Tackling new threats

Print edition : March 25, 2011

K. Sekhar, Chief Controller, R&D (Missile Systems and Low Intensity Conflict), DRDO. - DRDO

WITH the nature of armed engagement changing in order to meet threats from terrorism, armed insurgency and naxalite violence, the DRDO is developing technologies to tackle low-intensity conflicts.

K. Sekhar, Chief Controller, R&D (Missile Systems and Low-Intensity Conflict), DRDO, said: Our focus is to develop new technologies to equip our paramilitary forces and the Army to combat the challenges emerging from low-intensity conflicts. We need a lot of technologies which are not available today.

There are technologies that are already developed, which, if they are useful to paramilitary forces, can be sent for production; technologies that can be customised for paramilitary forces in less than a year; and the ab initio development of new technologies, which will take a few years.

According to Sekhar, some of the major technologies that the DRDO is working on are through-wall imaging radar to look for people hiding in buildings and to detect concealed objects; ground-penetration radar to detect buried mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs); laser- and sensor-based eavesdropping devices; foliage-penetration radar, in collaboration with Defence R&D Organisation of Sweden, to detect movement of militants in jungles; laser-based explosives disposal; corner-shot weapons to fight engage adversaries from behind walls; and mini and micro Unmanned Aerial Vehicles with sensors for day and night surveillance.

The through-wall imaging radar is an interesting technology. From outside, we can monitor the movement of people inside a room. If somebody is being kept captive inside a house, we can decide what kind of action we should take, said Sekhar.

The eavesdropping technology involves fixing sensors on glass windows or doors and focussing a laser beam on the sensors to listen to the conversations of the people inside. We have proved it in the laboratory model. We need to perfect it, said Sekhar. This technology will be useful during aircraft hijackings, provided the aircraft is on the tarmac. The sensors can be fixed on the windshield of the aircraft to pick up conversations inside the cockpit.

The Defence Research and Development Establishment, Gwalior, which Sekhar had earlier headed as its Director, has developed a few non-lethal devices, including an oleoresin-based smoke grenade. The smoke has a pungent odour and incapacitates the enemy or flushes them out of their hideouts.

The DRDO has also developed a grenade that is more powerful but less toxic than the conventional tear gas canister. A major problem that paramilitary forces face is detecting IEDs. They are buried at a depth of 2 metres and go undetected by ground-penetration radars. We have generated a database with a simulated system for explosive devices and we can predict the depth at which the IED is located, Sekhar said.

T.S. Subramanian

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