Border surveillance

Almost 15,000 kms long border spanning six countries require constant monitoring but in terms of prioritizing the border areas for more effective surveillance, the Indian Army needs to focus more on the borders with China and Pakistan and to a lesser degree on the borders with Myanmar and Bangladesh, while other countries like Nepal and Bhutan requires much less deployment of manpower and resources.

The borders with Nepal and Bhutan require basic surveillance but the borders with Pakistan and China are abuzz with troops and military surveillance systems on both the sides and require constant monitoring.

With Bangladesh India has a border of 4351 kms, with China 4056 kms , with Myanmar 1425 kms , with Nepal 1751 kms, with Bhutan 700 kms  and with Pakistan 3525 kms. While India has largely completed an ambitious fencing plan along Pakistan borders  to prevent the intruders like terrorists and illegal immigrants and criminals, the security forces need much more to reinforce the border security management more effectively.  Latest border surveillance gadgets are the need of the hour because of the rising incidence of illegal immigrants, terrorist’s infiltration and intrusion by the adversary forces on the borders along with six countries. Since borders with China and Pakistan are the most active, Indian Army has constantly been urging the Ministry of Defence to modernize its surveillance mechanisms like the battlefield surveillance radars, the LORROS, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles etc. Some of these are very high value equipments but mostly are of low cost and meant for deployment at unit level.

Surveillance needs

Since the borders with six countries are having entirely different terrain and temperature profile the Indian Army needs for surveillance systems on these different border areas are also hugely varied. While the army would require the unmanned aerial vehicles for across the borders day-night monitoring in all the seasons, the ground level deployment of the night vision devices and other ground level intrusion detection systems are also very important.

Only last July, the Northern Army Command headquarters floated a tender for purchase of six Border Surveillance Management Systems (BSMS) to cater to the needs of Indian Army’s peace time requirements for countering the infiltration attempts from Pakistan. The border areas are already equipped with a strong surveillance mechanism which includes the three tier fencing, flood lighting, sensors, thermal imagers and manual patrolling.

The Army expects to enhance its anti-infiltration capabilities through the BSMS.  With increasing challenges from across the border the army also needs to constantly improve upon its existing surveillance mechanism.

According to the tender requirements, the BSMS set-up must be simple, yet able to provide inputs any time to a surveillance centre situated well behind the sensor i.e. the observation post and it should be networked so that a single surveillance centre is able to observe the feed of multiple sensors.

The system should also contain observation devices and equipped with a thermal imager camera which can observe and record images both in daylight and during darkness, which should also be able to function in both wireless and wired mode.  

The UAVs and other surveillance gadgets already under installations have significantly reduced the incidents taking place due to human error. These equipments include the Hand Held Thermal Imaging cameras (HHTI), both in manual and automatic fitted mode with TV monitors which are placed on static and mobile platforms at a height of 20 to 30 feet. These are used on Border Observation Posts, which can cover 1500 meters in dark night and 2500 metres in full moon nights.

The Army has also deployed the LORROS (Long Range Reconnaissance and Observation System) which has some tactical advantage. This can cover an area of 4 by 4 kms and can give real time video imagery during day and night. It helps in easy detection, identification and recognition of targets. But only disadvantage is that the range of LORROS gets reduced in bad weather conditions.

The Indian Army plans to upgrade its surveillance systems in the three tier surveillance grid called SVL. In the first tier there will be gadgets like Battlefield Surveillance Radars like binoculars, twin pieces telescopes, Night Vision Goggles, Night vision devices, monocular, weapon mounted SNVPs, F3 mine detectors which can quickly locate the mines on the borders laid by the intruders to inflict maximum self instigated casualties on the Indian side. Such high-tech electronic surveillance on the borders is the prime requirement of the Indian Army to effectively man the International borders and the Line of Control.

Role of UAV

Indian Army already has an ambitious program to acquire latest mini-UAVs worth US$ 2 billion in the coming years to sharpen its border surveillance, intelligence and communications capabilities. According to a senior Indian Army official the army has placed a requirement of around 1600 mini UAVs for induction by 2017, which will be used by infantry and mechanized infantry, which will enhance the situational awareness of the army units posted on the border areas.

The army wants these mission UAVs to have a range of 10 kms. The system should also have   jam-resistant uplink and secured downlink, and should be easily transportable in one light vehicle and carrier in dismantled configuration in backpacks. To have an effective utilization of these UAVs the Army will integrate them with other weapons systems like artillery, weapon locating radar, other big sized UAVs, aerostat radars and airborne early warning and control aircraft.

Though the DRDO is also working on many programs to develop mini-UAVs, more than a dozen domestic private sector players have also emerged and eyeing the mini-UAV market in India. Last year the Army had issued a tender to purchase 49 UAV for gathering real time intelligence and surveillance, for detecting human and vehicular movement, identification and acquisition of targets and electronic and communication intelligence.

The DRDO is focusing on developing high altitude, long endurance, vertical take-off, medium altitude, long endurance and combat UAVs. Indian private players like Idea Forge, Dynamatrics, Hi-tech Robotics, Ufcon, Omnipresent Technologies, Tata Pattern, Tata Advance Systems and the public sector Bharat Electronics are working in this area.

The Army plans to use the mini UAVs for counter insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir, which should have an endurance of 30 to 90 minutes equipped with a camera which can track the targets automatically. The mini UAVs are also intended to carry out reconnaissance along the LoC with Pakistan and the Line of Actual Control with China.

To get better sighting capabilities on the ground level across the border for the infantry and mechanized forces the army needs night fighting capability which is limited. The army wants the third generation night vision devices (NVDs) for soldiers, night sight for rifles and night vision equipment for armored and mechanized formations.

Presently the army only has second generation devices, which is not adding to the combat capabilities. On the other hand the Pakistan Army has received a range of third generation night vision equipments from the US Army on the excuse of fighting a war on terror. China is also reported to have operationalized its tank and mechanized fleet with night vision devices, which will give them an edge during war for launching surprise night raid on enemy bases.

For acquiring better line of sight and vision across the border capabilities besides the UAVs and satellite aided surveillance, the Indian Army has placed a requirement with the MoD for 30,000 NVDs.

For Indian soldiers, the night fighting capabilities have also to be upgraded in view of the terrorists getting latest NVD gadgets. To give better surveillance capabilities to Indian soldiers the MoD has already cleared the proposal for thermal imaging sights purchase last April.

The Cabinet committee on Security has already approved a home ministry proposal to set up Night Vision Devices on the International borders which includes the Battle Field Surveillance Radars (BFSR) , thermal sensors, high powered sensors, night vision devices and night binoculars. The BFSRs have a night vision range of 40 kms, which can detect targets in a hilly terrain. Since the UAVs would not be operational round the clock the army needs a surveillance mechanism on the ground for round the clock monitoring of enemy movements.