticated equipment in many outposts in India’s
border regions.
The personnel of the ITBP patrol with rudimentary equipment. When
they looked skyward, they had no high-tech surveillance tools to turn
to — they only had binoculars for company.
Source:The Hindu